My Mother’s Mother – My Father’s Father

Researching our family associations with the Great War can be tremendously rewarding.

Researching Family Military History

How many times in a year do I hear this phrase which equally visits me as “my Dad’s Dad” or “My mom’s mom”, etc? Where to begin is usually the second question and so it starts once again as bits of paper and the reminders of an earlier time are set before me to sort through and perhaps provide some insight into a life known only to the eager researcher as Grampa or Gramma. It seems too that for so many of their ancestors the war was something that was not spoken about. Every time I hear this I cannot help but feel fortunate for all those I met who over several meeting delivered their war,  their experience during the Great War or Second World War with me. ..

…As we sift through the documents and bits of silver, bronze and paper on the table we might find some clues about our veterans. Who did they serve with? Navy, Army, Air Force? Whose Navy, Army and Air Force is just as relevant. With a service number we learn that our Canadian solider may have joined the 183rd Battalion C.E.F., and subsequently served with the 78th in France and Flanders. We are fortunate here in Canada to have much information readily available via Library and Archives Canada, where entire service files of the First World War are available for copying by the public. Some 25 – 40 pages following the movements of our erstwhile veteran, with much other information such as dental and medical records, pay records and so on. I always tell our visitors to be prepared as some of the information may well indicate their relative’s pain and suffering from war wounds as some files are extremely detailed.

On the other hand, perhaps the remains of the night (or day) with an encounter of folly may be recorded. The treatment perhaps reported upon in detail, and the soldier also forfeiting pay in the amount of 50 cents per day, as well as field allowances during his stay in one of the many Venereal Disease hospitals.

As well there are the other important records, the war diaries of the Canadian Infantry Battalions (and others) who served in France and Flanders. Many relatives find wandering about the daily record of the war diary and their associated appendices a fascinating study. It helps them with their understanding of the personal side of the war, their grandfather or grandmother in association with these years of tumult.

That is where we usually start our researchers on their path of discovery who we can only hope will return one day to share with us their findings. However it was not all that long ago too, that the words originally spoken were questions about “My Dad” or “My Mom” and as these earlier generations slip into the past I am humbled more and more by my choice to take on these searches into our military histories for their father’s father, their mother’s mother as we slide into tomorrow’s generations.

Today’s key clacking was inspired by the sweet refrains of The Civil Wars, My Father’s Father. Yet again I see the word home…

Lyrics to My Father’s Father by The Civil Wars

I hear something hanging on the wind
I see black smoke up around the bend
I got my ticket and I’m going to go home.

The leaves have changed a time or two
Since the last time the train came through
I got my ticket and I’m going to go home.

My father’s father’s blood is on the track
A sweet refrain drifts in from the past
I got my ticket and I’m going to go home.

The winding roads that led me here burn like coal and dry like tears
So here’s my hope, my tired soul
And here’s my ticket
I want to go, home

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


One Response to “My Mother’s Mother – My Father’s Father”

  1. pferguson pferguson says:

    The image shown is from the front cover of “Canada In Khaki” published for the Canadian War Records Office by The Pictorial Newspaper Co. (1910) Ltd., 1917. The cover further records “The Net Profits of this Publication will go to the Canadian War Memorials Fund.”

    With regard to treatments for Venereal Disease the “Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War; The Medical Services” reports “In the Canadian army overseas during the period of the war there were 66,083 cases of venereal disease, of which 18,612 were syphilis; this yields a rate of 158 per thousand, and for syphilis alone 4.5 per cent or 45 per thousand.” (page 287)

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