Ahead of the Battalion

The Pipes and Drums of the 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion with their mascot "Robert the Bruce". (From The Twenty-Fifth Battalin, F.B. MacDonald & J.J. Gardiner, City Printer, 1983, page 63a)

The Pipes and Drums of the 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion with their mascot “Robert the Bruce”. (From The Twenty-Fifth Battalion, F.B. MacDonald & J.J. Gardiner, City Printer, 1983, page 63a)

Two Pipers of Canada’s 25th Battalion

The 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion, from Nova Scotia, was part of the 5th Infantry Brigade of the Second Canadian Division. The unit, although not considered a highland battalion, had a pipe band of 12 pipers and 10 drummers. The unit’s March Past was “MacKenzie Highlanders” and their mascot, a goat named Robert the Bruce, wore a MacKenzie tartan cloak.

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At 5.30 a.m. the 25th Cdn Batt’n, in conjunction with practically all other units of the Cdn. Corps, left their trenches under cover of barrage fire for attack on VIMY RIDGE.

(April 9, 1917, 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion War Diary)

The Vimy Ridge Memorial from La Chaudiere Military Cemetery, Vimy, France. (P. Ferguson image, 2007).

A visitor happens upon the Vimy Ridge Memorial on the distant horizon. La Chaudiere Military Cemetery, Vimy, France. (P. Ferguson image, 2007)

Striding before their Battalion two men, Brand and Telfer, despite all matter hurled towards them and their fellow soldiers played their pipes. Bonnie Dundee, was perhaps heard amidst the noise of war – between shell bursts and machine gun fire, rifle fire and explosions. This was Vimy Ridge April 9, 1917; that a day before was not legend, not myth, not Canada. Now, some 100 years later Vimy has become all these things.

The undulating ground at Vimy Ridge, France. (P. Ferguson image 2013).

The undulating ground at Vimy Ridge, France. (P. Ferguson image 2013)

This battalion had as its objective the trench TURKO GRABEN on the summit of the Ridge on a front 750 yards between BOIS DES BONVAL and the village of LES TILLEULS, N.E. of NEUVILLE ST VAAST and 1700 yards from the front line… 

(April 9, 1917, 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion War Diary)

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For the two Pipers of the 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion their actions would be recognized with the award of the Military Medal. Ranks shown below are those recorded on official citation cards.

Piper William Brand MM
68432
25th Canadian Infantry Battalion

Citation for the Award of the Military Medal
For most conspicuous gallantry at VIMY RIDGE, April 9th 1917. He marched ahead of the Battalion during the attack, regardless of shell and M.G. fire, playing his pipes for a distance of over 800 yards. He had volunteered to go with his Battalion and by his heroic conduct added materially to the success of the operation.

William Brand was born in Glasgow, Scotland and prior to enlistment May 17, 1915 worked as a boilermaker. Only 18 years of age in 1915 Brand commenced service on the Western Front September 15, 1915. A few years later September 5, 1918 he began to suffer from shell shock due to concussion from a shell and in late November contracted influenza.

Although Brand is not recorded in the published nominal roll of the 1936 Vimy Pilgrimage, The Epic of Vimy, the Montreal newspaper, The Daily Telegraph recorded the following (possibly photo captions), Pipers again lead marching men in Arras Canadians lay a wreath on the war memorial at Lille; Canadian Guard of Honour arriving in Arras square; Canadian and French soldiers linking arms; Piper William Brand who piped the Canadians over the top at Vimy during the war. (July 27, 1916, page 5)

Trench system at Vimy Ridge. (P. Ferguson image, 2013)

Trench system at Vimy Ridge. (P. Ferguson image, 2013)

Private Walter James Telfer MM
68238
25th Canadian Infantry Battalion

Citation for the Award of the Military Medal
For most conspicuous gallantry at VIMY RIDGE April 9th, 1917. He marched ahead of the Battn. during the attack regardless of shell and Machine Gun Fire, playing his pipes until wounded a short distance from our objective. He had volunteered to go with his Battalion and by his heroic conduct added materially to the success of the operation.

Telfer was born in 1885 at Tighnabuaich, Argylshire, Scotland and at the time of his enlistment was living in Boston, Massachusetts where he worked as a hotel wine steward. Serving on the Western Front from September 7, 1915 Telfer was slightly gassed prior to his actions at Vimy Ridge. Wounded in the right knee and left shoulder at Vimy his injuries necessitated two amputations to his right leg and one surgery on his shoulder. Telfer later lived with his wife Mary at Everett, Washington where he died in 1966.

Telfer sketch

Sketch of Walter James Telfer MM by Mrs. E.M.E. Pratt, 1917. (Canadian War Museum Collection, 8681)

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After hard fighting with enemy machine gun posts and bombing posts, 2 hours and 10 min after zero, the battalion successfully entered, cleared and consolidated the position. 

(April 9, 1917, 25th Canadian Infantry Battalion War Diary)

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The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards ~ Muckin O’ Geordie’s Byre~Bonnie Dundee.


About The Author

pferguson
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 in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography 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 entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that 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 would be 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, he 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.

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