Every Three Seconds

Canadian Artillery in Action by Kenneth Forbes. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum (Wiki Image)

Canadian Artillery in Action by Kenneth Forbes. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum.
(Wiki Image)

Canadian Artillery in Action

Canadian war artist Kenneth Forbes was all to familiar with service on the Western Front.

Born in Toronto, Canada Forbes, prior to the Great War, studied art in the United Kingdom and had twelve of his portraits exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, England. In 1914 Forbes joined the British Army’s 10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers and later became second in command of the 32nd Machine Gun Company. Forbes was both wounded and gassed. Then…there was a change.

In 1918 Forbes was ordered to report to Lord Beaverbrook’s Canadian War Memorials Fund, London where he was transferred to the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His Great War work included, The Defence of Sanctuary Wood (ca. 1917), Corporal William Metcalf VC MM and Bar (ca. 1918), and Canadian Artillery in Action (ca. 1918).

William Metcalf VC, MM and Bar of the 16th Battalion CEF (The Canadian Scottish) by Kenneth Forbes. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum. (Wiki Image)

William Metcalf VC, MM and Bar of the 16th Battalion CEF (The Canadian Scottish) by Kenneth Forbes. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum.
(Wiki Image)

Forbes’ painting Canadian Artillery in Action depicts an exhausted Canadian artillery crew operating a 6” Howitzer, 16 July 1916, Thiepval, Somme. The painting is a reconstruction of the day when the artillery faced a prolonged barrage and despite the casualties continued at their station. The work is oil on canvas 157.5 cm (~62”) x 245.3cm (~96.5”).

This work was one of several paintings selected for reproduction in an art distribution scheme by Canada’s Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire [IODE]. One other Forbes’ work became a print in the series the Defence of Sanctuary Wood that depicts the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) in action.

The Defence of Sanctuary Wood. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum (Wiki Image)

The Defence of Sanctuary Wood. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum
(Wiki Image)

Works in the series by other artists include, The Fleet Carrying Canada’s First Contingent, Canadian Motor Launches off Dover, War in the Air, Over the Top, Field Dressing Station, Ypres Cloth Hall in Ruins, Mobile Veterinary Clinic, Canadian Foresters at Work, Canadian Troops Arriving at the Rhine, Peace Celebrations in Paris, and The Surrender of the German Fleet.

Some of these prints were presented across Canada and in May 1923 Chilliwack High School became one of the known beneficiaries. The prints are inscribed, Presented by the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire in memory of the men and women of the Empire who gave their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1918.

Though the following citation is not from the day of Forbes’ painting the details recorded were faced by all artillery personnel during the Great War. For all the Gunners…once a gunner always a gunner.

Awarded the Military Medal
319955 Gunner Phillip Henry Button
4th Brigade, 13th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery

This man with other Gunners on the morning of November 3rd 1917, formed the personnel of two gun crews that went into action. These two crews kept their guns in action, although during the whole period the area within a radius of 500 yards was subjected to a continuous bombardment with shells that were coming in at an average rate of twenty per minute*. Ammunition was set on fire in the position and one of the shells was so close that the Gunners were knocked down by the force of the explosion.

This man and the other Gunners with conspicuous bravery stuck to their guns and maintained fire. They were absolutely without cover and miraculously escaped injury. Within three minutes of withdrawing the men from their guns, one of the guns was hit and the whole shattered.

*Twenty per minute = Every three seconds


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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