Back to the Somme: Part 1

The River Somme, France. (P. Ferguson image, September 2008)

The River Somme, France.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2008)

And You Are There With Him

For the recent Western Front Association Pacific Branch conference I was asked to include an operational history of the Battle of the Somme. This was to be the lead for two additional presentations by Ian and Casey Williams of the Paradigm Motion Picture Company. Ian spoke directly about Piper James Cleland Richardson VC Ordinary Boy, Extraordinary Hero and his father, Casey – who provided the keynote address on how to create a meaningful film, It’s One Thing to Tell a Story – It’s Altogether Another To Have the Audience Live It.

The Paradigm team has often chatted via Skype, through emails, phone, etc. to discuss our preparations and thoughts for a forthcoming film. Together we acknowledge that people are more interested in the adventurer than the adventure. It will be a considered production where each frame will have been thought out, after all it’s not just what’s in the foreground…it’s the whole.

Veterans of the 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Canadian Scottish) march to Pioneer Square, 1951. (Canadian Scottish Museum and Archives)

Veterans of the 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Canadian Scottish) march to Pioneer Square, 1951.
(Courtesy of Canadian Scottish Museum and Archives)

And so to the adventurers, in this case veterans of the 16th whose memories are best known to they themselves in what was once a common voice of Kitcheners Wood, Ypres, Regina Trench, Vimy, Cambrai and a thousand other places. Those of us unfamiliar with the time actual and whose knowledge is gathered after the fact can scarce imagine their time. In 1951 these veterans of the 16th marched past Victoria’s Christ Church Cathedral to Pioneer Square where a memorial to the regiment was dedicated.

The dedication of the Piper Richardson statue, 11 October 2003. (Jenna Hauck photo, Chilliwack Progress)

The dedication of the Piper Richardson statue, 11 October 2003.
(Jenna Hauck photo, Chilliwack Progress)

Years later, October 2003, those who felt a connection to Piper James Cleland Richardson VC turned out in great numbers in Chilliwack for the unveiling of the Richardson statue created by sculptor John Weaver. James may have been the only link to the Somme those in attendance knew. Perhaps others were present who were familiar with the Somme through family stories but no 16th veterans were present. No one was there who met the living James Richardson. And yet it is through James being well known and not forgotten that I choose to turn to the others of Chilliwack’s Somme…

Despite James Cleland Richardson never having lived in Chilliwack he became the town’s son. His parents did live in Chilliwack – Mary and David Richardson having arrived before the commencement of the war whilst James remained at work in Vancouver and a member of the 72nd Cadets (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada).

And who were these sons of Chilliwack’s Somme? These not as well known sons of Chilliwack…of Chilliwack’s 99 Great War names on their war memorial here are the lesser known…

Private Henry Anketell Jones
11 September 1916 (29th Battalion)
Sunken Road Cemetery

Captain Henry J. Tryon
15 September 1916 (15th attached 8th Rifle Brigade)
Thiepval Memorial

Lance Corporal James Stronach
24 September 1916 (29th Battalion)
Vimy Memorial

Private Paul Doutaz
27 September 1916 (7th Battalion)
Regina Trench Cemetery

Private Luke Charles Mahone
31 October 1916 (47th Battalion)
Contay British Cemetery

Private James Morton Atkinson
11 November 1916 (47th Battalion)
Courcelette British Cemetery

Private Harry Ayres
11 November 1916 (47th Battalion)
Vimy Memorial

 Over the next few weeks our blog will describe more of the operational history of the Battle of the Somme. All the while I will think more about these adventurers – the fallen of the Somme whose lives cut short can remain with us as we or rather you are there with him.

 Did You Know?

Operations on the Somme largely occurred north of the river.

The opening Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, was the largest operation of the Great War.

500,000 personnel were involved at the start along an 18-mile front.

The British and French Armies came together on the frontline just above the River Somme.

The French being on the British right flank.

The first Day of the Battle of the Somme 1 July 1916 is the most frequently discussed of all days of the Somme offensive.

To truly study the battle of the Somme there are 140 other days of conflict in the offensive.

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.


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