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And Danced the Skies

Posted By on December 29, 2018

High Flight poem by John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth.
The sky above Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
(P. Ferguson image, July 2006)

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Poem by John Gillespie Magee Jr.


Such words these are – of sun-split clouds and tumbling mirth, laughter-silvered wings – the shouting wind along.

But this day, as rain pelts down and into my being I seek a horizon blue with its drifting clouds of design white…reshaping across this globe before my eyes. I have lingered skyward towards these halls of air from Kamloops to Malta to Hawaii too…and the sky places in between. As water tramples my ground, I find my time… to reach skyward towards the mosaic, push clouds aside and find the blue amongst God’s heaven. Always finding – always thinking with silent lifting mind.

That Rich Earth a Richer Dust

Posted By on December 28, 2018

Valley Cemetery, France.

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed.
On the way to Valley Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2010)

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Poem by Rupert Brooke


Time and time again I return to these words…In that rich earth….a richer dust concealed…and time and time again these few, these lone few words remain with me a day or more. Is it for Richards or Stevens, Smith or Talbot, Hoskins or Thompson…its for them all. Either England…or Scotland, Ireland or Wales. Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada and others. French, Belgian, American, Austrian, German. Across the fields we see them all, across the towns…names and sorrow here within the ground…a tide of humanity reaching ever skyward under an Earthen heaven.

This Tide and Every Tide

Posted By on December 26, 2018

A distant sun, cold water...Because he was the son you bore, And gave to that wind blowing and that tide! (P. Ferguson image, December 2018)

A distant sun, cold water…Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!
(P. Ferguson image, December 2018)

My Boy Jack

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind —
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

Poem by Rudyard Kipling.


This evening I look to the words of another. A walk along the shoreline brings with each surge the crash of low falling waves. A gentle thunder – its repeated motion lashing at the sand taking some for itself until it returns its tumult, grain upon grain. The tide…the tide…deep blue with its tumult of souls within the sliding sands of time. With gentle motion I turn towards home. There are words for this day, a mixture of one with another, water and earth.

A Little Bit of Peace From Home

Posted By on December 25, 2018

Christmas at the Front - Unpacking the Parcels from Home.

Christmas at the Front – Unpacking the Parcels from Home by Fortunino Matania.
(Illustration from The Sphere, 5 January 1919)

Christmas Parcels

The joy delivered to soldiers at the front…a little bit of peace from home. Gathered together they made the most of their day. A little welcome celebration…pooling their newly delivered resources…Tommy, Billy, Robert, James, Jeremy and others…Merry Christmas to all.

Across British Columbia news of parcels and soldiers made their way into the columns across the province.

The Hedley Gazette
Hedley, B.C.
2 December 1915, p. 1

Packing Parcels for
Soldiers at the Front

The public is urged to exercise every care in packing parcels for the troops, as careful packing is absolutely essential to ensure delivery of the parcels in good order.

Parcels sent abroad require a higher standard of packing than is necessary in the Canadian Parcel Post, and this applies with even greater force to parcels for the troops. Those which are immediately packed run great risk of damage or loss of contents.

Thin cardboard boxes, such as shoe boxes and thin wooden boxes, should not be used: nor does a single sheet of ordinary brown paper afford sufficient protection. The following forms of packing are recommended.

(1) Strong double cardboard boxes, preferably those made of corrugated cardboard, and having  lids which completely enclose the sides of the boxes.

(2) Strong wooden boxes.

(3) Several folds of stout packing paper.

(4) Additional security is afforded by an outer covering of linen, calico or canvas, which should be securely sewn up.

The address of parcels should be written in ink on the cover preferably in two places.

The address of the sender of the parcel should also be stated in order that it may be returned if undeliverable. The contents of the parcel should be stated in writing on the cover.


The Prospector
Lillooet, B.C.
24 December 1915, p. 1

The Postmaster General of Canada has been successful, as a result of negotiations entered into with the Imperial Postal Authorities in effecting an arrangement with the British Government whereby parcels from Canada for Canadian soldiers in France and Flanders will be carried at the same rate of postage as applies to parcels from the United Kingdom for the Expeditionary Forces on the Continent.

The public are reminded, however, in accordance with the circular issued by the Department recently, that until further notice, no parcel can be sent weighing over seven pounds.


The Omineca Miner
Hazelton, B.C.
25 November 1916, p. 1

People of Hazelton Send Xmas
Cheer to the Boys in
the Trenches

Christmas parcels to the number of 112 have been sent to Hazelton’s boys in khaki by the Soldier’s Aid, and so far as known, no soldier from the town or vicinity has been overlooked. The committee’s campaign for the Christmas fund is proving successful…

On behalf of our soldiers, the committee extends hearty thanks to the ladies and gentlemen who assisted in the preparation and mailing of parcels, as well as to contributors to the Christmas fund.


The Enderby Press
Enderby, B.C.
25 January 1917, p. 1

How Trench Comforts Contributed
to Happiness of Boys at Front

The ladies of the Enderby Trench Comfort Club are in receipt of the following letters from the boys at the front.

Pte. Victor E. Bogert…”I received your parcel on the 16th December and found everything to be useful, especially the socks and sleeping helmet, and the shoe lace was the very thing I wanted as I had broken one that very day; and the Oxo* was very handy for a cold I have got…I found it appetizing as a beverage and socks were certainly warm, and the handkerchief certainly was a good friend to my nose, and the cigarettes and sweets were very useful as they are scarce in France, and the cakes were a good evening’s enjoyment among the boys of my own billet…”

Lce. Corp. S.H. Allcorn: “Allow me to thank you and the many good friends and contributors for parcel received on the 26th December, which came as a very pleasant surprise and was very much appreciated…It reminded me of good old Enderby…”

Pte. T.M. Dunwoodie: “I am writing to thank you all for the parcel which I received last night. It certainly was a fine one and the cigarettes, tobacco and socks were especially welcome as I just out of the first and home-knit socks are always welcome. The cake and candy and other good things were too good to last long. The other boys in the hut all send their thanks to you and the others who helped to make it up…”

*Oxo was a beef stock cube originally produced in cube form in 1910. During the Great War more than 100,000,000 Oxo cubes were provided to the military.


Bella Coola Courier
Bella Coola, B.C.
10 March 1917, p. 1

Christmas at the Front

The slight sacrifices made by the ladies [W.C.T.U.**] of the valley in sending Christmas parcels to the front has met with such a chorus of thanks from our boys that we know our readers will enjoy the reading of the extracts from their letters…

Only a few lines to let you know that I received the welcome parcel of cake and chocolate on Christmas night. I had given up hope of getting anything that evening when along comes the boys through the trench asking for Sam Grant…I handed it around to some of the boys – Arthur Gothard, Pete Marren, Randolph Saugstad and those that I saw the next day. (Sam Grant)

**Woman’s Christian Temperance Union


 The Islander
Cumberland, B.C.
20 October 1917, p. 1

All those who are sending parcels to soldiers in France should send them immediately if they wish them to arrive by Christmas. Parcels for soldiers in England can be posted up till about 10th of November for delivery by Christmas.


Cranbrook Herald
Cranbrook, B.C.
10 January 1918, p. 3


Pte. W.H. Lewis, No. 931443
“D” Coy., 14th Platoon,
2nd C.M.R.

To Mrs. J.W. Burton, President W.I.***

Dear Madam: – I beg to acknowledge with deepest gratitude the Christmas parcel received by me from our friends in Cranbrook.

You cannot imagine what happiness it creates to have handed to us letters and parcels from those at home. Some poor fellows seem to be overlooked entirely, but I am pleased to say is not my luck.

Again thanking you and your society.

I beg to remain, Madam,
Yours gratefully,
W.H. Lewis

***Women’s Institute


Chaplains and the Victoria Cross

Posted By on December 24, 2018

Chaplain Victoria Cross. Dieppe. John Weir Foote

Dieppe, France, where Canadian Chaplain John Weir Foote’s 19 August 1942 actions led to the award of the Victoria Cross. Foote was captured in the assault.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2009)

Spiritual and Immediate Care of Their Soldier Flock

There is with each step wandering fields of conflict encounters with a difficult past.

Every visit has its encounters, perhaps a landmark rebuilt, a crater filled with water, a reused bit of rail, a bench, memorial, cemetery, statue, a fragment, a trace, an energy. Each place offers itself to us – each place provides encounters with history that can immediately stop us in our path.

It is the energy to which I turn…a spirit of seeking…and finding. Stand at these places and look around you…from earth to sky…to your feet – to the horizon…a landscape of colour. What do you see? Is there motion? Is there sound? Is there black in that blue? Compiled together – energy and spirit…it is this metamorphosis to which I turn. We are witnesses to all that we see…the loss, the regeneration, the peace now from the chaos then.

Reverend Edgar Noel Moore M.C

The headstone of Reverend Edgar Noel Moore M.C.
He Being Dead, Yet Speaketh. Blessed Are The Pure In Heart For They Shall See God.
Railway Dugouts Cemetery, Belgium.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2005)

On occasion when I wander these places I find myself before a fallen man of god…an army chaplain who shouldered the spiritual care of his soldier flock, while at all times encountering sinister motion to counter his leader’s good words. As I stand before a Chaplain’s grave…I look around…at all the lives…the good earth and the good sky…it is energy…it is spirit. And yes I see the black in the blue, all colour is beautiful, but mostly I try to find the light in the darkness…I find more energy there.

Among the many British Army Chaplains who served in conflict five men of the cloth (including a Canadian) were awarded the Victoria Cross providing spirit and energy to those of their flock…saving lives…when sinister motion was all around.


James Williams Adams VC. Afghanistan

James Williams Adams VC. Later became Honorary Chaplain to King Edward VII.
(Wiki Commons Image).

James Williams Adams VC
Bengal Ecclesiastical Establishment (Indian Army)
Chaplain to the Kabul Field Force
Battle of Killa Kazi, Afghanistan
Victoria Cross in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum

During the action at Killa Kazi, on the 11th December, 1879, some men of the 9th Lancers having fallen, with their horses, into a wide and deep ” nullah” or ditch, and the enemy being close upon them, the Reverend J. W. Adams rushed into the water (which filled the ditch), dragged the horses from off the men upon whom they were lying, and extricated them, he being at the time under a heavy fire, and up to his waist in water.

At this time the Afghans were pressing on very rapidly, the leading men getting within a few yards of Mr. Adams, who having let go his horse in order to render more effectual assistance, had eventually to escape on foot.

(Victoria Cross. London Gazette: 26 August 1881, p. 4393)


Edward Noel Mellish VC, MC. After the Great War he continued with the church as a Vicar in Essex and at the Church of St. Dunstan in Somerset. (Wiki Commons Image)

Edward Noel Mellish VC, MC.
After the Great War he continued with the church as a Vicar in Essex and at the Church of St. Dunstan in Somerset.
(Wiki Commons Image)

Edward Noel Mellish VC MC
Army Chaplain’s Department attached to 1st Middlesex Regiment
Battle of Loos, France 25 September 1915
Victoria Cross held by the Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London, England

For most conspicuous bravery. During heavy fighting on three consecutive days he repeatedly went backwards and forwards, under continuous and heavy shell and machine-gun fire, between our original trenches and those captured from the enemy, in order to tend and rescue wounded men. He brought in ten badly wounded men on the first day from ground swept by machine-gun fire, and three were actually killed while he was dressing their wounds.

The battalion to which he was attached was relieved on the second day, but he went back and brought in twelve more wounded men.

On the night of the third day he took charge of a party of volunteers and once more returned to the trenches to rescue the remaining wounded.

This splendid work was quite voluntary on his part and outside the scope of his ordinary duties.

(Victoria Cross. London Gazette: Third Supplement 20 April 1916, p. 4119)
(Military Cross. London Gazette: Third Supplement 12 December 1919, p. 15438)

A film featuring Edward Noel Mellish at Deptford England is available from British Pathé.


William Robert Fountaine Addison VC continued to serve as a Chaplaincy following the Great War and served as Malta, Khartoum, Shanghaai and elsewhere. (Wiki Commons Image)

William Robert Fountaine Addison VC continued to serve as a Chaplaincy following the Great War and served as Malta, Khartoum, Shanghaai and elsewhere.
(Wiki Commons Image)

William Robert Fountaine Addison VC (Russian Order of St. George, 4th Class)
Army Chaplain’s Department
13th (Western Division), 38th (Lancashire Infantry Brigade),
Likely with the 6th King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) and 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Battle of Samna-I-Yat, Mesopotamia 9 April 1916

For most conspicuous bravery. He carried a wounded man to the cover of a trench, and assisted several others to the same cover, after binding up their wounds under heavy rifle and machine gun fire.

In addition to these unaided efforts, by his splendid example and utter disregard of personal danger, he encouraged the stretcher-bearers to go forward under heavy fire and collect the wounded.

(Victoria Cross. London Gazette: 26 September 1916, p. 9417)


Theodore Bayley Hardy VC, DSO, MC Died of wounds 18 October 1918.  Buried Rouen, France. (Wiki Commons Image)

Theodore Bayley Hardy VC, DSO, MC
Died of wounds 18 October 1918.
Buried Rouen, France.
(Wiki Commons Image)

Theodore Bayley Hardy VC DSO MC
Chaplain to the Forces attached 9th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment
Victoria Cross held by the Museum of Army Chaplaincy

Victoria Cross

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on many occasions. Although over fifty years of age, he has, by his fearlessness, devotion to men of his battalion, and quiet, unobtrusive manner, won the respect and admiration of the whole division.

His marvelous energy and endurance would be remarkable even in a very much younger man, and his valour and devotion are exemplified in the following incidents: —

An infantry patrol had gone put to attack a previously located enemy post in the ruins of a village, the Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy (C.F.) being then at company headquarters. Hearing firing, he followed the patrol, and about four hundred yards beyond our front line of poets found an officer of the patrol dangerously wounded. He remained with the officer until he was able to get assistance to bring him in. During this time there was a great deal of firing, and an enemy patrol-actually penetrated- between the spot at which the officer was lying and our front line and captured three of our men.

On a second occasion, when an enemy shell exploded in the middle of one of our posts, the Reverend T. B. Hardy at once made his way to the spot, despite the shell and trench mortar fire which was going on at the time, and set to work to extricate the buried men. He succeeded in getting out one man who had been completely buried. He then set to work to extricate a second man, who was found to be dead.

During the whole of the time that he was digging out the men this chaplain was in great danger, not only from shell fire, but also because of the dangerous condition of the wall of the building which had been hit by the shell which buried the men.

On a third occasion he displayed the greatest devotion to duty when our infantry, after a successful attack, were gradually forced back to their starting trench.

After it was believed that all our men had withdrawn from the wood, Chaplain Hardy came out of it, and on reaching an advanced post asked the men to help him to get in a wounded man. Accompanied by a serjeant, he made his way to the spot where the man lay, within ten yards of a pill-box which had been captured in the morning, but was subsequently recaptured and occupied by the enemy. The wounded man was too weak to stand, but between them the chaplain and the serjeant eventually succeeded in getting him to our lines.

Throughout the day the enemy’s artillery, machine-gun, and trench mortar fire was continuous, and caused many casualties. Notwithstanding, this very gallant chaplain was seen moving quietly amongst the men and tending the wounded, absolutely regardless of his personal safety.

(London Gazette: Third Supplement 11 July 1918, pp. 8155-8156)

Distinguished Service Order

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in volunteering to go with a rescue party for some men who had been left stuck in the mud the previous night between the enemy’s outpost line and our own. All the men except one were brought in. He then organised a party for the rescue of this man, and remained with it all night, though under rifle-fire at close range, which killed one of the party. With his left arm in splints, owing to a broken wrist, and under the worst weather conditions, he crawled out with patrols to within seventy yards of the enemy and remained with wounded men under heavy fire.

(Distinguished Service Order: Fourth Supplement 18 October 1917, p. 10705.
Full citation published 7 March, 1918)

Military Cross

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in tending the wounded. The ground on which he worked was constantly shelled and the casualties were heavy. He continually assisted in finding and carrying wounded and in guiding stretcher bearers to the aid post.

(Military Cross. London Gazette: Third Supplement 17 December 1917, p. 13182. Citation published 23 April 1918)


John Weir Foote VC Taken Prisoner of War at Dieppe. After his release the award of the Victoria Cross was announced. Foote was the Honorary-Colonel of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry 1964-1973. (Wiki Commons Image)

John Weir Foote VC
Taken Prisoner of War at Dieppe. After his release the award of the Victoria Cross was announced. Foote was the Honorary-Colonel of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry 1964-1973.
(Wiki Commons Image)

John Weir Foote VC
Canadian Chaplain Service attached Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
Battle of Dieppe, France, 19 August 1942

At Dieppe, on 19th August, 1942, Honorary Captain Foote, Canadian Chaplain Services, was Regimental Chaplain with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

Upon landing on the beach under heavy fire he attached himself to the Regimental Aid Post -which had been set up -in a slight depression on the beach, but which was only sufficient to give cover to men lying down. During the subsequent period of approximately eight hours, while the action continued, this officer not only assisted the Regimental Medical Officer in ministering to the wounded in .the Regimental Aid Post, but time and again left this shelter to inject morphine, give first-aid and carry wounded personnel from the open beach to the Regimental Aid Post. On these occasions, with utter disregard for his personal safety, Honorary Captain Foote exposed himself to an inferno of fire and saved many lives by his gallant efforts. During the action, as the tide 1 went out, the Regimental Aid Post was moved to the shelter of a. stranded landing craft. Honorary Captain Foote continued tirelessly and courageously to carry wounded men from the exposed beach to the cover of the landing craft. He also removed  wounded ‘from inside the landing craft when ammunition had been set on fire by enemy shells.

When landing craft appeared he carried wounded from the Regimental Aid Post to the landing craft through very heavy fire. On several occasions this officer had the opportunity to embark but returned to the beach as his chief concern was the care and evacuation of the wounded. He refused a final opportunity to leave the shore, choosing to suffer the fate of the men he had ministered to for over three years. Honorary Captain Foote personally saved many lives by his efforts and his example inspired all around him. Those who observed him state that the calmness of this heroic officer, as he walked about, collecting the wounded on the fire-swept beach will never be forgotten.

(Victoria Cross. London Gazette: 14 February 1946, p. 941)