April 2020
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Enough Words

Posted By on April 3, 2020

Medic's Helmet, Red Cross

A medic’s helmet at the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper, Belgium.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)


Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on Me (1972)…Bill Withers

…stay safe…enough words for today…

Private Frederick Arthur Bennett
Royal Canadian Regiment
Awarded the Military Medal

For bravery and devotion to duty at KENDDALL SAP on the 4th. October 1916. He acted as guide to a patrol proceeding to that place which had proved very difficult to locate; On reaching the sap 5 wounded soldiers who had been there 4 days were discovered. The patrol pushed on up the sap, he remaining with the wounded attending to them. He with great difficulty obtained water for them from water bottles which he picked up in the vicinity. He assisted in digging out with his hands 2 soldiers who were buried. This was all done under a very heavy Artillery fire, and the movement was made across the open in very heavy mud. His conduct was an example to all and worthy of great praise.

The Home Front Has Returned

Posted By on April 2, 2020

Wounded Soldier Bandage Sling

Help the Wounded poster from the Great War. Designed by Tom Purvis. Wellcome Collection, London, England.
(P. Ferguson image, November 2008)

The Math is Staggering

The Home Front has returned. Mobilized now to fight an invisible enemy the need is great. Like those who gathered materials for two world wars they work…long days… with heart, dedication, love, concern.

During the Great War those on the home front accepted linens, cottons, flannels and blankets to be re-purposed, turned into other things. Bed-sheets became slings, bandages, wash cloths. They made mouth wipes, face cloths, towels.

The carnage these dedicated souls faced was unprecedented. In August 1914 it was estimated the home front should prepare for 60,000 wounded per week. The war lasted just over 51 months…almost 223 weeks…the math is staggering.

A generation later unprecedented carnage would resurface again and the home front volunteers mobilized. They too would make do and mend, they read the posters that implored coughs and sneezes spread diseases…the need was great and the need is great again.

Private Arthur Edward Pitman
Royal Army Medical Corps
Awarded the British Empire Medal

This private was a prisoner of war in Thailand. During the Cholera epidemic in the Summer of 1943, he did marvelous work. He nursed hundreds of cholera cases quite fearlessly, washed fed and cleansed them without any regard for his own safety, in the most indescribably filthy conditions. He was always cheerful, worked tirelessly and must at times have gone for days without sleep. Mere words cannot do justice to the work he carried out or the fine example he set, and by his personal care many lives were saved.

This Day at Bayeux

Posted By on April 1, 2020

Bayeux War Cemetery, France. (P. Ferguson image, September 2009)

Bayeux War Cemetery, France.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2009)

I Will Continue to Walk

As I walked the stone markers I read their names…ranks, dates and inscriptions of those who fell. I breath deeply…release the air slowly taking in another life and think…not any thought in particular…but perhaps share in a bit of aged sorrow, once felt….now felt again for a life lost…

I remember this day at France’s Bayeux War Cemetery especially for the life of one sailor eternally at dock here with his brethren. These stone, single page books stand with scant information but provide just enough for us to learn more.

A carved anchor at the helm…at the base…A Loving Son and Brother / Died Saving His Comrades / He Leaves A Beautiful Memory…I did not know him…but his story remains this day by choosing to walk these parallel lines of stone. For Arturo Fanconi and so many others I will continue to walk.

Sick Berth Attendant Arturo Fanconi
Royal Navy
Awarded the Albert Medal in Gold (Land)
Posthumous Recipient

On 28th June, 1944, Fanconi was summoned to help men wounded by mines at Quineville in Normandy. He at once ran almost half a mile and went through what later proved to be a field of anti-personnel mines to reach them.

He applied tourniquets and bandages; then, with help, carried two patients out of the drive which was the scene of the incident. This was a tiring and difficult as it entailed hugging a wall all the way. Fanconi was on the more dangerous side throughout.

While the rescue party was considering how best to help a third man who lay some distance within the minefield, another mine burst beneath the rubble on which they stood. This killed one helper and wounded Fanconi and another. Despite this. Fanconi tried to collect his scattered medical kit and to help his comrade. He had to crawl to do so, and was in great pain.

In his attempt he exploded a further mine which blew off one of his feet. The explosion hurled him into the air, and when he fell set off a third mine which severed his other foot. A Corporal made every effort to help him, but the it was now of little use and Fanconi could not be saved.

All who had witnessed his selfless courage, his speed and skill in giving aid to others, all the while exposing himself to immediate danger, were inspired by his great example.

Sick Berth Attendant, Royal Navy

Remember them well. Arturo Fanconi…
He Leaves A Beautiful Memory.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2009)

Are there Poppy Blooms in France and Flanders?

Posted By on March 31, 2020

Zouave Valley Cemetery

Lone poppy near Zouave Valley Cemetery, Souchez, France.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2010)

I wonder…

Each night I walk. A steady jaunt through the neighbourhood, choosing to walk when fewer people are about…there is less risk that way. As I walk the road the 7 PM salute to our first responders builds. I watch as one curious robin hops across a lawn, his ear openings wizened to these new sounds that interrupted his internal “geophone” in search of prey. Our robin, in a single direction tango, listens, darts forward, stops, tilts, listens, darts forward. The pattern repeated again and again.

With each step I ponder the colours of spring against backdrops of green. Small and large – colourful petals of varieties I cannot name, but amongst them, the eagerly identifiable daffodils clustered together… to dance in the spring breeze. Towards the shore, gulls sweep across the waterscape tilting with the wind to touch, I wonder, the hand of god… It is spring and yet all the while I have wondered, are there poppy blooms in France and Flanders? This time, this day? Stay safe and remember them well.

Private Edward Atherton
4th Canadian Infantry Battalion
Awarded the Military Medal

He was employed as a stretcher bearer during the attack on Observatory Ridge on 13th June 1916 and showed great gallantry and devotion to duty. When all other stretcher bearers of his Company were wounded he kept moving over the ground from one flank to another dressing the wounded of other units besides this Battalion, also several wounded Germans. He remained with his Company for 48 hours until relieved, under continuous shell fire often very intense, and under the most trying weather conditions, and his endurance and care undoubtedly assisted in saving many lives.

Inspired By a True Story

Posted By on March 30, 2020

Sergeant Simon Fraser

“Don’t forget me, cobber.”
Statue by Peter Corlett, Australian Memorial Park, Fromelles, France.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2004)

Introducing a new series…

The other day I wrote all blossoms are perfect, nonetheless I will always continue my search in awe of each petal, each burst of new life, new joy, new inspiration. In these current days of complication, I also turn to the history of others whose resilience in adversity was noted, recorded and recognized.

Not all worthy deeds received laurels…and amongst the honourees many would credit their rewards to their team, their unit rather than to themselves. It’s all part of the job….and yet their acts of willed, goodly purpose provide so much more for this day and tomorrow. Their actions remind us that in times of adversity we all have an ability to become selfless, to take action, to find the time to make a difference. No matter how large, how small, with or without reward, kindness to one and other is our humanity, our therapy.

So, this day when we wait for the next day, the next blossom…remember to stay safe…one day at a time….one breath…one care…we are all one blood.

Acting Lance Corporal Nelson Kitchener Barrett
#1 Canadian Plastic & Jaw Surgery Unit
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps
Commendation for Distinguished Conduct

The Senior Officer, CMHQ. (Canadian Military Headquarters), has been pleased to commend the distinguished conduct of this NCO under the following conditions.

On 26 Aug. 42, L/Cpl. Barrett, while carrying out his normal duties in a hospital, heard screams from an adjoining ward. He ran to find that a patient suffering from severe eye and facial injuries had set fire to the dressings on his head while attempting to light a cigarette. Without hesitation, L/Cpl. Barrett covered the patient’s eyes with his bare hand and with the other smothered the flames. The patient had already lost the use of one eye and, as even a minor burn would have ruined the sight of the other, this N.C.O., by his initiative and prompt action undoubtedly saved the patient from total blindness.

The conduct of this N.C.O. is worthy of the best traditions of the Service, and his act of distinguished conduct will be recorded on his conduct sheet, in accordance with K.R. (Can.) 1518 b (XVI).