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Nova Scotia Strong

Posted By on April 25, 2020

Herbie MacLeod
3 RCMP Pipes and Drums
Ottawa, 2012

The Drums Do Beat

Sitting here I think of my old Nova Scotia home. Watching the news, hearing their names and of their lives…not known to me, but now known to Canada. With a deep sigh I close my eyes and breathe…voices I once knew, their faces, their towns, familiar in my contemplation.

As I watch fiddler, Emily Tuck, Herbie MacLeod is brought from her bow. It reminds me of a time when friends once met overseas…a fiddle played at a ridge called Vimy. Home – the sound heard on a distant ridge and now too from Portapique.

For all whose spirit is with Nova Scotia, for all family, friends, maritimers, and Canadians I cannot say farewell but hello once again…for Nova Scotia I will wish.

For all time we can remember them
Natalie MacMaster Fiddle Tribute

Willing Hands

Posted By on April 24, 2020

Mucklow Family, 82nd Canadian Infantry Battalion, Rose Mucklow, Roy Mucklow, James Mucklow, John Mucklow

The James and Rose Mucklow family, Calgary, Alberta.
Boys left to right: Roy, James and John.
(Image courtesy of the Mucklow Family, Canada)

All the Following Days

The tale of two soldiers…both runners (messengers) with the 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada).

Some days prior to the famed attack, whilst in the line near Vimy Ridge, Privates Alexander Broadfoot (130245) and James Mucklow (160827) stood near. Private Mucklow was on duty this day, 1 April 1917, as messenger when an intense enemy bombardment occurred…

Private Alexander Broadfoot
72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion
Awarded the Military Medal

For most conspicuous gallantry during the Operations against the enemy’s trenches SOUTH EAST of SOUCHEZ, from the 9th to 13th April 1917.

This man was a Battalion Runner. Within an hour after ZERO hour he proceeded, under a terrific fire, to the captured position. He accompanied LIEUT. J. ACHESON on a tour of the captured positions and returned to Battalion Headquarters with information of an invaluable nature.

He continued to perform his duties as a Runner throughout the day of the Operations and all the following days, until relieved on the 13th inst. During the advance, on the 13th April 1917, his work was again of a most conspicuous nature. He was also very conspicuous in an action against the enemy S.E. of SOUCHEZ in which this Battalion took part, on March 1st, 1917.

It is worthy of mention that on the night of the 1st April 1917 during an intense bombardment by the enemy of our front and support lines, and when an attack by him was expected, this runner snatched a message from the hands of 160827 PRIVATE J. MUCKLOW, another runner who had been detailed to deliver it to the Company Commanders, and said “You are a married man MUCKLOW, I’ll take it”. Without waiting for orders he dashed off with it and succeeded in delivering it. Too much cannot be said for the conspicuous devotion to duty shown by this man since his arrival in France.

It is considered that he is fully deserving of an Immediate Reward.

———–0———-

The work of a Battalion Runner (Messenger)
From Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981)

The words of a citation, discovered the other evening whilst engaged in the usual patrol of searching historical records, has led me once again upon a path of investigation. These two battalion runners, their time – a story re-found (not forgotten) – near a ridge known as Vimy is so inter-connected…A Highland unit too with some appeal to a website writing about Scottish pipes of war…and, as well, Vancouver’s Seaforths, the first unit of service for Piper James Cleland Richardson V.C., 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion, late of the 72nd Regiment (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada).

Private Broadfoot was an original member of the 72nd and a grocer in civil life, living at the Hotel Lotus, 445 Abbott Street, Vancouver. Joining in February 1916 this native of Norwich, England would soon encounter disease suffering from measles in March whilst in training at Hastings Park, Vancouver. Serving in France and Flanders with the Fourth Canadian Division Broadfoot (and Private Mucklow) would see their first actions on the Somme in September 1916 and soldiered together through Vimy Ridge. On 5 November 1917 Private Broadfoot was wounded during the Battle for Passchendaele when he received a gunshot wound to his right leg and was sent to No. 56 General Hospital at Etaples, France.

Hotel Lotus where Alexander Broadfoot lived.

The Hotel Lotus, home to Alexander Broadfoot.
Corner of Abbott and Pender Streets, Vancouver, B.C.
The hotel has recently been upgraded and newly renovated.
(City of Vancouver Archives, CVA 789-40)

———–0———-

James Mucklow, a labourer, and his wife Rose were both born in Blackheath, England and made their home in Calgary where they were raising their three children. In October 1915 James joined the 82nd Canadian Infantry Battalion in Calgary, Alberta that was eventually disbanded to provide reinforcements for Canadian units serving on the Western Front. Soon to serve with the 72nd Canadian Infantry Battalion, Private Mucklow’s Great War knew much of the virulence of disease and human suffering. In May 1917 he was admitted to the Stationary Hospital, Arques, St. Omer, France suffering from P.U.O. (Pyrexia of Unknown Origin) or Trench Fever.

The fever was determined to be caused by the accidental rubbing of louse droppings into abraded skin. The problem was extreme amongst all soldiers who suffered from the wrath of virulent lice. Great War pictures of soldiers killing lice with their fingernails, lit cigarettes, heated bayonet or with candle flame are known and some artists such as Eric Kennington created a pastel entitled Chat Hunting, now housed in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, London.

László Mednyánszky, Painting, Lice, Soldiers, 1915

Soldiers Hunting for Lice, 1915.
Hungarian artist László Mednyánszky.
(Wiki Image)

Since the Napoleonic Wars, lice have been called chats. As soldiers gathered to kill lice and tell stories their exterminator’s work became known as chatting. To this day having a chat and other derivations of the word remain with us as short terms for conversation. Chats (Lice) had other names, Cooties, Gray Backs, Seam Squirrels, and several unpolite terms. Informational posters attempted to inform soldiers, familiar with itch, about these six-legged vampires, who thrived in blankets and clothing. Cures or remedies for the constant condition included bathing, sterilizing the uniform and kit, obtaining a new cord for identity tags, the dusting of sensitive areas with prophylactic-salve and seeking the location of bathing and delousing stations.

However, Private Mucklow’s suffering did not end with the activity of these scurrying monsters. In June 1917 he endured a bought of bronchitis and then became ill from an asthmatic condition. “He says he has had it all is days” (Medical Case Sheet, 13 February 1918). Private Mucklow’s struggles with the condition continued to reoccur appearing in September, November 1917, and January 1918. After briefly being re-employed as a cook, his war soon ended in October 1918 when he was returned to Canada. Upon arrival in Calgary his medical history sheet was further annotated “Disturbance of Respiratory Tract” (26 November 1918, Captain J.A. Birch). Still, Private Mucklow’s war with disease was not over.

Near to the end of the Great War, and afterwards, a contemptuous pandemic was taking over the engineering of human cells across the globe, 500,000,000 people were infected. Private Mucklow was one of many soldiers and civilians who were to endure the influenza pandemic. His influenza, further exacerbated by asthma, led to another hospital stay shortly after Christmas on 28 December 1918 being fortunately discharged 11 January 1919. In all it is estimated between 17,000,000 – 50,000,000 lives were claimed by the microscopic pest. On 5 April 1919 Private Mucklow, having served faithfully with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, was discharged medically unfit

1918 Influenza Pandemic, Camp Fusnton, U.S. Army

American soldiers, many of them ill from influenza.
Soldier’s Ward, Camp Funston, Kansas, U.S.A., 1918.
(U.S. Army Photograph via WIki)

———-0———-

I always hope that these stories, of all the following days, have a happy end with a return to friends and family at home. However, I have become too aware, from study and experience, that this is not so often as true as our desires. Sadly, both soldier’s lives ended too soon. Private Alexander Broadfoot M.M. died of wounds 8 November 1917 and is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, France…another part of this story for me to visit sometime in the future.

Though Private Mucklow returned home to his Rose and children James, John and Roy he was not with his loved ones too long, passing away 20 March 1925. James Mucklow is buried at Burnsland Cemetery, Calgary, Alberta and like Private Broadfoot, it seems appropriate to stop by one day. His wife Rose left this plain in 1963, sons James in 1986 and John in 1992. Roy, the youngest, was killed 27 April 1943 as a Bomb Aimer with 420 (Snowy Owl) Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force and is buried at Bergen-op-Zoom Canadian War Cemetery, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. His headstone includes the inscription, perhaps also appropriate, for two runners of the Great War…

Sleep On, My Son Your Work Is O’er
Your Willing Hands Will Toil No More

A return to Bergen-op-Zoom is in order and…with that thought…the 7PM tribute has begun…the orchestra seems louder this day.

Selected from the Rescuers

Posted By on April 21, 2020

Yorhshire Trench, Boezinge, Boesinghe

Dugout entrance at the excavated and preserved Yorkshire Trench site near Boezinge, Belgium. Entrances are often flooded and are covered with wire.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2004)

Camouflet

  1. a mine so charged and placed that its detonation will destroy enemy mining tunnels.
  2. 2a. an underground or subsurface explosion of a bomb or shell that leaves a sealed pocket of smoke and gas. 2b. a pocket formed in this way.
    (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

I return this evening to a favoured online resource. As I move through the digitized images one by one, I am careful not to let the similar looking pages drift one into another. At times I catch myself veering slightly off-course…steady…steady…refocus…letting go of any thoughts that perhaps there is a better way. Each group of records numbers somewhere between 1,750 – 1,850 names and takes two hours to view. It is a wonderful resource, but as researchers know, not all the pages are relevant. This night I start where I left off from a previous evening…Name Range: Bradley, A.E. – Brown, J. page 750. It is the 8th section I have worked through..there are several others to follow.

The work is a welcome diversion from the daily news I watch and I choose this night to remain indoors rather than seek the fresh air of an early evening. Our encounters with any other persons, these days, are so importantly reduced by physical distancing with a polite wave or hello from afar. I appreciate this bobbing and weaving especially when there is breadth of road along the path, and at all times I avoid the popular thoroughfares and places that attract the most people. Watching ahead and looking behind…Where are they headed…They have committed left I go right…wave and carry on.

Choosing the trail.

Stay active but physically distanced.
A COVID-19 signed narrow path…a bit narrow for me these days.
I will find another way.
(P. Ferguson image, April 2020)

Returning to my Great War online resource I am pleased that shortly into my search I find one name, Briscoe – page 863, that includes, within its record of life-saving, the names of three other soldiers caught in the same onslaught. It is unusual that all four men share the same words of a citation. So too the circumstances of the event are somewhat unusual compared to the many others I have read.

From the time of discovery to placing these words online can take an additional two or more hours. What is the story…or for that matter, a better question – where is the story beyond the obvious? How do I want to present it? Is this a Dragnet night, just the facts please, or one for all musing? What lurks within my memory – can I access its place for here? Does it fit? Then there are the images…much is dependent on images…what do I have…where is it…what else can I use?

Though I tend to write as I speak, I do prefer to read my words at a considered pace. I effect a cadence rather than a “speed read” in search of the end. One gains more in the considered rather than in the fleeting. Tempo defines character. Probably Adagio before Allegro…breathing – the space (not the kerning) between words…Foote and McCullough…so many ways to say the same line…which cadence do we keep? Which line do we use and so it goes until the publish button is pushed.

Once again, the 7PM clamor has started. A reminder to self to recognize the deeds of others and, for the preservation of self, to enjoy this day we’ve been given…no matter what it brings…we at least have this day. Stay safe everyone.

Dugout Dixmude

A dugout at Dixmude, Belgium.
Bunks can be seen just beyond the three horizontal strips of wood.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2004)

Corporal Richard Rainford
Sergeant Thomas Clifford Briscoe
Private Harold Leslie Edwards
Private Albert Ernest Carey
38th Canadian Infantry Battalion
Each soldier awarded the Military Medal

For conspicuous gallantry on early morning of 26th March 1917 near SOUCHEZ.

The enemy blew a camouflet at 5:20 a.m. and broke into one of our Mining Shafts. The force of the explosion burst in the sides of a dug-out near one of the Mine galleries. Twenty men were in the dug-out when the explosion occurred. Three of these managed to make their way out but the remainder were unable to gain the surface.

About a dozen men were standing in the trench near the dug-out entrance, amongst whom were CPL. RAINFORD, SGT. BRISCOE, PTES. EDWARDS and CAREY. These men, without consideration of their own safety, and also having seen the gas flame rush from the mouth of the dug-out, singeing the hair and burning the faces of some, entered the dug-out and succeeded in bringing 10 men to the surface. The remaining seven men were found to be killed. These men assisted in the work of resuscitation of those overcome by gas.

The men rescued were badly burned and gassed and must have been overcome by fumes but for the prompt and gallant action of these men. Some of the rescuers themselves were badly affected by the gas.

These four men have been selected from the rescuers as being those who rendered the best services.

Their prompt and gallant action undoubtedly saved the loss of 10 of their comrades and it is considered that they are fully deserving of an Immediate Award.

Soldiers of the 38th Battalion
Killed in the Camouflet Incident
Souchez, France
Buried at Villers Station Cemetery, Villers-au-Bois, France
VII F 21 – VII F 27
…They are together…

410670 Private Ernest David Ruffles
775656 Private George Nicholls
261714 Private Gus Sheff
261714 Private William Valentine
775645 Private Charles Gordon Matthewson
775323 Private George William Ewart Jemmett
669154 Private George Frederick Giddins

In Love and Light

Posted By on April 19, 2020

Oak Bay War Memorial, James Saull, Mother Peace, Uplands Park

Mother Peace
The Oak Bay War Memorial. Uplands Park, Victoria, B.C.
James Saull, sculptor.
(P. Ferguson image, April 2020)

“Everything Starts With Light”.
Ara Güler
Photojournalist. The Eye of Istanbul.

 Dearest Mother Peace,

I passed your way this morning to climb an old friend…Mt. Tolmie…to see this city…to visit a solitary tree near to its crest. A bonfire here once signaled an ending…for miles around all were made aware, from its flame, of a peace so yearned for.

Fog this day has claimed our abundance of water between lands. It lies heavy atop deep blue stillness. Within this density of storied mist, it is as if all that has once been, passes once more this way. Standing as distant witness to this gift…awareness…my heart steadies as I sip within the vision.

Looking eastwards from Mt. Tolmie.

Fog this day…all that has once been, passes once more this way.
(P. Ferguson image, April 2020)

Perhaps you have heard, the Bourdon bell sounded at Notre Dame? A year to the day of its fiery plight, testament to Our Lady’s survival and to those of the front-line during our current engagement with the darkness. An invisible wrath, the darkness slips into the crevices, worming its way on its diet of calamity.

But with this day my path has brought light amidst the tremors. At my place of learning, words written upon a walkway, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”. Leonard Cohen has spoken, a gift from an anonymous student. Cohen – poet, songwriter and ordained Buddhist monk, whose Dharma name Jikan (Silence) aligns with my penchant for stillness…More words from Cohen’s anthem will echo with the Bourdon bell…though not so silent there is peace from the tintinnabulation.

Solitary tree near the crest of M. Tolmie.

Solitary tree close to the crest of Mt. Tolmie.
Near this place a bonfire once signaled peace.
(P. Ferguson image, April 2020)

Below the crest, I gaze upon my solitary tree and am reminded of a previous light, of another day, when amongst pages of remembrance, a simple drawing with few words – candle, poppy, “in love and light”, heart. (Glenn & Nikki, Belgie, War Graves Visitor’s Book, Larch Wood Railway Cutting Cemetery). My seeking path is contented this day bringing observations together… having wondered many times what will bring connection to these discoveries. All the while I continue with my encounters choosing when to find the shutter. The process is reaffirming…all the while an open eye to the light…I continue to walk.

In closing, my dearest Mother Peace…upon your vigil continue…your eyes upon them. Hold them close within your arms. Repeat their names as nearby water lies still and unbroken, swept with whitecaps or covered in the mist of all that has passed. Somewhere, in the mists of time, a distant bell signals as stillness is sought upon the trail.

In love and light…I remain…

“Ring the bells that still can ring”.
(Leonard Cohen, Anthem, 1992)

In Love and Light. By Glenn and Nikki.

In love and light.
Thanks to Glenn and Nikki…a piece of the trail continues to shine.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2017)

May the Ink Never Fade

Posted By on April 16, 2020

Captain Tom Moore, 2020 Fundraising Walk

Burma veteran Captain Thomas Moore, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, circa 1940.
(Wiki Image)

The sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away.
Captain Thomas Moore, British Army, 16 April 2020

Clang Clanger, Thump Thumplers and More

The day has arrived at 7 PM. Watched clocks and timepieces have signaled an explosion of clang clangers about the block. Children join with parents as drums, pots and pans are struck in rhythmic and discordant fashions. It is a fine Seuss-like chorus of Jing Tinglers, Gar Ginkers, Trum Tupers and others. In the distance a solitary vuvuzela is heard and on some passing occasions an automobile horn joins in the tribute. I adore these clang clangers, thump thumplers and more. It brings smiles to my face, to my heart, to my core. Outward compassion has been found again.

With this great calamity we have rediscovered our souls and empathy for our kind. Our reward in this great chorus is finding our being. Perhaps we no longer take things for granted, perhaps we have found ways to help our neighbour or another? Though, Covid-19 has claimed much it has also, with our counter-attack, created good deeds in time of need.

Captain Tom

His medals swing-mounted speak of service in Burma during the Second World War. Clutching a walker this elder veteran reaches his 100th garden lap as a military guard of honour salutes this Samaritan. Captain (Retired) Thomas Moore, 99 years of age, is still one of the Havercake Lads of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding).

With wire blazer badge, regimental tie and swagger Captain Moore has served his nation once again though, methinks, service has never left him…it’s just more publicly known. His steps have been an inspiration to the National Health Service, to Britons – the common and the royal, to one known soul in Victoria and likely many others across this earthly sphere. Captain Moore’s steps…his good deed…has raised more than £16,000,000 for the British National Health Service, bringing joy and raising spirits in the hearts within the tumult.

Uncommon Connection

In difficult times we ache for inspiration…to find the good within the chaos of clutter. I have listened to the newscasts each day speaking of Captain Moore and have listened each night to the sound of an off-beat orchestra. I find joy bringing together uncommon connection to such differing stories. With the words of “our” Captain and the words of Boris, (Karloff not Johnson) through the pen of Theodor Seuss Gissel. Both story and storyteller bring me joy. May the ink never fade.

To the world you may be one person;
but to one person you may be the world.
Dr. Seuss
Theodor Seuss Gissel, Children’s Author

Link to Fundraising Site
Captain Tom Moore’s 100th Birthday Walk for the NHS