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And we will all go together

Posted By on February 17, 2018

Pipers of the 51st Highland Division, 1945. In 1940 the 51st (HD) "was isolated, abandoned, and forced to surrender". (51st HD website).

Pipers of the 51st Highland Division, 1945. In 1940, the 51st (HD) “was isolated, abandoned, and forced to surrender”.  (51st HD website) Only one brigade escaped from St. Valery through Le Havre, France. The  reformed Division returned to St. Valery, in September, 1944.

Will Ye Go Lassie Go

Though perhaps this tune has wandered to my ears sometime in my past, it was only recently when the tune was featured in Their Finest that the melody, sung by actor Bill Nighy, has become anchored to my person. That anchor comes, not only in the form of the lyric and melody, but how it was presented to me – perhaps to us all – assembled in an aging theatre. The film’s tune was delivered in a wartime home, with friends and colleagues capturing the essence of the unknown, what is to become, what is to be…..when will they come home.

Home…what is it to us? Like the definition of family it can be many things. Home can be our relatives, friends, our workplace…..our group and so on. To a soldier it can be the regiment, the company, the platoon, the section. For the Scottish soldier it can be the Highlands, the Lowlands, the pipes and so too the hearth. And as the gentle refrain of Wild Mountain Thyme passes to your ears this day…think  to another day, when home and family was not so close, when all about you provided only questions and longing.

Wild Mountain Thyme
(Francis McPeake)
Oh, the summertime is comin’
And the trees are sweetly bloomin’
And the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the purple heather
Will you go? Lassie, will you go?
And we’ll all go together
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go? Lassie, will you go?
I will build my love a tower
By yon pure and crystal fountain
Yes and on it I will lay
All the flowers of the mountain
Will you go? Lassie, will ya go?
And we will all go together
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go? Lassie, will you go?
If my true love won’t come with me
Then I would surely find another
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go? Lassie, will ya go?
And we will all go together
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go?
Will you go?
Lassie will you go?

See the History of the 51st Highland Division

Behind the Wire 1916

Posted By on January 20, 2018

16th Battalion C.E.F. Prisoners of War (Part 2)

Barbed wire, familiar to all soldiers on the Western Front. The barbed wire symbol, in this instance of French origin, was sometimes used by PoW veteran's organizations.

Barbed wire, familiar to all soldiers on the Western Front and elsewhere. The barbed wire symbol, in this instance of French origin, was sometimes used by Prisoners of War veteran’s organizations.

...the enemy opened a heavy bombing attack against the left flank. Sergeant Slessor was wounded and captured – he died three days afterwards. His post was overwhelmed. Only after hard fighting was this onslaught stopped and the block retaken. (Urquhart, The Sixteenth, page 183)

See also Behind the Wire 1915.

(DATES OF CAPTURE IN BOLD)

19 July 1916

Warren, John Henry
Private     130200
Released 12 December 1919

8 October 1916

Balfour, Robert
Private     420377
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War 12 October 1916
Gunshot wound – head
Held as Prisoner of War at Marcoing, Nord, France
Son of Mr. & Mrs. R. Balfour, Easterbank, Forfar, Scotland
Buried St. Souplet British Cemetery, Nord, France. Age 23

Boyle, Thomas Edward
Private     700073
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War 21 December 1916
Gunshot wound – back. Also reported as wounded in hip when caught in barbed wire entanglement
Held at Festungs, Koln, Germany
Only son of Thomas H. and Beatrice Boyle, 309 Redwood Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Buried Brussels Town Cemetery, Evere, Belgium. Age 21

Thomas Edward Boyle, Winnipeg Evening Tribune via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial).

Thomas Edward Boyle, Winnipeg Evening Tribune via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

Bradshaw, Blake
Private     420483
Released 15 June 1918

Slessor, George H.
Lance Sergeant     29402
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War 10 October 1916
No. 11 Platoon
Husband of Mary Slessor, 128 Wellington Road, Aberdeen, Scotland
Buried Porte de Paris Cemetery, Cambrai, France. Age 44

Numbers 11 and 12 platoons early met with misadventure [27 September 1916]. Their guide bore to far to the right. With little warning, they found themselves advancing against a heavily manned German trench, from which fire was opened on them with rifles and machine guns. Fortunately the warning they had received enabled them to retire with few casualties, but with the loss of Sergeant Slessor of Number 11 platoon. Slessor lost his bearings, He wandered into an unoccupied part of the Kenora Trench, where he was found next morning, all by himself, sound asleep with his head pillowed on a dead German. (Ibid, page 179)

Smith, John Albert
Private     700080
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War 1 November 1916
Brother of Mrs. William Smart, 7 Edgewood Crescent, Toronto, Ontario
Buried Porte de Paris Cemetery, Cambrai, France

John Albert Smith, image from 9th Platoon, C Company, 101st Battalion CEF booklet via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

John Albert Smith, from 9th Platoon, C Company, 101st Battalion CEF booklet via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

Thomson, Peter Samuel
Private     427353
Released 12 January 1918
Leg amputated

Woodfine, James Moore
Private     105876
Released 26 September 1916
Amputation

8/9 October 1916

Armstrong, Henry Owen
Private     700996
Released 30 November 1918

Bent, George
Private     700398
Released 6 January 1919

Boden, George Henry
Private     129076
Released 15 December 1918

Burt, Frederick Audry
Private     199110
Released 2 December 1918

Cook, James Ray
Private     871467
Released 18 December 1918

Emerson, George Gordon
Private 426941
Released 29 November 1918

Fellows, Alfred
Private     701176
Released 12 December 1916

Foote, George Windsor
Private     488802
Released 4 December 1918

Galloway, Robert Neil
Lance Corporal     29445
Released 24 December 1918

Green, Arthur Charles
Private     105339
Released 12 January 1919

Oliver, Alfred
Private     77647
Released 15 December 1918

Ousey, John Percival
Private     700222
Released 12 January 1919

Scherbauk, Peter
Private     417655
Released 12 January 1919

Smith, Reginald Arthur
Private     105554
Released 2 January 1919

Steeds, Leslie Arthur
Private     700170
Released 2 January 1919

Thorp, Gilbert
Private     152705
Released 27 December 1918

Ussher, Noel
Private     420575
Released 8 December 1918

Walker, William Henry
Private     426322
Released 12 January 1919

9 October 1916

Irving, Arthur Beaufin
Lieutenant
Died of Wounds as Prisoner of War 9 October 1916
Son of Paulus H. Milius Irving and Diana Irving, 622 Cook Street, Victoria, British Columbia
Graduate of Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario
Formerly of the Royal Canadian Dragoons
Commemorated on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Vimy, France. Age 26

Albert Beaufin Irving, Toronto Star, 4 December 1916 via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

Arthur Beaufin Irving, Toronto Star, 4 December 1916 via the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

List of Prisoners of War (16th Battalion CEF) compiled from:
Wigney, Edward H. “Guests of the Kaiser; Prisoners-of-War of the Canadian Expeditionary force 1915-1918”, (CEF Books, 2008)

St. Paul’s Cathedral amidst the Whirlwind…

Posted By on December 29, 2017

The famed image of St. Paul's Cathedral taken photographer Herbert Mason was taken 77 years ago, 29 December 1940. (Wiki image via the Imperial War Museum and the Daily Mail)

The famed image of St. Paul’s Cathedral taken photographer Herbert Mason was taken 77 years ago, 29 December 1940. (Wiki image via the Imperial War Museum and the Daily Mail)

…Amidst the Peace

For a few days in December 1940 the skies above London were without enemies.

Christmastide, beginning at sunset on Christmas eve through St. Stephen’s Day (Boxing Day) was without the falling rain of incendiaries, high explosives, mines, fuzes, time delays and other harm from Dorniers, Heinkels and Junkers. The rain, the lightning war, began again 27 December 1940.

Two days later Herbert Mason clicked the shutter of his Van Neck camera capturing St. Paul’s Cathedral amidst the second great fire of London. The smokey image captures the spirit of defiance as Christopher Wren’s jewel in his crown stands brazenly amidst the whirlwind.

St. Paul’s Cathedral remains with us today and can be seen standing tall from various vantage points. Its dome – upon the skyline – strikes a landmark feature during the day and at night, a beacon of survival, a jewel amidst the peace.

I’m Dreaming of Home

Posted By on December 23, 2017

Thistle and laurel wreath with red berries and ribbon. The latter marked, "Festubert, Loos, Ypres, Armentieres, Somme, Vimy, Arras".

A Scottish Christmas card. Thistle and laurel wreath with red berries and ribbon, “Festubert, Loos, Ypres, Armentieres, Somme, Vimy, Arras”.

Greetings Christmas and New Year

I can only imagine a group of soldiers at Christmas with their thoughts of home. Glasgow, Aberdeen, Kirkcaldy, Dundee, Kilmarnock, Falkirk, Peebles and others. Though at home they may rise in the morning to different landscapes they are brothers in this trench, this town, this Scotland. To soldiers near and far, old regiments and new, Christmas away and Christmas at home we think of you often at this time. Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhma mhath ur!

From the film Joyeux Noël performed by Griogair Lawrie, David Bruce, Ivan MacDonald and Calum Anthony Beaton (Bagpipe Ensemble).

I’m Dreaming of Home

“I hear the mountain birds
The sound of rivers singing
A song I’ve often heard
It flows through me now
So clear and so loud
I stand where I am
And forever I’m dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home

It’s carried in the air
The breeze of early morning
I see the land so fair
My heart opens wide
There’s sadness inside
I stand where I am
And forever I’m dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home

This is no foreign sky
I see no foreign light
But far away am I
From some peaceful land
I’m longing to stand
A hand in my hand
…forever I’m dreaming of home
I feel so alone, I’m dreaming of home”

MacKendricks and The Thistle

Posted By on December 14, 2017

The Highlander's Christmas - 1916.

A Scottish soldier on sentry duty, “One Flag, one King”. The Highlander’s Christmas – 1916.

The Christmas Card and the Table

Imagine please, if you will, MacKendricks. Chuntering as he did in the sanctity of his space MacKendricks had outlived – all family, all friends. Each day a similar caned path to The Thistle where with pewter near to hand he sat at an edge-worn, darkened wise table carved deep with letters, words, dates, expressions and the familiar – more than a few of his own hand. Though he seldom spoke, he was not impolite but nodded to patrons should he wish to acknowledge them. MacKendricks’ lined and duned face, thick to the touch had felt the close glow of the sun, the rasp of the sand and history. Save for one day of the year, each day the same for this man of the line.

On Christmas Day The Thistle, hearty with patrons, knew no less kindness than to serve goodwill for all. MacKendricks would appear in better clothes that once fit a larger frame, a better glass near to hand with better spirits to cling to his person. From his pocket he removed the one gift he provided to himself each year a simple card that on this day of days he allowed himself to read once again. “Hearty good wishes for a happy time at this glad season. One Flag, one King. Yule-tide Greetings. Be prepared for joy and gladness, Christmas morn is dawning clear, Cast away all thoughts of sadness – Joy be thine throughout the year! Joy and Peace – God’s greatest blessings, May they ever hover near! James Christmas 1916”.

And then, MacKendricks stood, charged glass in hand – “Friends make winter warm!” and drank as the card returned to its pocket. Towards the door he would go – his chuntering returning to form. All eyes upon him as he opened the door and drew in the good air, the cool, the pure. Before he stepped to the ground MacKendricks rested his eyes, reopened and walked knowing with each step he was closer to next year’s visit with James. The edge-worn, wise darkened table knew too well the spirits of old souls who reside carved deep amongst the letters, words, dates, expressions and the familiar.