One of thousands and thousands of postcards sent home by troops overseas.

One of thousands and thousands of postcards sent home during the Great War by troops overseas.

An Online Exhibit for Every Day of the Great War Marking 100 Years

Distant Yesterday

Theirs’ was a distant yesterday. These men and women who joined the campaign that took them to far and distant places. Towns and villages that would become all too familiar to other towns and villages as a timeline of chaos took its toll. Hooge, Blecourt, Amiens, Thelus, Ypres, Arras and hundreds more carved into the memory that marks a generation, the places they lived, and a nation itself.

Dad Didn’t Talk About It

Someone becomes interested in that old box of stuff. “It was Dad’s, your grandfather do you want it”? your mother asks. As the letters are unfolded and a small lump of lead falls, you wonder what it is and you read. Mother tells you “Dad didn’t talk about it” and the next letter unfolds. A handful of clover each with four leaves, the story lost but the wonder is there.

The Letters Amongst Us

We begin to read these yellowed pages, small in size but with stories larger than life as they are ours, our Grandad, that man who we knew so well for so long. Gone from us now yet here again amongst the color of his jottings. You begin to wonder in the way that he writes, did he know these would be cherished after he was gone as we sit in the kitchen tonight.

On the Somme.

On the Somme.

The Ground

Torn and shredded beyond recognition, carved with the lines created by men from behind the lines to the frontline itself. Cratered and scarred, burnt and green-less, filled with scurrying warriors and vermin dining on the remains of what once was. For years to come this twisted agony of earth reveals its’ fallen, its trenches and dugouts where soldiers fought, and where on occasion a story told made a few men think of home.


Was it a letter or a photograph, a word from another  – the reminder of a place where Tommy knew the familiar.  Was it a world he hoped to make better standing side by side with his regiment? Who were they? Canadians? Australians? English? Scottish? Or what of Fritz from the other side, Austrian, German, Bavarian? Blue or Brown eyes, black or blonde haired all with the same memories of familiar places called home.

The Raid

Dark again and we move out trying not to be seen or sound like we are here. The flare it rises from the other side and we stay still less movement shows in our now lit frames. Will that light ever disappear they wonder to themselves. To capture a prisoner tonight and learn who he is – our objective in these shadows framed by mud and wire.

Craters at Vimy. 2013.

Craters at Vimy. 2013.

The Crater

Deep and filled with water my refuge for tonight. Try to hang on I cannot slide away down into that mud sucking abyss where it takes men’s souls deep into its grip dragging all that that we have known into its pit. Lost – missing in action will I ever be found? Get hold of yourself lad and move from this place to the next crater – maybe less water, maybe less mud?

War Memorial at Poperinghe, Belgium.

War Memorial at Poperinghe, Belgium. 2010.


Was there a chance that here amongst these bleak and dreary days that a soldier or nurse could find peace outside the menace? Here at “Pop” behind the lines we find some time to set aside, for at least a little while…a little while and where with a return to our friends at the front we may find ourselves a few names short of those we remember.

Archie Has Been Wounded

Archie that lad who just arrived filled with stories anxious to be accepted. The barrage it came down on us all as round after round and shrapnel balls flying finding men’s flesh. Machine guns begin their chatter firing and piercing their way into our regiment like a needle fluttering down the line of a seam. Two, three and Archie is one. Three rounds across his guts. Archie bleeds and calls as the fire lets up.

Nurses with wounded soldiers.

Nurses with wounded soldiers.

Leave – We See Archie!

A pal and I got leave for a bit back to England for a bit of a bite, some food and drink so unfamiliar now. We saw Archie at Charring Cross – despite his wounds, dressings and bandages he has done well for himself. It seems his nurse, Anne of Portadown, has taken a shine to our smiling farmer. Archie is far from comfort but takes it well and I wonder will we see him again?

I Survived

The war it is over and I have come through unscathed. No wounds, or shock, no illness or concerns……I cannot help but think of David and Luke, Arthur and Mike those four and I we stood here in ’15, two of us in ’17 and now there is me alone but with new names about me. I may be unscathed but the stories of these places I will keep to myself.


I am 72 now and there are not many of us. Some have kept in touch and others we have lost all chance of finding. Still we are here telling stories that families never hear. We laugh and we sing and I stand from my chair. A man I know as Archie finds his way through the door, helped by a woman, Anne I believe, with a bag of four leaf clovers he has picked for me.

Looking towards the blue sky at the Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper (Pres). Belgium, 2006.

Looking towards blue sky at the Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, (Ypres) Belgium, 2006.

A Softer Light to Shine on Us All

Darkness does not shine. The light taken away from home and hearth casts shadows across families for years to come. And here today, 100 years later, these shadows return in a different light, in the hearts and hands of descendants whose desire to share their family’s Great War provides a softer light to shine on us all.


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 in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography 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 entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that 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 would be 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, he 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.


Leave a Reply