Song Above Machine Guns

Passchendaele, Concertina, Song, Music

…whatever our chosen instruments include…
Great War concertina at the Passchendaele Memorial Museum.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

The Soldier 410457 George Gabriel Boland

What’s he going to do this soldier – 410457?

He was born in Wrexham, North Wales…served briefly in the U.S. Army…once was a sailor…with a Goddess of Liberty tattoo inked on his left arm. He stood 5’ 3.5”.

At the time of his enlistment, in March 1915, George Gabriel Boland stated age was 45 years 5 months. He served 1 year and 341 days in France and Flanders and was Mustard gassed at Passchendaele. In April 1917 Boland suffered from influenza and in May was sentenced to 27 days field punishment No. 1 for being Absent from Working Party followed by 7 more days for making an inappropriate remark to an N.C.O. (CEF Personnel Record).

…but what we don’t know – was his voice a top-tenor, tenor, baritone or bass? Nor do we know the tune he chose.

Private George Gabriel Boland
Awarded the Military Medal
38th Canadian Infantry Battalion

For conspicuous valour and devotion to duty as a Runner during the operations on Passchendaele Ridge from October 29th to November 2nd 1917. Although 52 years of age he displayed the greatest activity and anxiety to do even more share of the work and repeatedly carried messages under exceptionally heavy fire, displaying bravery of the highest quality. At one time when conditions were of the worst and the shelling had been continuous for some hours, he jumped out of the trench on the parapet and led his Company in singing, by so doing, relieving the tension and raising the morals (sic) and spirits of his comrades very greatly. His example to the men of his Company was most praiseworthy.

This day as we join in the 7 PM chorus, with whatever our chosen instruments include, let us remember how much our voices and earlier voices can and have contributed to the morale and spirits of those keeping us safe and providing for our well-being.

…and though of considerable artist’s licence…but wonderful voices (from both sides)…the Welsh voice (albeit an English Regiment in 1879)…Men of Harlech from Zulu (1964). The story of the Defence of Rorke’s Drift mission station. Cy Endfield (Director), Stanley Baker (Producer).


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 Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration 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 inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", 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 was 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, Paul 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.


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