Willing Hands

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.


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)


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)


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.

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.


2 Responses to “Willing Hands”

  1. pferguson pferguson says:

    I am most grateful to Jim Mucklow who I first “chatted” with about permission to use the photograph of his Great Grandfather and family. After a few emails, Jim’s family provided the image shown above, which replaced a previous version. Thank you so much Jim to both you and your family. The story of two Battalion runners…not at the start or the finish…but in motion again.

  2. pferguson pferguson says:

    Origin of the word chat:
    Possibly from the French word chattel sometimes defined as “something carried about” or, possibly derived from the Hindi word chatt meaning “parasite”.

    The term “Seam Squirrels” originated with soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

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