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Flowers of the Forest – The story behind the story. A young man’s journey to War.

Farquhar Mclennan
My Great-Uncle, Pte. Farquhar McLennan, killed in action, June 13, 1916

Join me, if you will , on a journey in time – a journey back 100 years!

I have designed this website as a media supplement to the novel “Flowers of the Forest”. The novel is a historical/fiction rendition of my Great Uncle, Pte. Farquhar McLennan’s time in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in the Great War. This site gives the reader of the novel, the opportunity to see photos of the vivid characters and amazing places that live in the pages of the novel. The reader will also have access to background information and research that went into writing the story.  The Library and Archives in Ottawa provided a wealth of digital data that are displayed in this site. The project started out as my curiosity but soon became my passion. Read on as I update the site and find out why. Here is a chance to view some compelling  photos and documents. Travel back in time 100 years and feel the vibe!

800px-58_Bn_CEFBattalion Colours of the 58th Battalion, CEF

Light blue rectangle – 9th Brigade

Dark blue triangle- 58th Battalion

Brown background  – 3rd Division

Canadian Expeditionary Force

Badge 58th

Cap Badge, 58th

 

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Flowers of the Forest – now available

The hard and soft cover versions of the book are now available on;      Amazon.ca – Books,    Amazon.com,                   Amazon.co.uk  amazon.pg

 

 

 

or ebooks on ;             Chapters-IndigoChapters-logo-0229B306C0-seeklogo.comindigo-books-music-inc-logo-2925241B99-seeklogo.com       or;

 

        Barnes & Noble-author-educator-barnes-and-noble-png-logo-2

CLICK ONE!

Be the first on your block to own one!

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front and back cover of Flowers of the Forest

 

 

Enjoy!!

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Grief’s Geography

Grief’s Geography – where the heroes lived. – click here for link

This link will show a map of Toronto and the location of the home (shown with a poppy) of every casualty of the Great War. Look to see if there were any heroes who lived on your street.  Enter your postal code. There is a poppy on 175 Boulton Ave., where Farquhar McLennan lived. Thanks to Global News for this site.

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Paradise Part 2

OK, pay attention now, so here we are, back to Paradise Camp, in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Some very notable Canadians attended Paradise Camp for officer training before the War. One of them was Vincent Massey, who much later became Governor General of Canada. Another notable was Percival Molson, of beer fame and having a stadium named after him at McGill University. And a third, but not the least was Nobel Prize winner, Fredrick Banting.

In the summer of 1915, when Pte. Farquhar McLennan enlisted, the group of men at Paradise Camp was part of, what was called, the Second Contingent. The men that went overseas at the beginning of the Great War, in the fall of 1914, all expected to be home by Christmas. Nobody foresaw the shape this war would take. Casualties began to mount very quickly and the government realized that more men would need to be recruited. Thus began the Second Contingent.

A battalion consists of roughly 1000 men and officers. In 1915, the camp was attended by the 35th, 36th, 37th, 58th, 74th, 75th, 76th, 81st, 83rd, 84th, 86th Machine-Gun, 92nd, and the Canadian Army Medical Corp (CAMC). There was a total of around 12000 men.

The camp was established with two campuses; one at the Commons and the other one just north of Niagara-on-the-Lake, at Fort Mississauga. The musketry range was on the north campus.

1200px-Fort_Mississauga_Entrance

Fort Mississauga, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Two soldiers, Pte. Bateman and Pte. Scott of the 75th inscribed their names into the soft brick of the entrance to the sally port. Still there for all to see.

Overseas Draft

Overseas draft, August 1915.

The picture above is of the “overseas draft”. It was becoming very apparent that the men at the Front were falling faster than they were being replaced. Therefore in August of 1915, a draft was conducted at Paradise camp and this group of men were sent overseas ahead of time. If you look closely at the picture, the men are wearing some of their field gear.

A typical day of training would consist of waking up at 4:30 AM, dressing, followed by breakfast at the mess tents. Morning drills would start with parade drills, beginning with the smallest units (sections, platoons) and progressing up to the largest units (company and battalion). The afternoons would be taken up with combat skills, such as, hand to hand combat, bayonet, target practice artillery or signaling. Fridays were reserved for the long 12 mile (approx) route marches. There was a choice of two; either to Queenston Heights or to Port Dalhousie. Saturdays were for sports and leisure and Sunday was for Divine Service and Church Parades. Families would come to visit the men on Sundays.

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58th Battalion Football team. Farquhar is seen in the back row, third from the right.

Sports played a very important role in the training and development of troops. It was encouraged for fitness and teamwork. Battalions and Companies participated in many tournaments for prizes and trophies. Great rivalries developed between the battalions. The uniforms that you see in this picture were donated by the YMCA. The “Y” played a huge role in supplying equipment to the men for these activities. This picture, by the way, is the one that I chose to put on the cover of the book, “Flowers of the Forest – The Pride of Our Land”. 

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The Man in Command

The imposing man in the picture above is Lt. Col. Harry Genet, OC of the 58th Battalion, CEF. Born in London, England on Feb, 20, 1864, Harry Genet eventually imigrated to Canada and settled in Brantford, Ontario, where he found work at the Adams Wagon Works as an accountant. Genet also found time to become the Commanding Officer of the 38th Dufferin Peel Rifles.

The Ministry of Militia ordered a battalion to be raised in the central Ontario region in May, 1915. By July, 1151 men had been recruited and were at Paradise Camp, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Lt.Col. Genet took on the mission of recruiting the officers for the battalion.

In the novel, Flowers of the Forest, Lt. Col. Genet and our football prodigy, Pte. Farquhar McLennan, come face to face at Paradise Camp. This is the start of a very complicated relationship that carries over to the Front in Belgium. I don’t want to give away too much here; I’ll let you read about it.

Genet suffered a war injury (sort of) when he was thrown from his horse in High Park, Toronto. He was treated for broken ribs and a separated shoulder. After a spell in Toronto, stationed at the CNE, the 58th moved to England in November, 1915. In Jan., 1916, they moved across the Channel to France. The next stop was the Ypres Salient, in Belgium.

In June, 1916, the Germans mounted an advance that pushed the Canadians out of an area called Sanctuary Wood. It was a bloody, embarrassing loss for the CEF. On June 13, 1916, the Canadians, with the 58th Battalion, attacked the German positions in Sanctuary Wood, pushed them back, and regained their old lines. This was a historic event for Canada. This was the first time a Canadian fighting unit had conducted an offensive mission in the theatre of war.

Only a short time later, Lt. Col. Harry Genet won the DSO (Distinguished Service Award) in a battle at Observatory Ridge. He also received further commendations during his service at the Front. Genet led the 58th at the Battle of the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Lens and Passchendaele. After Passchendaele, Genet left the 58th and the Front.

 

At the anniversary of their mobilization—June 23 1916—only seven officers re-
mained out of forty who sailed from Canada with the unit. The following extract of a letter received from Lieut.-Col. H. A. Genet will speak for itself:
“We certainly have had a very rough time of it.
Our losses have been severe, but the battalion did
splendidly, and we received commendation and
thanks from brigade and corps commanders, also
from army headquarters. The loss of so many of
our gallant fellows weighs heavily on me.”
Shortly afterwards the battalion was ordered to
a rest camp some distance in the rear to receive re-
inforcements, to reorganize and to recuperate.
After a period of rest the battalion, with the whole
Canadian corps, moved to the Somme front, where
added lustre has been won to the proud record made
in the defense of Ypres. Of the officers who went
from Brantford with the 58th Battalion, all, with
one exception, Lieut.Col. Genet, are on the casualty
lists. Major Ballachey, of loving memory, was
killed in action. Major F. Hicks, a splendidly effi-
cient officer, was wounded in the knee. Lieut. J. R.
Cornelius, keen, enthusiastic and thorough, is suffer-
ing from shell shock. He has been recommended
for the Military Cross. Lieut. J. A. Pearce, the sig-
nalling officer, who did his difficult and dangerous
work so well that the Colonel in a letter writes:
“Pearce I have recommended for the Military Cross,
and I have no doubt he will get it,” is home on sick
leave after being wounded. Lieut. W. J. Wallace,
another of the battalion’s capable and highly-
thought-of officers, is lying seriously ill, suffering

from a multiplicity of wounds.

Brantford has great cause to be proud of her
gallant officers and men. One would like to speak
in detail of the courage and heroism evinced by the
men in the ranks, equally as great and worthy of
mention as that of the officers. To one and all we
bear our tribute. “Where duty called or danger”
they never were wanting. They have left an example
worthy of emulation to their comrades who may fol-
low them along the hard, but noble, road to victory and peace.
 The Lt. Col. survived the Great War and returned to Canada to resume his career. He had a son, John Ernest Genet, who also became a Lt. Col. in the First Canadian Divisional Signals in the Second World War.

Harry Genet eventually returned to England and took up residence in Mervstham. His life came to an end on March 17, 1946. We shall remember.

www.doingourbit.ca/profile/harry-genet-dso

 

geach_stanley_0157

His death card.

 

On a completely different note. This post came up on Facebook yesterday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death in action of this soldier.

Lance Corporal Richard Law

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Football Players and the War

On the 25th March, 1918, Walter Tull was killed by machine gun fire while trying to help his men withdraw.

Second Lieutenant Walter Tull was the first black British Army Infantry officer.
Walter Tull, the son of a joiner, was born in Folkestone on the 28th April 1888. Walter’s father, the son of a slave, had arrived from Barbados in 1876. In 1895, when Walter was seven, his mother died. Walter’s father remarried but he died two years later. The stepmother was unable to cope with all six children and Walter and his brother Edward were sent to a Methodist run orphanage in Bethnal Green, London.

Walter was a keen footballer and played for a local team in Clapton. In 1908 Walter’s talents were discovered by a scout from Tottenham Hotspur and the club decided to sign this promising young footballer. He played for Tottenham until 1910, when he was transferred for a large fee to Northampton Town. Walter was the first black outfield player to play professional football in Britain.

When the First World War broke out, Walter abandoned his football career to join the 17th (1st Football) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment.

During his military training Walter was promoted three times. In November 1914, as Lance Sergeant he was sent to Les Ciseaux in France. In May, 1915 Walter was sent home with post traumatic stress disorder.

Returning to France in September 1916 Walter fought in the Battle of the Somme, between October and November, 1916. His courage and abilities encouraged his superior officers to recommend him as an officer. On 26 December, 1916, Walter went back to England on Leave and to train as an officer.

There were military laws forbidding ‘any negro or person of colour’ being commissioned as an officer, despite this, Walter was promoted to lieutenant in 1917.

Walter was the first ever Black officer in the British Army Infantry, and the first black officer to lead white men into battle.

Walter was sent to the Italian Front where he twice led his Company across the River Piave on a raid and both times brought all of his troops back safely. He was mentioned in Despatches for his ‘gallantry and coolness’ under fire by his commanding officer.

He was recommended for the Military Cross but never received it.

After their time in Italy, Walter’s Battalion was transferred to the Somme Valley in France. On the 25th March, 1918, Walter Tull was killed by machine gun fire while trying to help his men withdraw.

Walter was such a popular man that several of his men risked their own lives in an attempt to retrieve his body under heavy fire but they were unsuccessful due to the enemy soldiers advance. Walter’s body was never found and he is one of thousands of soldiers from World War One who has no known grave.

(courtesy ww1 Colourized Photos)

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The Great Trek and Good Bye Paradise!

Donald Trump has been yearning for a parade. When he reads this Blog, he will be green with envoy. Enjoy, Donald!

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

Photos from the City of Toronto Archives.

The summer of 1916 was long, hot and hazy. The food was good and the sports were competitive and lively. For the most part, the men enjoyed their time in Paradise. They were certainly aware of what lay down the road.

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

There was one terrible thunderstorm that almost led to tragedy. But, you will have to read about it in the novel, “Flowers of the Forest”.

The amazing football skills of Pte. McLennan were on display for all to see in inter-battalion football matches. Every Saturday was football day on the Commons and no one missed a game. Even the locals came out to watch and the local press from St.Catharines and Niagara Falls covered the matches.

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

Like all things, the summer eventually drew to an end. The nights grew longer and cooler. Word was out that the battalions would be shipped out in the coming Autumn.

By the end of August, the men had their khaki military uniforms. They made a trip across Lake Ontario, by ferry, to the CNE for Labour Day and a parade through the City of Toronto.

 

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

As September blended into October, the nights were becoming cold and creature comforts were being challenged. On October 18, 1915, there was a Grand Review of the troops by the Governor General, HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Around this time, the officers of Military District #2 decided that the men at Paradise Camp should make a 112 KM. march to their winter quarters in Toronto. The march was set up as a tactical  exercise based on a mock war. The troops at Niagara were to make their way through enemy- controlled territory to reinforce their allies in Toronto.

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

The battalions were to depart Paradise Camp, starting on October 25, 1915. They would leave, one battalion on each day for 12 days. All battalions were preceded by  their bands , a screen of about 15 to 20 scouts on watch for enemy, and stretcher bearers brought up the rear. Each man carried a full kit that weighed about 60 lbs.

The first destination was The Lake Street Armoury in St. Catharines, where they would billet for the night.

to be continued