Tag: World War 1

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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

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Cap Badge, 58th

 

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My First Post

Badge 58th

Cap Badge, 58th

Just a little over a year ago, I started work on something I never dreamed I could do. Ever! I started work on a book; actually a novel. The book is now Published and available at Amazon, Chapters, Barnes and Noble and on this website. Needless to say, then, this is a very exciting time for me. At the same time, I am learning to set up this Blog page and Web site to provide background material for the book.

The project of writing this book started out innocently enough – about 5 years ago. I became curious about a Great Uncle who lost his life in the Great War. The only thing that I knew about him was his name; Farquhar McLennan. He was mentioned from time to time in family conversations. I remembered him because his name was so unusual. I grew up in Toronto Canada and nobody was ever named Farquhar.

As I said, about 5 years ago, I became curious and had some time on my hands. I sat down at the computer and did a search in the Library and Archives in Ottawa. I searched under WW1 records. Within a few minutes some documents came up on my screen. There in front of me was a document called “Attestation Papers”. In other words, enlistment papers. I could see detailed information about my Uncle and the thing that really blew me away – his signature.

Farquhar McLennan was no longer just a unique name, but a real person who lived and breathed and signed his name. And he was about to go away to war.

I was hooked.

Start here and follow the Blog through to the end. I will update it regularly.

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Attestation

Attestation#2

First Page of Farquhar’s Attestation.

In my first post, I mentioned my Uncle’s attestation papers. Farquhar McLennan signed up with the 58th Battalion, Central Ontario Regiment on July 12, 1915.  He traveled from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake, where the training camp was located. Oddly enough, the training camp was called Paradise Camp. It was located on The Commons right next to the old Fort George site. The Commons was covered with thousands of white bell tents where the recruits slept.

Farquhar would have undergone a medical examination before he was presented with his papers. I have posted the 2 pieces of Attestation in the Gallery for you to see.

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Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of February 2018 — Library and Archives Canada Blog

As of today, 555,443 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project. Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, […]

via Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of February 2018 — Library and Archives Canada Blog

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Let the Research Begin

Young Farquhar

A photo of Farquhar McLennan as a young boy

Not all of the information that I gathered came from the records in the Library and Archives in Ottawa. The above photo was sent to me by a Family member. Before Farquhar left Toronto to join the CEF he lived briefly with his sister, Catherine, in the East End of the city. He left some belongings behind – things, obviously, that he couldn’t take with him. This picture might have been one that he left with Catherine.

Below, is a photo of the East End house that he lived in. On his Attestation Papers, he stated that his residence was 175 Bolton Ave. A look at a map of Toronto shows a Boulton Ave. in the Gerrard and Broadview neighbourhood. Did Farquhar misspell the name? Apparently not. Old historic maps of the city show it as Bolton Ave. The house is very narrow, perhaps 15 feet wide.

 

farquhar's house

175 Boulton Ave. Toronto

Farquhar Reference

Farquhar stated on his Attestation that his occupation was a baker. This is a letter of reference from his employer back in Aberdeen, Scotland. Signed April 17, 1914, shortly before Farquhar immigrated to Canada. A glowing referral.

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A drawing of the Dunlop factory in the Queen – Broadview area of Toronto.

Farquhar's Dunlop Team Photo

Farquhar’s Dunlop Team Photo, 1914

I can only assume that Farquhar was employed at the Dunlop plant; even though he was a baker. A job is a job! He must have been a pretty good football player. How many of these men went to war? How many came home? Do you have ancestors in this picture?

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Remembrance Day, 2015

 

On Remembrance Day, 2015, I was sitting at home watching the Remembrance Day ceremony from Ottawa on my TV. My phone rang and I answered it. On the line was my great friend Karen Dallow and she was calling from the Menin Gate at Ypres, Belgium. She was with her son, Jake, and they were trying to find Farquhar McLennan’s name on the Menin Gate. I informed her that Farquhar was buried at Bedford House Cemetery which was close by.

“Would you and Jake mind going to the Cemetery and paying your respects on my behalf?” I asked.

“Certainly!” came the answer, and they hopped into a taxi and traveled to Bedford House.

With the help of the taxi driver, Karen and Jake were able to locate the grave stone. Karen took this video and emailed to me. A precious gift.

Within a year I was able to travel to Ypres and pay my respects personally.

I am forever thankful for the deeds of Karen and Jake.

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Jake at the Menin Gate, Ypres. (Ieper)

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Ypres

Well now, where did I leave off? Oh yes! Bedford House Cemetery. I did manage to make my own pilgrimage to the cemetery. It was in May, 2016, and the weather was beautiful. My wife, Beth, accompanied me. We flew to Luxembourg, to stay with our friends, the Defoa Clan. Karen (of the previous post) offered to drive us to Belgium, and ultimately to Ypres (now called Ieper). We arrived in the beautiful medieval  city in time for lunch on a gorgeous spring day. After lunch, we booked into our B&B and then headed out on the Menin Rd., through the Menin Gate towards the tiny hamlet of Hooge. At Hooge there is a road that right turns toward the south. The road is called Canadalaan. Less than a kilometre…

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Sanctuary Wood Cemetery

down this road is Sanctuary Wood and the museum. Beside the museum is Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. Just a little beyond the museum is the Canadian Memorial for the Battle of Mount Sorrel.

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Battle site of Sanctuary Wood – note the craters and the memorials.

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A reconstructed trench.

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Shell holes.

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Tree stumps that survived the War. Bullet holes and crosses!

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The view toward the Messine Ridge, from the Mount Sorrel Memorial.

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Using the Trench Maps that I have seen and Google Earth, it is possible to ascertain that Pte Farquhar McLennan lost his life on June 13, 1916, only a few metres from the the Sanctuary Wood Museum and the trenches.

Once we had paid our respects at this sacred place, we left for Bedford House Cemetery, where Pte. Farquhar McLennan rests.097

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The Cross of Sacrifice at Bedford House.

This cemetery, like all of the other Great War cemeteries are tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. They are all in splendid display and it is impossible to enter one of these sites without your eyes tearing and your heart hurting. After we walked past the Cross of Sacrifice, we could see the area where Farquhar was buried.

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Beth and I at the Cross of Sacrifice

 

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Farquhar’s Headstone. Beside is the headstone of Pte. Watson, 60th Battalion CEF.

 

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Karen and Beth, Bedford House Cemetery.

 

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The City of Ypers at sunset.

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Ypres during the Great War, same view as above.  Heavily shelled by the Germans.

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A “Jack Johnson”. 15 inch artillery shell in the Cathedral of St. Martin.

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Cloth Hall, 1916. One wall propped up.

Every evening, since 1929, the City of Ypres (Ieper) holds a ceremony at the Menin Gate to honour the dead. The ceremony starts at 8:00 PM with a procession to the Gate from Cloth Hall. Hundreds of people are there every night to witness the event. Below is a video of the ceremony.

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Cloth Hall, May, 2016.

Every evening at 8:00 there is a ceremony of remembrance at the Menin Gate. Hundreds of people attend each night. This has been an ongoing event since 1929 with a disruption during WW2. Below is a video of the procession which begins at Cloth Hall.

 

Menin Gate

Jake Defoa in front of the Menin Gate.

There are about 55,000 names of missing allied soldiers listed on the gate. All names are from the area we call Flander’s Fields, also known as the Ypres Salient, just east of Ypres.

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Our last night in Ypres and a chance to unwind.

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The next day, a trip to Passendaele.