Canadian Expeditionary Force, local history, Canada, Ca, Can, Canadian, World War 1, WWI, WW1, First World War, 1916-1918
Canada in Flanders Logo
CANADA IN FLANDERS
By SIR MAX AITKEN, M.P.

THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE
CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
VOLUME I.

CHAPTER V

A WAVE OF BATTLE

Individual heroism - Canadian tenacity-Before the battle -
.....The civilian element - A wave of battle - New meaning of
....."Canada " - " Northern Lights " - The fighting pay-
.....master- Major serves as lieutenant - Misfortunes of
.....Hercule Barré - " Runners " - A messenger's apology
.....Swimming a moat - Rescue of wounded - Colonel
.....Watson's bravery - His leadership - His heroic deed
.....- Dash of Major Dyer and Capt. Hilliam-Major
.....Dyer shot - " I have crawled home " - Lieut. White-
.....head's endurance - Major King saves his guns -
.....Corpl. Fisher, V.C. - The real Canadian officer - Some
.....delusions in England - German tricks - Sergt. Richard -
.....son's good sense - "No surrender ! "-Corpl. Baker's
.....heroism - Bombs from the dead - Holding a position
.....single-handed - The brothers McIvor - Daring of Sergt.-
.....Major- Hall - Sergt. Ferris, Roadmender - Heroism of the
.....sappers - Sergt. Ferris, Pathfinder - A sergeant in com-
.....mand-Brave deeds of Pte. Irving-He vanishes-Absurdi-
.....ties in tragedy- Germans murder wounded - Doctors
.....under fire - The professional manner - Red hours - Plight
.....of refugees - Canadian colony in London - Unofficial in-
.....quiries - Canada's destiny.

"It is by presence of mind in untried emergencies that the
native metal of a man is tested."-LOWELL.

   IN a battle of the extent and diversity of Ypres
there naturally arose innumerable acts of individual
heroism, to which reference could not be made in
the course of the narrative of the engagement with-
out disturbing its military balance as a whole.
80
CANADA IN FLANDERS

Index

I
Mobilisation


II
Warfare


III
Neuve Chapelle


IV
Ypres


V
A Wave of Battle


VI
Festubert


VII
Givenchy


VIII
Princess Patricia's Light Infantry


IX
The Prime Minister


X
The Canadian Corps


Appendix I
The King's Message to the Canadians


Appendix II
Canadians in Despatches


Appendix III
The Prime Minister and the War


Appendix IV
Lieut.-General E.A.H. Alderson, C.B., Commanding the Canadian Corps


Appendix V
Honours and Awards Granted


Appendix VI
Statement of Casualties




A WAVE OF BATTLE...............81

therefore propose to deal with a few of these
incidents now, as they form a record of unsurpassed
valour and tenacity of which every Canadian
must be proud.
   Quite apart, however, from incidents which occur
in the actual fighting, there is a time immediately
before a battle, and a time immediately after it
which provide a wealth of human interest too;
poignant to be overlooked. Our vision, narrowed
a little by direct concentration on the progress of
the engagement, and our ears dulled a little by the
din of the conflict, we are prone to overlook the fact
that this war is waged amid scenes only a short time
ago devoted to the various avocations of peace, and
that on the Western Front, especially, the armies of
the Allies are oftentimes inextricably mixed with the
civilian element and the civilian population.
   A wave of battle is like a wave of the sea - While
it advances, one is only conscious of its rush and
roar,  only concerned to measure how far it may
advance.  As it ebbs, the known landmarks show
again, and we have leisure to gather observations of
comrades who were borne backwards or forwards
on the flood.
   The wave that fell on us round Ypres has bap-
tised the Dominion into nationhood~the mere
written word, "Canada," glows now with a new
meaning before all the civilised world. Canada has
proved herself, and not unworthily; but those who
survive of the men who have won us our world-right
to pride, are too busy to trouble their heads about
history.  That may come in days of peace. The
main outlines of the battle have been dealt with
already.  We know what troops took part in it and
82...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.

how they bore themselves, but the thousand vivid
and intimate episodes, seen between two blasts of
gunfire, or recounted by men met by chance in some
temporary shelter, can never all be told. Yet they
are too characteristic in their unconsciousness to be
left without an attempt at a record; so I give a little
handful from a great harvest.
 In the days before the battle, when the Canadians
lived for the most part in and about Sailly, whence
one saw, as I have already written, the German
trench-flares like Northern Lights on the horizon,
Honorary Captain C. T. Costigan, of Calgary, was
the paymaster, and lived, as the paymaster must, de-
cently remote from the firing line. Then came the
attack that proved Canada; and the German flares ad-
vanced, and advanced, till they no longer resembled
flickering auroras, but the sizzling electric arc-lights
of a great city. Captain Costigan locked up his pay-
chest and abolished his office with the words: "There
is no paymaster."  Next, sinking his rank as
honorary captain, he applied for work in the trenches,
and went off, a second lieutenant of the 10th
Canadians, who needed officers. He was seen no
more until Monday morning, when he returned to
search for his office, which had been moved to a
cellar at the rear and was, at the moment, in charge
of a sergeant. But he had only returned to inveigle
some officer with a gift for accounts into the pay-
mastership.  This arranged, he sped back to his
adopted Battalion.1He was not the only one of his
department who served as a combatant on that day.


1 Captain Costigan has now combative rank in the 10th Bat-
talion and is acting as Brigade Bombing Officer.


A WAVE OF BATTLE...............83


  Honorary Captain McGregor, of British Columbia,
for example, had been paymaster in the Canadian
Scottish, 16th Battalion. He, too, armed with a cane
and a revolver, went forward at his own desire to
hand-to-hand fighting in the wood where he was
killed, fighting gallantly to the last.
   The  case of Major Guthrie, of New Brunswick,
is somewhat similar. He was Major of the 12th
Battalion, still in England, but was then at the front
in some legal-military capacity connected with courts~
martial. He, like Captain Costigan, had asked
the General that Friday morning for a com-
mission in the sorely tried 10th. There was some
hesitation, since Guthrie as a major might quite
possibly find himself in command of what was left
of the 10th if, and when, he found it.   Ill go as
a lieutenant, of course," said he; and as a lieutenant
he went.1
   The grim practical joking of Fate is illustrated
by the adventures of Major Hercule Barré-a young
French Canadian who fought well and spoke Eng-
lish imperfectly. He had been ordered to get to his
company in haste, and on the way (it was dark) met
some British officers, who promptly declared him a
spy.  The more he protested, the more certain they
were that his speech betrayed him. So they had him
back to the nearest Headquarters, where he was
identified by a brother officer, and started off afresh-
only to be held up a second time by some cyclists,
who treated him precisely as the British officers had


1the progress of the battle Major Guthrie was, after
all, compelled to take command of the 10th after two commanding
officers had been killed and a third had been wounded. He led
his Battalion with wisdom and great gallantry.
84...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


done. Once again he reached Headquarters; once
more the officer, who had identified him before,
guaranteed his good faith; and for the third time
Barré set out. This time it was a bullet that stopped
him. He dragged himself to the side of the road
and waited for help. Someone came at last, and
he hailed. "Who is  it?" said a voice. "I, Barré!
he cried. "What, you, Barré? what do you want
this time?" It was the officer who had twice iden-
tified him within the last hour. "Stretcher-bearers,"
said Barré. His friend in need summoned a stretcher-
bearer, and Barré was borne off-to tell the tale
against himself afterwards.
  There were many others who fell by the way in
the discharge of their duty. Lieut.-Colonel Currie,
commanding the 48th Highlanders, 15th Battalion,
had his telephone communication with his men in
the trenches cut by shrapnel. He therefore moved
his Battalion Headquarters into the reserve trenches,
and took with him there a little hand of "runners" to
keep him in touch with the Brigade Headquarters, a
couple of miles in the rear. A "runner" is a man
on foot who, at every risk, must bear the message
entrusted to him to its destination over ground cross-
harrowed by shellfire and, possibly, in the enemy's
occupation. One such runner was despatched, and
was no more heard of until, days after the battle,
the Lieut.-Colonel received a note from him in hos-
pital. It ran: "My dear Colonel Currie,-I am So
sorry that you will be annoyed with me for not bring-
ing back a receipt for the message which you sent to
Headquarters by me. I delivered the message all
right, but on the way back with a receipt, I was hurt
         


A WAVE OF BATTLE...............85


by a shell, and I am taking this first opportunity
of letting you know that the message was delivered.
I am afraid that you will be angry with me  I am
now in hospital. - Yours truly, (Sgd.) M.K.Kerr."
  It is characteristic of the Colonel, and our country,
that he should  always refer to the private as M.K.
Kerr; and, from the English point of view equally
characteristic that M.K. Kerr's report should begin;
"My dear Colonel Currie.".    And it marks the tone
of the whole Battalion, that  only two hundred men
and two officers should have come unscathed out of
the battle.
   And here is a story of a Brigade Headquarters
that lived in a house surrounded by a moat over
which there was only one road. On Thursday the
enemy's artillery found the house, and later on as
the rush came, their rifle fire found it also. The staff
went on with its work till the end of the week, when
incendiary shells set the place alight and they were
forced to move.  The road being impassable on
account of shrapnel, they swam the moat, but one of
them was badly wounded, and for him swimming
the moat was out of the question. Captain Scrimger,medical
officer attached to the Royal Montreal Regiment,
protected the wounded man with his own body
against the shrapnel that was coming through the
naked rafters, and carried him out of the blazing
house into the open.1 Two of the staff, Brig.-
General Hughes (then Brigade Major of the 3rd
Infantry Brigade) and Lieut. Thompson (then
Assistant Adjutant, Royal Montreal Regiment re-
swan the moat and, waiting for a lull in the shell


1For this action Captain Scrimger was awarded the VC




86...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.
         
fire, got the wounded man across the road on to a
stretcher and into a dressing station, after which
they went on with their official duties.
   On April 24th Colonel Watson, who was editor
of the Quebec Chronicle before he took command
of the 2nd Battalion, was called on to perform as
difficult and dangerous a task as fell to the lot of
any commander during all these difficult and bloody
days. The operation was most ably carried out, and
Colonel Watson crowned his success, in the midst of
what appeared to be defeat, with a deed of personal
heroism which, but for his rank, would most assuredly
have won for him the Victoria Cross. It may be said
at once that Colonel Watson proved himself the
bravest of the brave.
  About noon, the General Officer Commanding the
3rd Brigade telephoned to Colonel Watson to ask
whether, in his opinion the line of which he was in
charge, could still be held.  Colonel Watson, though
the position was precarious, said that he could still
hold on; and he was then instructed to regard as
cancelled an order which had been telegraphed to
him to retire.
  Matters, however, grew worse, and at two o'clock
the General Officer Commanding sent Colonel
Watson a peremptory order to fall back at once.
Unfortunately, this message was not received until
about a quarter to three, when the position had
become desperate.
  The Battalion, apart from many dead, had by this
time upwards of 150 wounded, and the Colonel first
saw to the removal of all of these. Then, leaving his
Battalion Headquarters, he went up to the front line,
in order that he might give, in person, his instructions,




A WAVE OF BATTLE. ...............87
         
to his company commanders to retire. When he
reached the front line, Colonel Watson made the
most careful dispositions so as to avoid, even at that
terrible moment, any excuse for disorder and undue
haste in the course of the most perilous and intricate
manoeuvre which had now to be carried out. He
began by sending back all details, such as signallers
and pioneers, and then proceeded to get the com-
panies out of the trenches, one by one - first the
company on the left, then the centre company, and,
lastly, the company on the right.
   It was from the angle of a shattered house, which
had been used as a dressing station, that Colonel
Watson and Colonel Rogers, the second in com-
mand of the Battalion, watched the retirement of the
three companies, together with details of the 14th
Battalion, which had been attached to them since
the morning. The men were in extended order,
and as they passed the officers the enemy's fire
was very heavy, and men fell like wheat before a
scythe.
   When the last company was well on its way to
safety, the two officers, after a brief consultation,
decided that it would be best for them to take
seperate routes back to the Battalion Headquarters
line.  The reason for this was simple and poignant
--it increased the chances of one of them getting
through; not, for that matter, that either had very
much hope of escaping the enemy's pitiless fire.
They never expected to see each other again, and
they shook hands in farewell before they dashed out
on their separate ways, which lay through a spray of
bullets and flying shrapnel.  When he had gone
about 300 yards, Colonel Watson paused for a




88...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.
  moment under the cover of a tree to watch the further
retirement of the company he was following. It was at
this moment that he noticed one of his officers, Lieut.
A. H. Hugill, lying on the ground about sixty yards
to the left, in the direction of the enemy's attack.
Without a moment's hesitation, Colonel Watson went
back to him, thinking that he was wounded; but on
asking him what was the matter, Lieut. Hugill told
him that he had simply been compelled to rest and
recover his breath before he could make another
rush.
  Almost at the same moment, Private Wilson, also
of the 2nd Battalion, was passing near by when he
was shot through the leg. The man was so dose at
hand that Colonel Watson felt impelled to en-
deavour to rescue him, and suggested to Lieut.
Hugill that, between them, they might be able to
carry the wounded man back over the eight or nine
hundred yards-nearly half a mile-which still
separated them from a place of comparative safety.
Lieut. Hugill immediately agreed, whereupon
Colonel Watson knelt down, and got Wilson on to
his back, and carried him several hundred yards until
the original Battalion Headquarters was reached~
and all the time that Colonel Watson staggered
along with his load the air was alive with bullets,
which grew thicker and thicker, as the enemy was
now rapidly advancing.
  The various companies had already retired beyond
what had been the Battalion Headquarters, so that
Colonel Watson and Lieut. Hugill had no oppor-
tunity of calling for aid. They rested for a few
minutes and then started off once more, and between
them they managed to get the wounded private




A WAVE OF BATTLE...............89
 
across the 700 yards of fire-swept ground which still
had to be covered. But, in spite of the fact that the
ground was ploughed up with shells all round them
during their desperate and heroic retreat, Colonel
Watson and Lieutenant Hugill retrieved their man
in saFety.
   What, again, could be more thrilling than the
story of the dash of Major H. M. Dyer, a farmer
from Manitoba, and Captain (now Lieut.-Col.
25th Battalion) Edward Hilliam, a fruit farmer
from British Columbia, when in the face of
almost certain death, after the trench telephones
were disable, they set out to order the retirement of
a battalion on the point of being overwhelmed !
   It was on April 25th that the position of the
5th Canadian Battalion on the Gravenstafel Ridge
became untenable; but the men in the fire trench did
not entertain any thought of retirement. The tele-
phones between Headquarters and the trench were
disabled, the wires having been cut again and again
by the enemy's shell fire. General Currie saw the
immediate need of sending a positive order to
the Battalion to fall back, and Major Dyer
and Captain Hilliam, both of the 5th Battalion,
undertook to carry up the word to the fire trench..
Each received a copy of the order, for nothing
but a written order signed by their Brigade
Commander would bring the men out. The two
officers advanced with an interval of about twenty
yards between them, for one or other of them had
to get through. They were soon on the bald hill-
top, where there were no trenches and no cover of
any description. Machine gun and rifle fire swept
the ground.  They reached a little patch of mustard,
         
 
         




90............... CANADA IN FLANDERS.


and laughed to each other at the thought of using
these frail plants as cover. Still unhit, they reached
a region of shell holes, great and small. These holes
pitted the ground, irregularly, some being only five
yards apart, others ten or twelve; but to the
officers, each hole in their line of advance
meant a little haven of dead ground, and a brief
breathing space. So they went forward, scrambling
and dodging in and out of the pits. When within
100 yards of our trench, Captain Hilliam fell, shot
through the side, and rolled into a ditch. Major
Dyer went on, and was shot through the chest when
within a few yards of the trench. He delivered the
message and what was left of the Battalion fell
back. Men who went to the ditch to assist Captain
Hilliam, found only a piece of board, on which the
wounded officer had written with clay, "I have
crawled home." It only remains to add that both
these officers returned to duty with their Battalion
after convalescence.
   Though these two officers gave a very fine example
of active courage, it would be hard to find a more
remarkable illustration of passive endurance, nobly
borne, than that afforded by Lieut. E. A. Whitehead
on April 24th. On that day, Captain Victor Currie,
with Lieut. Whitehead and Lieut. (now Captain~
W. D. Adams, was holding a company of the 14th
(Royal Montreal) Battalion, on the salient of which
both flanks were exposed to a merciless fire. At
5 a.m. that morning, Lieut. Whitehead was shot in the
foot, but he remained in command of his platoon with
the bullet still in his ankle-bone until three o'clock
in the afternoon, when he swooned from pain and
fatigue. It is sad to record that Sergeant Arundel,    
     
         




A WAVE OF BATTLE...............91




who tried to lift Lieut. Whitehead from the trench, was shot and instantly killed. On the previous day, the men of No.2 Company of the same Battalion had assisted Major (now Lieut.-Colonel) W. B. M. King, of the Canadian Field Artillery, to perform one of the most astonish- ing and daring feats of the campaign. With superb audacity Major King kept his guns in an advanced position, where he deliberately awaited the approach of the Germans till they were within 200 yards. Then, after he had fired his guns into the massed ranks of the enemy, he succeeded, with the assist- ance of the infantry, in getting the guns away. It was during the course of this part of the action that Lance-Corporal Fred Fisher, of the 13th Battalion, won his V.C., but lost his life. Being in charge of a machine gun, he took it forward to cover the extrica- tion of Major King's battery. All the four men of his gun crew were shot down, but he obtained the services of four men of the 14th Battalion, and continued to work his gun until the battery was clear. No sooner were Major King's men in safety than Fisher pushed still further forward to reinforce our front line, but while getting his men into position in the face of a combined fire of shrapnel, machine guns, and rifles, he was shot dead. And here, I would say, that over and above the pleasure it naturally gives a Canadian to record the splendid heroism of his fellow-countrymen, the occasion has provided me with the welcome oppor- tunity of dissipating a delusion which at the outset prevailed in England as to the capacity of our officers. At the beginning of the war it was a




92...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.




common saying in the British Army-I have never been able to trace the saying to its source-that the Canadian troops were the finest in the world, but that they carried their officers as mascots. Nothing could be further from the truth; and nothing more ridiculous as the brilliant records of the war service of many of these officers amply proves. For ingenuity and daring in attack, for skill and resource in extricating their men from positions where disaster seemed inevitable, their ability as regimental officers has only been equalled in this war by the experienced officers of the first Expedi- tionary Force. As for bravery, for heroic devotion and self-sacrifice, to compile a full record of their incomparable deeds, would require a chapter many times the length of this whole volume. From generals down, they have shown the world that, for sheer valour, Canadian officers can proudly take their place beside any in the world, while they have afforded an example and inspiration to their men which have done much to make the splendid story of the Canadians in France and Flanders what it is. But if the deeds of the commissioned officers have been splendid, the exploits of the non-com- missioned officers and men have been not less so. The narrative of the Division consists of story after story of coolness in danger, incentive daring, and unflinching courage which has never been surpassed. Take, for instance the story of Sergeant J. Richardson, of the 2nd Canadian Battalion. It is a tale of how shrewd common sense defeated the wiles of the enemy. On April 23rd Richardson was on the extreme left of our line in command of a half-




56...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


platoon, when the words, "Lieutenant Scott orders
you to surrender," were passed to him. He knew
that there were three company commanders in the
line between himself and Lieutenant Scott, and,
therefore, correctly concluded that the order had
nothing to do with any officer of his regiment, but
was of German origin. He not only ignored the
order, but discredited it with his men by passing
back "No surrender!I" It is impossible to say bow
much ground, and how many lives, the sergeant saved
that day by his lively suspicion of German methods,
his quick thought, and his absolute faith in the sense
and courage of his officers. Sergeant Richardson
belongs to Coburg, Ontario, and is a veteran of the
South African War.
   Of a different order of courage was Corporal H.
Baker of the 10th Battalion. After the attack on the
Wood and the occupation of a part of the German
trench by the 10th Canadian Battalion, on the night of
April 22nd-23rd, Corporal Baker, with sixteen bomb-
throwers, moved to the left along the German line,
bombing the enemy out of the trench. The Ger-
mans checked Baker's advance with bombs and rifle
fire and put nine of his men out of action during the
night. The enemy then established a redoubt by
digging a cross-trench. Corporal Baker and the six
other survivors of his party maintained a position
within ten yards of the redoubt throughout the re-
maining hours of the night. Early in the morning
of the 23rd the Germans received a fresh supply of
bombs and renewed their efforts to dislodge the little
party of Canadians. They threw over Baker, who
was closer in to their position than the others of his
party, and killed his six companions. Alone among       
        
         


94...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


the dead, with the menace of death hemming him
in, Baker collected bombs from the still shapes
behind him, and threw them into the enemy's redoubt.
He threw with coolness and accuracy, and slackened
the German fire. He held his position within ten
yards of the cross-trench all day and all night, and
returned to his Battalion just before the dawn of the
24th, over the bodies of dead and wounded men
who had fallen before the rain of bombs and rifle
grenades.
   And now we come to the story of two brothers,
Privates N. and J. Mclvor, who were stretcher-
bearers, of whom much is expected as a matter of
course. On April 24th, they were attached to the
5th Battalion (which held a position on the Graven-
stafel Ridge), and carried Major Sanderman, of
their battalion, from the bombarded cross-roads back
to the dressing station over open fire-raked country.
Major Sanderman had been hit by shrapnel, and
died soon after reaching the dressing station. Four
days later, on April 28th, when the 5th Battalion
was in rear of the Yser Canal, the two McIvors
volunteered to attempt a rescue of the wounded from
the Battalion dressing station beyond Fortuin. They
discovered the station to be in the enemy's hands,
and J. Mclvor was severely wounded.
   Nor can one dwell without pride on the case of
Company Sergeant-Major F. W. Hall, V.C. Dur-
ing the night of April 23rd-24th the 8th Battalion
took over a line of trenches from the 15th Battalion.
Close in rear of the Canadian position at this point
ran a high bank fully exposed to the fire of the
enemy; and while crossing this bank to occupy the
trench, several men of the 8th Battalion were
   






A WAVE OF BATTLE................95.


wounded. During the early morning of Saturday, the 24th, Company Sergeant-Major F. W. Hall brought two of these wounded into the trench. A few hours later, at about 9 a.m., groans of suffering drew attention to another wounded man in the high ground behind the position. Corporal Payne went back for him, but was wounded. Private Rogerson next attempted the rescue, and was also wounded. Then Sergeant Major Hall made the attempt. He reached his objective without accident, though under heavy fire from the German trenches in front. This was deliberate, aimed fire, delivered in broad day- light. He managed to get his helpless comrade into position on his back, but in raising himself a a little to survey the ground over which he had to return to shelter, he was shot fairly through the head and instantly killed. The man for whom he had given his life was also killed. For this gallant deed Sergeant-Major Hall was awarded a posthumous V.C. He was originally from Belfast, but his Canadian home was in Winni- peg. He joined the 8th Battalion at Valcartier, Quebec, in August, 1914, as a private. Sergeant C. B. Ferris, of the 2nd Field Company of the Canadian Engineers, proved in the face of the enemy that he could keep a road repaired faster that they could destroy it by shell fire. From April 25th to the 29th, the road between Fortuin and the Yser Canal was under the constant hammer of German shells. It was of vital import- ance to the Canadian and British troops in the neighbourhood that this road should be kept open for all manner of transportation, and Captain Irving, commanding the 2nd Field Company, Canadian

         




96............... CANADA IN FLANDERS.


     Engineers, sent a party wider Sergeant Ferris
and Corporal Rhodes to keep the highway in repair.
Every shell-hole in the road-bed had to he filled
with bricks brought up in wagons from the nearest
ruined houses; and at times it seemed as if the
German artillery would succeed in making new
holes faster than the little party of Canadian En-
gineers could fill in the old ones. Sergeant Ferris
and his men stuck to their task day and night, amid
the dust and splinters and shock of bursting shells,
and their work of reconstruction was more rapid than
the enemy's work of destruction. They kept the road
open.
  On a moonlit night, a month later, the Roadmender
developed the talents of a Pathfinder, when the 2nd
Field Company of the Canadian Engineers was
ordered to link up a trench in the Canadian front
line with the attempted advance of a British division
on our left, and establish a defensive flank. A
pre-arranged signal was given, indicating that the
advance had reached, and was holding, a point where
the connection was to he made. In response, Sapper
Quin attempted to carry through the tape, to mark
the line for digging the linking trench, under a heavy
fire of shells, machine guns, and rifles. He did not
return, and Sapper Connan went out and failed to
come back; and neither of these men has been seen
or heard of since. Then Sapper Low made an
attempt to carry the tape across, and failed to return.
Without a moment's hesitation, Sergeant Ferris
sprang over the parapet in the face of the most
severe fire, and, with the tape in one hand and
revolver in the other, cautiously crawled in the
direction of the flaring signal.




A WAVE OF BATTLE...............97


   Midway, he stumbled upon the wire entangle-
ments of a German redoubt fairly on the line which
his section had thought to dig. He followed the
wire entanglements of this redoubt completely
round, and for a time was exposed to rifle and
machine gun fire from three sides. At this moment
he was severely wounded through the lungs, but he
persisted in his effort. He found out that a mistake
had been made and that the attack had not reached
the point indicated, and staggered back to make his
report, bringing Sapper Low with him. Sergeant
Ferris's information was eagerly listened to by
Lieut. Matthewson and Sergeant-Major Chetwynd,
who was present as a volunteer. Sergeant-Major
Chetwynd quickly realised the nature of the diffi-
culty, and, encouraged by Lieut. Matthewson, he
rallied the detachment and led it to another point
from which he successfully laid the line under very
heavy fire from the German trenches.
   Now we come to the story of Private Irving, one
of General Turner's subordinate staff, who went out
to do as brave a deed as a man might endeavour,
but never returned. Irving had been up for forty-
eight hours helping to feed the wounded as they
were brought in to Brigade Headquarters, which had
been turned into a temporary dressing station, when
he heard that a huge poplar tree had fallen across
the road and was holding up the ambulance wagons.
   Though utterly weary, he at once offered to go
out and cut the tree in pieces and drag it from the
path at the tail of an ambulance wagon.
   Irving set forth with the ambulance, but, on near-
ing the place of which he was in search, left it, and
went forward on foot along the road, which




98...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


being swept by heavy artillery fire and a cross
rifle fire.  And then, even as, axe in hand, he
tramped up this road, with shells bursting all around
him and bullets whistling past him, he disappeared
as completely as though the night had swallowed
him up!  General Turner, who appreciated the
gallant work Irving had set out to do, himself had
all the lists of the Field Force checked over to
see if he had been brought in wounded. But
Irving was never traced. He is missing to this
day-a strange and brave little mystery of this
great war.
  In another portion of the field Sergeant W.
 Swindells, of the 7th Battalion, when all the com-
pany officers had become casualties, and the remnant
of the company left their trench under stress of
terrific fire, rallied them and took them back; but
this again is only one instance in a record for cool
daring which was later built up at Festubert and
Givenchy. Swindells comes from Kamloops, and
 before the war was a rancher on Vancouver Island.
  Very similar was the action of Sergeant-Major F.
Flinter, of the 2nd Battalion, who displayed con-
spicuous gallantry at Langemarck on April 23rd
while in command of a platoon on the left flank of
the Battalion. This position was under excep-
tionally heavy gun and rifle fire, and his pure daring
nd bravery were such an inspiration to the men
under his command, that they withstood successfully
all attacks upon them. He was wounded in the
head, but gallantly cheered his men to renewed
attack. By fortunate observation he discovered an
enemy bomb depot in the woods near at hand, and
 concentrating all available fire on it, managed to




A WAVE OF BATTLE...............97


blow it up. Throughout his service at the front his
example has been an inspiration to all ranks.
   It is difficult, where all men were brave, to select
individual cases of extreme courage, but it would
be wrong to close this record without mentioning
Lance Corporal F. Williams, of the 3rd Canadian
Battalion, and Private J. K. Young, of the 2nd
Battalion. On April 25th, near St. Julien, Williams
volunteered to go out with Captain I. H. Lyne-
Evans from the shelter of a farm and bring in Cap-
tain Gerrard Muntz, who lay wounded in a small
hollow several hundred yards away. The rescue,
which was carried out in broad daylight and in the
midst of a heavy rifle and machine gun fire, was
successful, though Captain Muntz died of his
wounds five days later. Again, at Festubert, just
a month later, Williams displayed great courage
and resourcefulness in keeping good the wires
for communication between the signal station
and other centres.  The area was under con-
tinuous enemy rifle and shell fire, and the
repairs had to be made under other adverse
conditions.
   Indeed, the Canadian non-commissioned officers
have proved beyond all doubt their capacity to take
the places of commissioned officers who have been
shot down.
   Private Young was "mentioned" for handling his
machine gun so well that it was mainly through his
efforts the German attack on the 2nd Battalion was
repulsed on April 24th.  Later, at Givenchy, on
June 15th, he refused to leave his guns even when
he was wounded, and pluckily remained until the
action was over.
        




100...............CANADA iN FLANDERS.


  These are but a few of a hundred other deeds.
done on the spur of the moment, of which there
will never be any memorial except the moment's
cheer or the moment's laughter from those who had
time to observe.  A man can be both heroic and
absurd in the same act, and human nature under
strain always leans to the comic. What follows is
not at all comic, although it made men laugh at the
time.  In one of the many isolated bits of night
work which had to be undertaken, it happened that
a German detachment was cut off by one of ours
and its situation became hopeless.  There was
something like a gasp as the enemy realised this,
and then a silence broken by a voice crying, in un-
mistakable German-American accents, "Have a
heart!"  The detachment had just recovered a
dressing station which had been abandoned a few
hours before, and there they had found the bodies
of their comrades with their wounds dressed-dead
of fresh wounds by the bayonet!  It is unfortunate
that the Canadians first serious experience of the
enemy should have included asphyxiation by gas
and the murder of wounded and unconscious men,
because Canadians, more even than the British,
have been accustomed to Germans in their midst,
and till lately have looked upon them as good
citizens.  Now they will tell their children that they
were mistaken, and the end of that war may well be
generations distant.
  The supply of ammunition and medical attend-
ance continued unbroken and unconcerned through
all the phases of the Ypres engagement.  The am-
munition columns waited for hour after hour at their
stated points, ready to distribute supplies as needed.




A WAVE OF BATTLE...............101


Their business was to stay where they could be
found, and if the shrapnel caught them when lined
up by the roadside, that was part of the business
  They stuck it out the livelong days and
nights, coming up full and going away empty with
no more fuss than is made by delivery wagons on
Drummond Street. The doctors had the distraction
of incessant work, and it was curious to see how
they took their professional manner into the field.
Half the cities and towns in the Dominion might
have identified their own doctors under the official
uniforms as far as they could have seen them.
Though they were working at high pressure, they
were unmistakably the same men.  Some were as
polite as though each poor, mangled case represented
(which it might well have done) the love and hopes
of wealthy and well~known families.  Others em-
ployed the same little phrases of encouragement, and
the same tricks of tone and gesture, at the beginning
and end of their operations, as their hospitals have
known for years.
   Others, again, switched off from English to
French-Canadian patois as the cases changed under
their hands; but not one of them had a thought to
waste on anything outside the cases. Their profes-
sional habit seemed to enwrap them like an armoured
belt, to protect them from all consciousness of the
hurricanes of death all round.  This is difficult to
explain to anybody who has not seen a doctor's
face pucker with a slight impatience when one
side his temporary field ambulance dressing
station is knocked out by the blast of a shell,
and he must wait until someone finds an elec-
tric torch to show him where his patient lies.
         




102...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


It would be  inadequate to call  such men
heroic.
   Each soul of those engaged-and Canada threw
in all she had on the ground-will take away in his
mind pictures that time can never wipe out. For
some the memory of that struggle in the wood where
the guns were will stand out clearest in the raw
primitiveness of its fighting. Others will recall only
struggles among rubbish heaps that once were vil-
lages; some wall-end or market square, inestimably
valuable for a few red hours, and then a useless and
disregarded charnel-house. Very many will think
most of the profiles of bare fields over which men
moved in silence from piles of stacked overcoats and
equipment towards the trench where they knew the
fire was waiting that would sweep them away. There
was one such attack in which six thousand troops,
of whom not more than a third were Canadians, made
a charge.  Each little company in the space felt
itself alone in the world. It is so with all bodies
and all individuals in war. Only when night fell
did the same picture reveal itself to all. Then it
was war as the prints and pictures in our houses
at home show it-the horizon lighted all round by
the flame of burning villages, and the German flares
pitching and curving like the comets which are sup-
posed to attend the death of kings. Morning light
broke up all the connections, and we were each alone
once more horribly visible or hidden.
   During the bombardment refugees fled back from
the villages while shrapnel fell along the roads they
took. Amidst all the horrors of this war there was
nothing more heartrending than the misery of these
helpless victims. They met our supports and re-




A WAVE OF BATTLE...............97


serves coming up, and pressed aside from the pavés
to give them room.  They had packed what they
could carry on their own backs and the backs of
their horses and cows, while prudent men hired
out dog teams; for one noticed the same busied
dogs passing and repassing up and down the line
tugging hard in front of the low-wheeled little carts.
Invalids, palsied old men and women swathed in
pillows and and bolstered up by the affectionate care of
their middle-aged children, struggled in the proces-
sion.  Their fear had overcome their infirmities, and
they had been dragged away swiftly as might be
from that death which Time itself would have dealt
them in a little while.
   Then, as you know, we buried our dead; the
records began to be made, and the terrible cables
started to work on the list of names for home. There
is in London a colony of Canadians who have
come across to be a little nearer to their nearest.
They suffer the common lot, and live from hour to
hour in the hotels and lodging-houses, where every
guest and servant is as concerned as they. Life is
harder for them than for the English, because they
are not among their own surroundings, and France
is very far off.
   The colony is divided now, as the English have
been since war began, into three classes-those who
know the worst, those who fear it, and those who for
the time being have escaped any blow, and are
therefore at liberty to help the others. The cables
from the west are alive with appeals, and as informa-
tion is gathered it is flashed back to Canada. A
voice calls out of a remote township, asking for
news of a certain name.  It has no claim on the
         




104...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


receiver, who may have been, perhaps, his deadlv
rival in the little old days. But it calls, and must
be answered. Who has had news of this name?
Add it to your list that you carry about and consult
with your friends; and when you have made sure
of your own beloved, in your grief or your joy
remember to mention this name. Somebody iden-
tifies it as having come from his own town-son of
the minister or the lawyer. He was probably with
comrades from the same neighbourhood, and that at
least will be a clue. Meantime a soothing cable
must carry the message that inquiries are being
pursued. There are men in hospitals back from
the trenches who may perhaps recall or remember
him, or be able to refer one to other wounded men.
The unofficial inquiry spreads and ramifies through
all sorts of unofficial channels, till at last some sure
word can be sent of the place of his death, or the
nature of his wound, or the date on which he was
missing, or the moment when he was last seen going
forward. The voice ceases. Others take its place-
clear, curt, businesslike, or, as the broken words tell,
distracted with grief. The Canadian colony does
its best to deal with them all, and their inquiries cut
across those of the English, and sorrows and griefs
are exchanged. It is all one family now, so closely
knit by blood that sympathy and service are taken
for granted. "Your case may be mine to-morrow,
people say to each other.  "My time, and what
inquiries I can make, are at your disposal if you
will only tell me your need and your name."
   The grief that we suffer is more new to us than
to the English, who have paid the heavy tolls of
Mons, the retreat, the battle of Neuve Chapelle, and




A WAVE OF BATTLE................105


the first attack on Ypres, and, like ourselves, have
prepared and are preparing men to fill the gaps; but
through their grief and ours runs the unbreakable
pride of a race that has called itself Imperial before
it knew what Empire signified, or had proved itself
within its own memory by long and open-handed
sacrifice.  In that pride we are full partners, and
through the din and confusion of battle Canada
perceives how all that has gone before was but fit
preparation for the destiny upon which she enters
and the history which she opens from this hour.


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Copyright Dates:
Second Publication: Monday, 12-Mar-2001 21:51:26 MST
First Published: March 1, 2001