A tidbit to tide you over. PUFFINS!!!!

Posted on | July 23, 2012 | Comments Off

If I were forced to redo my life choices, I’d opt to be a Puffin biologist. Yup… Puffins! I could spend days doing nothing but watching puffins. Don’t ask me why… I don’t know. I remember seeing my first picture of a puffin in grade 3 and was hooked on them. I even made little plasticine puffins when I was a kid. Love them!

My biggest dream is to go puffin watching.. yea… I know… can a person get geekier. But there you have it. I’m a puffin addict. One thing that’s made my addiction worse is the Puffin Loafing Ledge cam. I put it on while working and watch the puffins doing puffin stuff (only some of you will get that joke btw). The Loafing Ledge cam is wonderful. Only thing missing are the sounds of the waves and the puffins. Can’t have everything.

Still working

Posted on | July 14, 2012 | Comments Off

Yup, still working on the complete revamping of the site. It’s going to take awhile. I’m doing a full evaluation of what I really want the site to do. I realised, I’m a web dilitante… I wander from subject to subject with wild abandon so I want the revised site to reflect my wide range of interests. This way I can post something according to what grabs my attentions, and you can read the sections that interest you.

I’m playing with an idea of doing a hybrid Word Press (blogging format you see before you) and a straight up website. Not sure, but I think I may have discarded that idea because I really, really enjoy tweaking the CSS and HTML behind the scenes. I guess that’s why my attention wanders so badly with the existing format – nothing to play with. Well that plus it is a bit unwieldy for what I really want to do. I hate working with other peoples’ designs. I could simply redo the WP theme, but it’s far more fun building a site from the ground up.

The main problem is how to make the pages manageable. They need to be searchable, quickly and I would like to use some sort of categories – features native to WP. If I can figure out a graceful way of doing so, then WP will be torpedoed. Don’t get me wrong – WP is great. It’s just not fun.

I’ll keep you posted on how I’m doing.

Stay tuned

Posted on | July 7, 2012 | Comments Off

I’m launching a new look to the site in the next week or so. By Mid July I should have all the bits and pieces cobbled together. Should be faster. Tired of the cludgy Word Press designs I used so I’m creating my own fresh setup.

New look, new content, more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Hilda has written me of how kind you have been to them

Posted on | November 11, 2011 | 1 Comment

Sgt Mcdiarmid pg 1

First page from Sgt McDiarmid's letter to Mrs. Sumner


This letter really sparked my obsession with letters from the Great War.  It was written months after the war ended, by a Canadian soldier still in England. This was a familiar story for Canadians. The Canadian government was afraid of the chaos thousands of returning soldiers would cause and dragged their feet on bringing them home. The delays were compounded by the British government when it committed the liners used as troop ships to ship American troops home first, all in the name of Anglo-American relations, which meant the Canadians were left to sit in camps for months longer than should have. Some didn’t return until spring of 1919, stuck in camps, while the rest of the world got on with restarting their lives.

William Clyde McDiarmid was born in Carleton Place, Ontario (53km southwest of Ottawa) in 1883. He was a 32 year old, married civil engineer when he joined up in 1915. He left behind a wife and child he wouldn’t see for 4 years. When he sent this letter, he was still recovering from wounds and expected to be at least a year recouperating.

The letter was sent to Mrs. Charles Sumner, a member of a group of New Orleans women who formed the British Service Red Cross Club. When the war began, years before America joined the conflict, this stalwart group of women wrote to allied troops, sent care packages and held teas for visiting British sailors. Canadian, French, British soldiers received a steady stream of letters, cigarettes and other items that were “thoroughly enjoyed “.  I’m not sure how many soldiers the group corresponded with, or how they picked who to write; information on them is pretty sparse. Not only did Mrs Sumner write to the troops, she engaged in a lively correspondence with their family members as well. I have a thoroughly delightful letter from the mother of a British sailor thanking Mrs Sumner for taking care of her boy while he was in New Orleans. .  I’ll tell you more about Mrs. Sumner in my next post. She deserves an entire entry just for herself.

Dear Charlie and Mrs. Sumner

The box with cigarettes etc, arrived O.K and I want to thank you so much for your kindness in thinking of me. I thoroughly enjoyed them especially the cigarettes as there are times here when cigarettes can’t be purchased and your parcel arrived at one of those times, so you can imagine my delight on seeing the smokes. I also received your letter re (?) parcel in the Post office in London. I wrote them and  just had a reply saying they had sent it to me in Epson. I don’t think I shall ever receive it now as it will have too many hands to pass through to get here and a good many of them are very light fingers. However I thank you just the same as it is really very kind of you.

Whilst I am about it I also must thank you for your kindness to Hilda and baby, as Hilda has written me of how kind you have been to them. I only wish she could have taken advantage of your kind invitation, as I am sure she would have had a delightful time, and the change would have been very beneficial  to both of them. I have changed my address once again which is the last resting place before embarking for Canada the Canadian Discharge Depot. I don’t know how long I shall be here, but I hope not very long as I am anxious to get back home. I am getting along nicely now, but the Doctor told me I would be a year getting back to normal again. But I don’t mind that as I am mighty lucky to be here at all.
If either of you ever have a few spare moments I should be glad to hear from you, as it does one good to hear from God’s Country. Again, thanking you for your kindness and, with best regards to you and family.
Yours Sincerely
Clyde

While researching Sgt McDiarmid, I stumbled across this:

Passenger manifest

Clyde and Hilda McDiarmid's trip to New Orleans

So Sgt McDiarmid made it home to Hilda and baby and in 1921 and took Mrs Sumner up on her invitation to visit New Orleans.  I’ve never been able to find out Baby’s name. I fear it will remain a mystery forever.

A wounded man is in far better care than a gassed man

Posted on | November 9, 2011 | Comments Off

Letter home from Unknown CEF Soldier

First page from letter home



 
When you research WW1 letters, often you never learn what happened to the soldier. Such is the case of the first letter I’m posting here. I know this unknown Canadian soldier’s  initials were W. A., he was from Ontario (possibly from Ivanhoe), his female friend was newly married and moved to Foxboro, Ontario and he had been gassed. He never signs his full name so I’ll never find out who he was, or if he even survived the war. The Ivanhoe part is just an educated guess. He wrote an alternate delivery address on the back of the envelope for Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe is still a small little village to this day. Everyone knows everyone there. It’s just a short 17 km north of Foxboro, which is also still a small village. If you look on a map, they are just outside of Belleville, Ontario, off the 401 highway. W.A. was a small town boy, far from home, injured and wanting nothing more than to be home watching flowers and vegetables grow.

When he wrote this letter, he was recuperating at the 1st Canadian Corp Division based in Shorncliffe, England.  I could never decipher the woman’s first name but the envelope is addressed to a Mrs. Wm Sine.  I’ve corrected the punctuation a little to help the letter flow a bit better:

 

    27th June 1918

Dear ?

Yours of 9th June to hand, sure I was a little puzzled at the change of address. But pleased to hear from you under the changed conditions.

So you have taken to farming, that’s very good. This is the 1st intimation of your marriage, I send you my best congratulations, Hoping you are well and happy. And lots of life.

Cannot say I am very well but I am out of Hospital. I would rather be over there roughing it, than go throu what I am going thro now, one round of pain and inconvenience. The Doctors here cannot find anything wrong but they are not suffering what I am, and can only see a healthy looking soldier, which I am, but only twice in about seven weeks have I felt fit. When I came out of Hospital I felt fit for anything; but I have to do a certain amount of training again, which instead of helping me has thrown me so far back, that I dare not get too far away from my hut. A wounded man is in far better care than a gassed man, for his wound can be seen and attended to, but, gas, “A cure is not found for it yet”, result you must suffer and drop, get up and carry on, I dare not go far by myself, for sudden outs take me and the nearest part of the world catches me, and hurts at times. Still Dr. says “nothing wrong, gas nonsense”, However I am now excused drills, just take walking exercise about 1/2 a mile out and back four times per day.

So I will come in very handy on a farm, watching the flowers and vegetables grow in the home garden. Get your husband to plant two shrubs where one blade of grass would grow, wishing you everything good.

32.2 hrs. W. A.

His life would never have been the same, even if he made it home. His lungs were compromised and he would have suffered the rest of his life. The use of gas during the war was one of the most horrific events of the entire conflict. It wasn’t enough they lived a life of hell in the trenches, they had to live in constant fear of gas attacks wafting across no man’s land. Chlorine, phosgene, mustard gasses ripped their lungs apart and left many men disabled and in pain for the remainder of their lives.  One result of the use of gas during the First World War, has been an enduring fear, world wide of their use.  A little shy of 100 years since their first use, and we still blanch at the thought of their use.  W. A.’s problem was compounded by his doctor’s scepticism about the long term effects the gas had. The old “if you can’t slap a bandage on it, you aren’t sick” mind set.

The war wouldn’t end for nearly 5 months after the posting of this letter.  Can’t help wondering what happened to W. A. and did he get to see the ” two shrubs where one blade of grass would grow”.

For King and Country – Letters from the Great War

Posted on | November 8, 2011 | Comments Off

You are likely pondering 2 things at this point in time. First where have I been and second “for King and country”? Unlikely title for the first entry in awhile, isn’t it? During the summer I began thinking about a series of articles about the First World War to honour Remembrance Day this year. As well as stamps, I collect things related to pioneer avation, it’s not hard to see the connection with WW1. Quite frankly, I’m a bit bored with the usual political bickering and endless bullshit in the news I usually write about and was looking for something more interesting to write about, something that meshed with my love of history.

The idea of writing about WW1 came about by accident sometime during the past summer. I had acquired, last year, a post card from a German soldier, written during WW1. I picked the card up originally because I’m a stamp collector and I liked the cancel mark. I became curious about what the card said and asked a friend to translate it. He and another person struggled with the combination of really bad hand writing and old High German script but finally translated it. It was a short note home to family telling them a bit about the men in the photo. He had been wounded and he was telling them about his friends in the hospital. I happily put the card back in it’s sleeve, content to know what was written on it.

Sometime during the early part of the summer I stumbled on an auction for a letter written by a Canadian soldier to a woman in New Orleans. No one was bidding on it, so I threw in a $5 bid. Wonders never cease – I got the letter. I read it, went back and saw more auctions. I bid on a letter from an English soldier, got it. When I received the letter, I discovered it was written to the same woman in New Orleans. I bid on some letters from a French soldier to someone in New Orleans and yes, to the same woman. Over the summer I began looking for any letters sent to New Orleans and bid on them. I ended up with about 11 letters to the same mysterious woman, from 5 different sellers – 2 in England,  1 in California,1 in Texas and I think one came from Idaho or Indiana (I can’t remember now). Letters to one woman from different soldiers, sailors and the mother of a British seaman. The most interesting revelation came from the series of French letters – three auctions from different vendors in the US yet they were from the same French corporal to my lady in New Orleans.

I don’t think I need to tell you how obsessed I became. I had to track this woman down. It took me about 2 weeks to find her family and learn all about her. In the process I learned a great deal about the kindness of strangers during a period of war.

I’ve gone on to acquire a number of letters written to and from soldiers in the Great War. Many are filled with gossipy slices of home life, some are longing for simple things like planting a garden or seeing their loved ones. Reading them moves the participants of the war from those static, faded photos we are familiar with. They become warm, human and full of life. I decided to share the letters with you. All of them. Not all are filled with details of the war, as I said, most are concerned with what’s happening with family, “take care of my tools so they don’t rust” details, you know, the mundane things we take for granted daily. These letters are a snippet of life, a window to a world almost 100 years past. I appreciate the simple letters the most. They are from regular people swept up into a watershed moment in history.

I’m saving the story of the Lady from New Orleans for Nov 11.  Many more letters will follow after the 11th. As I aquire more letters, or get the ones I have translated, I’ll post them. In between, I’ll post rambling thoughts and silly articles to fill the space.  Tomorrow I will put up my first letter, from a Canadian writing home to a friend. He talks of the trials of being gassed but still looking fit and healthy. Look for it tomorrow. In the meantime, play nice with one another.

keep looking »