From the St. Lawrence to the Yser With the 1st Canadian Brigade
by Frederic C. Curry
“Crumps”—the Plain Story of a Canadian Who Went
by Louis Keene
When the First World War broke out, the view of the British Empire by those who built it, colonised it and spread its influence over the globe was that of a strong closely bonded family held together by common origin and purpose. There could be little doubt that the peoples of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other countries would quickly rally to a flag they considered their own as readily as they had done in the past—particularly during the war in South Africa just a decade and a half previously. These young, enthusiastic, mostly citizen armies were comprised in the main of the flower of the country's young manhood. In Canada these first came from the members of the Canadian Militia, though such was the demand to 'do ones bit' that this was quickly absorbed by quantities of volunteers from the community at large eager to take up arms in the service of the 'mother country.’ These two first accounts concern men of the First Canadians who join, train, sail to Europe and throw themselves into the early battles with the German Army in Belgium and France. They make absorbing reading as perspectives of the infantry war from the Canadian viewpoint and represent great value in this special two-in-one edition. Available in softcover and hardback with dustwrapper.
When a man has lived night after night in a trench, he gradually finds it quite possible to snatch a good night’s sleep. In other words, it is merely a case of becoming acclimated to rackets, smells and food. I had always been able to sleep, but on the night following the bombardment of the chateau I just could not doze off. I thrashed about continuously, and while in this restless state harboured the notion that trouble was brewing for me. Every one has had that feeling, the feeling that hangs in your bones and warns you to watch out. Well, that is how I felt. <br>
At last the sun rose and with it came a beautiful morning, warm and sunny. I walked out amongst the ruins to see the extent of the damage caused by the shelling of the previous day. I was waiting for the stew which was cooking on a little fire near the side of the cellar. The “dixie” was resting on two old bayonets, and they in turn rested on bricks at either side. Towards noon a big shell came over and landed in the moat, covering everything around with a coat of evil-smelling, black mud. This shell was followed by another, arriving in the part of the ruins where once a cow-shed stood. I was talking to Hawkins, my batman, when I saw him dive across my front and fall flat on his face. At the same time I was in the centre of an explosion, a great flame of light and then bricks, wood and cement flew in all directions. For a few seconds I thought I was dead, then I picked myself up and saw that blood was pouring down the front of my jacket. I followed up the stream and found that my right hand was smashed and hanging limp. My men rushed out and I told them it was nothing, but promptly fell in a heap. When I came to, my hand was wrapped up in an emergency bandage, and a stretcher was coming down from Bedford House, an advanced dressing-station, the next house back. To the delight of the men who were carrying it, I waved them away and told them I could walk. Assisted up to the dressing-station by one of my men, I made it. I then made a discovery. A soldier is a man until he’s hit, then he’s a case. I first had an injection of “anti-tetanus” in the side, and the fact was recorded on a label tied to my left-hand top pocket button. The doctor tied me up, then said: “You’ll soon be all right. Will you have a bottle of English beer or a drop of whiskey?” I had the whiskey. I needed it. All the time I was there the wounded poured in. Seeing them I felt ashamed to be there with only a smashed hand. A corporal came in with both hands blown off and fifty-six other wounds. He had tried to save the men in his bay by throwing back a German bomb and it had gone off in his hands. Hawkins came up later on with my helmet and the fuse head of the shell which blew me up. We were all collected together and waited in the dugouts of the dressing station until dusk. Several shells came close to us. I tried to write to my mother with my left hand, so that when she received the War Office cable she would know I was able to write.<br>
Dusk came, then night, and finally the Ford ambulance cars which were to take us out of Hell. It was a beautiful night. Belgium looked lovely. The merciful night had thrown a veil over the war scars on the land and a moon was shining. I was told to sit up in the seat with the driver. We travelled along one road, then the shelling became so bad that the drivers decided to go back and take another road which was running nearly parallel. Back over the line the planes of the Royal Flying Corps were bombing the Forest of Houltholst, and the bursting of the shrapnel from the German anti-aircraft guns pierced the velvet of the sky like stars as we went out of Belgium into France.