EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Monday, March 5, 2018

Souvenirs and Assumptions

One of my IT Bosses used to love writing ASSUME on the whiteboard then slashing it thus: ASS/U/ME, while reciting  "Assume makes an ASS of U and ME" as a way of reminding us never to make assumptions when planning and implementing projects.

Today I was clearing a work space as yet another subconscious tactic to avoid starting in on year end books and tax returns when I came across my little stash of old maps. Two were essentially souvenir maps handed out to the 5th Canadian Armoured Division HQ (Dad's outfit) of their journey up the Italian Boot and through Holland. The third was an old WWI tactical map.

1:20,000 map near Villers-Bretonneux July 1918,
in other words the area where the first tank vs tank battle was fought and the Red Baron shot down.

Now, I haven't really looked at this map since I was a kid, and always ass/u/med it belonged to my Mom's dad who had been a regular in the Royal Horse Artillery, recalled to the colours for the Great War.  Since it seemed both topical and a welcome diversion I decided to take a closer look, to see where it was in France and to call up some of the places in Google maps so I could look at street views of houses and terrain. AMAZING technology we have available to us!

However, that's not the point now, while looking at the scales etc I noticed that the map was subject to updates issued by Canadian Corps Intelligence. What? Why would an RHA corporal have a Canadian army map?

That's when I remembered what I had only fairly recently discovered which is that my Dad's father had emigrated from Glasgow to Montreal before WWI, met a nice girl, (also from Glasgow which is where another assumption had earlier led me astray), got married, had a couple of kids then headed off to war. Luckily he came back from the war and fathered my Dad. He died when I was very young and Dad never talked much about his early life or about his father and every one who had known my grandfather was either already dead or beyond questioning  when I found the picture of him in uniform so I had let it drop for the time being.

Today, I looked him up on line and downloaded his service record. He was 27 (!?) when he joined and served as a driver with the Canadian Field Artillery in France from 1915 to 1918. His medical records indicate that he was invalided to hospital as sick a few times but was never wounded. Well, not in action, there is some indication that he had some fun on his annual 2 week leave in 1917.  Anyway the point is, he came home intact so I am here and apparently he brought home a WWI tactical, topographical, map, all marked up with British and German trenches, enemy battery and MG positions, etc!  Thanks Grampa Mac!

Je me souviens.

8 comments:

  1. A great story Ross and a fantastic souvenir of those dark times. I can understand how you feel about this as I only discovered my own Grandfathers sign up papers (attestation) last year and it sent shivers down my spine seeing his signature and that of Great Grandfather as witness on the papers, in this case The East kent Regiment The Buffs 1915 to 1918. Massive respect to your Grandpa and all who served in that terrible war.

    Enjoyed following the 'big sort out and tidy up'

    All the best,
    Lee.

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    1. Thanks Lee, what really amazes me is how so much valuable family history came in one of my ears only to exit from the other when I was young.

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    1. There are always treasures lurking here and there if we can only see them.

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  3. And people think that history is only about the great leaders and monumental events. This proves the importance of the histories that each of us carry in our own personal way. And we shall not know how this map came into your grandfather's possession but that is not important. What is significant is how you seized the moment to look back and find out a little bit of how he lived.

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    1. Well, once I discovered that this grandfather was in the Canadian Artillery it didn't seem odd that it came home with him since the Map is dated from shortly before the Amiens offensive that would have made it obsolete.

      But I do sometimes wish that I had listened better and understood when I was a young boy, but I am afraid that that is the way of things. Perhaps if I hadn't left home at barely 17 to don a uniform and had instead grown to adulthood near my family, I might have been just old enough to understand a little more and ask and listen.

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  4. ROSS,
    You are very fortunate to have available to you certain information regarding war service about you Grandfather. I have scarce little information about my own Dad- other than he served four years at the Island of Morati in the AIF during WW2...and I have his Medals...nothing was ever written down or discussed- most unfortunate. Regards. KEV.

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    1. Kev the Canadian gov't has put alot of war records on line including all of the service records, wargraves etc (where applicable) so a simple google search on a name can lead to a lit of info.

      You should check to see what's available in Australia.

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