George Stanley Godwin’s “Prisoners”


Best known as the author of Why Stay We Here? (1930) and The Eternal Forest (1929), it would appear that George Stanley Godwin also tried his hand as a war poet while serving with the 29th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

This newspaper clipping was in a local collection that was donated to the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada Museum.  I have been unable to determine which paper it was printed in.



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Dominion Day 1917….


10019LROn this, the 150th anniversary of the confederation of the Dominion of Canada (i.e, Canada Day) we here at Field Punishment No.1 thought it timely to share one of our favourite pamphlets from the First World War: A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving printed “for use at Parade Services in the Canadian Corps on Dominion Day…1917.

Canon Frederick George Scott mentions this particular day in his memoir The Great War As I Saw It:

” I was the only man in the whole Canadian Corps at the front who could remember the first Dominion Day.  I could remember as a child being taken by my father on the 1st of July, 1867, to hear the guns firing a salute on the grounds of McGill College, Montreal.  Canada had travelled [sic] a long distance on the path of nationhood since that far-off time, and now, after fifty years, I had the satisfaction of being with the great Canadian Army Corps on European soil, engaged in the biggest war in history.  Such an experience is not often the privilege of a human life, and the splendid body of men before me gave promise of Canada’s progress and national glory in the future.  Everyone felt the peculiar significance of the celebration (189-90).”

Recall that on July 1st, 1917 the Canadian Corps was still recovering from their success at Vimy Ridge, and in a matter of months would be sent into the mire of Passchendaele.

A link to a PDF is below the cover image.  Enjoy…a mari usque ad mare.


A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving





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Will Bird’s “And We Go On” (1930)….

A recent addition to the collection here: a lovely first edition of Will Bird’s novel And We Go On (1930) in the extremely rare dustjacket.  This example is chipped, battered, clumsily-tape-repaired and scribbled-upon, but it’s just scarce enough that I’m willing to overlook its faults.


“A Story Without Filth or Favor.”  That’s an interesting marketing line, tacking right between the two extremes of the war-book boom.

The front cover, as you’ll note, is not terribly exciting: visually, it’s in the running for ‘most boring front cover’ of all of Canada’s WWI novels.  I suspect the print run was so small and sales expectations were so modest, Hunter-Rose Co. Limited decided not to shell out for an illustrator, but I’m not familiar enough with the press to know if this style of cover was typical or just an economy.

However, there is another possibility, and the rear cover gives us a clue:


Private Timothy Fergus Clancy (1930) was published by the Graphic Publishers, while A Century at Chignecto (1928) was published by Ryerson.  Have you ever heard of a publisher putting ads for another publisher’s books on their rear cover?  Hunter-Rose Co. Ltd., in addition to being a publisher was a printer, and it may just be the case that Will Bird used Hunter-Rose solely as a printer and flogged copies himself.  All of the ads for the book in The Ypres Times state to write to Bird directly for copies, just as the rear cover does here for Bird’s previous books.

Furthermore, if one looks at the next three books Bird published: Thirteen Years After (1932), The Communication Trench (1933), and The Maid of the Marshes (1935), only Thirteen Years After, (a collection of magazine articles written for MacLean’s Magazine), has a publisher.  The Communication Trench was printed in Montreal by the Perrault Printing Company, but is listed as being “published by the author” in Amherst, Nova Scotia.  So too is The Maid of the Marshes. 

Thus I suspect And We Go On was self-published, and the line “without filth or favor” is Will Bird’s doing.




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Charles Samuel Bannell “His Offering”…

Version 2

Charles Samuel Bannell








Charles Samuel Bannell – His Offering

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A Short History of Captured Guns…

Having just finished writing the introduction to Philip Child’s WWI novel God’s Sparrows (1937) for Dundurn (winter ’16/ spring ’17 publication date), I’ve decided to turn my attention to a poet named Charles Samuel Bannell, who served with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada during the First World War.  Bannell was killed at Passchendaele in late 1917, and his brother published a posthumous collection of his poetry titled His Offering. There’s not a lot known about him outside the details offered in the brief introduction to the volume, but I’m hoping to fix that in short order.

img692A big part of my research process is to get a hold of absolutely everything connected to a writer and the unit he served in –basically it’s a grand excuse to indulge my book collecting.  But researching Bannell has been especially rewarding because I’ve been fortunate enough to find several rare publications connected with the Seaforth Highlanders, with whom I was a private from 2001-04.

One such publication is A Short History of Captured Guns: The Great European War 1914-18, a pamphlet detailing how the war trophies around Vancouver were captured.  Privately printed, it’s quite a rare item: Library and Archives Canada’s Amicus database lists only four copies in Canadian academic libraries.  I found a copy at Kestrel Books on West 4th in Vancouver.

There’s often wonderful things in little pamphlets like this that don’t make it into larger histories.  Just read this:

Silent Toast

The surging battle line long since is still
And Cenotaphs are reared, and flowers spread
Across the meadow and behind the hill,
O’er all those hallowed gardens of the dead.

Dead!  Not to us –though all the world forget
That hideous travail of a nation’s birth,
Your living memory is with us yet
Despite far scattered mounds of sacred earth.

And those of us –so few –who still remain
Cherish our scars –sore guerdon of the years
And, in remembering, almost bless our pain
That tells of tribute paid in blood and tears.

And so to you we raise this silent glass

And pledge ourselves to keep your memory bright
And pray we too, when comes our time to pass
May look with fearless eyes into the night.

Lt. Col. Robert Ross Napier.


I envision several hundred men raising a glass during that last stanza.  A PDF of the pamphlet is below.  Enjoy.

A Short History of Captured Guns – M. Montagu-Marsden





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Will R. Bird’s “Kind to Dogs” (1931)….

23104_A5AC55E545A4CThis is the eighth post in an ongoing series where I’ll be posting PDF’s from my collection of WWI era pulp magazines.

One of my long-term projects is to eventually track down some of the Australian & New Zealander fiction of the First World War, to see (amongst other things) how it compares to Canadian war fiction.  Like ours, Anzac war lit is mostly out of print and neglected, which is strangely familiar (and disappointing) because the war seems to occupy a similar place in the national mythology down under as it does in the great white north.

I’d always thought Aussies and Canadians had similar sorts of reputations during the war, but rereading Robert E. Sherwood’s play Waterloo Bridge (1930) recently, I came across a passage where the protagonist Roy, an American serving with the RCR’s, offers his opinion of the other colonial army:

“The Australians are over-rated.  They make a lot of noise and show off –but when it comes to proving anything in the line, well, they’re a lot of false alarms, if you ask me.” (Act II, Scene I, page 112).

Yikes!  Sherwood served in the ranks of the Canadian Black Watch alongside Will Bird, and I was curious if his unflattering appraisal of the Australians was commonplace in the ranks of the CEF.  I’ve read of the two colonial forces being competitive with each other but had never considered there might be outright animosity, so I was really curious about how Will Bird would treat the Australians in his short story Kind to Dogs from the May 1931 issue of War Stories.

Kind to Dogs is the only war story of Bird’s I’ve encountered (thus far) that centres upon the Australian army.  At the outset we’re introduced to the hard-bitten Corporal Hurry (one of the great character names in the Bird cannon) of the “Coo-ees,” pride of the Third Australian Division.  Bill Latcher is one of Hurry’s men, and frequently tests his corporal’s patience by always being thoughtful, decent, and honourable and never using the war as an excuse to compromise his personal integrity.  Latcher is thus portrayed as a bit of a softie: according to his corporal “he’s too damn sentimental” and that will bring bad luck.

23041LRPreparing to attack “Ungodly Trench” at the base of the Messines Ridge, Bill exposes himself to German scrutiny to help a lost platoon, and then once the attack gets going, he silences a Maxim gun on his own.  When Corporal Hurry sees Bill standing with the German gunner, he’s frantic:

“Shoot him, kill him!” yelled the corporal before he reached them, and he broke into sudden perspiration.  That was old Bill every time, standing there like a ninny when the Kraut might act treacherous at first chance.

But Bill held up a protesting hand.

“He’s surrendered, corp,” he shouted to make himself heard.  “No use killing him, he didn’t have no chance.  Lookit here!”

The corporal looked and understood the desperate resistance.  The young German had been chained to his gun.

“Plug him just the same,” he said hoarsely.  “We ain’t got time to bother with him.  Move over, if you don’t want to do it.  I’ll fix him.”

“No, corp.  Don’t you shoot him or I’ll report you,” said old Bill steadily.  “He surrendered to me, just as soon as I got up close enough, and he had to stick it and shoot.  You’d a done the same if you was him.  I’ll bust that chain off him –I put his gun out of order already –and send him back as soon as there’s a chance.”

“All right,” grated the corporal.  “Go ahead with your fool stunts.  Some day you’ll get yourself and [a] lot of other men wiped out jist through your blasted sentiment.”

Given the Canadian reputation for killing prisoners, I’m surprised to find this exchange occurring between Australian soldiers –but then again, maybe that distance is what affords Bird the ability to write about it so candidly.

Bill Latcher continues to behave like an “old woman” according to his corporal: refusing to shoot a German dog in no man’s land, and then (if you can believe it) tending to a wounded German and letting him drink from his own water bottle!  Things shortly go sideways during the Australian attack, and things are only righted through Bill’s fundamental decency.

Bird deploys one of his favourite plot devices in Kind to Dogs: a hidden trap door/secret tunnel that once again brings about a thrilling climax.  And naturally, in what is becoming a running joke here, a corporal’s hiss is… (wait for it….)…. “sibilant.”

And so, to celebrate Dominion Day: a short story by a Canadian, about an Australian unit, featuring a protagonist that turns out to be a sentimental American.

I’ve cleaned up the images a bit.  The PDF is below the cover image.  Enjoy.

img981Will R. Bird – Kind to Dogs

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Will R. Bird’s “Ghost Bayonets” (1930)….

This is the seventh post in an ongoing series where I’ll be posting PDF’s from my collection of WWI era pulp magazines.

23096_67CB7F6142E4BThe ghost of Will Bird’s brother Stephen features prominently in both of Will’s memoirs of the war: 1930’s And We Go On and revised/rewritten edition Ghosts Have Warm Hands (1968).  Bearing that in mind, it’s always fun to come across one of his short stories where the supernatural features prominently, as it does in Ghost Bayonets, from the August 1930 issue of War Stories.

Ghost Bayonets tacks towards the lighthearted end of the spectrum, but there are a lot of interesting things happening in what is otherwise an unapologetically fun story.

Our protagonist is Jimmy Blake, an American, who, with his buddy Pete Conner, has joined the ranks of an unnamed battalion in the Second Canadian Division, nicknamed the “Pig Stickers” for the pride they take in being some of the “best bayonet fighters on the Western Front.”  As new men in a hardened outfit, they’re both being tested by the old hands, and as Yanks in a Canadian outfit, they’re subjected to even more scrutiny than usual.  But being Americans, they don’t lack in self-confidence:

“What the hell made you kids come and join our mob?” the hard-boiled sergeant had asked.  “Don’t you know that we’re the Pig Stickers?”

“Yeah, but that don’t sink so deep,” Jimmy had retorted.  He was twenty and as big as the average.  “Pete and me’s always lookin’ for excitement and so we thought we’d come over and play tag with Fritz until we got acquainted.  Then when Pershing comes with his gang, he’ll make us generals on account of us knowin’ so much more’n the rest.”

“Is that so?” the hard-boiled one had sneered.  “I’ll bet you fifty francs you ain’t got spunk enough to stick a man, and that you’ll puke the first time you smell a dead one.”

“Take your fifty,” said Jimmy.  “Put up your money.  I never tried my bayonet on a live Fritz and I’ve never been in the trenches, but my cash says that I can go anywhere you do.”

And that, dear readers, is how not to ingratiate yourself to your new sergeant.  Jimmy realizes he may have been a touch too bold with this “bearcat” of an NCO as the battalion moves into Graveyard Corner, a supposedly haunted bit of no-man’s land between Lens and Hill 70.  23107_3899EAE775E0DRumour has it an old Frenchman with a black coat, top hat, and a deathly pallor has been seen wandering near the artillery-disturbed graves, and that one soldier supposedly died of fright after being warned by the ghost to stay away. It’s all very Sheridan Le Fanu.  But having survived a German trench raid and acquitted himself well in the process, Jimmy is more concerned with not appearing cowardly in front of his comrades and sergeant than with self preservation.

As with the other instance of Bird incorporating “ghosts” into one of his pulp short stories though (see: The Ghost Hole) the spectral rumours have a Teutonic rather than supernatural explanation.  Our American heroes (donning the Maple Leaf for the duration) will expose Fritz’s scheme via several of Bird’s favourite devices: the secret passage/hidden tunnel, mistaken identity, and swapping uniforms.  It’s a bit of a lark, and there’s a marvelous scene at the end where Jimmy and Pete work out their stories for the officers, so as to keep Jimmy in the pink (his having been “recommended for a bunch of medals”) and Pete out of the clink for…well, you’ll have to read to find out.

I also think it’s interesting that Bird always finds a rational explanation for ghosts/rumours in his pulp stories; it is one of the many reasons I believe the ghost of his brother in And We Go On is a literary device and why his memoirs should be read as literary works as opposed to history.  But I’ll save that discussion for another post.

Note: Bird’s fondness for “sibilant” continues unabated.

And so, without further ado: from the August, 1930 issue of War Stories, Will R. Bird’s Ghost Bayonets.  I’ve cleaned up the images a bit.  The PDF is below the cover image.  Enjoy.

img968Will R. Bird – Ghost Bayonets

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