A lovely little pamphlet arrived in the mail today, care of Patrick McGahern Rare Books in Ottawa. If you don’t yet receive McGahern’s catalogues, click on the link above and fire them an e-mail to get on their mailing list. Being at the other end of the country, I prefer to get their catalogues electronically, as the best and rarest items always go quickly.
A case in point: today’s pamphlet titled, Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade with British Fifth Army March-April 1918 by William K. Walker.
Walker was a Lt-Colonel in command of the unit, and was awarded a D.S.O. and Military Cross. At twenty pages, it’s hardly an exhaustive history, nor is it literary, but it’s a charming addition to the existing histories of the unit, written nearly forty years after the events described. It appears to be self-published.
The Canadian War Museum has a copy, as does Library and Archives Canada, but the Amicus database tells me there are no other copies in academic libraries. These are the kind of books Patrick McGahern and his son Liam (who runs the shop now) unearth with some regularity. Go on. Sign up for their catalogue.
There is one outrageously funny anecdote in Walker’s little history:
Strangely, our very first casualty was not caused by Germans, but by a huge ostrich! A man at Rear H.Q. discovering an aviary in a garden behind a cheateau, thought one of the big birds would be a unique souvenir. When about to rope his “souvenir”, the ostrich, with a lightening stroke, broke his arm.
Evacuated to the Base, the man told the gospel truth –he had been kicked by an ostrich. Smiling indulgently, nurses and doctors alike were gentle with this “shell-shock” patient. When seen at the Canadian Machine Gun Depot at Seaford, England, our “hero” had a wound stripe up.
Brilliant. “And what’s that one for, granddad?” “–that there’s for when I were kicked by the ostrich.”
I’m posting this pamphlet as a PDF because I know there is someone out there researching this unit who can’t get to Ottawa to see a copy in person. (And maybe just to a brag a little that I now have a copy).