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.
A 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:
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.