War Poetry Canadian

The title image above is from a London England 1914 patriotic handkerchief reproducing the extremely popular initial appearance from the August 31, 1914 “Daily Chronicle”, London, England published patriotic poem “Fall In” by Edward Harold Begbie (1871-1929).  This poem was reprinted on broadsides, postcards, reproduced in other newspapers and in such Canadian War poetry anthologies as Carrie Ellen Holman’s (comp. & ed.)  “In The Day of Battle: Poems of the Great War.”  Toronto, Ontario:  William Briggs, 1918 (3rd edition), page 30.   Begbie also reported and supported the “Angel of Mons” apparitions which allegedly appeared to some British troops at the start of the war in their first major battle the Battle of Mons in late August 1914.

11 x 14 sign

So don’t just STAND there please READ on to safely enter my poet’s ‘ole for a tot of rum, cup of hot cocoa or mug of tablet purified water!

Whilst John McRae (1872-1918) and Robert Service (1874-1958) are household names for Canadian WW1 war poets and “In Flanders Fields” universally known such literary fame comes at prices. Many other Canadians versified their experiences during and immediately after the “Great War” 1914 – 1919 but are virtually buried so deep that forensic literary detectives fail to identify such Canadians bards’ literary DNAs. These World War I era Canadian poets (1900 – 1950) come from all walks of life, all occupations, all ages and all educational levels. They write about all types of war related experiences in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Russia or many other places. For several reasons though their poetic voices quickly fell silent as the most isolated solitary dilapidated Canadian’s war grave.  Today for diverse reasons the vast majority of these silent bards’ poetically war era formulated words represent invaluable resources for especially social historians of such subjects as families in war, single-parent children in wars, war orphans, maternalism in wars, absentee soldier fathers, war induced separations or divorces, multiple siblings in foreign active services, female leadership in wars, adolescent coming of age during wars, academia and the state, war influenced education, early military-industrial complexes, Canadian literatures wars’ influences, Anglophilism, Imperialism, Colonialism, militarism, racism, urbanism, medicine, farming, rural life, French-Canadian nationalism, town versus country, origins and early histories of the social welfare state, immigration, social marginalization and the poor, home fronts, war memories, atrocities and cruelties in war, war time friendships, cultural chauvinisms, domesticity, unemployment, veterans, reconstruction, vocational retraining post-war, industrialization, child labour, propaganda, social work, war psychiatry, military nursing, foreign tourism, poetics or the history of poetry itself, etc…. This blog strives to resurrect, disseminate and publicize these long buried Canadian World War One era poets and their war related poems.

N. B.: *Unless otherwise indicated and to save space clicking on reproduced images will open the image in a new window and therefore generally should significantly enable the image’s text(s) to be more easily read.

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The following is a listing arranged by geographical location of several Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) battalion postcards produced during the war. Each postcard featured a verse on the right of the card, the battalion number, the Canadian military camp or location where raised or trained and some type of illustration on the left side when the unit originally formed and went through its initial battalion training in Canada. Some illustrations of the cards below along with some commentary placing these cards’ productions and verses in context will be added later. Clicking on each image opens in a new window with clearly legible verse words.

      Alphabetical List by location of known Canadian Camp Verse Postcards with copyright card notice: “A. M. Reg. 57,231”

Borden Camp, Ontario, Canada

125th. Canadian Overseas Battalion
At Duty’s Call. The Farewell of the Brants / Leaving Borden Camp, 1916 /
I’m thinking of YOU everyday’ / A Soldiers’ [ sic ] Letter

[ Illustration King George V with beard ]

129th. Canadian Battalion
“We will never let the old Flag fall”
[ Illustration Red Ensign with Union Jack in upper left quadrant and single Maple Leaf in lower right quadrant ]

204th. Canadian Battalion / The Beavers
“‘I’m thinking of YOU everyday’ / A Soldier’s Letter”
[ Illustration King George V with beard ]

Exhibition Camp, Toronto, Canada

198th. Canadian Overseas Battalion
“Farewell of The Canadian Buffs / Leaving Toronto for the Motherland 1917”
[ Illustration c. 1914 era British Bull dog standing on Union Jack in oblong oval surmounted on 2 crossed French flags ]

220th. Canadian Overseas Battalion
“Farewell of the York Rangers / Leaving Toronto for the Motherland 1917”
[ Illustration c. 1914 era British Bull dog standing on Union Jack in oblong oval surmounted on 2 crossed French flags ]

Hillcrest Camp, London, Canada

153rd Canadian Battalion
“We will never let the old Flag fall”
[ Illustration Red Ensign with Union Jack in upper left quadrant and single Maple Leaf in lower right quadrant ]

War Poetry Canada WW1 Hillcrest Camp London Ontario 153rd Battalion We will never let the old Flag fall postcard c 1916

Niagaara Camp, Canada

123rd Canadian Battalion
“At Duty’s Call” – ‘I’m Thinking of YOU Everyday.’ / A Soldier’s Letter.”
[ Illustration Canada General Service Crown superimposed on Maple Leaf ]

134th. Canadian Battalion
“The Boys of 134th Battalion”
[ Illustration Red Ensign with Union Jack in upper left quadrant and single Maple Leaf in lower right quadrant ]
and “From One Of The Bunch

War Poetry Canada WW1 Niagara Camp The Boys of 134th Battalion c 1916

War Poetry Canada WW1 Niagara Camp From One of The Bunch 134th Battalion c 1916

162nd Canadian Overseas Battalion / “The Ontarios” /
“At Duty’s Call – ‘From One of The Bunch'”
[ Illustration Canada General Service Crown superimposed on Maple Leaf ]

182nd. Overseas Battalion
“The Boys of 182nd. Battalion”
[ Illustration shows a peaked cap private with puttees in circa 1914 uniform marching with sloped over right shoulder rifle ]

War Poetry Canada WW1 Niagara Camp Boys of 182nd Battalion poem postcard with marching sloped rifle soldier illustration 1

Valcartier Camp, Canada

145th. Canadian Overseas Battalion
“I’m thinking of YOU everyday” / A Soldier’s Letter”
[ Illustration King George V with beard ]

145th. Canadian Overseas Battalion
“We will never let the old Flag fall”
[ Illustration Red Ensign with Union Jack in upper left quadrant and single Maple Leaf in lower right quadrant ]

145th. Canadian Overseas Battalion
“From One of the Bunch”
[ Illustration Canada General Service Crown superimposed on Maple Leaf ]

[ Unknown – Not stated – ]

111th. Battalion
“The Boys of 111th Battalion”
[ Illustration shows a peaked cap private with puttees in circa 1914 uniform marching with sloped over right shoulder rifle ]

194th. Canadian Overseas Battalion
“Farewell of the Edmonton Highlanders / Leaving Canada on the East to the Motherland”
[ Illustration c. 1914 era British Bull dog standing on Union Jack in oblong oval surmounted on 2 crossed French flags ]

      ————————————————————————————————–

Humour is a timeless stress reliever as well as to many an appealing drawing card or marketing device. An anonymous Canadian poet “Private Pinky” penned a short verse in response to receiving his socks. Given the unfavourable conditions of trench warfare which fostered such sicknesses as “trench foot” no especially front line soldier could ever get enough socks. Contemporaneously and currently such “verse” is simply unknown due to its medium a now rare ephemeral document or nano-second glanced at best. Dismissed as “doggerel” and thus unworthy of serious attention let alone study social historians now critically examine or at least make some attempt to incorporate them into serious studies of how people thought, felt and expressed themselves or how their contemporaries thought and felt about events, issues, concerns, etc…. Transcription of this postcard’s title and verse text below:

“From The / Land Of The Maple /
Thanks For Sox. /
This poem was received from a Canadian Boy doing his bit / in Flanders – Conveying his regards and best wishes to a young – / lady who had sent him a home made pair of sox. /

Sox Arrived Dear Lady,
‘Some Fit’
I Wear One For A Helmet
And One For A Mit.
Would Be Pleased To Meet
You,
When I’ve Done My Bit,
In The Meantime,
Where In – Did You Learn
To Knit?
– Private Pinky”

War Poetry Canada Colour Humourous Sock verse Can soldier to lady sock donor postcard

“Knitting The Socks.” is a typical pro-sock poem that appears in “The Stanstead Journal” Rock Island (Stanstead), Quebec, Volume LXX, Issue No. 51, Whole No. 3645 Thursday, December 23, 1915, page 4.  Unfortunately the poem was neither signed nor attributed. The anonymity of the poet ironically matches even contemporaneously the dismissiveness whether in the military or not of the vast critical home fronts outputs by and contributions to the war efforts by civilians. Out of sight home produced unpleasant associative clothing items that were “mass” cottage produced in an age typically where women’s voices generally did not “officially exist” stand starkly contrasted with such other home front war related productions such as munitions manufacturing. “Sock production” thus could hardly compete with or stand independently even to the far more propaganda image friendly big bang of shell production. This is especially true when women and children traditionally associated with certain pacific domestic tasks such as sock or other clothing item production were quickly from at least 1915 onwards overshadowed by the large numbers of female munitions workers and their distinctive and very publicly promoted munition work.  “Knitting The Socks” below therefore highlights the unjustly long buried but very important local community based social capital that substantively sustained with immense especially female unpaid voluntary charitable material and labour contributions the war.

“Knitting The Socks.” [ unsigned and unattributed ]

“By the fireside cosily seated,
With spectacles riding her nose,
The lively old lady is knitting
A wonderful pair of hose.
She pities the shivering soldier,
Who is out in the pelting storm,
And busily plies her needles
To keep him hearty and warm.

Her eyes are reading the embers,
But her heart is off to the war,
For she knows what those brave fellows
Are gallantly fighting for.
Her fingers as well as her fancy
Are cheering them on their way,
Who, under the good old banner,
Are saving their country to-day.

She ponders how in her childhood,
Her grandmother used to tell
The story of barefoot soldiers
Who fought so long and so well,
And the men of the Revolution
Are nearer to her than us;
And that perhaps is the reason
Why she is toiling thus.

She cannot shoulder a musket,
Nor ride with cavalry crew,
But nevertheless she is ready
To work for the boys who do.
And yet in “official desptaches”
That come from the Army or Fleet,
Her feats may have never a notice,
Though ever so mighty the tear!

So prithee, proud owner of muscle,
Or purse-proud owner of stocks,
Don’t sneer at the labors of woman,
Or smile at her bundle of socks,
Her heart may be larger and braver
Than his who is tallest of all,
The work of her hands as important
As cash that buys powder and ball.

And thus, while her quiet performance
Is being recorded in rhyme,
The tools in her tremulous fingers
Are running a race with Time.
Strange that four needles can form
A perfect triangular bound;
And equally strange that their antics
Result in perfecting “the round.”

And now, while beginning to “narrow,”
She thinks of the Salisbury mud,
And wonders if ever the stocking
Will wade to the ankle in blood.
And now she is “shaping the heel,”
And now she is ready to “bind,”
And hopes if the soldier is wounded,
It never will be from behind!

And now she is “raising the instep,”
Now “narrowing off at the toe,”
And prays that this end of the worsted
May ever be turned to the foe.
She “gathers” the last of the stitches,
As it a new laurel were won,
And placing the ball int he basket
Announces the stocking as “done.”

Ye men who are fighting our battles,
Away from the comforts of life,
Who thoughtfully muse by your camp-
fires,
On sweetheart or sister, or wife;
Just think of the elders a little,
And of the grandmothers too,
Who patiently sitting in corners,
Are knitting the stocking for you.”

      ————————————————————————————————–

Religiously themed Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and other seasonal greeting cards were produced by and/or on behalf of the CEF especially for family, relatives, friends and home generally and were of course sent to the CEF. Reproduced below “Kind Thoughts For Christmas” is an example of a CEF produced seasonal verse card. Produced in the immediate post-war Christmas this card was sent by a soldier in the Canadian Field Artillery stationed in France (though in actuality even in Belgium or possibly western Germany with the occupation forces). “Somewhere in France” also is indicative of the strict censorship and military secrecy that prevailed during the war and which ran counter to the fundamentally important geographical and environmental nature identification that pervades many Canadian verse themes and references in the first half of the 20th century. Such distant unfamiliar geographical vagueness thus did not endear Canadians particularly in paying much attention let alone appreciation to such “poetry” and contributed to these poems’ literary deaths especially post-war.

War Poetry Canada WW1 poem Kind Thoughts For Christmas December 1918 Seasonal CEF Canadian Field Artillery overseas produced Greeting card verse

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4 Responses to War Poetry Canadian

  1. An APPEAL! If you have or know of little known, unknown, hidden examples of relevant materials please let me know. Thanks.

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    • heatherannej51 says:

      I don’t know whether this is something you would like to see – it is the only thing I can offer you 🙂
      THE POPPY: by Canadian Grant Harold MacCarthy. He was only 16 years old but the ‘Ottawa Citizen’ thought it was good enough to publish on Remembrance Day in 1927. Grant had several uncles and cousins who served in the Great War, including George Geoffrey May who was killed at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917:-

      Oh blood-red flower! Oh crimson bloom!
      Within this wreath entwined,
      Thou art the sacred tie that dost
      Those heroes to us bind.

      Amid the cannon’s deafening roar,
      You blossomed, bloomed, and shed
      Your glowing radiance on those
      Who for their country bled.

      At early morn, refreshing dew
      Upon your petals stood,
      But when the crimson sun had set,
      Your chalice held but blood.

      You watched each day with tearful eye,
      How peace, God’s statute great.
      Was shattered ; and you saw supreme,
      The bloody hand of Fate.

      When o’er the fallen, with sacred rite,
      Nature’s cold earth was spread,
      You rose among those crosses bare,
      The spirit of the dead.

      Lest we forget those mighty men,
      The price they had to pay,
      We choose thee, Flower of Flanders, as
      Our token on this day.

      G.H. MacCarthy, Ottawa, Nov. 11, 1927.

      Source: https://doingourbit.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/the-poppy-a-poem-written-by-my-grandfather-in-1927/

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      • Thank you Heather for your consideration for adding this poem produced 50 years after Confederation in this our 150th. year Confederation celebration! Moreover as other readers and viewers will soon read war poems continued long after the November 11, 1918 Armistice!

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  2. Today, Monday, November 24, 2014 I have added a list of verse featured CEF Battalion postcards to the blog. Undoubtedly others exist and hopefully readers/viewers of this blog will be kind enough to share new or corrective information to this list and other information presented.

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