Poetic relief from rural Plattsville Ontario, Oxford County August 11 1919

“God Bless Our Men” is found on a locally produced Plattsville, Ontario photo group portrait of local and area men and women who served the Canadian state in its armed forces during World War I. The front cover of the fold over pasted in real photographic postcard group photo which shows 15 men in different CEF unit uniforms, 2 in mufti (i.e. civilian clothing) and 1 women in her Canadian military nurse’s uniform posed as a group. Besides the nurse, 2 of the 16 men shown wear CEF officer’s uniform. The photo and the accompanying verse below “God Bless Our Men” was meant to serve as both a victory celebration and tangible reminder of collective local voluntary state services. A major reason why so many Canadian remembrances and simple acknowledgements are absent, distorted, forgotten is the rurally based composition of much of the CEF. With rapid 20th century urbanization in Canada and elsewhere traditional family farming communities were dissolved thus placing loose small mobile cultural properties of all kinds at high risk of willful abandonment and/or destruction. This poetic postcard is thus valuable in reminding us of how local communities viewed their just returned veterans. The 2nd row sit in 4 fine wicker chairs on a neatly manicured lawn right outside a multi-story white-painted house and probably the photo was taken on an official local welcome home celebration. Emotional relief that these 16 men and 1 women survived come through with the poem’s repeated textual emphasis of the fact that these people had returned. Interestingly not one of them displays any visible war damage in the photo. The typical Union Jack in the image and the express repeated references to God visually and literally symbolize the imperial and Christian cultures in which the local anonymous versifier lived including the secular roles that organized religion played in daily lives especially of rural people. One person who may be shown in the photo is: Private James Wellington Furtney C.E.F. Serial 730720 who was born in Plattsville and lived and worked in the area enlisting in April 1916 in Preston, Ontario. It is possible given his physical description in his CEF papers that he may be one of the two men in civilian clothes shown as he was discharged in January 1919 and so would have had time to readjust to civilian life compared to the others shown in CEF uniforms who are presumably just or very recently returned.

The front of the folding mounted photo postcard is entitled:

“In honor of those who served King and country from this district. Plattsville, August 11, 1919”

On the back of the mount is the poem, viz.:

God Bless Our Men

God Bless our noble men,
Welcome safe home again,
God Bless our men.
For “peace and victory”
On land and on the sea,
Our praise shall rise to Thee
Great God our King.

In battles long and loud
Wrapped in war’s awful shroud,
Our men endured,
Faced death ‘mid shot and shell,
Bravely they fought and well
Now they are home to dwell
The end secured.

Some shall return no more
They died on yonder shore
For our Empire.
Our victory they bought,
For you and me they fought,
Their love for freedom, ought
Our hearts inspire.

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About hospitalship1

Historian teacher
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