The Debt a Canadian Anglophile bucolic verse

As the war dragged on and casualties mounted how did Canadian born or longer term residents in Canada poetically respond to the ultimate sacrifices made? Here is a late war probably written in latter 1917 or the first half of 1918 example of such a poetic response published by the Great War Comrades of Canada in a small undated pamphlet but probably dating from early or mid-1918: “A Treasury of War Poetry.” [ no place / no date ]: Distributed by the Great War Comrades of Canada 32 pages “The Debt” page 15. Unfortunately no author/poet is given! Athough presumably published in Canada with Canada the presumed focus Bignor Hill is of course in Sussex, England on the famous South Downs and the topographical textual focus is distinctly bucolicaly Anglophile!

The Debt

No more of Canada will they see —
Those men who’ve died for you and me.

So lone and cold they lie; but we,
We still have life; we still may greet
Our pleasant friends in home and street;
We still have life, are able still
To climb the turf of Bignor Hill,
To see the placid sheep go by,
To hear the sheep-dog’s eager cry,
To feel the sun, to taste the rain,
To smell the Autumn’s scents again
Beneath the brown and gold and red
Which old October’s brush has spread,
To hear the robin in the lane,
To look upon the Canadian sky.

Posted in War Poetry | Leave a comment

“On Patrol” rare HMCS Grilse 1916 poem

Here is a very rare 1916 poem written by Bertrand Lawrence Twinn (born August 27, 1887 near London, England – died: 1972) who served as a clerk in the Canadian Navy during WWI. The poem appeared inside a 1916 Greetings card from the ship. He had previously served in the Royal Navy from 1902 and marrying in 1909 with a daughter born in 1910 and a son in 1912 he probably was one of the huge wave of British immigrants in the few years just before WWI broke out to Canada. This is the first maritime / naval Canadian war poem to appear on this blog and it is fortuitously from a distinctively interesting ship history. HMCS Grilse was a donated American yacht bought by one of Canada’s wealthiest men from Montreal, Quebec and given to the Canadian Navy in July 1915. She served until decommissioned on December 10, 1918. What makes this 1916 dated in print poem quite interesting is that it was written probably whilst the ship was still in Canadian waters and before she departed Halifax, Nova Scotia on December 11, 1916 for the Caribbean Sea and the West Indies (given her structure which with an open bridge and deck was considered a more suitable cruising area for her). Steaming in a major winter North Atlantic storm in mid-December 1916 she was actually reported lost at sea though she entered Shelburne, Nova Scotia 3 days after leaving Halifax (though losing 6 men who had been swept overboard).

“On Patrol”

Out on the deep when the waves roll high,
When storm clouds scurry o’er sombre sky,
Plunging and rolling this way and that,
Scanning the seas for periscope’s cap.

Steaming along when folks are at rest,
Scorning each danger with many a jest,
Searching for mine or submarine’s lair.
By darkest night and the noonday glare.

Patrolling our beat on trembling keel,
With cheerful hearts and our nerves like steel,
Raging storm or foe — fear there is none;
Our duty’s clear and it SHALL BE DONE.

We dream of our loved ones so far away,
‘Tis them we’re guarding each night and day,
Our glorious Empire to Britons dear,
Her honour’s at stake, we’ll show no fear.

We’ll stick to our task till Vic’trys won,
Bring to his knees the treacherous hun,
Singing songs of the free and the Brave;
Britannia ever shall rule the wave.

Bertrand L. Twinn / 1916″

The Canadian War museum have an excellent collection of contemporary WWI artifacts including even a very unusual cap tally or ribbon for the sailor’s hats of the GRILSE online.


Arthur Lismer one of the Group of Seven and an official Canadian War Artist in WWI also did an often reproduced 1919 dated lithograph of the GRILSE :


Posted in War Poetry | Leave a comment

Female Poets of the First World War List of Female Poets includes Canada Section

From a Great Britain blog “Female Poets of the First World” – List of Female Poets which includes a separate section on Canadian female poets of the war (as of June 26 2016 39 listed!):
Main URL:
The most recent post on this blog refers to a poem attributed to Amelia Earheart. Amelia spent some time in Toronto and indeed was materially induced to become a pilot herself when Royal Air Force pilots took up her up in their training machines at Armour Heights (Toronto). This site is now part of mid-town Toronto, Ontario. Former Knox College is now being converted into a major component of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Architecture building and is scheduled to open 2016 – 2017. In 1918 Amelia worked as a voluntary aid detachment worker at the Spadina Military Hospital located in the same building. Heritage Toronto has a plaque specifically mentioning Amelia which presumably will be preserved when the Faculty of Architecture opens.

Posted in War Poetry | Leave a comment

Canada Lad a Manchester England poetic paen

“Canada Lad” is a poem on the last page of the immediate post-war published memoirs “Maple Leaves In England” Manchester, England: n.d. (circa 1920) of a very kind “The Little Mother” from Manchester England (aka Mrs. M. Bagshaw) who opened up her own home for the war to the many visiting and training Canadians in Great Britain. Poems such as these reveal the emotional hugs and punches of countless young mens’ impressions on British civilians especially those home front civilians who chose to directly furnish rest and recreation for such young men. Emotional stresses induced by socialization facilitation of these men and their departures to parts unknown generally during and after the conflict are unmistakable. Mrs. Bagshaw suffered personal loss as one of her own sons had been KIA early in the war. “The Little Mother” has her own page on a blog from Manchester, England, viz.:

“Canada Lad.

Canada lad, though you’re back at home,
On the other side of the grey-backed foam –
Back with the friends who hold you dear,
Say, will you think of me over here?

Will you think of the crowds in each dim-lit
Where the pulse of Manchester in wartime beat?
Will you think of the shortage of sugar and
And the fun we had at those Sunday teas?

Yours in the fight was a glorious part,
And you fairly won my English heart :
Yes! e’en more than I did fret and grieve,
No more you’d come on “blighty” leave.

Canada lad, though the war was won,
I’ll never forget what you’ve borne and done.
My Maple Leaf boys, in khaki clad —
Good luck and God bless you! Canada lad.”

(Source: “The Little Mother” (Bagshaw, Mrs. M.) “Maple Leaves In England” Manchester, England: Saunders & Co, Printers (1920), [ p. 140 ]

Posted in War Poetry | Leave a comment

Mid-war recruiting poem for the 220th Battalion (12th. York Rangers)

Sergeant Horace Henry Anderson,living in Toronto with his wife and one boy aged 8 decided to enlist into the 220th Battalion during the hectic recruiting drives of 1916 when multiple battalions were competing for recruits. An electrician by trade and having served with the Royal Engineers and 2nd. Devon Artillery in England for 15 years plus serving in the 12th Battalion York Rangers Canadian Militia, tall and fit he was given NCO rank upon his attestation on July 20, 1916 in Toronto. Whilst still serving with the 12th. York Rangers Battalion a local newspaper whose territory was actively being used for recruitment purposes by the 220th. Battalion published his untitled recruiting poem, viz.:

The day has sped and night has
Her dismal shroud o’er Britain’s
Old England’s greatest warrior
Brave Kitchener, is dead.

Let British maids and matrons
Children and old folks still may
In earned ease, but man must
Their tryst with Britain’s

One more we owe them, but that
Shall cost the thrice-accursed
All that he’s won by guile or gun,
Or Jack Canuck’s foreworn.

O Canada, as in the past,
Cold calculations form you cast;
To honor you’re committed fast,
You’ve nailed your colors to the
To quell the foe.
On Flanders’ fields your thous-
ands slain
Call you to arms again, again,
And you must go.

“The Newmarket Era” Newmarket, Ontario Friday, June 16th, 1916, page 2

Sergeant Horace Henry Anderson (born: November 18, 1882/1883? in England – died: November 29, 1937 in York County, Ontario) did eventually serve in France with the 4th. Canadian Mounted Rifles but was sick only late in the war and hospitalized at the start of 1919 in England.

Posted in War Poetry | 15 Comments

You can take the country out of the girl but you can’t take the girl out of the country


Oh, we are the farmerettes,
Done up in assorted sets.
It was such a pity
To stay in the city
Along with the slackerettes.

A verse composed by V. M. Wright (possibly of Toronto, Ontario) and published: “The Globe”, Toronto, Ontario Saturday, February 9, 1918, page 10 (Women’s Section)

Here is a humourous versified perspective by some women who call into question what other women are doing or not doing to aid the war effort.

Posted in War Poetry | 3 Comments

“Daddy’s Answer” It’s men we want Toronto early war poem

“Daddy’s Answer” is a fine early Toronto Canadian based war poem that captures a good deal of the intra-family conflicts, social tensions and intergenerational conflicts that undoubtedly occurred in countless Canadian and other war families around the world. Naturally given the time period the poem appeals to imperialistically based patriotism as well but these atypical social conflict points especially for this period of jingoistic early war poetry production impels notice. “Daddy’s Answer” appeared in the Toronto, Ontario newspaper “The Daily Mail and Empire” Volume XLI, Issue No 18, May 4, 1915, page 16. Signed “Gary” the piece’s whole tone manifests the internal decision-making of those recruits derived from the marginalized and even normally excluded recruit pool: established married men with wife and children and fairly old (especially for 1914 when the average male life expectancy in North America was this poet narrator’s age). Such older family men were generally not expected to join up.

“Daddy’s Answer”

I’m just past forty-nine, laddie,
And you ask if I’m going to fight,
I’ve very few teeth of my own, laddie,
Still the doctor would pass my sight.
I’ve been “playing at soldiers” some time,
Aye, for over thirty years,
And twice in that time I hae volunteered,
But have never drawn farewell tears.
There are times when I think I’m a
When I feel that ought to go,
But what about you and your mother
And wee sisters, I want to know?
I’ve a fair good job in Toronto,
And a “lot” that I’m paying up fast,
Where I’d hoped to build me a hoosie
We could ca’ oor ain at the last.
It’s hard when you ask that question,
And I think of all that I know,
And look round on the thousands of young
Able, but unwilling to go.
Their thoughts are not at the front,
But rather you’ll see them scan
Those columns sent out by the “pink
To catch the eye of the “fan.”
There’s others lounge loafing and idle
In old pool rooms and movies new
Will tell you that “England began it,
And gee, let her finish it too.”
My boy, for the sake of you dear ones
Once more I’ll answer the call,
And should I again be rejected
I haven’t yet done my all.
I can still well handle a rifle,
And know how to reach the bull’s eye,
So I’ll try to impart my knowledge
On those not afraid to die.”

Toronto, April 8 [ 1915 ] – Gary

Posted in War Poetry | Leave a comment

An Imperial Canuck Christmas Day verse 1914

I recently located a very rare volume of a Toronto weekly newspaper for 1915, viz.: “The Weekly Mail and Empire and Farm and Fireside.” Toronto, Ontario: Printed by The Mail Printing Co.. This newspaper originated in mid-1872, absorbed some other Toronto newspapers in the 1890s and lasted until bought in November,1936 by the Globe to become what is now called the “Globe and Mail.” One could hardly expect at the time, location and simple title of the newspaper alone that any anti-Imperial verse would be welcomed! During the era of the First World War it normally published weekly issues on Tuesdays in 24 pages folio size and enthusiastically welcomed Canadian poetic contributions creating a treasure trove of Canadian amateur poets generally. Eureka’s verse “A Toast to Empire” would have brought a pleasantly brief smile to Winston Churchill in London if Churchill ever saw or read this verse. “A Toast to Empire” dated at the end of this poem to Christmas Day, 1914, Toronto appears in this weekly’s Volume XLI [ 41 ], Issue No. 3, January 19, 1915, page 22, viz.:

“A Toast To Empire.”

Here’s a health to Merry England,
And her kingdom on the sea,
Her flag that waved a thousand years
The fight to keep men free.

Here’s a health to Bonnie Scotland,
Caledonia stern and true,
Her pibrochs and her Highland glens,
Her locks and mountains blue.

Here’s to dear old Ireland,
The Gem of the Western wave,
And the courage of her soldiers –
The bravest of the brave.

Here’s to far Australia,
The land of the Southern Cross,
Whose sons will fight for the Union Jack,
And die ere it suffer loss.

Here’s to brave New Zealand
The first to send her ships –
The England of those far-off seas
Where the compass southward dips.

Here’s to Southern Africa,
The latest British land,
Who crushes out the rebel scum
With a heavy iron hand.

And now a health to Canada,
Our own dear native home,
Whose sturdy sons to guard her rights
Have crossed the ocean’s foam.

Once more – a health to India’s hosts,
Though all of a different creed,
Are willing to show that British they are
in times of Britain’s need.

And so our mighty Empire,
In Britain, three in one,
Four square throughout the outer world
Will last till time is done.

– Eureka

Toronto, Christmas Day, 1914

Posted in War Poetry | Leave a comment

Fair Sex Verses – A Sisterhood of Suffering and Service: Women and Girls of Canada and Newfoundland during the First World War

Glassford, Sarah and Shaw, Amy (editors)
“A Sisterhood Of Suffering And Service: Women and Girls of Canada and Newfoundland during the First World War”
Vancouver, British Columbia: UBC Press, 2012 x, 346 pages ISBN: 978 – 0 – 7748 – 2256 – 5

Besides direct quotes and some references to war time generated verses this modern collection of history essays has two excellent studies of Canadian war poetry, viz.:

Part 4: Creative Responses
Chapter 10 Hallett, Vicki S. “Verses in the Darkness: A Newfoundland Poet Responds to the First World War” pp. 245 – 269
Hallett discusses both war-time and post-war produced Newfoundland outport Phebe Florence Miller’s (1889 – 1979) verses in detailed context. Her essay is a fine example of modern scholarship placing verses into the cultural milieu in which they were generated. And of course one of her better known war-time verses was called “The Knitting Mariana (with apologies to Tennyson)” extracts of which are given at page 248 of her essay. Naturally with my foot fetish I noticed that one! This poem first appeared in “The Distaff” whose first issue also appeared in 1916 (for the entire issue see: “The Distaff: In Aid of Red Cross Branch Newfoundland W.P.A.”
[ Women’s Patriotic Association ] St. John’s, Newfoundland, 1916 Covers, 9 pages of advertisements plus 20 text pages. For the full text of Miller’s “The Knitting Mariana” see:
Chapter 11 Kennedy, Lynn “‘Twas You, Mother, Made Me a Man”: The Motherhood Motif in the Poetry of the First World War.” pp. 270 – 292

Posted in War Poetry | Leave a comment

The Veteran by Robert James Campbell Stead 1880 1959

Whilst engaged in researching the history of “shellshock” in the CEF and beyond the war years as well as World War I disabled veterans I came across Robert James Campbell Stead’s poem “The Veteran” published in his 1917 book of poems “Kitchener and Other Poems” Toronto, Ontario: The Musson Book Co. Limited xiv, October, 1917 xiv, October 1917 161 pages
Readjustment difficulties of returned soldiers to civil society especially when the conflict ended but also during the war are focused on the state’s responsibilities towards these now privileged men with entitled state and local community assistance and a clearly implied forewarning to both the state and local community to not forget these men’s earned privileges.

“The Veteran” pp. 23 – 24

You shouted for your heroes when they marched away
to war,
And your eyes were wet for those they left behind;
You were loud in declamations on the Cause they
battled for,
And to any imperfection you were blind;
They sprang from field and counter and from every
kind of trade;
You were proud of them in khaki when the blaring
bugles brayed;
You were half apologetic for the fact that you had
While the flag of Britain beckoned in the wind.

You read the glowing tributes to their valor at the
As they battered on the very gates of hell;
You could close your eyes and see them as they bore
the battle’s brunt,
And you wished that you had played your part as
You could see their bloody bay’nets in the pyrotechnic
flare —
You could hear the crash of battle — you could hear
them shout and swear
As they swept the reeking trenches — God, you wished
that you were there —
And you’d count it greater glory if you fell!

Now their fighting days are finished and some are
coming back,
But they don’t fit in as easy as of yore;
They have learned to shoot and parry, they can meet
and beat attack,
But they cannot do the things they did before;
They could hold the broken trenches in the high ex-
plosive rain,
They didn’t mind the danger – they didn’t mind the
pain —
They were in it for the finish – now they’re coming
back again,
And they’re hoping for a welcome at the door.

There are those who didn’t muster when they heard
the bugles play,
Though they claimed to feel the patriotic flame,
They couldn’t leave their business, and it’s not for us
to say
That they didn’t do their part to play the game;
But the soldier is returning, minus eye, or lung, or
He is back from war’s abysses, though he tottered on
the brim;
He saved his blooming country; will his country now
save him,

Or will it drown its glory in its shame?”

Posted in War Poetry | 2 Comments