If Ye Break Faith

This blog is dedicated to the promotion of educating about the Canadian experience of World War One. To discover who we are as a nation in the 21st Century, we must understand our past.


Monday, 29 August 2016

By No Means an Idle Task

4th Canadian Division at the Ypres Salient, August 1916

“During these days our Patrols exhibited great keenness, working well and bombing enemy parties and works.  A good beginning.”[1]
                    -Brigadier General Victor Odlum
                    O.C., 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade 



In the depths of August, very little change in situation along the Ypres Salient was appreciable.  Opposing lines remained, more or less, as they had been following the “hard and determined fighting”[2] over Mount Sorrel in June.  A major difference in the latter weeks of 1916’s summer was that the Canadians had mostly gone.  Sandwiched between two British Divisions and borrowing Australian artillery until their own gunners were properly equipped was the 4th Canadian Division; given a patch of land to defend where not quite much of anything was expected to happen.  This was a very good thing, as long as it turned out to be the case.  4th Division, the last complete unit of its size Canada would put into the field, would require time to come to terms with the practicalities of war.

Their inexperience was something only exposure could resolve.  Within ten days of arriving in France, many battalions of 4th Division’s brigades (10, 11, and 12 Canadian Infantry Brigades) were operating on the front line, after having gone through trench rotations under supervision of more veteran outfits.

Examining official reports of this period, the shocking naivety is quite clear.  War diary entries are far more brief and appended to far less frequently than contemporary records from other divisions.  There is no disservice to the 4th Division’s administrators in this observation, as a similar brevity is found in the early entries of each preceding division.  Very noticeably, particular care was made to mention individuals, even private soldiers, by name.  It would not be long before these records, by necessity of practicality, would shed the brevity of sparse detail and the sentimentality of using proper names.  In effect, this lack of narrative detail is a bane to history and only seems to support the notion that nothing of interest occurred between the end of June to the reassignment of the Canadian Corps to the Somme in September.

A fair few daily reports and diary entries noting “situation normal” or no change”- even resorting to the shortest of shorthand “do.”- offer little to narrative history.  It should be kept in mind, however, that holding a defensive position is by no means and idle task, nor without a whispered presence of peril.

What could be said about the 4th Division’s introduction to trench warfare in the last week of August 1916, is that of all things they may learn, one of the most critical was that many events were beyond the ability of the individual to control.  Sometimes in such circumstances, there might not be opportunity to learn from error.  A fraction of a second’s inattentiveness could be one’s last.  Soon enough, it would become apparent that no amount of preparation or caution was sufficient to counter random events.

Lieutenant Dean Stanley Bartle would unwittingly prove to be an example of this harsh lesson.  A banker from Niagara Falls, Lt. Bartle came to France with the 75th Battalion, arriving on the 14th of August as part of 11th Brigade.  Ten days later, and less than a full day into his first front line rotation, he was dead.[3]  His death is noteworthy, as he was the first fatal casualty among the officers in the Brigade.[4]  Lt. Bartle’s departure- alive and in good health in his last morning; shattered out of existence that evening- would have been a rude shock to his men and his mess-mates.  In a flat-handed smack of how real this adventure had just become, Lt. Bartle could now stand as a proof of the indifference of mortality.

The 4th Division’s learning curve of front line operations could have no grace period, and the Germans were certainly not inclined to grant one.  On the morning of 26 August, a working party from ‘A’ Company, 46th Battalion was returning to billets from overnight repair work on the trenched when “the party was caught by M.G. fire in the entrance to Poppy Lane, and two men were wounded….They were in rear of party and were not missed.  When day broke they were seen from the fire trench, and four men of ‘C’ Company volunteered to bring them in from their position in the open.  This was carried out without casualties, and the four men are to be commended for their bravery.”[5]

The following day, an explosion tore through a portion of the line held by the 47th Battalion, wounding Quartermaster Sergeant McInnes and Private Legg.  No Germans were involved in this.  A court of inquiry held on the same day found the explosion to have been caused by “accidental discharge of a mills grenade due to careless handling of same by Pte. Legg.”[6]

Trenches were not the only element in defensive war.  Craters left from detonated mines and heavy artillery were coveted, ready-made positions littering the lunar scape of no man’s land.  Brigadier General Odlum’s remarks on his brigade’s “keenness” in patrolling refer directly to this. Lieutenant McQuarie, Sergeant Hanly and their scouting party of 54th Battalion men discovered that the Germans had been making use of one such impression nicknamed “Crater No. 2”.  On the night of 26 August, they encountered two enemy soldiers who were quick to flee the scene.  “The crater,” it was reported, “was found to be partially fortified.”[7] German intentions were unclear.  They could have been establishing an observation post or they may have been preparing to use Crater No. 2 as a jumping-off point for a raid or local offensive.  The next night, armed with this information, Lt. McQuarie and his scouts went out again, where they “made a thorough reconnaissance of our wire and listening posts.”[8]  Nothing could be left to chance to allow the enemy to go unobserved or unobstructed.  To be doubly certain, Lt. McQuarie established four additional listening posts in the vicinity.

Vigilance was prudent.  On the 28th, close to midnight, the Germans sprung from crater No. 2 and attempted to dislodge men of the 75th Battalion holding Crater No. 1.[9]  This demonstration caused no casualties and came to nothing; being driven back the way they had come with brisk rifle fire.  A group of men from the 75th were quick to act, going against Crater No. 2 with bombs of their own, returning to friendly lines without suffering any casualties.[10]

Meanwhile, the men most responsible for the marred surface between lines were steadily at their work.  Artillery, though sporadic, was a daily occurrence, with the Germans making a hefty counterbattery attempt on the Division’s guns- 4th Australian Divisional Artillery- on the 28th.[11]  Major Davis’ 3rd Tunnelling Company, who had been on task in the area consistently, were making efforts to push their mines forward while simultaneously destroying those of the enemy; packing and firing a small countermine of 800lbs ammonal in the small hours of the 29th.[12]

Germans, however, were not the only threat to the trench lines.  In the struggle to keep them in good condition, the climate could be equally diabolical.  A long, hot and mostly dry summer came to an end in the last days of August.  In the sodden bottom lands of Flanders, two days of “extremely wet” weather was sufficient to leave “trenches in frightful condition.”  Relieving the 54th Battalion at the firing line on 30 August, the 102nd Battalion came into “mud (liquid) knee deep-Bath mats,”-wood pallets used as footboards- “in Communication Trenches not being anchored- floating.  Wet weather breaking down trenches in many places.”[13]

These circumstances, always dangerous, often deadly, were what passed for a report of “situation normal” in the tail end of an “uneventful” summer in the Salient.[i]


                       
My premier work of fiction, “Killing is a Sin: A Novel of the First World War” is now available for download through Kindle Direct Publishing. As an exclusive gift to my readers, I am offering free downloads of my book for Monday, 29 August 2016. Please follow the link above to get yours.

Much like the essays and articles I have written which are being appreciated by a growing audience; I put a great deal of effort into telling a story of moral questioning in the setting of the Western Front in 1917 as realistic as possible.  In crafting the environment and situation my characters experience throughout the book, a lot of time was spent consulting the very same war diaries which I have been using to accurately portray the situation of the war in my non-fiction work.  “Killing is a Sin” takes my strengths as an accurate and expositive essayist to give a genuine feel to a work of the imagination. 



I sincerely hope that those of you who have been enjoying my articles here with “If Ye Break Faith” would also be captivated by the story told within “Killing is a Sin,” where Corporal Felix Strachan is faced with having to find an answer to his own question- “What does it mean to die well?”



[1] War Diary Entry, 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 31 August 1916
[2] Boraston, Lt-Col JH (ed.) “Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatches” JM Dent &Sons ltd. 1919 pg. 269
[3] Dossier, Military Records, Bartle, D.S., Lieut.
[4] War Diary Entry, 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 24 August 1916
[5] War Diary Entry, 46th Battalion, 26 August 1916
[6] War Diary Entry, 47th Battalion, 27 August 1916
[7] War Diary Entry, 54th Battalion, 26 August 1916
[8] War Diary Entry, 54th Battalion, 27 August 1916
[9] War Diary Entry, 75th Battalion, 28 August 1916
[10] War Diary Entry, 75th Battalion, ibid.
[11] War Diary Entry, 4th Canadian Division 28 August 1916
[12] War Diary Entry, 3rd Canadian Tunnelling Company 29 August 1916
[13] War Diary Entry, 102nd Battalion, 30 August 1916




[i] All Primary Sources Cited, and Information Used to Construct this Article is due to the courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

Monday, 22 August 2016

A Netherworld of Shell-Scattered Turf

4th Canadian Division Arrives, August 1916

“August 14- Divisional Headquarters opened at HOOGRAF.”- 4th Canadian Division War Diary


Just as the first three divisions of the Canadian Corps were removing, one at a time, and each of these one brigade at a time from the Ypres Salient, the same process was happening in reverse with the final division to join the Corps, the 4th Canadian Division.  A single, straightforward sentence noted in its war diary marked the opening of Major General Watson’s Divisional Headquarters.  The division had already begun placing its brigades in line, overlapping the outward rotation of the 2nd Division, giving the new troops a few days to learn while doing, under the supervision of experienced men and officers.  In one case, the 46th (South Saskatchewan) Battalion, 10th Canadian Infantry
Brigade, placed its ‘A’ Company in reserve lines for instruction with the 18th Battalion on the 13th of August; moving into the firing line two days later.  They were followed in succession by ‘B’, ‘C’, and ‘D’ Companies, each one spending no more than a day at the forward most positions before passing back through support and reserve trenches, incurring the battalion’s first casualties in the process.  After these single company rotations from 15-18 August, 46th Battalion made a complete relief of the 18th on the 22nd- placing two companies, ‘A’ and ‘B’ along a lengthy frontage which was now the battalion’s responsibility alone.[1]

They had inherited a nightmare no amount of training could have prepared them for.  Assurances that Ypres was a “quiet” section of the Front would have immediately been given the lie.  This was ground fought over for so long that it had lost any aesthetic which would give reason to why it was being fought over, with the exception of the existence, mere handfuls of yards away, of men whose sole purpose was the eradication of their existence.

Artillery had been consistently active, at intervals.  The 10th Brigade logged in its first daily intelligence summary that, on the 25th, the Germans shelled their front line positions and communication trenches with 77mm and 5.9” shells for just over an hour in the late morning and again in the early afternoon.  Before the changeover with 4th Division, snipers of the 2nd Division had been doing a brisk trade with daily claims of kills and destruction of trench periscopes.  At night, enemy rifle and machine gun fire was more frequent, the Germans making use of “travelling searchlights…to assist M. Gun Fire.”[2]  Their primary object would be to play light upon parties working out in No Man’s Land; those attempting, as best they could manage, to repair wire and other defenses.  Catching a scouting patrol in their bright beam and stitching through them with a heavy burst was a hoped for target of opportunity.  This, among a great many other concerns most likely occupied the thoughts of Lieutenant Reginald Percy Cattell on the night of 25th August.  Responsibility had fallen to this young officer, only having turned twenty-two at the top of the month, to lead the first patrol of the war for the 46th Battalion.  He and his fifteen men, sneaking out into this netherworld of shell-scattered turf were among the 4th Canadian Division’s initial efforts in the conflict they had only just arrived to.  Lt. Cattell had been serving with the Active Militia in Canada since April the year before, taking time away from his accounting job in Woodstock, Ontario.  Like many of his compatriots, he was not Canadian born, but rather, of English background.  In fact, he had a direct connection to France- he’d been born in Paris. 

This patrol would prove a valuable experience, if not uneventful.  It is, in reality, most desirable for patrols to lack excitement or agitation on the part of the enemy.  Lt. Cattell was able to corroborate other reports on the condition of the German wire; that the enemy had cut and cleared the grass in front of their trenches to provide clear fields of fire and seemed to be more active in support and reserve trenches- only keeping a minimum of manpower in the firing line.[3]  It may have seemed a curious change, and other than it being noted in an observational sense was not accorded much consequence.

What Lt. Cattell’s patrol, and others like his were witnessing was the beginning of a shift in German defensive doctrine which would come to be known as “elastic defense.”  Lightly manning the forward most defences with intersecting machine guns was considered adequate to break up the cohesion of an infantry attack, which would be drawn into a counterattack zone beyond the protective cover of their offensive artillery and be overwhelmed by fresh troops deploying from positions well in rear of the forward lines.  “The German regulations did not give a specific name to this defense, but the term ‘elastic defense-in-depth’ is probably the best brief description.  The echeloning of forces provided the depth, the reliance on counterattack (instead of fixed positions) provided the elasticity.”[4]

This doctrine was an idea just beginning its implementation when the 46th Battalion first took the field in August of 1916; it would be nine months before they would really see it in action.  In the autumn, they’d be fighting at the Somme, where Lt. Cattell would distinguish himself, gaining his C.O.’s notice for “fine work…where he participated in the capture of the East portion of REGINA TRENCH.”[5]  He would continue to lead dangerous patrols and raids, suffering a slight wound on a successful sortie mid-September[6], and earning the Military Cross in January for a daring job during the work-up to the Battle of Vimy Ridge.  “He organised and led a most successful raid against the enemy’s trenches, demolished a mineshaft and inflicted many casualties.”[7]

Early in May of 1917, he was, with his ‘D’ Company, being held in a reserve position, and prepared to support ‘B’ Company’s effort to secure a stretch of the German line.  Here, now, nine months beyond the first intimations of elastic defense, the 46th and 47th Battalions would see it in practice.  Initially, the attack, begun at 9:45 pm 5th May 1917 met little resistance and gained the objective with a level of ease not familiar to men who’d been fighting a resilient enemy for the better part of a year.  “During the night,” however, “the enemy made persistent efforts to eject the party from (their) established post.”[8]  Continual counterattacks and consistent shelling placed the attackers in peril.  The fighting became bitter, tough and hand-to-hand.  Casualties on both sides mounted.  At one point, the Canadians were forced back from the ground they had won.  Rallied by the officer on the ground, Lieutenant Johnston, these men of the 46th waded back into the steel and “drove the enemy back.”[9]

Holding as best he could, Lt. Johnston, at 11:00 sent a request for reinforcements.  The reserves, men of ‘D’ Company, a platoon from 50th Battalion which had been seconded to provide support and four Lewis gun teams were sent forward to help shore up ‘B’ Company’s tenuous position.  Their help was well received as the Germans continued to make attempts to reclaim the strip of territory which had been wrested from them.  Attempts were made to infiltrate the Canadian position by moving from the cove of shell holes. Trench mortars and SOS artillery fire crashed down on the interlopers, whose own guns were dropping short on what had belonged to them only hours ago.  “The original German front line has been blown in in many places and is in no shape for holding,” reads one report.[10] 
 
When morning broke on the sixth of May, the battle had waned.  Despite ferocious counterattacks, the objective was still in Canadian hands, at a cost of nineteen men killed, five officers and fifty-one men wounded; and the loss of a brave and competent officer, Lt. RP Cattell MC; who had been killed at some point during the night in the rush to support his embattled comrades.[i]

Lt. Cattell lies buried at Villiers Station Cemetery, not quite 200 kilometers from where he had been born.   His sister, Marie, had requested his headstone bear the epitaph, “While Life Lasts, I’ll Remember.”[11]




For -ONE DAY ONLY- Monday August 22

Available for free download!


 Through Kindle Direct Publishing:

Moments before the men of Six Platoon 'B' Company, King's Own Canadian Scots Regiment will go forward to assault Vimy Ridge, each one of them must reconcile themselves to their probable fate. Felix Strachan, a teen-aged corporal about to lead his men into battle, has already seen a lot of this war; its arbitrary cruelty to life. In the past eight months he's been fighting in France, he's lost friends and a little of his faith in mankind, though nothing has bothered him more than the death of a stranger- a transferred officer left on the field after a failed patrol. Not only can no one seem to remember who the officer was, his death may not have been at the enemy's hands. Felix, in the seconds before Zero hour tries to come to terms with a question he has held for as long as he can remember- "What does it mean to die well?"

This book uses the extreme human experience of war to explore ideas of morality within a historically correct, visceral and realistic narrative.  I have, in order to achieve this, relied upon my strength as an essayist and lecturer on the history of the First World War, as well as my own service with the Canadian Army.


[1] War Diary Entry, 46th (South Saskatchewan) Battalion, 23 August 1916
[2] Intelligence Summary, 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 25 August 1916
[3] Intelligence Summary, 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 25 August 1916
[4] Lupfer, Timothy T., “The Dynamics of Doctrine: The Changes in German Tactical Doctrine During the First World War”, Us Army Command and General Staff College, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas 1981 pg. 13
[5] Dawson, HJ, Lt. Col, O.C. 46th Battalion, letter to O.C. 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 30 January 1917
[6] War Diary, Appendix II, 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade, September 1916
[7] Supplement to the London Gazette Number 29981, 12 March 1917, pg. 2480
[8] Report on Operations Carried Out by 46/47th Battalions on the Night 5/6 May 1917
[9] Report on Operations, ibid.
[10] Report on Operations, ibid.
[11] CWGC.org



[i] All Primary Sources Cited, and Information Used to Construct this Article is due to the courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Assault on Trench 38

German troops make an attempt on Canadian lines, Ypres August 1916

“The conduct of the 60th Battalion holding trenches
38-46 was all that could be desired”

-Lt Colonel Gascoigne, O.C.
60th (Victoria Rifles of Canada) Battalion[1]


Warm days and cool nights, common to the Low Countries in mid-August combined to create a series of misty mornings.  Big guns behind the trench lines barked and growled at irregular intervals, harassing and probing for weakness; destroying by day the trenches, outposts and wire obstacles both sides worked nightly to repair.  It was a tiresome cycle of building and demolition which by now had become routine.  The underground war of mines, countermines and dangerous collapses brought on by unstable, saturated earth continued, and nightly small groups of men crept forward in attempts to fulfill the desire for accurate and current intelligence.

Nothing at all on the morning of the twelfth could, with all of this going on, be considered unusual, as that term was hardly of use to describe anything in the Ypres Salient in the depths of summer 1916.

The Canadian Corps was decamping from the Salient, moving in stages to areas rearward in preparation for redeploying at the Somme.  It had to be done in such a measured way so that no portion of the line was weakened, and due to the vast number of men and amount of materiel involved.  With the inclusion of the 4th Canadian Division, now in the process of shipping to France, the Corps would soon be complete “with a strength of nearly 100 thousand men.”[2]  To avoid any difficulties- logistically or tactically- each active division would be pulled from the line one brigade at a time.  This was begun by the 1st Canadian Division shifting the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigades in turn to “the Second Army Training Area west of ST. OMER, where (the Division) will come into Army Reserve.”[3]  

The portion of the Salient which had been held by 1st Division would be taken over by extending the frontage covered by 3rd Division.  By putting all three of its brigades (7th, 8th and 9th Canadian Infantry Brigades) forward when two was more usual and having these brigades organised so each would have “two battalions in line, one in Brigade Reserve and one in Divisional Reserve,”[4] 3rd Division could maintain the density of front line occupation.  A trade off in doing so, however, was in having less units available in immediate reserve.  This might make reinforcement or counterattacking any German offensive more difficult.  If this was a concern, no note was made of it.  After all, despite all the background noise, Ypres was still a “quiet” sector, and 3rd Division would only be this extended for ten days before withdrawing its brigades in place of a British Division due to arrive on the week of the 25th.

Transfer out of 1st Division was completed when the 60th Battalion (9th Brigade, 3rd Division) fresh from a rest position took over front line trenches from the 1th Battalion (2nd Brigade, 1st Division) overnight, 11-12 August.  A highlight of the recent stay out of the line for the 60th- the Victoria Rifles of Canada from Montreal- must have been at last having their turn in the Corps-wide exchange of the Short Magazine Lee Enfield in place of the notoriously poor-performing Ross Rifle.  They might not have thought they’d get much of a chance to make use of them this time up the line.  Had any man had thought that; he would have been wrong.

Just as the morning moved towards nine o’clock, the Germans opened up a terrific artillery bombardment, concentrating their fire on the front line trenches which the Vic Rifles had only just taken over, and those adjacent to their right held by 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles of 9th Brigade.  The onslaught was fierce an accurate, plowing through their wire and blowing portions of the parapet down. The prospect of getting clipped by a shell splinter was just as fearsome as becoming entombed in the sliding wreck of the very thing built to protect them from shelling.  Canadian batteries were alerted and began their own counter-bombardment.  Such an intensity of fire could only mean one thing- that the enemy was planning to come over, in strength.

When, a little more than an hour after it began the German shelling checked pace, a push by their infantry was almost certain.  Exactly where they would hit, and in what strength remained to be seen.  Ground between opposing lines was uneven, undulating and shattered; a combination of rolling topography and explosive cosmetic changes.  This tirade of shelling had whisked the loose, dry surface dirt into a filthy clouded screen.  Observing enemy movement would be difficult, if not impossible, until their troops were directly on top of Canadian lines.

At close to ten o’clock, the first German probes hit-hard; leading their attempts with showers of grenades.

The main body of German infantry, estimated to be between 150-200 strong were pushing forward in two waves, their apparent objective to gain lodgement at a point of the Canadian defensive system labelled “Trench 38.”  It was evident the Germans knew exactly what they were doing.  They had chosen to attack the place which not only marked a boundary between battalions- the 60th Bn. and 1st CMR- but Trench 38 also denoted the right and left edges of 9th and 8th Brigades’ area of responsibility. A rapid thrust at this precise point would send shock waves and quite possibly situational confusion through several chains of command.  The Germans also seemed to have timed the attack to coincide with units fresh to the front- 1st CMR had only arrived the day before from a reserve position, the Vic Rifles had been in place less than twelve hours, and both had taken over trenches in an area they were not immediately familiar with, it had belonged to 1st Division just a few days ago.

When the assault was made, 1st CMR joined in with the Vic Rifles- “the enemy was seen to advance….Front parapet was immediately manned and vigorous fire from rifle and machine guns was brought to bear, checking the advance and causing many casualties.”[5]  Both battalions’ fire forced the greater part of the German assaulting troops back to their own lines-those that were capable of doing so.  Trenches held by the Vic Rifles were only breached in two places, by barely a handful of German troops.  In both cases, the attempt to gain lodgement was foiled by quick thinking Sergeants using grenades and one enthusiastic private who “jumped over the parapet and bayonetted one of the raiders.”[6]  This deft act, worthy of note in Colonel Gascoigne’s report, would in fact cost Pte Cann his life.  He’d been overseas less than two months.[7]

Using the dead ground to their advantage, a small number of Germans were able to get as far as the outposts the battalion had set up in the craters immediately in front of the firing line.  The Canadians here were killed to a man, but the enemy couldn’t hold this ground for long, coming under direct rifle and machine gun fire “with good effect, as only a few of them were seen to crawl back into German lines.”[8]

Exactly what the Germans had intended that morning was unclear.  Aside from smaller bombing parties making demonstrations elsewhere, and believed to be feints, the action was confined to this specific portion of the Canadian line.  If it had been a raid, it was unusually large, at an unusual time of day and presaged by an hour’s bombardment which was out of character for these regularly swift and surprising attacks of opportunity.  Observation of German trenches had generated reports of high concentrations of troops- possibly reserves- in full packs and equipment.  Later consensus by Canadian intelligence was that the Germans had mounted a raid in strength with the intention of following through by deploying their reserves in force should the raiding party gain possession of the Canadian front line.

It was, all considered, a fairly minor action, developing and concluding between breakfast and lunch on the morning of the twelfth.  Both 1st CMR and the Vic Rifles were able to report the situation as stable before one in the afternoon.  Total casualties between the two battalions were 32 Killed, 93 wounded and 3 missing.[9]  What was shown in this brief, intense skirmish, however, was that the Canadians certainly weren’t the soft target their critics- both friend and foe- may have thought judging by the worrisome loss of ground in June.  The Corps had learned from error and lack of preparation, incorporating these lessons in the ongoing training of both officers and men.  This would be to their credit in the months and years ahead, particularly in such a war with a constantly increasing learning curve.[i]



It is with extreme pleasure that I can announce that my first full length work of fiction,



 is now available for sale through Kindle Direct Publishing:

Moments before the men of Six Platoon 'B' Company, King's Own Canadian Scots Regiment will go forward to assault Vimy Ridge, each one of them must reconcile themselves to their probable fate. Felix Strachan, a teen-aged corporal about to lead his men into battle, has already seen a lot of this war; its arbitrary cruelty to life. In the past eight months he's been fighting in France, he's lost friends and a little of his faith in mankind, though nothing has bothered him more than the death of a stranger- a transferred officer left on the field after a failed patrol. Not only can no one seem to remember who the officer was, his death may not have been at the enemy's hands. Felix, in the seconds before Zero hour tries to come to terms with a question he has held for as long as he can remember- "What does it mean to die well?"

This book uses the extreme human experience of war to explore ideas of morality within a historically correct, visceral and realistic narrative.  I have, in order to achieve this, relied upon my strength as an essayist and lecturer on the history of the First World War, as well as my own service with the Canadian Army.



[1] Gascoigne, F.A., Lt Col. Report Dated 12 August 1916 from 60th Bn to 9th Bde
[2] Marteinson, John, “We Stand On Guard: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Army” Ovale Publications 1992 pg. 139
[3] Operations Order 93, 1st Canadian Division 08 August 1916
[4] Summary of Operations, Canadian Corps, 11-17 August 1916
[5] War Diary Entry, 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, 12 August 1916
[6] Gascoigne, F.A., Lt Col. Report, ibid.
[7] M.F.W. 54: “Casualty Form, Active Service” per No. 139543, Cann J A Pte.
[8] Gascoigne, F.A., Lt Col. Report, ibid.
[9] War Diary Entry, 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, 12 August 1916 & Gascoigne, F.A., Lt Col. Report, ibid.




[i] All Primary Sources Cited, and Information Used to Construct this Article is due to the courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.