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, 24 April 2017

Hot Courage

“Have reached black objective, in touch on right with
16th Bn. Am consolidating Black objective, awaiting
message from left.”-Maj. WJ Gander, O.C. ‘C’ Coy,
18th (Western Ontario) Battalion

By the time Major Gander had scratched the short note and sent it to Battalion H.Q., the three forward companies of the 18th (Western Ontario) Battalion (4th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division) had held their portion of the Black Line for little more than half an hour.  The first main objective line in the battle for Vimy Ridge was mostly in Canadian hands, which would allow the advance to the subsequent reporting lines to continue as planned.  “At 6.05 a.m.,” the 18th Battalion War Diary records, “the Black Objective had been captured….The casualties up to this point had been very slight, considering the magnitude of the operations.”[1]  One of these casualties was Major Charles Gwyn, struck dead by machine gun fire just short of reaching the objective.  Major Gwyn had been the officer commanding the 18th Bn.’s attack, the vacancy now being filled by Major Gander.

Despite the loss of Major Gwyn, “one of the most…popular and efficient officers”[2] of the Battalion, the attack had maintained good order and momentum, taking the Black Line without loss of unit cohesion.  Most critically, for their part and for the battalions shortly to pass through them to assault the Red Line, they had gained their objective on time.

A battle on such a broad front incorporating a dynamic topography as Vimy Ridge was reliant on precise synchronicity, and time is an entirely fickle variable.  Attacking units were to advance behind a creeping barrage which had been arranged to the minute.  This fire plan could not be changed or adjusted on a whim.  Four Divisions had to reach each objective line nearly simultaneously or they would risk creating a gap of several hundred yards which a German counter-attack would be certain to exploit.

That the 18th Battalion was where they were; where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there was owed entirely to one man and his quick response to the conditions encountered on the advance.

“Very little opposition was met with whilst capturing the first line of trenches.”[3]  Reports such as that from the 18th Battalion were fairly common.  The German Front Line had become untenable.  Pounded ceaselessly with high explosive and shrapnel, what was once a formidable obstacle had been ground down to a loose collection of shallow ditches which were passed by in the first few minutes of battle.  The troops were held up more by the fractured ground than by any hostile defenders.  “The ground was very broken up by shellfire and the going was very heavy owing to rain and snow.”[4] An
undesirable side effect of this, particularly in 2nd Division’s operational area was that all of the eight tanks seconded to the Division for the operation would ditch or be otherwise disabled before reaching the Black Line, due “to the extremely bad state of the ground.”[5]

While it seemed to be fortuitous for the assault to breeze through the forward lines, their vacancy was deliberate.  German tacticians had begun to realise the futility of a rigidly defended front line.  No matter how strong a position might be, a determined and consistent attack always had the potential of breaching it.  In addition, the pattern of softening up these trenches with overwhelming artillery fire prior to an attack did nothing for a heavy forward garrison than put men at risk for no conceivable gain.

No, the enemy was well disposed to let the attack “walk over” the now pulverised front line system.  The broken ground between the Canadian line and where the attack would be repulsed- the Main Line of Resistance; the Black Objective- would serve to slow progress and disperse tight formations as ways over or around shell damage were sought.  Plus, it was the ideal place to conceal machine gun teams with instructions to ravage the attack as much as possible before retiring to the MLR.  This tactic- colloquially known as “Elastic Defense”- had been created with the objective of draining strength and concentration from an attack so that when, much reduced and spent, it crashed against the main line it would be checked and then rolled up with units especially trained for counterattacks.  That was the ideal notion, anyway, and in early 1917 it was still a work in progress.

Nevertheless, three companies of the 18th Battalion, advancing abreast in platoon waves were through what little was left of the German front line in five minutes, and well on their way to crossing the support line in the same fashion.

‘C’ Company, Major Gander’s company, was the centre of the battalion’s advance, and just shy of the support line, where, among a knot of shallow trenches and communications lines, a solitary machine gun ripped into action, “doing considerable damage.”[6]  ‘C’ Company was checked, and if they were stalled for long, ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies on either side would have a hole between them and no way to fill it; precisely as this style of defense was designed to work.

Moments such as these; relatively small episodes of crisis, have the potential to overturn the outcome of the larger event of which they are part.  No amount of training can adequately prepare for these furious blinks of time, and none can predict how they might respond.  “Personality type,” says Professor Patrick Tissington, a psychologist who has studied such instances, “is not a good generic predictor of behaviour like courage.”  Rather, it is an intricate and unquantifiable combination of situational factors and both psychological and physiological responses. “What tends to happen,” Prof. Tissington has found, is that “a particular situation develops where an individual realises that someone has to do something (the individual) knows what that something is (and that they are) the only person who is able to do it.”[7]

I consulted with Professor Tissington because the individual in question on a muddy Monday morning a century ago, stalled with the rest of ‘C’ Company under the barking muzzle of a German machine gun was Lance Sergeant Ellis Wellwood Sifton, whose imprint on history up to this point had been unassuming in the least way.

L/Sgt Sifton, a twenty-five year old farmer from Wallacetown Ontario had sailed out with the 18th Bn. in April 1915, along with the troops who would form the 2nd Canadian Division.  “I am feeling fine,” is how he would close a collection of letters written to his sister, Ella, during the ocean crossing.  All evidence, particularly his service records, point Sifton out as being quite ordinary.  He accrued, in the eleven months between enlisting and arriving in France with his Battalion no mentions of merit, nor any charges; and had not even reported sick.  His promotions- to Corporal just prior to embarking for France and more recently (less than a month prior to Vimy) to Lance Sergeant give the impression of someone at least noticeable enough to be vested with the responsibilities of a Non-commissioned Officer.  Other than that, there is nothing which might lead to predicting what he might do in such a dilemma as faced him and his comrades in that hanging moment.

“Having located the gun, he charged it single-handed, killing all the crew.”[8]  The Battalion diary specifies that Sifton “attacked the Gun crew and bayonetted every man,” a feat, plainly speaking, of quickly stabbing five men to death.  Having gained the position, Sifton continued to hold out against a small enemy party advancing to the aid of the gunners.  He “held them off with bayonet and clubbed rifle until his comrades arrived to end the unequal fight.”[9]

With the German gun silenced, the advance to the Black Line continued unimpeded.  In the space of thirty-five minutes from Zero Hour, the 18th Battalion was on line, consolidating their gains and shoring up with flanking units, as Major Gander’s note stipulated.

Lance Sergeant Sifton was not with them.  One of his adversaries, in his dying throes managed to deliver a parting shot.  “In carrying out this gallant act he was killed, but his conspicuous valour undoubtedly saved many lives and contributed largely to the success of the operation.”[10]  His Victoria Cross would be awarded posthumously.

General Sir Henry Horne, General Officer Commanding First Army sent a congratulatory note to all units involved in the attack, specifically mentioning the Canadian capture of Vimy by saying: “To have carried this position with so little loss testifies to soundness of plan, thoroughness of preparation, dash and determination in execution and devotion to duty on the part of all concerned.”[11] In his last point, General Horne pays unnamed tribute to Lance Sergeant Sifton, and all the other unassuming Canadian boys possessed with hot courage.

The rush of raids, the tension of late night patrols, a great Canadian battle and men on the razor's edge between life and death are all part of my acclaimed premier novel

Now available from Amazon sites worldwide.

Some praise received for "Killing is a Sin":

“Really enjoyed the book, well done.”

“Damn, I think I spilled chili on a rare first edition; I'm enjoying it, couldn't stop reading during dinner.”

“I was fortunate enough to see this in manuscript. Good stuff. If you're interested in WWI Fiction give it a look.”


[1] 18th Battalion War Diary 09 April 1917
[2] 18th Battalion, ibid.
[3] ibid.
[4] 2nd Canadian Division War Diary, April 1917, Appendix 702
[5] 2nd Canadian Division, ibid.
[6] 18th Battalion War Diary 09 April 1917
[7] Quotes taken from correspondence between Author and Prof. Patrick Tissington April 2017
[8] Supplement to the London Gazette No. 30122, 08 June 1917, pg. 5704
[9] Nicholson GWL, Col “Canadian Expeditionary Force: Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War” Roger Duhomel, Queen’s Printer Ottawa, 1962 pg. 254
[10] Supplement to the London Gazette No. 30122, ibid.
[11] 2nd Canadian Division War Diary, April 1917, Appendix 704

Monday, 10 April 2017

Even the Bravest Among Us

“I cannot give an estimate of our casualties, but
 I believe they are severe”-Capt. TW MacDowell,
O.C. ‘B’ Coy, 38th (Ottawa) Battalion

Kingston, Ontario, January 1918

The young officer appeared a great deal more settled.  A recent medical board, convened to assess his condition had noted that he had begun to show much improvement.  Three months’ rest and observation in hospital seemed to have been sufficient to regain emotional control and his sleep had gone from frequent insomnia to being practically normal.  Although it seemed he was of good physical condition, he did complain of being more easily fatigued.  Well, that could be overlooked.  After all, the gentleman was only requesting a return to a staff position in England, not duty in France.  Other doctors had made note of the progress the patient had made, and now it rested with Major Russell, Canadian Army Medical Corps to make the final decision.

            “You’ve seen a fair bit of this war.  It wouldn’t be ill thought of if you remained at home.”

            “Thank you, Sir, but I must get back.  Surely I can be allowed to do what I can.”  He spoke evenly, and at a sedate pace.  The infrequent stammer seemed to have gone.  His hands rested naturally, the tremor also having diminished.[i]

            “It’s very admirable of you,” the Major admitted, “you’re certain about this, Captain MacDowell?”

            “Captain MacDowell!”  Only feet away, Kobus had to shout as he pointed towards the redoubt, the barrage overwhelmingly crashing down, taking over all sound.  Formed by staggered sandbags slightly raised from the trenchline, not ten yards away, two machine guns within it were hammering away at the advancing troops.  MacDowell looked about and could only account for Kobus and Hay, his company runners.

            “You two, follow me!” he ordered, “make ready with bombs.”

Vimy, France, April 1917

The first bit had gone famously.  ‘D’ Company had gained possession of the enemy’s front line.  Springing from a tunnel which led out into No-man’s Land a stone’s throw from the German trenches this first rush came directly behind the creeping barrage and these forward positions “had been taken with practically no opposition, and the other waves swept on after the barrage to their objectives further into the enemy’s line.”[1]  ‘A’ and ‘C’ Companies fanned out to the right; en route to clear out a series of fortified craters and gain touch with the left-hand battalion of the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade.  Captain MacDowell and his ‘B’ Company were tasked with securing the “Main Line of Resistance,” a tangled intersection of trenches beyond the front line which was where the Germans were expected to stand firm.  Lifting and dropping sequentially, the barrage worked well to shield them on approach, but its protection was fleeting.  Once in, ‘B’ Company would have to clear out this position on their own while the artillery concentrated on BLACK Line targets in preparation for subsequent waves from the 78th Battalion.

Soon after breaching the MLR, a “nest of German Machine Guns were encountered near the junction of CYRUS and BABY”[2] trenches.  Once pointed out, Captain MacDowell knew exactly what to do.  Luck would have it, this wasn’t his first dance with a prepared MG emplacement.  “He led his company against an enemy position with great courage and initiative, capturing three machine guns and fifty prisoners,”[3] was the substance of his citation for the Distinguished Service Order he’d been awarded for actions at the Somme last fall.  Now, he’d have to do it again, and with only Kobus and Hay to assist him.  ‘B’ Company had become scattered, working in isolated groups.  The line, pummeled over a week’s heavy bombardment was no longer contiguous and now resembles a mess of disjointed, shallow ditches rather than a formidable defensive line.

“Captain MacDowell DSO 38 Bn. with his two runners bombed up BABY Trench and dislodged two of the guns, killing some of the crews and capturing on of the guns.”[4]  The men pursued the other gun and crew which had made haste to a dugout at the junction.  It turned out to be teeming with enemy troops still sheltering from the barrage.  Far more, it seemed, than was wise for the three men to face up to on their own.  All the same, the three here were all there was to work with.

“By a judicious amount of bluff, Capt. MacDowell fooled the enemy into thinking he had a large party with him.” Brought out in batches of twelve at a time between his runners, they were “dispatched towards our lines with a few parting shots.  The capture of this party was admirably carried out and it is due entirely to the bravery of Capt. MacDowell.”  Taking what turned out to be seventy-seven prisoners with just himself and two privates, MacDowell wasn’t able to accomplish this feat entirely clean.  “Some of the prisoners showed fight when they found out the smallness of the party.  This was promptly and effectively prevented from spreading by immediate and drastic measures.”[5]

When the last of them had been sent off, Captain MacDowell began work to organise his position into a strong point.  Very quickly, he scrawled out a report and sent it back to Battalion HQ.  It was now eight o’clock in the morning.

“A report came in,” Battalion logs note, 45 minutes later, “from Capt. TW MacDowell by runner, timed 8 a.m., that he was on his objective at BABY Trench.”[6]  Of that MacDowell had written “I am afraid is not fully consolidated.  The mud is very bad and our machine guns are filled with mud.  I have about 15 men near here and can see others around and am getting them in hand slowly….I cannot give an estimate of our casualties but believe they are severe….The 78th have gone through…The line is obliterated.”[7]  Suggesting Brigade machine guns would be well suited to the fields of fire he had, Captain MacDowell prepared to defend his position with what men he could muster.  “This is all I can think of at present,” he closed, “Please excuse writing.”[8]

Battalion HQ had no ability to help MacDowell for the time being.  The C.O. was wounded and ordered out of the line by the Medical Officer.  Major Wood had taken over operations, and ‘B’ Company wasn’t in the worst state.  No one was in contact with ‘A’ Company, and it was unknown if the right flank was secure at the craters or if contact had been made with 11th Brigade.

Claiming the large dugout which he had slyly wrested from the enemy as his headquarters, Captain MacDowell sent back another dispatch at half-past ten.  “There are only 15 men with me,” he reminded Battalion HQ, “of whom two are stretcher bearers.  The rifles are one mass of mud.  I have two Lewis guns and only four pans.  Both guns are out of action on account of the mud.”  He also couldn’t observe anything from the 78th Battalion which had moved beyond his post, except that there appeared to be wounded men out there.  Also out there were more German machine guns, pouring sporadic, grazing fire on his isolated outpost, keeping him pegged.  “I have no Subalterns or N.C.O.’s, and unless I get a few more men with serviceable rifles I hate to admit it, but we may be driven out.”[9]

Situation at Battalion HQ had settled in the hours between Captain MacDowell’s reports.  ‘A’ Company had lost most of its officers, so Brigade reserve troops had been sent to reinforce the right.  As MacDowell’s runner was relaying his own urgent need for more men, “Pte. GJP Nunney who had come in to get a wound dressed…volunteered, if he got a carrying party to go out again, get the ammunition and go over to Capt. MacDowell.”[10]

Such a party was pressed together, mainly from ‘D’ Company men.  Led by Lieutenant Kelty, they found Captain MacDowell and his band of fifteen still holding firm, using captured German rifles, which, having been in the dugout, were not stopped with mud.

Early in the afternoon, Captain MacDowell sent back a third note.  It had, aside from occasional bursts from those German guns out and to the left, quieted down a great deal.  He and Lt. Kelty had a chance to make a good survey of this dugout.  “I cannot impress upon you,” he told Major Wood, “the strength of this position and the value of it as a strong supporting point to the left flank.”  From this point, he could see Lens and other villages as well as enemy battery positions.  Taking the dugout intact had been a tremendous boon.  It had been home to troops fresh to the line and fully accoutered.  “The cigars are very choice,” MacDowell informed Wood with a slightly cheeky coolness, “and my supply of Perrier water is very large.”

“Tell Ken to come up for tea to-morrow if it is quiet.”

The room was quiet.  “Captain MacDowell?”

He shook his head, returning to the time at hand.  “Sorry, Sir?”

Major Russell smiled, thinly.  “I said that as to your request to return to duty in England, I’m recommending that there is no medical reason why you should not do so.”

            “Thank you, Sir.  I was hoping to be of some good use.”

            “I’m pleased you feel so well about it.  We’ll get you back as soon as can be arranged.”

Thain Wendell MacDowell was awarded the Victoria Cross for his extraordinary efforts on 9 April 1917.  In July, a bout of trench fever put him in hospital and thence to Canada for a month’s medical leave to recuperate.   While home, the strain of his time at the front pushed past his resolve and he was readmitted to hospital in Spetember, suffering a nervous break from “stress of service and shell fire.”  Symptoms of this had first begun after he was wounded during the action at the Somme for which he was awarded the DSO.

Severely debilitated with tremors, physical exhaustion, profuse sweating and palpitations underscored by frequent “attacks of crying,” Thain MacDowell spent three months under medical care.  The man he was came through to the surface and by January of 1918 was returned, by his own request, to a staff position at Canadian Forces HQ in London.

He demobilised in 1919 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and went on to a productive private life.  Lt Col. TW MacDowell VC DSO passed away at 70 years of age in 1960.

None could question the courage of a man with such decorations for valour, but perhaps the bravest thing he did was seek help for his invisible wounds.

No one need suffer alone.  If you or a loved one is affected by emotional or mental health concerns, it is a great strength to reach out for help.

In Canada:                 Veterans Affairs Crisis Line:
·        1-800-268-7708
·        TDD 1-800-567-5803

United States:            Veteran’s Crisis Line: call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

United Kingdom:      Veteran’s UK Helpline: Freephone:0808 1914 2 18
Telephone (overseas):+44 1253 866 043
Normal Service 8.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Friday
When the helpline is closed, callers will be given the option to be routed to Combat Stress or The Samaritans 24hr helpline.

[1] 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade “Report on Operations on Vimy Ridge” War Diary, April 1917, Appendix 5
[2] 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade, ibid.
[3] Supplement to the London Gazette, No. 29898, 10 January 1917, pg. 454
[4] 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade, ibid.
[5] ibid.
[6] 38th (Ottawa) Battalion “Report on Operations of 38th Canadian Infantry Battalion” War Diary, April 1917, Appendix 2
[7] MacDowell, TW, Capt. “Battle Report, 8 a.m. 9 April 1917” 38 Bn. War Diary, April 1917, Appendix 3
[8] MacDowell, TW, Capt. Ibid.
[9] MacDowell, TW, Capt. “Battle Report, 10:30 a.m. 9 April 1917” 38 Bn. War Diary, April 1917, Appendix 3
[10] 38th (Ottawa) Battalion ibid.

* This narrative was compiled with information contained in the medical records of TW MacDowell. The conversation between MacDowell and Major Russell is dramatized.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Instructions for the Offensive

“The front of attack on the Arras side
was to include the Vimy Ridge, possession
of which I considered necessary to secure the
 left flank.”-Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig

Well before dawn on 29 March 1917, two small raids put out by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade made the final rush to their entry points in the German front line.  Their task was straightforward, to “obtain identification…kill Germans and lower the enemy’s moral.”[1]  What they found was the wire mostly cut by prior artillery fire, and loose, tangled bales of concertina thrown almost absently over the parapet as an expedient fix.  Trenches were deep and dry, but incompletely constructed- in some cases very poorly so.  Morale, for the most part, seemed absent.  The Germans “appeared to lack organisation and control.  There was no attempt made to counter-attack from the support line.”[2]  All of this was very reassuring, considering what was not long in the offing.

The time had come for the men of the Canadian Corps to screw their courage to the sticking place.  In this case, the metaphor holds truth- as Lady Macbeth intended it to mean that after all the careful preparation to ensure their plotting would succeed, only a lack of courage to see it through could cause it to fail. 

Vimy was “a low mountain ridge which the Germans had made, as they had supposed, impregnable by its heavy defences.”[3]  Its imposing stature and situation directly opposite the lines now occupied by the four divisions of the Canadian Corps left little doubt that taking this dominant feature would fall to them.  Until late March 1917, this task, if given any thought by the rank and file, could only be imagined in the abstract.  That comfort was due to be dispersed.  The thing was set.  The final acts of preparation were playing out; orders had been issued.

“The Canadian Corps has been ordered to take the Vimy Ridge in conjunction with a larger operation by the Third Army.”[4]

This in itself was a component of the largest coordinated effort on the Western Front thus far.  “In the spring,” Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig would write about his plans for 1917, “as soon as the Allied Armies were ready to commence operations, my first efforts were to be directed against the enemy’s troops occupying the salient between the Scarpe and the Ancre.”[5]

At the very periphery of this operational area, along the south bank of the Scarpe River, Vimy Ridge held a dominant vantage, allowing the Germans remarkable observation along Haig’s proposed axis of advance.  Capturing the Ridge as one of the primary objectives in the opening of the spring campaign was vital so as to deny this asset to the enemy.  In turn, possessing the Ridge  would confer that advantage to Allied forces; the field of observation in the opposite direction- towards German rear areas- was just as impressive.  Such was the importance of this high ground that Haig believed while it may be possible for German forces elsewhere in the salient to effect a withdrawal in order to consolidate on more defensible ground, there would be no such movement from Vimy.  This well suited the Commander-in-Chief.  The enemy “would almost be certain to fight for this ridge, and, as my object was to deal him a blow which would force him to use up reserves, it was important that he should not evade my attack.”[6]

That being the case, it was critical for those forces assigned to the objective to be prepared for a hard fight.  The four divisions of the Corps had a desirable mix of combat experience and fresh troops.  For months leading up to the offensive, units had been reinforced to full strength, their time spent out of the line dedicated to an intense program of work-up training.  While in the trenches, constant patrols and raids had made a survey of the immediate area, an assessment of the enemy’s capabilities and had leant just that much more to the proficiency of the troops and the officers who would lead them.

While the precise day on which the operation would begin had yet to be revealed at the divisional level, with the instructions now issued, each of the Canadian Divisions had their tasks made clear.

The battleground facing the Corps had been divided into sections “dictated by the German zones of defence, the objectives for each indicated by a coloured line on a map.”[7]  In order, these were the Black, Red, Blue and Brown Lines.  Clear and limited objectives specifically assigned to sub-units was going to be key to success.  “The operation will be carried out in four phases,” orders stated, “the first two phases, which are completed by the capture of the RED Line, being carried out by Brigades in the front line, the second two phases, which are completed by the capture of the BROWN Line being carried out by Brigades in the second line.”[8] 

Attacking units would “leap-frog” through each other.  Lead battalions of the lead brigades would take and hold the first objective, the Black Line which those brigade’s follow-up battalions would pass through to secure the Red Line.  This process would then be repeated in turn with battalions of the second line brigades gaining the Blue and finally the Brown Line.  Support troops carrying wire, ammunition, tools and other supplies along with stretcher bearers were allocated to each successive line- to aid the wounded and consolidate new ground against counter-attack.  “A strict time-table governed each stage of the advance….They were allowed 35 minutes to gain the Black Line.”[9]  With each line reached, a pause was arranged for the infantry to reorganise and for the artillery to shift fire to their next targets.  In a rapid, coordinated thrust, all four lines were to be in Canadian hands and fully consolidated by Zero plus 5 hours.

Ground to be taken would be well primed by an intense artillery schedule.  Much of the poor condition of German trenches observed by the raid of 3rd Bde. On 29 March was credit due to this active preparation.  Corps Artillery was currently firing its “Phase I” programme.  This was a “general increase of activity gradually intensifying as the subsequent period approaches.”[10]  Starting at three weeks before “Zero” and being overtaken six days before that by “Phase II”, the main goals of this initial phase were trench destruction, wire cutting, destruction of enemy artillery positions and harassing fire on “all known approaches and communications.”  Efforts would be confined for this period to targets within the first two objective lines, “to minimize the chances of disclosing intentions.”  In fact, to further obscure the scale of the coming attack, during Phase I no more than half of available artillery would be active.  Guns were being concentrated into a remarkable density with an average of one medium gun for every 15 yards and one heavy piece for every 48 yards of a frontage measuring 6,700 yards. 

Some of these guns were still being brought into position and vast stores of ammunition were being stockpiled in anticipation of the next phase; a dedicated bombardment of unprecedented intensity.

Likewise, soon the troops would begin to move forward to their jumping-off points along the line of departure.  Clearly, it is hardly possible to know what was on their minds, or if many of them were even quite aware of what they were a part, or how history would come to view what they had set out to accomplish.  Time had come, to screw their courage to the sticking place as “along the entire length of the mighty Ridge, Canadian men-at-arms were lying there in the drizzling dark, waiting for the moment when they would make the first concerted attack of the war as a Corps, the four divisions side by side.”[11]

The rush of raids, the tension of late night patrols, a great Canadian battle and men on the razor's edge between life and death are all part of my acclaimed premier novel

Now available from Amazon sites worldwide.

Some praise received for "Killing is a Sin":

“Really enjoyed the book, well done.”

“Damn, I think I spilled chili on a rare first edition; I'm enjoying it, couldn't stop reading during dinner.”

“I was fortunate enough to see this in manuscript. Good stuff. If you're interested in WWI Fiction give it a look.”


[1] 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade “Operations Order No. 138”, War Diary March 1917, Appendix No. 35
[2] 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade Memorandum to 1st Canadian Division re: “Minor Operation March 29 1917” War Diary, March 1917 App No. 37
[3] Miller, R.F., “A Short Story of the 37th Battalion” Public Address, 1944, pg. 4
[4] 2nd Canadian Division “Instructions for the Offensive” War Diary, March, 1917, Appendix 676
[5] Boraston, JH, Lt Col. (ed.) “Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatches: December 1915-April 1919” JM Dent & Sons, 1919 pg. 81
[6] Boraston, ibid. pg. 82
[7] Nicholson, GWL, Col. “Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919: Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War” Queen’s Printer 1962, pg. 247
[8] 2nd Canadian Division ibid.
[9] Nicholson, ibid.
[10] Canadian Corps “Artillery Instructions for the Capture of Vimy Ridge” Section 2: “Phase I” Canadian Corps Artillery War Diary March 1917
[11] Beattie, Kim “48th Highlanders of Canada 1891-1928”, Toronto, 1932 pg. 217