Friday, September 30, 2011

Canadian Cavalry Brigade Rides Again--Online

Here is a URL for a page of the World War One Historical Association's latest online newsletter. It has an excellent summary of the actions of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, as well as a short video showing Canadian and British cavalry training:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Readings by the Salish Sea

I am looking forward to tonight's "Readings by the Salish Sea". As one of the winners of the 2011 Semiahmoo Arts Literary Contest, I will get to read, along with well-known authors Lois Peterson, Margo Bates, and Ted Blodgett--a real honour.
As urged by organizer Heidi Greco, I have been rehearsing. Amazing how long it takes to read a page aloud, when actually standing and presenting it. I have been caught running overtime before--never again! Can't stand that buzzer, or worse, hook!
7:30 pm, Pelican Rouge Coffee House, Central Plaza, 16th at 152nd St.

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Surrey Library and other events

This is a very busy month, and October looks the same. Tomorrow, Saturday the 24th of September at noon, the new and beautiful Surrey Public Library opens in what we oldtimers called Whalley. Among official events will be a brief introduction of Surrey authors, myself among them.
Sunday is the big day for Word On the Streets, WOTS, at the downtown Vancouver Public Library.
Lots more to come!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Moonshine Leads to Another "Soldier of the Horse" (Part 1)

Not long ago I received the following email:

 I just finished your book, I felt I was reading my own family history. My grandfather Thomas West, was born in England and immigrated to Canada with his parents to homestead in Dauphin Manitoba. He became a member of the Northwest Mounted Police, apparently he was supposed to bring in a fellow who had been making moonshine, instead he helped him drink it and was consequently AWOL. He was given the choice of jail or the cavalry, he chose the latter and joined the Strathcona's Horse in Winnipeg right around 1914. He was wounded in the Battle of Moreuil Wood. My grandfather died before I was born, so I never had the opportunity of knowing him. Your story allowed me a glimpse into a critical part of his life that had lasting effects. Thank You.

This email touched several chords with me. It is great to receive feedback, of course. Thomas West's story has obvious parallels to those of my father, Tom Mackay, as readers of "Soldier of the Horse" will know. And, coincidentally, my mother was born in Dauphin, Manitoba, where her father was one of the few physicians in the area. Perhaps he treated Tom West!

Pictured at left is Tom West's son Ralph and his wife Irma, who live in Yaletown, Vancouver.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Soldier of the Horse" and the Nissen Hut

When I was writing "Soldier of the Horse" and doing research to help with the details, it was fascinating how incidents that my dad had mentioned would come to mind. (The book is based loosely on his story.) Every once in awhile I came across historical records that would tie in with his anecdotes.
One example is to be found among images in the Canadian War Museum's publication, "Military Munnings: The Canadian War Art of an Equestrian Painter". On page 36 of that glossy volume is a painting entitled "Brigade Headquarters at Smallfoot Wood". In the foreground are what look like covered dugouts or huts; and, in the background, a number of what I think of as Quonset huts. These are the familiar steel-skinned buildings, semicircular in cross section, perhaps forty feet long and twenty feet across, looking rather like a large half-buried sewer pipe. The Quonset appears to be a World War II American adaptation of the Nissen hut, developed by the British during World War I.
The connection is this: Dad told me that on one occasion he and a couple of pals had imbibed more than their share of the day's rum, or perhaps local French wine. It occurred to them to clamber up the circular sides of the hut where the brigade commander, General Seely, was holding court with his regimental commanders. They did so, and stomped around on the sloping roof, just so the general and his staff could appreciate the joke.
It turned out the general didn't think the skylark was all that funny, and Dad lost whatever stripes he had accummulated at that point. Given some of his other stories, it is amazing he finished the war as a sergeant.
The cover of "Soldier of the Horse" is part of another Munning painting, "A Canadian Trooper and his Horse (Unfinished)".

For more Munnings paintings and the Canadian cavalry, see my website