Friday, March 30, 2012

The Charge of Flowerdew's Squadron, 94 years ago today

March 30th, 1918, was a pivotal day for the Allies and the Germans in the fields of Picarday. The Canadian Cavalry Brigade, mounted men looking like this, charged into the Bois du Moreuil to halt the German advance that followed the launch of their Operation Michael. The already depleted ranks of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), and Fort Garry Horse fought desperately, as did the enemy. Lieutenant Gordon Flowerdew's "C" Squadron of the Strathcona's was held in reserve, then released to sweep around the northeast corner of the wood--to find German rifles, machine guns, and artillery waiting for them.

Ninety-four years later, even the survivors of the battle at Moreuil Wood are long gone. But their bravery, and their sacrifice, lives on in our collective memories. I have tried to paint a verbal picture of the life and times of one of the troopers present in my book, "Soldier of the Horse".

Moreuil Wood, on the horizon above the village, survives, a living memorial to the long ago events of March 30th, 1918.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Moreuil Wood--Three Generations

During my recent visit to Lord Strathcona's Horse in Edmonton, I got to know Ed Tetley. Ed is a young man who has had a lifelong interest in the Strathcona's and Moreuil Wood.
Ed is pictured here, with Captain Charles Prince of the Straths. In 2011 Ed took his family and his father, Stan, to Moreuil where they met Jean-Paul Brunel who showed them around the Bois du Moreuil.

On my way out of Edmonton I stopped at Banff to meet Stan Tetley

Stan's father, Rex, was at the Battle of Moreuil with the Strathcona's, badly wounded on April 4th, 1918, and went on to a successful business career back home in Alberta.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Moreuil Days with Lord Strathcona's Horse

This picture of a display in the LSH(RC) Harvey Building bears images of the regiment's Boer War and two World War I winners of the Victoria Cross: Richardson, Harvey, and Flowerdew. I wonder what they would think of the latest Strathcona "mounts": the Leopard 2A4Can, two of which are pictured here. They were stationed to greet arrivals for the regimental parade which took place today. More about that in subsequent posts!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Soldier of the Horse in Edmonton

Here are a couple of lonely copies of "Soldier of the Horse" on a counter at historic Audreys Books in Edmonton. This delightful store goes back to the days of Canadian icon Mel Hurtig, and they made a lot of room for my book. (There were other copies on display.)
The downtown store is open most nights, with a space in the lower floor for visiting authors and listeners. After reading and discussion, everybody moves upstairs for coffee and food, and the author is ensconced at a table near the front to sign copies of books.
I was very happy to pose with a group of Audreys customers.
Besides featuring visiting authors, Audreys has regular appearances by the Canadian Authors Association Alberta Branch's Writer-in-Residence, a strong draw for developing writers.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Galloping On Over the Prairie to Audreys Books

After a long day travelling to Banff, it was pleasant to wander the streets of Western Canada's oldest and perhaps best-known tourist attraction. There was hardly an hour went by without at least a sprinkling of snow, with the mercury hovering around zero.
A small but keen group of people gathered in the Banff library to hear me speak about the writing of "Soldier of the Horse", and to share a few images of troopers, war horses, and survivors. We were hosted by Denise Drury, who can be seen at the back left of this photo of a few of the people who stayed to discuss the history of the Great War.

Shortly after this photo was taken, it was out onto the Bow Valley Parkway, east then north for four hours to Drayton Valley and the home of John Willoughby and his welcoming family. John's great uncle J J Willoughby's heartbreaking story is recounted earlier in these pages. The Willoughbys are great hosts, but next noon found the Grand Book Tour headed north and east on the Yellowhead Highway to Edmonton. I am looking forward to an appearance at Audreys Books on the 20th at 7:30 pm.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Soldier of the Horse Across the Great Divide

On the road, the grand spring book tour is off to a rousing start. After negotiating the Coquihalla Highway to Kamloops ("Caution: Winter Driving Conditions"), with a 45 minute stop while a disabled semi was hauled off the highway to let us pass, I descended from the 0 degree Celsius plateau to the 13 degree Thompson Valley. There, in the very warm and pleasant Kamloops Library, was a group of keen readers anxious to hear more about Tom Macrae and Lord Strathcona's Horse. Our wonderful host was Andree Beauchemin, Readers' Advisor. Andree introduced me and provided tea and coffee and a projector, not to mention many insightful questions. A highlight of the evening, for me, was that the first attendees I met were Cliff and Barb. Barb and I graduated from high school together, and I later met her husband Cliff when taking my education training at the University of Victoria.
Here is what the sky over Kamloops looked like when I left there this morning:
Heading east from Kamloops was a real pleasure, bringing back memories of travelling the ranchlands years ago with my father, and more recently, with my family when we were all pursuing the dream, travelling from hockey rink to hockey rink! Reality intruded on the trek east along Highway #1, deeper and deeper into the Rocky Mountain trench: Revelstoke, Golden--and an abrupt detour due to a landslide/avalanche and a stern warning from a mustachioed RCMP officer. That meant a long swing south to Radium, then a turn north to Banff. Along the way was every kind of winter driving imaginable, rivalling even that of the Coquihalla: rain, sleet, hail, snow, jackknifing semis, and speeding Albertans! When I could pry one hand off the wheel to take a picture, here's what it looked like:
All is well now, as I look forward to attending the Banff Public Library at 2 pm tomorrow--luckily I have remembered to set my watch ahead.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Soldier of the Horse" on Tour, March 15-24, 2012

In a post on February 5th I mentioned that "Soldier of the Horse" is going on tour, including a visit with Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) at the Edmonton Garrison. The details for the book tour are now complete, and include stops at libraries in Kamloops and Banff, and book stores in Edmonton and Prince George. I am very excited at the prospect of speaking to people about "Soldier of the Horse", and the activities of the Canadian cavalry in the Great War. The brochure for the tour is here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Battle of Moreuil Wood, 94 Years On

Almost 94 years have passed since the Canadian Cavalry Brigade charged into history at Moreuil Wood, Picardy, France. A new battle is taking place today in the same location.
Jean-Paul Brunel, whose relationship with Lord Strathcona's Horse was chronicled in a series of blog posts on this site in March 2011 (see archives), has taken on a new quest. He is fighting for recognition of the Wood as a heritage site. Written submissions have been made by Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) and other supporters, including me. For a taste of the procedure involved, please see the letter from Mme. Flourie Dourel that is at the end of this post.
A second and undoubtedly related battle involved opposition to a wind farm that was to be contructed in the Wood. I understand that proposal has been defeated, but I don't have definitive word on that. If any readers have information, I'd be glad to hear from them.

Here is Mme. Dourel's letter:

Bonjour monsieur,
Comme je vous l'ai annoncé par téléphone, le Conseil général de la Somme souhaite organiser des visites de sites de la Grande Guerre dans le cadre des travaux du comité départemental de sélection des paysages et sites de mémoire de la Grande Guerre, chargé de choisir les lieux présenté par la Somme pour une inscription au patrimoine mondial de l'humanité.
Le secteur de Moreuil mérite, à me yeux toute l'attention des personnes du comité, c'est pourquoi il semble essentiel de passer une heure sur le site, afin d'en comprendre les tenants et aboutissants, et de constater l'importance stratégique de Moreuil dans les batailles de la Somme de 1918.
La visite des sites du Santerre se tient le lundi 19 décembre 2011. La visite du site de Moreuil étant prévu pour 16h, jusqu'à la tombée de la nuit.
Je vous remercie d'avoir déjà accepter oralement de participer à cette journée en tant qu'interlocuteur. La mise en valeur des sites est très bien portée par la population locale, raison nécessaire pour la faire valoir dans ce genre de manifestation.
L'enjeu est de permettre, à l'aide d'un discours historique, géographique, paysager et mémoriel, l'importance du site pour la Somme.
Vous remerciant de votre engagement et de votre bonne volonté,


Florie Dournel
Chargée de mission à l'inscription des paysages et sites de mémoire de la Grande Guerre - Patrimoine mondial de l'humanité

43, rue de la République

80 026 Amiens Cedex 1