Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gordon Flowerdew, VC.

Two days ago I wrote about Gordon Flowerdew and the question of his promotion to Captain on the day he died. The promotion would presumably have been to an "acting" rank, by Brigadier-general Seely, as a recognition to a dying man. But if so, the headstone has it right.
Note that, like those of other recipients of the Victoria Cross, the image of the award is engraved on the stone itself.

Flowerdew of course was not alone; his headstone is one of many at Namps-au-Val British Cemetary.Photos courtesy of John Boileau, author and former Commanding Officer of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Gordon Flowerdew, VC, and the Mystery of his Headstone

Gordon Flowerdew, of Norfolk, England; Duck Lake, Saskatchewan; and Wallachin, BC, lies buried at Namps-au-Val British Cemetary, the Somme, France. Flowerdew has passed into history as the man that led "C" Squadron, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) in their ill-fated charge against German rifles, machine guns, and artillery at Moreuil Wood in March, 1918.
Flowerdew died of his wounds the day after the battle. His marker, maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, lists his rank as "captain". I am informed by a member of his family that he was promoted to captain by the Canadian Cavalry Brigade's commander, Brigadier Seely, on the day he died; although his military records refer to him as "lieutenant" throughout. At least one author has referred to Flowerdew being promoted the same day he died, but (so far) I am not aware of any documentation in that regard--except for the headstone itself.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lord Strathcona's Horse Museum

Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), to give them their full title, is one of Canada's armoured regiments. Before they were armoured, however, they were mounted, trained to attack with swords on horseback or dismounted with rifles. Their colourful history is worthy of discovery.
Warrant Officer Ted McLeod, Archivist
The Straths have been involved in every Canadian conflict from the Boer War through Afghanistan, and their story is graphically told by the Strathcona Museum in Calgary. Easily accessible off the Crowchild Trail, the museum has thousands of photos, diaries, etc, with 40,000 visits per year. For more information, see

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Soldier of the Horse Wins Gold Medal

I am very excited to report that "Soldier of the Horse" has won a gold medal in the military/wartime fiction category at the 2012 Independent Publisher Book (IPPY) Awards. The IPPY's are a North America-wide contest, with entries from all over the globe.
One of my aims in writing "Soldier" was to tell Canadians about the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, whose activities in the Great War are known to few. And--the gold medal will look good on any subsequent printings!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Galloper Jack and the Canadian Cavalry Brigade (Part 5 of 5)

The Canadian Cavalry Brigade at first included the Royal Canadian Dragoons, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) and the 2nd King Edward's Horse, the latter being a British yeomanry regiment made up largely of colonial personnel recruited in England. As the war dragged on and casualties mounted, there were not enough "colonials" in England to fill the ranks, and so the King Edwards were replaced by the Fort Garry Horse. The CCB thus became all-Canadian, for all practical purposes--except for their brigadier.
Besides fighting the Germans, Galloper Jack Seely had to fend off the Canadian government, which was not taking kindly to an Imperial officer commanding the Brigade; and those in government and the British army who saw no place in modern warfare for cavalry.
In early 1918, events overtook theory. Seely was in England, struggling to stave off Canadian political opposition to his leadership, when the Germans launched Operation Michael, driving British and French forces back along a front that stretched some sixty-five kilometres. Galloper Jack struggled to physically get back to the Continent to lead his troops. Lead them he did, into the--for them and him--cataclysmic Battle of Moreuil Wood. In that battle Lieutenant Gordon Flowerdew earned his posthumous Victoria Cross, and the Canadian Cavalry Brigade suffered their worst day of the war, while turning back the German thrust.
Brigadier-general Seely was replaced by a Canadian officer shortly after, but not before he had lived through what he later felt was the high point of his career, if not his life--commanding the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.