Tuesday, November 25, 2014

War Horse: The Real Story

 A friend kindly invited me to look at a television production he had recorded, called "War Horse: the Real Story".

Product DetailsThe show was interesting, but quite superficial in spite of having had contributions by experts such as Brough Scott and Dr. David Kenyon.
Brough Scott is the grandson of Brigadier Jack Seely, who commanded the Canadian Cavalry Brigade through most of World War I. Scott wrote "Galloper Jack", about his grandfather.
Dr Kenyon is a historian and notable author of "Horsemen in No Man's Land", a rexamination of the effectiveness of cavalry in the Great War.
I commend both books to anyone interested in the Canadian cavalry and the British cavalry in general.

"War Horse: the Real Story" was a sanitized version of the story of Warrior, Seely's charger during the conflict and after. Obviously meant for an English audience, it only mentioned in passing that Seely's main (but not only) claim  to fame was his leadership of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

Here are some earlier thoughts about the movie "War Horse", Spielberg's 2011 production.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Venerable Sea Kings a Testament--and a bigger embarrassment

My friend Dave Critoph sent me the image at left. It speaks for itself--it's the cover of a booklet celebrating 50 years of service by the Sea Kings on behalf of the Royal Canadian Navy.
Dave flew Sea Kings in 1966 from our last aircraft carrier, HMCS Bonaventure, during Maple Spring 66, a major exercise that covered the seas from Halfiax to Monetevideo. I was there too, watching the state-of-the-art Sea Kings do their stuff.

Fifty years of service. That they are still able to fly at all is a testament to the skill of their maintainers and aircrew. Back in 1966, I recall being shocked at the number of hours maintenance it took for every hour of flight--10 or 20 perhaps. What would it take now to keep these magnificent birds in the air for an hour--a hundred?

You might think the Sea Kings should have been replaced by now. You would be right. The defence department in the Mulroney era would--and did--agree with you. Jean Chretien, of course, couldn't countenance a Mulroney plan so he cancelled the order, resulting in a $500 million penalty.

Since then the Canadian government, and Canadian Forces, have not been able to get their act together. I couldn't put it better than did military historian Aaron Plamondon as quoted in an article in the National Post by Andrew Coyne: that the Sea King replacement saga is quite possibly "the most poorly executed military procurement ever undertaken--anywhere." Forty years after the need for a replacement helicopter was called for, the Sea Kings remain, albeit most of the time on the ground.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mary's Wedding, and the Battle of Moreuil Wood

A lone "Terror" amongst "Soldiers"
"Mary's Wedding",  the play written by Stephen Massicotte, has finished its run in White Rock, BC. Staged by Peninsula Productions, it ran from November 11th through the 15th to packed houses.

There were many moist eyes, attested to by the number of tissues handed out by staff as the audience left the theatre. A well done to the backstage crew and the actors, Harrison MacDonald and Julia Siedlanowska, who shone.

I was honoured to have a very small part in prepping the actors as a result of my novel Soldier of the Horse, which had at its climax the battle referenced in "Mary's Wedding"--the Battle of Moreuil Wood, March 30th, 1918. Not to mention a character in common, Gordon Muriel Flowerdew, VC, who led the charge, with real-life "Soldier" Tom Mackay at his elbow.

At a table in the foyer, I answered questions about the battle. More than one person asked if "Flowers" was a real person. He was, of course, and I take my hat off to Massicotte, Pensinsula Productions, and the rest of the gang who helped keep our history alive.

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Mary's Wedding" Opens Tomorrow


 Here are the actors in a scene from "Mary's Wedding", the heart-rending play by Stephen Massicotte.
The production runs from November 11th through the 15th. The presentation on Remembrance Day is sold out. Any veterans lucky enough to have tickets to the Remembrance Day performance get free admission, with the public asked for a donation which will go to Honour House.

Tickets for subsequent performances can be obtained online at www.peninsulaproductions.org.

I'm honoured to have been asked to advise on the historical aspects of the production. Attendees can if they wish pick up a copy of Soldier of the Horse, my novel set in WW I's Canadian Cavalry Brigade, after the show. Soldier shares a very important character with "Mary's Wedding".

In other literary news, I understand an upcoming edition of the Surrey Leader will feature a review of Terror on the Alert, my submarine thriller. Very exciting.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Submarines in East Vancouver, and recruits for a Great War era wedding

I recently had the pleasure of presenting about submarines, and my novel "Terror on the Alert", at the Britannia branch of the Vancouver Public Library. The staff, as always, was gracious; and I was lucky to arrive early, because the host seniors' centre invited me to share their potluck lunch. I may drop in again!

The highlight of the afternoon, though, was the presence of an elementary class of mixed grade 3s and 4s. They had lots of interesting questions about submarines: in my day, were there women on board? (no); what about now? (yes); are the ballast tanks what makes the boat go under water? (yes).

It was particularly interesting to me that they had done research on the internet before attending at my presentation. A delightful audience of young and old.

 Here are the young ones:
And speaking of young and old, I dropped in on a rehearsal for "Mary's Wedding" a couple of days ago.
(For more about "Mary's Wedding", see Newsletter #25 in the Newsletter Archives to the right.)

The entire cast is pictured below. These raw recruits are learning to be Great War cavalry troopers. Don't let the small cast fool you--it is a magical and inspirational play. It will be staged in White Rock, BC, November 11th to 15th.

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