The Canadians had typewriters

Yesterday, Sophie told Mirinda that the weather was about to change. The gorgeous blue sky and sunshine was about to be replaced with wet and wind. And she couldn’t have been more correct. I woke up to a howling gale, rain lashing against closed windows and entering the open ones.

Of course, I still had to go shopping and, eventually, I was watching the rain pour down from the shelter of Starbucks.

It stopped by the time I left for Waitrose.

Tonight I watched the latest WFA webinar but it wasn’t the day’s first story of the Great War that I heard. Oddly, the woman at the check-out in Waitrose told me the following story.

Her great aunt died a number of years ago, leaving her and her sister, various bits and pieces. The sister received a load of furniture which she used in her home in France. Along with the furniture was a massive photograph of a WWI soldier. She thought it looked good so, not knowing who it was, she hung it on a wall.

The woman on the check-out at Waitrose, however, received a box of memorabilia, including various things regarding the war. She stored it away somewhere.

Eventually she started ‘doing her family tree’ and discovered that the great aunt had had a husband that they didn’t know about. He served and was killed in the Great War. She found out that he was in the Rifles and, going through the box of stuff she’d been given, discovered various papers and medals relating to his service.

The next time she visited her sister in France, she realised that the massive photograph was this man. She’d seen the same photograph during her investigations (though somewhat smaller) and the insignia and uniform matched. The photograph remains on the wall at her sister’s house, but now it’s more a memory than a decoration.

His Commonwealth War Grave is in Winchester.

Then, later, I went from Winchester to Canada for this week’s webinar.

This week featured two Canadians, Bill Stewart and Tim Cook, talking about the Canadian Corps in the 100 days leading up to Armistice Day.

I’ve attended a Tim Cook talk before, but it was the first Bill Stewart for me. His half hour explained why the Canadian Corps was so successful in 1918. He showed how many more Canadians there were and how much more new technology they had.

They were expert at laying tram tracks without the limits set by the British Army for their engineers, meaning they could transport munitions and supplies to the front line further, quicker and more efficiently. He also explained that the percentage of typewriters per battalion was higher. He worked that out by examining the war diaries of battalions both from the UK and Canada.

I’ve read a few handwritten accounts of battles in Battalion diaries, searching for names, and I have to say, I much prefer the typed ones.

But it wasn’t just typewriters (obviously), a lot of the Canadian success was down to one man, General Sir Arthur William Currie, or old ‘guts and gaiters’, to his friends.

Sir Artie had the confidence of Douglas Haig and, therefore, was basically able to do whatever he wanted. He had a strong, powerful army, and he knew what to do with it. The Canadian Infantry lost a lot of men during the 100 days, but they made all the difference and helped bring about the end of the war.

Tim Cook called them The Liberators of 1918 because that’s how they felt. They had seen and heard all the propaganda. They were in Europe to force back the enemy and give back to the French and Belgians their homes, peace and prosperity.

Tim showed the above drawings by Louis Rainmaker. They were the sort of thing circulated throughout Canada, showing the inhumanity of the Germans. They served to convince young men to join the army, head to Europe and liberate or die in the trying.

Both talks were excellent and highlighted a lot of the end of the war, of which I was unaware. The WFA Webinars are teaching me so much about The Great War.

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