He was smiling as he kissed us all goodbye, but his eyes were full of tears, like ours.
I can still see the trap trotting away, the driver flicking his whip and the man in khaki dabbing at his eyes with a handkerchief. Three years later, almost to the day, he was lying dead on the battlefield of Amiens.
(T. H. Raddall Jr., In My Time: A Memoir, 1976, 26)
Born on 9 December 1876, Thomas Head Raddall was a professional British soldier and an instructor at the Hythe Musketry School. In 1913, Raddall and his family transferred to Halifax, Nova Scotia. In September 1914, he joined the 8th Battalion at Valcartier with the rank of lieutenant. He was the father of Thomas Head Raddall Jr. (1903—1994), Canadian author of historical fiction who was made member of the Order of Canada in 1971.
Wounded at Second Ypres, Raddall returned to Nova Scotia on convalescence leave in summer 1915. His twelve year old son remembered that the stern army disciplinarian revealed “a new and warm personality” after his experiences on the front. Although offered a training position in Canada, Raddall returned to the field in August 1915. Describing the departure, his son later recalled feeling that an “instinct told him that this was the last time he would see his family.”
Raddall assumed command of the 8th on 20 April 1918 after Lieutenant Colonel J. M. Prower took a position with the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp. Less than four months after his promotion, he was struck down by a machine gun bullet during the battle of Amiens on 9 August 1918. Command passed to Major A.L. Saunders.
In his last letter home, the colonel wrote to his son, “strive to make a name for yourself.” Raddall Jr. later dedicated a poem to his father’s memory:
As athletes fling themselves to earth at last.
The trampled wheat, the shattered roofs of Caix.
And these, marked where the regiment had passed.
He was their colonel, they had loved him well.
And so they buried him amid the grain
With three score men beside him where they fell.