Dishonoured Cheques

Lieutenant Ronald John Beck
8th Reserve Battalion

In conclusion, I would like to say that I have no one to blame but myself. It was caused by two things: Drink and women. I never knew the taste of liquor until I went to France. I still wish to stay in the army in any capacity whatsoever.

(Lt. R.J. Beck, court martial, 7 Jan 1918)

Beck comic page 1
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Through Their Eyes book trailer

A Graphic History of Hill 70 and Canada’s First World War

By Matthew Barrett (illustrator/co-writer) and Robert Engen (co-writer)

Published by MQUP, our book imagines the experiences of Canadian soldiers during the Battle of Hill 70 in August 1917 through graphic artwork and full-colour illustration.

Available from McGill-Queen’s University Press, Amazon, Chapters/Indigo

From the publisher:

By the summer of 1917, Canadian troops had captured Vimy Ridge, but Allied offensives had stalled across many fronts of the Great War. To help break the stalemate of trench warfare, the Canadian Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Arthur Currie, was tasked with capturing Hill 70, a German stronghold near the French town of Lens.

After securing the hill on 15 August, Canadian soldiers endured days of shelling, machine-gun fire, and poison gas as they repelled relentless enemy counterattacks. Through Their Eyes depicts this remarkable but costly victory in a unique way. With full-colour graphic artwork and detailed illustration, Matthew Barrett and Robert Engen picture the battle from different perspectives – Currie’s strategic view at high command, a junior officer’s experience at the platoon level, and the vantage points of many lesser-known Canadian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. This innovative graphic history invites readers to reimagine the First World War through the eyes of those who lived it and to think more deeply about how we visualize and remember the past.

Combining outstanding original art and thought-provoking commentary, Through Their Eyes uncovers the fascinating stories behind this battle while creatively expanding the ways that history is shared and represented.

“A powerful and moving book. This is Canada’s First World War as we have never seen it before.”

-Colonel Chris Hadfield, astronaut and four-time best-selling author

“This innovative graphic history provides a new way of understanding the complexity and carnage of the First World War. Employing vivid graphics and authoritative history, Matthew Barrett and Robert C. Engen offer multiple and diverse perspectives to reclaim the Battle of Hill 70 for a new generation.”

-Tim Cook, Chief Historian at the Canadian War Museum

This book was generously supported by the Hill 70 Memorial Project.

Pre-order Through Their Eyes: A Graphic History of Hill 70 and Canada’s First World War

The Vanished Officer

Lieutenant Reginald J. Woods
The Lake Superior Regiment

An illustrated story of one officer featured in my book Scandalous Conduct: Canadian Officer Courts Martial, 1914–45.

On 16 August 1944, Lieutenant Reg Woods joined his regiment fighting in France. After being under enemy fire for the first time, he vanished the next day. Two months later, Woods resurfaced in London claiming amnesia. He was admitted to a neurological hospital as a possible psychiatric casualty. Was he a battle exhaustion case deserving treatment or a disciplinary problem? One doctor believed the amnesia genuine, but the hospital’s commanding medical officer suspected Woods was faking to conceal deliberate misconduct. He was arrested and charged with desertion.

Woods comic 1
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The Nervous Officer

Lieutenant Kenneth Cameron Fellowes
84th and 25th Battalions

An illustrated story of one officer featured in my book Scandalous Conduct: Canadian Officer Courts Martial, 1914–45.

Speaking quite impersonally, it is manifest that having regard to the very trying conditions at the Front it would never do to establish the principle that an officer who by reason of his nervous condition failed to carry out an order given to him could escape the consequences by attributing the fault to his nervousness. Men at the front have to “stick it” at all costs, and the establishment of a precedent excusing the failing to do so would be very dangerous.

(Maj. Walter Gow, 17 Jan 1917)

Fellowes 1A
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Victoria Cross at Ypres

Captain Francis Scrimger
Canadian Army Medical Corps

On the afternoon of 25th April, 1915, in the neighbourhood of Ypres, when in charge of an advanced dressing station in some farm buildings, which were being heavily shelled by the enemy, he directed under heavy fire the removal of the wounded, and he himself carried a severely wounded Officer out of a stable in search of a place of greater safety. When he was unable alone to carry this Officer further, he remained with him under fire till help could be obtained.

(Scrimger, VC citation, 22 June 1915)

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Lt. Col. Allen, Part II

Lieutenant Colonel Walter Harry Allen
106th (Nova Scotia Rifles) Battalion

I had my suspicions at the time but on account of being very busy did not do anything. Later on it became common talk throughout the regiment. I talked the matter over with my Officers, but as Allen had gone to Canada we decided to keep it quiet. However, his boasting and newspaper talk, and his being appointed to command a Regiment has been too much for us all … I think in the interests of the service his cowardice and conduct should be exposed … 

His story was simply a joke.

(Lt. Col. W.T. Marshall, 15th Bn. to Sam Hughes, 4 Jan 1916)

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Lt. Col. Farquhar

Lieutenant Colonel Francis Douglas Farquhar
Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry

Have we the right to grieve for the dead, who have lived and died as the Colonel? We can only be sorry for ourselves and each other. His face showed no sign of suffering or regret … He, more than any other, has given us a reputation and a standard which we must strive to maintain. He himself is with us no longer, but his influence and his memory will endure with the life of the Regiment.

(Lt. Talbot Papineau to Lady Evelyn Farquhar, 22 March 1915)

Farquhar 6 Continue reading