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Remembered Today:

The Canadians at Ypres


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My Grandfather, James Webster Davidson, Reg No 17109 served in the 7th Canadian Battalion. I have recently discovered a number of poems relating to the war written by him - (contained in a book dated 1923). Among them is this account of the Canadians at Ypres - I assume in April 1915. From a simple check of the regimental diaries online it seems possible that the poem is based on his own experiences. Any thoughts from the experts out there?


The Canadians at Ypres

We were holding the dreaded salient

Where we relieved the French

And the front line there, was in bad repair

It could not be called a trench

We worked hard at night, to set things right

With pick, with shovel, and spade

‘Twas the generals’ plan, and every man,

An extra effort made

All along the line, no trace or sign

Of the horror that lay ahead

The guns were still, o’er plain and hill

And the sun was sinking red

We were laying about, then a warning shout,

Danger was near at hand

Men cried aloud, as the great gas cloud,

Came rolling o’er no-man’s land

We were all amazed, and seemed half dazed,

Our eyes wee swollen and red,

And men dropped down upon the ground,

To join the noble dead.

Gas nations bar by the laws of war,

But this the trench imparts,

This fiendish game, only set aflame,

The blood in Canadian hearts

Behind the gas in a surging mass

The Germans nearer creep

As they reach the wire our rifle fire

Thundered loud and deep

The Prussian guards, who led the charge,

Reeled, but charged again

And their dead piled high, near our wire lie

On the bloody battle plain

Then we heard with dread, as the news soon spread

The French were in head long flight

With our flank left bare, “it was in the air”

What chance to save the fight

They surge ahead, over heaps of dead,

Pushing back the 3rd brigade,

All through the night, increased the fight,

And hope began to fade

As night wore on men bruised and torn,

Repelling from time to time

Attacks so fierce as they try to pierce,

The thin Canadian line

New attacks were made on the 3rd brigade,

Hemmed in on every side

The shell fire too in intensity grew,

We could not stem the tide

All through the day, we still gave way

To a powerful German drive,

Pressed back the ranks upon the flanks

How long could we survive

Still the fighting grew, and a menace new,

St Julien we could not hold

In rank despair they perished there

Canadians brave and bold

The days flew past, then hep at last

We gave three hearty cheers,

The flank left bare, was strengthened there

As a British force appears

We bore the brunt, on that shell torn front

To save the allied line

And the world will know, as we face the foe

Our deeds will brightly shine

Though our dead we mourn, lying far from home

We hear the great command,

Till the fight is won, still man the gun

For the sake of the Mother-land.

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  • 5 years later...


John Gilinsky has a blog on Canadian poetry of the Great War - he'd be interested to see this. Thanks for posting it.


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Yes I would and tx SeaJane and just found it by viewing the Culture index pages. Can you please give me the particulars of that 1923 book? Author, Full title, place of publication, pagination, etc...?



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