Saturday 9 December 2023

Stephen Leacock, FRSC (1869 - 1944) – British-born Canadian writer

Suggested by AC Benus* who discovered Stephen's WW1 articles

Stephen Butler Leacock was born on 30th December 1869 in Swanmore, a hamlet and parish on "Waltham Chase" in Hampshire, UK. His parents were Walter Peter Leacock and his wife, Agnes Emma Leacock, nee Butler. Stephen was the third of eleven children and grew up in Oak Hill on the Isle of Wight - an estate purchased by his grandfather on returning from Madeira where his family had made a fortune out of plantations and Leacock's Madeira wine, founded in 1760. 

Stephen was six years old when the family moved to Canada, where they lived on a farm near the village of Sutton, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Simcoe. Educated at the private school of Upper Canada College in Toronto, Stephen went on to study at University College at the University of Toronto. He left university to work as a teacher. 

In 1899 Stephen enrolled for graduate studies at the University of Chicago under Thorstein Veblen, where he received a doctorate in political science and political economy. On 7th August 1900, Stephen married Beatrice Maude Hamilton. 

Moving from Chicago, Illinois, to Montreal, Quebec, Stephen became the William Dow Professor of Political Economy and long-time chair of Department of Economics and Political Science at McGill University. 

Stephen died on 28th March 1944.

 “The Boy who came back” published in “Vanity Fair” magazine November 1918 

Sources: Find my Past, FreeBMD, Wikipedia

*AC Benus is the author of a book about German WW1 poet Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele : “The Thousandth Regiment: A Translation of and Commentary on Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele’s War Poems” by AC Benus (AC Benus, San Francisco, 2020). Along with Hans's story, the book includes original poems as well as translations.    ISBN: 978-1657220584

Friday 3 November 2023

George Henry Powell pen name George Asaf (1880 –1951) - Welsh songwriter

George Henry Powell was born on 27th April 1880 in St. Asaph, Denbighshire, Wales. His parents were John Morris Powell and his wife, Sarah Snelson Powell, nee Hill. 

Although George's brother Felix Lloyd Powell (23r May 1879 - 10 February 1942) served as a Staff Sergeant during the First World War, George was a Pacifist and became a Conscientious Objector when Conscription was introduced in 1916.  

On the 1921 Census, George is registered as living in Telscombe, Sussex, Uk with his wife Leila, and he described his occupation as 'actor'.

Using the pen name George Asaf, George wrote the lyrics of the famous WW1 marching song "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag" in 1915. The music was written by George's brother Felix Powell, and the song was entered into a competition held during the First World War to find the "best morale-building song". It won first prize and was noted as "perhaps the most optimistic song ever written".


While you've a Lucifer to light your fag,

Smile, boys, that's the style.

What's the use of worrying?

It never was worth while, so

Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,

And smile, smile, smile.

By the time of the 1939 Census, George was living in Peacehaven, Sussex, UK with his wife Leila, and described his occupation as 'Journalist'.  He died on 3rd December 1951. 


What is a Lucifer?  Lucifer was a brand of matches sold during WW1.

The first match was created by a French chemist named Jean-Louis Chancel. It was difficult to ignite and released strong, smelly fumes when the head was finally lit, but it also paved the way for the future of lighters.

John Walker from England created a match that worked via friction. He never received a patent for this invention, so another matchmaker named Samuel Jones stole his idea and marketed it under the name “Lucifers” a few years later.

Lucifer matches

Sources: Find my Past, FreeBMD and

Monday 23 October 2023


Photo:  Spahi of the 5th Regiment de Spahis Algériens (5th RSA) from Wfa België

Spahi insignia

The 1st Spahi Regiment (French: 1er Régiment de Spahis) is an armoured regiment of the modern French Army, previously called the 1st Moroccan Spahi Regiment (French: 1er Régiment de Spahis Marocains). 

The Regiment was established in 1914 as a mounted cavalry unit recruited primarily from indigenous Moroccan horsemen. The regiment saw service in the First World War, and in the Second World War as part of the Forces Françaises Libres, as well as post-war service in the French-Indochina War and elsewhere. The modern regiment continues the traditions of all former Spahi regiments in the French Army of Africa.

The Moroccan Spahis of the French Army were created in 1914 by Général Hubert Lyautey. The initial title of the regiment was that of the Régiment de Marche de Chasseurs Indigènes à Cheval (R.M.C.I.C). The French Army had already raised four regiments of indigenous cavalry in both Algeria and Tunisia during the 19th century, and extended the designation of "spahis" to the Moroccan mounted units recruited after 1908.

The first Marching Moroccan Spahi Regiment (Régiment de Marche de Spahis Marocains, R.M.S.M) participated in the First Battle of the Marne. Subsequently, sent to the Eastern Front, the regiment served with distinction at Pogradec, Skumbi, Bofnia, Uskub and on the Danube. The regiment was accordingly awarded 5 citations and a fourragere with the colours of the Médaille militaire.

The 5th RSA was founded in August 1914 and consisted of 8 squadrons and was dissolved in 1962.

The Indochina Wars (Vietnamese: Chiến tranh Đông Dương) were a series of wars which were waged in Southeast Asia from 1946 to 1992, by communist Indochinese forces (mainly the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) against the opponents (mainly French, the State of Vietnam, South Vietnam, American, Cambodian, Laotian Royal, and Chinese forces). The term "Indochina" originally referred to French Indochina, which included the current states of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. In current usage, it applies largely to a geographic region, rather than to a political area.   

Saturday 21 October 2023

The Raid on the Suez Canal, 1915


The Raid on the Suez Canal, also known as Actions on the Suez Canal, took place between 26th January and 4th February 1915, when a German-led Ottoman Army force advanced from Southern Palestine to attack the British Empire-protected Suez Canal, marking the beginning of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign (1915–1918) of World War I (1914–1918).

Substantial Ottoman forces crossed the Sinai Peninsula, but their attack failed – mainly because of strongly held defences and alert defenders.

Since its opening in 1869 the Suez Canal had featured prominently in British policy and concerns. Among its great advantages were as a line of communication and also the site for a military base as the well equipped ports at Alexandria and Port Said made the region particularly useful. 

However, the Egyptian public was becoming increasingly opposed to the British occupation of Egypt, in particular various policies issued by Britain during the occupation.

The Convention of Constantinople of 1888 by the European great powers guaranteed freedom of navigation of the Suez Canal. In August 1914 Egypt was defended by 5,000 men in the Force in Egypt.

Photos:  Memorial photo - Chorley Pals Memorial by Andrew Mackay

The Ottoman Camel Corps 1916


Thursday 17 August 2023

Two excellent WW1-related books published by Chris Warren

Retired school teacher Chris Warren has published two excellent WW1-related books:

-  “Somewhere in France: Letters written from the Front 1914 – 1918 by Jack Turner, MC, Croix de Guerre”. Chris’s Uncle Jack’s letters sent home from the Western Front 


-  “In Flanders Now: The War Poems of Father Albert Purdie 1915 - 1918”.

Albert Bertrand Purdie (1888 - 1976) – British writer, poet and Catholic Church Minister, Army Chaplain in WW1. For the poem by Father Purdie, please see

John Turner MC, Croix de Guerre (1882 – 1918) – British schoolteacher and artist (known as Jack Turner). 

In a letter home written in July 1915 by Chris’s Uncle Jack when he was serving on the Western Front, he wrote about meeting the Catholic Chaplain Father Albert Purdie and reading the poem Father Purdie had written about Ploegsteert Wood. 

In an extract from one of Jack’s letters published in the book, he mentions being given a copy of a book – a special gift to Catholic soldiers during the First World War from Lady Edmond Talbot. 

“He has also given me a jolly little “Garden of the Soul” (Lady Edmond Talbot’s gift to the Catholic soldiers) which is small but has all the offices in.”

These two books are really interesting and give us an insight into what life was like on the Western Front from the perspective of a soldier and an Army Chaplain.

Chris Warren’s wonderful books can be purchased by following these links:


“Somewhere in France: Letters written from the Front 1914 – 1918 by Jack Turner, MC, Croix de Guerre” and

“In Flanders Now: The War Poems of Father Albert Purdie 1915 - 1918”.

For further information please see

Friday 23 June 2023

Thomas Arthur Nelson MiD (1876 – 1917) – Scottish International Rugby player

Portrait of Thomas
by Philip de László
Born on 22 September 1876 in St. Leonards, Edinburgh, Scotland, Thomas’s parents were Thomas Nelson, Head of the Nelson Publishing Company in Edinburgh, and his wife Jessie Nelson, nee Kemp. The family lived in the house that had belonged to Thomas’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Nelson - Abden House - in the south of Edinburgh. The grandfather died in 1861.

Thomas’s father built a new house – St. Leonards - in the grounds of Abden House and the family moved in there in 1890.   In 1892, the family purchased an estate in Achnacloich & Kilmaronaig, Argyll, Scotland, on the shores of Loch Etive near Oban in Scotland and spent a considerable part of each year there.

Thomas initially attended Edinburgh Academy, where he became a Rugby Union player, playing for a combined Edinburgh Academy /Watsons College schoolboy team in January 1895. He went on to study Classics at Oxford University, where he met and became friends with John Buchan.  Thomas played Rugby for Oxford University from 1896. He captained the side in 1900.

On 18th June 1903, Thomas married Margaret Balfour, daughter of the Liverpool merchant, Alexander Balfour. 

 John Buchan’s novel “The Thirty-Nine Steps” (1915) is dedicated to Thomas, who became head of the family publishing firm of Thomas Nelson and Sons. John Buchan was taken on by the firm as literary advisor.

During the First World War, Thomas was commissioned as a Captain into the Lothians and Border Horse Regiment, attached to the Machine Gun Corps, before moving to special service.   After eighteen months on the Western Front, Thomas was killed by a stray shell on the first Day of the Battle of Arras, Easter Monday, 9th April 1917.  

Thomas was buried in Faubourg D'Amiens Cemetery, near Arras, France, grave reference VII.G.26, and is also remembered on the headstone to his parents’ grave in Grange Cemetery in south Edinburgh and on the Scottish Rugby Union War Memorial at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh.

CWGC headstone for grave of
Thomas Nelson, 
Faubourg D'Amiens Cemetery


MiD – Mentioned in Despatches 

Portrait of Thomas Arthur Nelson, wearing a greatcoat over service dress of the Lothians and Border Horse, 1916 paintd by Philip de László  (1869 – 1937)

Sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD, Wikipedia, Commonwealth War Graves Commission and

Saturday 8 April 2023

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Ernest Bristow Farrar (1885 - 1918) – Scholar of the Royal College of Music. Composer and Organist.

Found by Historian Debbie Cameron while trying to find out more 

about the WW1 poet E.D. Farrer*

Ernest was born in Lewisham, London, UK in July 1885. His parents were the Rev. and Mrs. C. D. Farrar, of Micklefield Vicarage, Leeds, where the family moved in 1887, where his father was a clergyman. The rest of Ernest’s life was very much centred in the North of England, which had a thriving concert and recital tradition, particularly at the turn of the century. 

Ernest became involved in the thriving musical scene in Harrogate. He conducted the Harrogate Orchestral Society and was involved with the Harrogate Municipal Orchestra through his friendship with the flamboyant conductor Julian Clifford, who performed a number of his premieres, including the now-lost Orchestral Rhapsody No.2 ‘Lavengro’ in 1913, the extended orchestral fantasy The Forsaken Merman in 1914 and the Variations on an Old British Sea Song on Ernest's 30th birthday in 1915. 

Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the 3rd Battalion Devonshire Regiment on 27th February 1918,Farrar was posted to France on 6th September 1918.   When he arrived in France Ernest had briefly befriended the playwright and later broadcaster J.B. Priestley. He was granted leave in the summer of 1918 and returned to England, where he conducted the premiere of his final opus, the “Heroic Elegy”, at the Royal Hall in Harrogate. This piece was dedicated to his fallen comrades. 

Ernest returned to duty in September and was killed by machine gun-fire at the Battle of Ephey Ronssoy on the Western Front Farrar near Le Cateau in the Somme Valley, south west of Cambrai on 18th September, after just two days back in the Front Lines. Ernest was buried in Ronssoy Communal Cemetery, Grave Reference: B. 27. His grave lies just outside the churchyard wall in Ronssoy Communal Cemetery Extension, in a corner under a few trees.

Ernest’s obituary published in the “Musical Times”: ‘He was a musician of the highest ideals, and was devoted to the art he served so faithfully.’ Stanford, writing in the “Durham University Journal” wrote: “Farrar was one of my most loyal and devoted pupils. He was very shy, but full of poetry, and I always thought very high things of him as a composer, and lamented his loss both personally and artistically.”

Sources: Find my Past ranscript?id=GBM%2FLIVES%2F1200125

Debbie Cameron runs the Facebook Group Remembering British Women in WW1 – The Home Front and Overseas

Here is the poem Debbie found written by E.D. Farrer and published in "Forget=me-Not" Journal in 1914: 

Sunday 12 February 2023

Sarah Marie Worthman asks : “Have you heard about the Canadian Government’s 2SLGBTQ+ persecution campaign during WW1? Presentations in Canada

Sarah Marie Worthman asks : “Have you heard about the Canadian Government’s 2SLGBTQ+ persecution campaign during WW1? Or about the famous queer performer who travelled across the Western Front performing for Canada’s soldiers? Drag artists from the war are discussed in my presentation. Come and learn about this history and much more at one of the presentations we are hosting in St. John's, Ottawa, Toronto, and Halifax.” Sarah has given me permission to share the information about these presentations with you:

Friday 20 January 2023

John Scott Haldane (1860 – 1936) – British physician and inventor of the gas mask

Educated at Edinburgh Academy, Edinburgh University and the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, John graduated in medicine from Edinburgh University Medical School in 1884, after which he was a Demonstrator at University College, Dundee. From 1907 to 1913 he was a Reader in Physiology at Oxford University where his uncle, John Burdon-Sanderson, was Waynflete Professor of Physiology.

Through his research, John Scott Haldane became an international authority on ether and respiration and was famous for self experimentation – locking himself in sealed chambers breathing potentially lethal cocktails of gases while recording their effect on his mind and body. 

John married Louisa Kathleen Coutts Trotter (1863–1961) in December 1891.  She was the daughter of Coutts Trotter FRGS and Harriet Augusta Keatinge. They had two children – a son  J. B. S. Haldane, who served in WW1 and became a scientist - and Naomi, who became a writer and wrote using her married name of Mitchison. His nephew was the New Zealand doctor and public health administrator Robert Haldane Makgill.

When the Germans used poison gas during the First World War, John travelled to the Western Front at the request of Lord Kitchener to try to identify the gases being used. One outcome of this was his invention of a respirator, known as the black veil - an early gas mask   After being forced out of combatting poison gases in WWI due to alleged German sympathies, he began working with victims of gas warfare and developed oxygen treatment including the oxygen tent.

After John’s death in March 1936, the poet Sir Henry Newbolt wrote this poem:

"For J. S. Haldane"

SILENT Moon and silent morning air,

Silver frost on green and silver lawn,

Shimmering mist in downland hollows bare,

Magical night dying in timeless dawn—

O Earth, Earth, Earth! what needs this loveliness

To quiet a graveyard of unnumbered clods?

Is thy bread truth, or we that break and bless?

Shall we not live at last, when we are Gods?

Sir Henry Newbolt 1937, published in Newbolt’s collection “A Perpetual Memory and other Poems” With brief memoirs by Walter de la Mare and Ralph Furse (Murray, 1939).

Tuesday 10 January 2023

Paul Michel Lintier (1893 – 1916) – French Lawyer, Journalist and Writer who served and was killed in WW1


With thanks to Alan Hewer whose post on Facebook Group Great War Reads inspired me to research Paul Linter.

Paul was born in Mayenne, France.  His father – also called Paul Lintier - was a wine merchant and former Mayor of Mayenne being in office from 1898 – 1910.  Paul studied at the school in Laval, gaining his baccalauréat in 1910.  He then went to study law at the University of Lyon, where his uncle - Édouard Lambert – was a professor.  Paul worked as a lawyer and wrote books until war broke out, publishing a pamphlet about his friend the artist Adrien Bas in 1914.   

Paul volunteered at the start of hostilities, joining the French Army and was sent to the 44th Regiment – 11th Battery – of the Artillery, who were based in Le Mans.  Paul was at the forefront of the war from the start and was wounded in the hand on 22nd September 1914 fighting near Fresnières.  The doctors in the Dressing Station he was taken to wanted to amputate his thumb, so he fled to another Field Ambulance where they managed to save his thumb.  He was sent to recuperate at the Hospital in Mayenne, where he met fellow llawyer, journalist and writer Marcel Audibert (1883 – 1967), who was fighting with the 102nd Regiment of Infantry when he was also wounded. 

 While convalescing, Paul replaced Victor Bridoux, Director of the newspaper Mayenne-Journal, and published articles about the war.  Promoted to the rank of Non Commissioned Officer on 1st April 1915 Paul was sent to the front to serve in Munitions, in spite of his hand wound.  He began keeping a notebook of his impressions of the war.   Paul was killed on 15th March 1916 at Jeandelaincourt (Meurthe-et-Moselle).  His body was buried in the Cemetery at Faulx.   However, after the war his family retrieved his body and it was placed in the family vault in Mayenne in 1921.  

Paul Lintier’s wartime notebook was taken from his body on the field of battle by his comrades in arms and published as “Avec une batterie de 75 / le tube 1233: souvenirs d'un chef de pièce” (The translation of Chef de Pièce is detachment commander, gun captain, gun commander).  

The obituary in the local newspaper states that Paul’s mother was President of the local association that helped war wounded and his uncle, Louis Lintier, was Mayor of Mayenne. 

Mayenne is a department in northwest France named after the river Mayenne. Mayenne is part of the administrative region of Pays de la Loire and is surrounded by the departments of Manche, Orne, Sarthe, Maine-et-Loire, and Ille-et-Vilaine.  

For anyone who is interested, Paul Lintier’s book about his wartime experiences is available to read in French on Archive:

English translataions of the book

You can find Alan Hewer’s post to the Facebook Group Great War Reads here:

Sunday 8 January 2023

Dennis Yeats Wheatley (1897 – 1977) – British writer

Born in Brixton, London on 9th January 1897, Dennis’s parents were Albert David Wheatley, a wine merchant, and his wife, Florence Elizabeth Harriet Wheatley, nee Baker. Dennis was the eldest of three children in the family, which owned the wine company, Wheatley & Son of Mayfair. Educated at Dulwich College after preparatory school, Dennis was expelled – apparently for forming a ‘secret society’. 

Dennis then went to train at nautical school planning to join the British Merchant Navy.  He trained aboard the sail training ship HMS Worcester, which was moored off Greenhythe in Kent.  The Thames Nautical Training College, as it is now called, was, for over a hundred years, situated aboard ships named HMS Worcester. 

Painting of the First boat race on the Mersey between cadets of HMS Conway, which was moored on the River Mersey, and HMS Worcester, 11th June 1891 by Charles William Wyllie (1853 – 1923).  The race became an annual event. 

During the First World War, Dennis was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the Royal Field Artillery, receiving his basic training at Biscot Camp in Luton. He was then assigned to the City of London Brigade and the 36th (Ulster) Division and served in Flanders on the Ypres Salient and in France at Cambrai and St. Quentin. Gassed in a chlorine attack during Passchendaele, Dennis was invalided out of the Army.   

Photograph of Dennis in WW1 from