Dripping sweat, “Johnny Canuck” from the 8th Canadians (90th Winnipeg Rifles) marches to the front, heavily burdened with his giant pack, 303 Lee-Enfield Rifle, wearing hob-nailed boots and puffing on a “gasper”, hopefully a Players.
Sketch by Stuart Stoddart DCM
You wicked piece of vicious tin!
Call you a gun?
Don't make me grin.
You're just a bloated piece of pipe.
You couldn't hit a hunk of tripe.
But when you're with me in the night,
I'll tell you, pal, you're just alright!
Each day I wipe you free of dirt.
Your dratted corners tear my shirt.
I cuss at you and call you names,
You're much more trouble than my dames.
But, boy, do I love to hear your yammer
When you're spitting lead in a business manner.
You conceited pile of salvage junk.
I think this prowess talk is bunk.
Yet if I want a wall of lead
Thrown at some Jerry's head
It is to you I raise my hat;
You're a damn good pal... you silly gat!
by Gnr. S.N. Teed, WW II
Alexander Bawden attested on 23 September 1914. His regimental number was #1, indicating he was the first to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He won a battlefield commission in June 1915 for heroic actions at Festubert. Bawden continued to move up the ranks and was an Acting Major when he was killed at Hill 70, located on the north side of Lens, France.
Letter to Lillian Bawden from Chaplain James Whillans
8th Battn. Canadians
Sept. 8th, 1917
Dear Mrs. Bawden
As you are aware, your husband Major Bawden was killed in action in the battle on August 15th. I knew him very well and, after a church parade before, we were riding along the road together. I had been speaking that morning of a man not going before his time was up. The Major said, “That is what I believe, the war had given me that belief.”
He drew the location of the position of his company on a map and told me to come up after the attack, marking the way for me. He was shot by a sniper in the shoulder when well up on the ground that had been captured from the enemy early in the morning. From what one man told me he beckoned on his men after he had been hit.
I was at a camp kitchen when he was brought in by the stretcher bearers, after having been dressed at a dressing station a little way up. I spoke to him, but he had the appearance of being dead and did not move. A moment later a doctor pronounced him dead…
[He was] a friend of mine and I am sorry to have to write this letter. He did his duty in a highly skilled manner and played his part in this Great War for human freedom. May God bless you very abundantly in your loss.
In deepest sympathy,
Yours with every sincerity,
Whillans’s letter found in the Canadian War Museum
This is an excerpt from Holding Their Bit - Remembering the 8th Canadian Battalion (90th Winnipeg Rifles) 1914-1918 The Little Black Devils, a book edited by Ian Stewart and published by The Royal Winnipeg Rifles Museum & Archives in 2018.