Flowers From No Man’s Land

Last winter, I worked as a research assistant for an author writing a book on the Battle of the Somme. While I was at the Canadian War Museum, going through boxes and boxes of mud-splattered diaries and letters written on battered paper from a century ago, I ran across this surprising object. It is a little glass circle containing a clipping of a poem, perhaps from a newspaper, with pressed flowers, presumably from No-Man’s-Land. Holding it in my white gloved hands, I shivered.

Flowers From No Man's Land

We will remember them.

Inspiration from the Trenches

While doing research at the Canadian War Museum’s Research Centre for my paper on the Vimy Ridge Memorial and the Allward plaster maquettes, I ran into quite a few fascinating sources, particularly photographs of the monument in France under construction. Among a few collections of pamphlets, tickets, photo albums and postcards from Canadian pilgrimages to Vimy in 1936 for the monument’s unveiling, I ran across this fascinating little book. It’s a small, leather-bound notebook, considerably stained by water and perhaps other things. It’s full of sketches and short, inspiring, romantic and sometimes hilarious quotations, most of them dated in 1917. I believe that it was actually in the trenches with one of the soldiers, a George K.C. Owens. I recognize a few of them, and many of them are written in different hands, so I imagine that this notebook was passed around and people would contribute something to it. It was clearly a group effort. Here are a few of the more legible ones that I found particularly touching:

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“Her”

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“A place for my name in your album,
A place for my name in your heart,
A place for us both in heaven,
Where true friends never part.”
-B.Hollis
19/5/17

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