Malcolm & Dan Joe (WW1)

"Dan-Joe & Malcolm (WW1)" -- TOC

Ch. 5 - "Dan & Malcolm Join The Army"

"It was Lord Kitchener (the British Secretary of State, at the time) who wrote, "I am not a good walker, which prevents me from joining the infantry. As I have no experience of horses, the Calvary is also out of the question. The artillery I don't care for on account of the noise, and flying makes me giddy. The A.S.A. does not appeal to me and the R.A.M.C. would entail some unpleasant duties. So you had not worry about me. Perhaps when the fine weather comes I may think about the navy. I am rather keen on boating ..."18
Portrait Dan Joe

Portrait Malcolm

And now - for a shift in venue, which will bring the matter down to a more personal level.

The momentous events of 1914 have now been reviewed. For this part we deal with the momentous events that occurred in the lives of two young men, who, no doubt, were following the news of the war in Europe, as warped as this news may have been, with considerable interest.

History will show that all governments, many of which exists today, given the opportunity, will get involved in a vigorous and effective propaganda campaign. Defined as "any association, systematic scheme, or concerted movement for the propagation of a particular doctrine or practice. Its purpose is to encourage or instill a particular attitude or response abroad and at home. It is a practical and expedient activity to stimulate. Not that it is all bad. One wag wrote that propaganda is to be boiled down to three types: "White propaganda, the truth; Gray, a composition of half-truths and distortions; or Black, a pack of lies."

Propaganda was to be seen in full flower during World War One. Those in high places, the privileged, having an understanding of such things, generally will ignore it; the believing masses will go for it, most every time. Our two young men went for it.

Consider the words of Sebastian Junger19: "War is hell, the cliche says, yet a lot of people are still drawn to it. Why would so many young men risk their lives?" Junger thought it comes down to biology and rites of passage. "Young men go to war for the same reason that young boys play war," he explains. "War is an extremely compelling endeavor for a lot of young men." Once they get involved, often their enthusiasm continues, as men bond extremely well together when subjected to the stress of combat. As Junger further wrote, young men "have an extremely strong affiliating response to each other." If a young person does not have an interesting job, or more generally an interesting life, it is not difficult to get them to sign up, to, so to speak, unknowingly, sign their own potential death warrant.

Whatever the reasons they might have had, Dan-Joe and Malcolm signed up.20

Dan's and Malcolm's great-grand parents came from Scotland in the early part of the 19th Century to settle on a large island which makes up the north-eastern part of Nova Scotia and known as Cape Breton. Their father was Angus Donald Morrison, born at Gillis Lake; their mother was Mary Ann Campbell from Big Pond. At the time when the boys joined the Canadian army in 1915, the family was located at Glace Bay on Hillside Avenue. Malcolm was 17 years old; Dan-Joe, 21. They were both single and at home. They had three sisters, next in the row after them: Mary Elizabeth, Anne and Agnes.21. The youngest in the household was another boy, John.

The head of this Catholic family was Angus Morrison, "A.D." He worked in Boston for a time doing carpentry work. He returned to Cape Breton and went to work with the Dominion Coal Co. for the balance of his working years. Cape Breton had a long history in coal mining, but "A.D." was not a miner; he worked on the train lines owned by the Dominion Coal Co.

I am afraid we cannot tell of the early boyhood years of Dan-Joe and Malcolm. All we really know is what we have gleaned from the military records secured from the archives. We might surmise that these two young men, located in a small community in a forgotten part of Canada, became aware of the striking events of 1914. Dan-Joe and Malcolm, along with a lot of other young Canadians must have been following these events with enthusiasm. What stands out, are: The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand; German troops invading Belgium; The declarations of war by both Great Britain and Canada; And how, that August, a British Expeditionary Force had been sent to France to fight the "Hun"; And how, that October, Canadian troops were sent to France. Canada continued to look for more volunteers, a quest which continued into 1915.

While a number of young Canadian men likely heard of England and France, only a few had a vague idea as to where these places were, or, more particularly, what was causing all of this turmoil.

On July 13, 1915, Malcolm, an 18 year old (though he stated he was 21), signed up at Valcartier, P.Q. It is not known of the circumstances that brought Malcolm to Valcartier; his brother, as we will see, only went to Valcartier after he signed up near his home in Cape Breton.

From Malcolm's medical examination and certificate we see that the doctor confirmed he appeared to be the age of 18; he was 5'7 tall"; a 35" chest that could be expanded by 2"; his complexion was fair; his eyes, blue; his hair, brown. There was no testing results and no history: he is a young man that "can see at the required distance with either eye; his heart and lungs are healthy; he has the free use of his joints and limbs, and he declares that he is not subject to fits of any description."

The 21 year old, Dan-Joe, followed along. On August 13th he signed up at Sydney, C.B. He was declared fit: five foot, seven and half inches with a 37 inch chest fully expanded. His apparent age, 21 years and 4 months; his complexion: "fresh." The army soon sent him off to Valcartier where he joined his younger brother.

NEXT [Chapter 6, "Valcartier & England"]


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Peter Landry
2015 (2018)