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My Grandfather’s war story

Published on

Randy Evans

Special to The Journal

On Jan. 4, 1916, my maternal grandfather, Percy Bodaly, enlisted to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in World War One. He was 19 years old.

Initially as a Private and later a Corporal, his entire wartime career would be spent in the medical corps at the Canadian war hospital at Taplow, England.

Like so many of his colleagues from that conflict, Grampa did not speak much about his wartime experience. A few funny anecdotes, perhaps, but nothing of consequence.

Except on one occasion during a visit in the mid-1970s.

As it happens, I was at the time reading Robert Service and thus came to my Grandparents’ home with a book of the poet.

As clear as if it happened today, I recall my Grandfather spotting the volume and taking it in his large, workman’s hands. Without opening the cover, he began to recite lyrics from The Cremation of Sam McGee, The Spell of the Yukon, and the yarn of Dangerous Dan McGrew and the lady known as “Lou.”

This spontaneous recital was followed by a moment of silence – me in astonishment and my Grandfather clearly in Remembrance. I asked the obvious question and was responded to as follows:

After his daily shift at the war hospital my Grandfather would stay and read to the soldiers who had been blinded at the Front. Many of the sightless would ask for works by Service, so much so that his prose became a matter of memory.

Some 60 years later the poems were still fresh in the mind of my Grandfather. So too was his recollection of those brave souls who sought solace in the words of Mr. Service.

I will never forget that precious story received from my Grandfather. Arising simply by chance, it gave to me a brief but lasting glimpse of my Grandfather in uniform, as well as those wounded soldiers so richly deserving of our esteem and Remembrance.

Bless all their hearts and service.

Lest we forget.



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