Lest we forget

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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Frank Walker returned to Prince Edward Island after seeing action during the First World War, eventually becoming editor of The Guardian.

A daughter remembers her father’s duty to his country

By Mary F. (Walker) Gaudet (guest opinion)

On Aug. 4, 2014, we will mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. This “Great War” was to last four years.

In 1918, my father, Pte. Frank Walker, a stretcher bearer with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, was recuperating in England where he had spent many months in hospitals and casualty depots, having been invalided there after the battle of Passchendaele.

Following his convalescence, he was overjoyed to learn that he was assigned to the staff of a hospital ship to accompany wounded veterans back to their homeland, Canada.

He assumed that he would soon be reunited with his beloved mother, Christine Walker, a widow living in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. However, this was not to be.

During the fall of 1918, Pte. Walker was transferred from the Medical Corps Depot, in Shorncliffe, to the staff at the hospital ship, “Neuralia”, running between England and Canada.

On this ship and on the hospital ship, “Essequibo”, he made, altogether, eight return trips and only at the expiration of this time was he allowed to return home. In 1918, Christmas Eve was spent in mid-ocean aboard the “Essequibo”.

Having gone overseas with the First Canadian Contingent, my father saw action at Ypres, Festubert, Givenchy and Corcelette. He captured his experience on scraps of paper, sometimes in the trenches, most often by candlelight, which he sent home to his mother for safekeeping.

In July 1919, Pte. Walker received his discharge from the Army Medical Corps in Halifax, N.S., eight months after the war had come to a close. Finally, he was able to return home to Prince Edward Island to begin to reshape a life forever changed by war.

In due time, he began to transcribe his accumulated chronicles to create his handwritten war journal, which included the many poems he had written on the battlefields in Europe.

In 2000, it was my privilege to have edited his work, entitled “From a Stretcher Handle: The World War Journal and Poems of Pte. Frank Walker” and have it published by the Institute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, P.E.I.

My parents were married in Charlottetown in 1925 and raised seven children. My father carved out a successful career in writing as a newspaper reporter and editor for nearly half a century.

This solemn remembrance of one man’s selfless duty to his country is meant as a tribute to all victims and veterans of war — lest we forget.

 

Mary F. (Walker) Gaudet lives in Charlottetown.

Organizations: Canadian Army Medical Corps, Institute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island

Geographic location: Charlottetown, England, Canada Prince Edward Island Shorncliffe Halifax

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