It Made You Think of Home: The Haunting Journal of Deward Barnes, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1916-1919

It Made You Think of Home: The Haunting Journal of Deward Barnes, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1916-1919

It Made You Think of Home: The Haunting Journal of Deward Barnes, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1916-1919

It Made You Think of Home: The Haunting Journal of Deward Barnes, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1916-1919

Synopsis

"We took our positions, five kneeling and five standing... we got the order to fire. One blank and nine live rounds... I did not have the blank."

That is the voice of Deward Barnes, an unwilling but dutiful member of the firing squad that shot Harold Lodge, one of 25 Canadians executed during the First World War. In this diary we hear something that is otherwise gone forever: the authentic voice of the First World War soldier, Everyman in khaki. Fully annontated so that everyone today can understand the nuance of each entry, the Barnes diary takes us into the trenches and the firing lines of the Western Front like no other first-hand Canadian account of that terrible war can. Like any trained infantryman, Deward could tell the kick of a live round from a blank one, and that kick he bestows on us with each turn of the page.

Excerpt

We don’t know very much about the early life of Deward Barnes. A glance through his army service record reveals that he was born in Toronto on September 2, 1888; that his father, who was from Bristol, England, died before Deward volunteered for military service; and that his mother, Eliza, married again. But beyond this, his childhood exists today only in family stories and what we can reconstruct from the pages of his diary.

It appears Deward’s family — which included three sisters, Beatrice, Norah, and Dorothy — lived comfortably enough, probably in central Toronto, where it is thought Deward attended Jesse Ketchum elementary school. However, he withdrew from the public educational system before reaching high school, and chose instead to work. It was likely then that Deward found a job in the workshop of National Casket, a coffin factory located just north of the old fort that marks the site of Toronto’s birthplace. There, he worked as an apprentice machinist, grinding profiles into the steel blades used to shape the decorative wood mouldings and panels on the coffin lids and sides.

One other detail from Deward’s pre-war life is certain: he met and fell in love with a young woman, Lucy Field, and the two became engaged.

In 1839, the Treaty of London recognized the newly independent kingdom of Belgium and declared it would remain a neutral state.

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