“A Brush Cut” – a soldier’s poem to Nurse Styles

In August 1916 Nurse Ethel Styles opened to the first page of her autograph book and wrote:

Memories are ever dear,

Memories of “The Boys”

Nurse Styles was serving at the Bethnal Green Military Hospital in London and in her book are recorded the musings, drawings and poetry of wounded Commonwealth soldiers arriving from the Somme, Courcelette and the Battle of Arras.

The 97th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge is two days away and so I’ve selected a cheeky poem written by a young Canadian soldier wounded on the second day of that battle. I have no photo of Private Garside but evidently he had a fine head of hair!

From Nurse Ethel Styles' autograph album

From Nurse Ethel Styles’ autograph album

Private John William McKinley Garside was born in Providence, Rhode Island to English parents in 1896. His parents emigrated to the US in 1891 but the family eventually moved back to the UK. They emigrated a second time in 1910, this time permanently and to the small town of Hespeler near Berlin, Ontario. In 1916 Berlin, after much debate, was renamed Kitchener in honour of Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener who died in June of that year.

John joined the 111th (South Waterloo) Overseas Battalion on February 21, 1916 but eventually transferred to the 75th (Mississauga) Battalion, part of the 4th Canadian Division. He survived the war and returned to Ontario where he married and lived until his death in 1958.

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