Earlier this year I joined the Western Front Association – Pacific Coast Branch (WFA-PCB) and booked my place at the 2016 Seminar held on March 4, 5 and 6 at the Bay Street Armoury in Victoria, BC. Over 70 participants from across western Canada and the USA gathered in The Officers’ Mess of The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) to share their stories and expertise on the First World War.
The event kicked off on Friday evening in the Mess Bar, an opportunity for participants to mingle, view the fine collection of military artefacts and sample one or more of the 55 single malts on offer.
An early start on a bright and sunny Saturday morning was necessary to ensure a good seat in what was soon a packed Sir Arthur Currie Room. John Azar, WFA-PCB Chair, was the first of five scheduled speakers:
1916, by John Azar
- The Birth of Modern Intelligence, by Dr. John Ferris
- Admirals Jellicoe and Beatty at Jutland and After, by Dr. Barry Gough
- Britain’s Pals Battalions: Community Disasters and the Road to Conscription, 1916, by Dr. James Wood
- Canadians on the Somme, by Jim Kempling
I enjoyed all of the talks but was particularly fascinated by Jim Kempling’s presentation which featured quotes from his grandfather’s diary. I’ve read quite a few diaries over the years but none contained as many detailed and insightful observations as those shared here.
Prior commitments meant that I could not attend the Mess Dinner that evening but by all accounts it was a very enjoyable event. The keynote speaker was Lt. Col. Stephen Sawyer, CO, Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) who spoke on The 100th Anniversary of the Bay Street Armoury.
The 2016 Seminar concluded with a half-day program on Sunday featuring five speakers:
- The Great War Tank, by Rollie Keith
- Service Corps and Supply Trains, by Ted Leaker
- Still Bravely Singing: Birds of the Western Front, by Alan MacLeod
- Roses of Picardy, by Susan Neeson
- Saanich Remembers The First World War Project, by Caroline Duncan
So what are my thoughts on my first WFA-PCB seminar? I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great opportunity to meet fellow enthusiasts and to share interests and expertise.
The 2017 Seminar will be held on March 3, 4 and 5 in Victoria and I encourage you to visit the WFA-PCB website for more information. I’d like to extend a special thank you to branch member Alan MacLeod who kindly allowed me to feature his photographs in this article.
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