From a Stretcher Handle: The World War I Journal and Poems of Pte. Frank Walker

Edited by Mary F. Gaudet
Published by Institute of Island Studies
University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PEI
Telephone: (902) 566-0956
www.islandstudies.com (Opens a new window)

Journal
Poem

Introduction: Mary F. Gaudet p.xvi

I remember visiting my father in the nursing home one day shortly before he died. It was November 1977. His formidable mind, which had revealed itself to thousands of Islanders in a long and distinguished career as a newspaper editor, had now become confused.

"Do you know me today, Dad?" I asked.
His head turned slightly, and his eyes widened as he peered up at me.
"You look familiar," he managed.
In an effort to connect with him on a more personal level, I said, "Dad, do you remember your poem, "The Ballad of the Stretcher Bearers'?"

He lay very still for a short time. Suddenly, in a cadence well-known to me, he recited the six verses, word for word, as a single tear fell slowly down his cheek.

The poem was sixty years old. He had written it on the battlefields of Europe. Here at the end of this eighty-three years, disconnected from the present, his mind strayed back to an experience that had seared itself on his memory and had shaped his entire future life. It was obvious to me that the Great War still held deep meaning and lucid memories for my father.

Pte. Frank Walker

From a Stretcher Handle: The World War I Journal & Poems of Pte. Frank Walker is a first-person narrative centred around the life and times of my father, Prince Edward Islander Frank Walker (1893-1977), during his service with the Canadian Field Ambulance, Canadian Medical Corps, from its inception in 1914 until 1919, after the Great War had come to a close.

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