Bryan Davies is a writer, commentator, and creative works consultant. Author of several hundred articles spanning history, law, sport, and politics, in 2013 he and Andrew Traficante co-founded Tagona Creative, a successful Canadian creative-works incubator. Bryan is also a founding partner with United Front Entertainment, a Canadian film distribution and content development enterprise. Bryan lives in Whitby, Ontario.
A Boy from Botwood
A proud Newfoundland soldier’s memoir gives unprecedented details of life as a German POW during the First World War.
I’m going to tell my story. With those words, eighty-three-year-old Arthur Manuel set his remarkable First World War memoir in motion.
Like many Great War veterans, Manuel had never discussed his wartime life with anyone. Hidden in the Manuel family records until its 2011 discovery by his grandson David Manuel, Arthur’s story is now brought to new life.
Determined to escape his impoverished rural Newfoundland existence, he enlisted with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in late 1914. His harrowing accounts of life under fire span the Allies’ ill-fated 1915 Gallipoli campaign, the Regiment’s 1916 near-destruction at Beaumont-Hamel, and his 1917 Passchendaele battlefield capture. Manuel’s account of his seventeen-month POW experience, including his nearly successful escape from a German forced labour camp, provides unique, compelling Great War insights.
Powerful memories undimmed by age shine through Manuel’s lucid prose. His visceral hatred of war, and of the leaders on both sides who permitted such senseless carnage to continue, is ferocious yet tempered by Manuel’s powerful affection for common soldiers like himself, German and Allied alike. This poignant, angry, witty, and provocative account rings true like no other.
Along with heaviness, there is wit and wisdom in its pages.
A fascinating, well-told account of the exigencies of war and his time served as a POW, A Boy from Botwood is a true treasure.
Andrew Traficante teaches high school with the Algoma District School Board in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. Recently, Andrew wrote and researched an online exhibit exploring the Sault’s industrial heritage for the Virtual Museum of Canada