Kiss the kids for dad, Don’t forget to write
The Wartime Letters of George Timmins, 1916-18
Between 1916 and 1918, Lance-Corporal George Timmins, a British-born soldier who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, wrote faithfully to his wife, May, and three children back home in Oshawa. Sixty-three letters and four fragments survived.
These letters tell the compelling story of a man who, while helping his fellow Canadians make history at Vimy, Lens, Passchendaele, and Amiens, used letters home to remain a presence in the lives of his wife and children, and who drew strength from his family to appreciate life’s simple pleasures, when they were afforded. A quiet heroism and the enduring values of the everyday underpin this ordinary soldier’s arresting descriptions of the brotherhood of the trenches and activities behind the lines in Belgium and France.
The letters in Kiss the kids for dad, Don’t forget to write, transcribed and annotated by Y.A. Bennett, offer a rare glimpse into the experiences and relationships, at home and abroad, of a Canadian infantryman, and illuminate themes such as identity, authority, gender, and community that have become central to the way we understand our nation’s past. It will appeal to anyone interested in Canadian social and military history or how ordinary soldiers experienced and survived the Western Front.
Without a doubt, Kiss the kids for dad is a superbly edited volume that offers insight into the multifarious challenges faced by a Canadian soldier at the front, and a Canadian family at home in Ontario.
Written with passion and candour, these letters add substantially to our understanding of a soldier's experience of the war. They provide great insight into the views of a married infantryman, as Timmins writes openly about his feelings with respect to his family and the behind-the-lines activities of the common soldier. He also offers a rare glimpse – sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous – into soldier camaraderie and relationships with the French civilian population.
Kiss the Kids for Dad offer us new insight into the multiple themes and narratives that underpin the First World War experience: the role of the civilian-soldier in war, the horror and brutality of trench warfare, the boredom and banality of military service. Timmins’s letters, framed within a solid historical background, also reveal his personal struggle with having left his family behind to fend for themselves in Canada
1 “about 35 yds from Fritz”: May–December 1916
2 “He was killed by my side”: January–June 1917
3 “I’m still fine”: July–November 1917
4 “It’s hell, kiddo, hell”: December 1917–April 1918
5 “Keep on hoping, sweetheart”: May–December 1918
Epilogue “Don’t forget to write to Grandpa”
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