Heard Amid the Guns: True Stories from the Western Front, 1914-1918 is the newest book from Vancouver Island author Jacqueline Carmichael. The cover features a picture of Harold Monks Sr., a signaller from Tofino. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Heard Amid the Guns: True Stories from the Western Front, 1914-1918 is the newest book from Vancouver Island author Jacqueline Carmichael. The cover features a picture of Harold Monks Sr., a signaller from Tofino. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Port Alberni author gives voice to diversity of First World War participants

Heard Amid the Guns is the latest book by author Jacqueline Carmichael

The newest book from Port Alberni author Jacqueline Carmichael explores the human side of the First World War.

Heard Amid the Guns: True Stories from the Western Front, 1914-1918 is the latest book written by Carmichael, a long-time journalist and Port Alberni resident.

The subject is familiar ground for Carmichael, who offered a “real-time” glimpse of daily brutalities on the front lines in her 2018 book Tweets from the Trenches, by refashioning snippets from personal correspondences into the form of a 21st century Twitter feed.

For her new book, Carmichael said she wanted to branch out and expand beyond the “white Anglo-Saxon male” perspective, giving a voice to those often overlooked by history. Carmichael researched “more than a thousand” postcards, letters, war records and “every museum I could get to.” She also interviewed several other wartime descendants.

“I expanded my knowledge past my own family, to every province and territory, and even other countries,” said Carmichael. “It really was a World War.”

The result is a narrative gathered from letters, diaries and interviews that shows the human side of the war.

“I looked for a range of people,” Carmichael said. “People who were different from each other and had diverse backgrounds. I really wanted to do a good job of broadly portraying the sort of people who were involved in the war.”

Highlights include profiles of people from nearly every Canadian province, including people of colour and women. The book is “roughly chronological,” said Carmichael, but themed sections explore racism in the military, gender roles at home and on the front and even animals who served in battle—from dogs to pigeons.

Heard Amid the Guns also includes the stories of Vancouver Island soldiers like Port Alberni’s George Bird, who wrote letters to his father about his experience at the Somme. Bird eventually died of injuries sustained in the Battle of Arras in June 1917.

Carmichael was finishing her book when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and as a result she went back to expand the chapter in her book on the influenza pandemic in 1918.

“My own grandfather was ill at that time,” she explained.

The book is illustrated throughout with First World War-era photos, postcards, documents and Carmichael’s own contemporary photos from battlefield sites and monuments. It also includes a number of tools for educators, like an index and a timeline of events.

Carmichael, the second-generation product of two soldiers in the First World War, was inspired by the letters and journals of her paternal grandfather, George “Black Jack” Vowel. In 2016 she travelled to Europe to walk on the western front in his footsteps.

“I went and walked where they fought,” Carmichael explained. “After walking, I guess I realized the scale of it—how much bigger it was than my grandfathers.”

Heard Amid the Guns got personal for Carmichael, as she went into detail about her grandparents’ “difficult” marriage after the war. From his journals, Carmichael said it was clear that Vowel had undergone a transformation during the war.

“His journals were no longer funny,” she said. “They were more terse. After the war, he was changed. He had a terrible temper. He was difficult with his kids and his wife.”

Overall, Carmichael said the project helped her gain a better understanding of the people who lived through this pivotal period in history.

“I learned that they were just like us,” said Carmichael. “They were young, in love, scared. They had their social media—postcards and telegrams and letters.”

Heard Amid the Guns was released by Heritage House on Nov. 3. Carmichael said this was her first time working with a publishing house, as opposed to self-publishing.

“They were so supportive,” said Carmichael. “It’s been a remarkable experience. I’m proud of Canadian publishers for taking on a project like this, in the middle of a pandemic.”

Due to COVID-19, Carmichael will not be holding any book signings or public events, but she does have a Facebook page for Heard Amid the Guns with dramatic video-readings of the book.

Heard Amid the Guns is available to purchase on Amazon, although Carmichael hopes to have it stocked in local stores, as well.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

First World WarPort AlberniRemembrance Day

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Heard Amid the Guns: True Stories from the Western Front, 1914-1918 is the newest book from Vancouver Island author Jacqueline Carmichael. The cover features a picture of Harold Monks Sr., a signaller from Tofino. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Heard Amid the Guns: True Stories from the Western Front, 1914-1918 is the newest book from Vancouver Island author Jacqueline Carmichael. The cover features a picture of Harold Monks Sr., a signaller from Tofino. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Above, Jacqueline Carmichael is a long-time journalist who currently lives in Port Alberni, B.C. Left, the cover of Heard Amid the Guns cover features a picture of Harold Monks Sr., a signaller from Tofino. (SUBMITTED PHOTOS)

Above, Jacqueline Carmichael is a long-time journalist who currently lives in Port Alberni, B.C. Left, the cover of Heard Amid the Guns cover features a picture of Harold Monks Sr., a signaller from Tofino. (SUBMITTED PHOTOS)

Just Posted

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Overlooking Ucluelet’s Main Street shopping district, Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce executive director Laurie Filgiano cozies up with ‘Snowy’, the beloved decorating contest trophy. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet’s Midnight Madness shopping spree gets a stiff shot of madness this weekend

“As a community, I think we will come out of this stronger.”

Josie Osborne was sworn into the Legislature virtually on Nov. 24. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne named minister of municipal affairs

The position was previously held by Selina Robinson, who is the province’s new finance minister

A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Westerly file photo)
Leaders from Tofino-Ucluelet region urge tourists to stay away for two weeks

The West Coast is pausing its winter tourist season temporarily due to rising COVID-19 numbers

This large Spruce was one of several trees that came crashing down around CARE’s animal shelter during Nov. 17’s windstorm. (CARE Network photo)
Funding and fosters needed after storm destroys fencing at Tofino-Ucluelet animal shelter

The damage forced an evacuation of the facility, which was sheltering five animals at the time.

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Most Read