Sometime over the Christmas break, Chris Wight let me know that the Black Watch/Royal Highlanders of Canada had published the Regimental History of the 73rd Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada 1915-1917. We had known that the history existed, and we believed that it was in manuscript form in the Black Watch Archives. It was welcome news that it was finally published. The cost of printing small lots is now affordable, so the Royal Highlanders have decided to test the waters with a limited printing of 200 copies. I already have copies of Fetherstonhaugh’s History of the 13th Battalion, and Topp’s history of the 42nd, so this volume would round out my collection of Black Watch histories. Having grown up in the Montreal area, a lot of men that I research ended up with the Highlanders, so this was a welcome addition. The book is only available through the Black Watch web site, and this led to a set of very fortuitous circumstances.
After receiving the eMail from Chris, I immediately went to the Black Watch site to order it. Living in the States, it is difficult to get foreign money orders, so I wanted to pay for it via PayPal, which proved to be, shall we say, challenging. PayPal, apparently only works with certain browsers and versions and none of the ones I had (and running a web site, I have quite a few that I use to test with) would work. Besides, as my wife pointed out, the shipping costs to the States were a tad high, so she suggested that I get a relative to pick it up and send it to me. Somewhat petulant (“but then I’ll have to wait for them to mail it”) I conceded that it made sense. She also pointed out that we were going to be up in the area in another week, but we both knew that we seldom have time to drive into downtown Montreal on our annual whirlwind Christmas visit. I knew that my brother-in-law would readily agree to get it for me, but they were out of town and I figured I’d ask him once we got together over the weekend.
Our annual Christmas trek had been postponed until the week after new Years to accommodate the families various schedules, so Penney and I drove up from Columbus, Ohio to Ottawa the Wednesday after New Years. We spent two days with fiends there, and then headed down to Godmanchester, a small township about 50 km south-west of Montreal. It’s a bit out of the way, but we always stop in Pointe-Claire, in Montreal’s west island, to pick up some Montreal bagels to bring back with us (nothing compares to Montreal bagels). Penney also wanted to do a bit of shopping and on the drive down from Ottawa she suggested that I leave her to do the shopping, and then I could go into town and pick up the book. She called the Black Watch Armory (they say that they will open the Kit Shop by appointment) and was told that they would be happy to open it up for me. I dropped Penney off at a mall in Pointe Claire, drove downtown (it’s been years since I’ve driven in that area) and made my way down to the Armory on Bleury. Cal Kufta, the archivist at the Black Watch Regimental Museum, let me in and we proceeded to have a great chat for the next hour. Cal gave me some background on the book, explaining that it was the publishing costs that had prevented it from being published in 1944, that a very small “proofs” had been published and one was in the Regimental library, along with the original manuscript. With the declining printing costs, they had decided to publish it as it was originally written, but with an updated Nominal Roll. It turns out that Mike Cher had gone through all the Part II’s for the Battalion, and had compiled an updated nominal roll. Having gone through some of the Part II’s, and being very familiar with data extraction and transcription, I can only imagine the work that was involved.
The result is a great addition to any Great War reference library. The narrative gives an almost day-by-day account of the Battalion from its formation until it was broken up after the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The above mentioned Nominal roll makes it indispensible in its own right, and the notes on members of the Battalion after it was broken up were great reading.
All in all, one of the better Regimental histories. In a word (or 2), “Buy it”! You won’t be disappointed. It’s $24 well spent.
Cal also explained that if anyone is having trouble ordering it, either because of the PayPal issue or any other reason, use the form on the website to contact him, or call the Kit shop phone number, and he’ll be happy to help you. Absolutely 1st class customer service!
I also picked up a Black Watch CD; one of my neighbours used to play Bagpipes with them, but that’s a story for another day.