Hold the Oxo!

Hold the Oxo!

A Teenage Soldier Writes Home

Book - 2011
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Short-listed for the 2014 Forest of Reading - White Pine Award for Non-Fiction

Canada was young during the First World War, and with as many as 20,000 underage soldiers leaving their homes to join the war effort, the country's army was, too. Jim, at 17, was one of them, and he penned countless letters home. But these weren't the writings of an ordinary boy. They were the letters of a lad who left a small farming community for the city on July 15, 1915, a boy who volunteered to serve with the 79th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.

Jim's letters home gloss over the horrors of war, focusing instead on issues of the home front: of harvesting, training the horses, and the price of hogs. Rarely do these letters, especially those to his mother and father, mention the mud and rats, the lice and stench of the trenches, or the night duty of cutting barbed wire in no man's land. For 95 years his letters remained in a shoebox decorated by his mother.

Jim was just 18 when he was wounded and died during the Battle of the Somme. Hold the Oxo! tells the story that lies between the lines of his letters, filling in the historical context and helping us to understand what it was like to be Jim.

Publisher: Toronto : Dundurn Press, 2011
ISBN: 9781554888702
Branch Call Number: 940.48171 BRO 2011 22


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SPL_Childrens Jul 29, 2014

The subtitle of this book is revealing. Many of the soldiers who fought in World War I (and also in World War II) were just teenagers. Marion Brooker’s uncle, Jim Fargey (the writer of these letters to family members at home) was one of them. At 17 years of age, he volunteered to leave his small Manitoba farming community to serve overseas with the 79th Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.

In his letters – especially those to his parents - Jim rarely mentioned the true hardships that he and other soldiers faced. The death, destruction and the utter horror of the battlefield – and the cold, the mud, the rats and lice of the trenches – were glossed over. Instead, he wrote of more “normal” things such as the weather and training the war horses. He often asked about the crops at home.

The text, poems and photos which accompany Jim’s letters reveal more of the true picture of what it must have been for a soldier fighting in the “Great War”. Life at the Western Front was harsh at best. The shelling and danger were constant. Food was in short supply, as was proper sanitation. Infection and disease were rampant, killing many soldiers.

Wounded at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, Jim died soon afterwards at only 18 years of age. His letters, which form the basis of this poignant and informative book, have been kept and treasured by his family.

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SPL_Childrens Jul 29, 2014

SPL_Childrens thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over


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