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Robert Dorman
75th division
Canadian Expeditionary Force



Poems from the Great War

Copyright Karl Sack

The following poems and story are extracted from a family history of my maternal grandfather Robert Osborne Dorman, that my cousin and brother created, when he was enlisted in the army during WWI.

Robert Dorman was born on the 6th of January 1900 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The son of an Irish artistic designer, James W Dorman and his Welsh wife Isobella Fackrell. He was one of seven children, five brothers and one sister. It appears that his childhood was quite normal for people of his class at the turn of the century.

He never advanced further in school than grade three, and by the age of nine he was working full time at Borden's Dairy, where he was still that day, when war came to call him.

He joined the Canadian Army in the fall of 1914. His mother Isobella was horrified, and managed to have him discharged by Christmas of that same year. He was fourteen years old. However on June 13, 1915, after what we can imagine was quite the battle at home, he rejoined the army enlisting in the 75th division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), and was shipped to Horsham, England.

Within months he would be fighting in the drowning muds of France and Belgium. It was about that time that he began to write the following poems. His poetry is a first hand account, sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, of his life in the trenches as a Canadian soldier during "The war that was to end all wars!".

My grandfather was among the first Canadians to be gassed at the battle for Passchendaele. Inhaling it was like thrusting your face into a vat of vinegar, then opening your eyes and breathing deeply. Only worse. He nearly died. Robert was sent back to England to recover from his gassing, and it was there that he married the young girl that he had met and fallen in love with, Florence Cowley. Their marriage certificate states that Robert was 21 and Florence was 19, though in reality he was 17 and she was 16!

Following his discharge from the army, Robert held many different jobs, one of which was a cook for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He travelled Canada from coast to coast many times, and was never less than awed by the power and the beauty of the land. In 1933, with never more than a grade three education, Robert began working for the Immigration Department as a deportation officer.

On September 13, 1947, the now defunct Montreal Standard newspaper, published an article dealing with Robert and his many exploits. He retired from I.C. with full honor in 1949.

I have copied the poems word for word as he wrote them. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have (and still do). If you have any comments please send me an email to Karl Sack

Enjoy the poems...Karl Sack

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