1. The Padre

From the recording Ours and the Shepherds


For Chaplain William Henry Davis, Lte. Jack Campbell, Capt. John Woods, Pte. Jaf Eaton, Sgt. Major Dunlop

“Chaplain Davis was the Anglican rector of St. Peter’s Church in Bonnie Doon when he joined the 138th battalion, but went to the front with the 4th CMRs. At the battle of Paschendaele, waving a Red Cross flag, Davis took out a large party of stretcher-bearers under fire to search for wounded in No Man’s Land. His fearlessness may have triggered a spontaneous truce, as the Germans ceased fired. For his part in this strange interlude, Davis was awarded the Military Cross. In 1918 at the Battle of Amiens he was directing stretcher-bearers with wounded men when a shell killed him. Davis had previously turned down his bishop’s request to return to Edmonton, in order to stay with his men. “He came from Western Canada but he had retained his Irish heart and Celtic charm. If he knew what fear was he never showed it…No officer was more loved for his character or admired for his bravery than Padre Davis”, wrote the 4th CMR’s historian.”

“I was William Henry Davis
from Edmonton’s parish of Bonnie Doon.
I followed St. Paul to Calvary,
my flock, the 8th Canada Brigade.
Compassion I felt and bravery I feigned;
and ‘The Padre’ was my name.

And it’s a good life if we forgive it.
And when we forgive it’s a good life, it’s a good life.

I buried Lieutenant Jack Campbell,
said a prayer for Captain Johnny Woods.
I tripped on a skull in the Paschendaele spring
rain-washed of dignity’s muddy grave.
The tag was missing but I knew by the teeth
the remains of Smilin’ Jaf Eaton.

I gave a service for Sergeant-Major Dunlop
and by whom I saw God’s Son’s cry.
Shot in the stomach at Abraham’s Heights,
my dying God mouthed to the black wind, ‘why?’
A stretcher-bearer offered up a ‘Woodbine;’
and for that last grace Death will wait a while.

My bones lie in Quesnel beside my men.
My Atonement, the Battle of Amiens.
Cleansed of my big and dark Irish heart
by the good shrapnel through which I came.
I was William Henry Davis
ah, but ‘The Padre’ was my name.”