Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Emma Gees - Captain Herman W. McBride

"The Emma Gees" is a classic of WWI literature by Captain Herbert Wesley McBride (b. 1875 - d. 1933) who also wrote "A Rifleman Went to War". It is a recounting of the highlights of McBride's experiences as a machinegunner in the Twenty-first Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force in France during WWI.

I thought there was much to learn beyond the recounting of his activities and actions.  There is a certain attitude of expressed indifference that seemed to prevail at that time.  Expressed not actual indifference.  I think that he was anything BUT indifferent is shown in his efforts to avenge the deaths of his fellow soldiers or, later, to mark the death place of his friend, LCPL William Emmanuel Bouchard. One thing for certain, while McBride recounts his experiences, it is not done in a way to promote himself as in the way that a certain public figure has done with regards to the death of a terrorist leader. In truth, most comments about his own actions seem intended only to show how he was there and how he knows what happened. Neither does McBride attempt to account for activities outside his immediate location except for what he heard about those actions at that time. I found that refreshing.

The book has a number of quality photos of action at the front and maps of the trenches. Unfortunately, I am read this on my Kindle and if Kindle has a weakness it is that one can't see page size maps easily. However, the book is so good that I think one should have a hardbound copy.

Captain McBride was one of those men whose life excited the young men in the past.  It was fully adventurous and exciting (before we fully understood what "adventurous" and "exciting" really meant!). An obituary for Herbert McBride from the May 1933 American Rifleman as follows:
Capt. Herbert W. McBride, Indiana National Guard, has passed away at the age of 59 years, and in his passing the shooting game has lost one of its staunchest veteran supporters. His death, which came suddenly at his home in Indianapolis, was attributed to heart trouble. Not long before, he had suffered a fractured shoulder in an automobile accident while on duty in the troublous mining area of his state. From boyhood Captain McBride, a son of the late Judge Robert W. McBride of the Indiana Supreme Court, was devoted to the outdoors and to small arms. He had a varied and colorful career. Gold mining in Alaska, logging, railroad construction work in the Yukon and northern British Columbia, exploring, hunting and fishing widely, wars - all these formed interesting chapters of activity in his life. Biology, geology, ethnology, anthropology, botany and entomology, in addition to his long devotion to shooting, all claimed his attention. As a writer, too, Captain McBride was not unknown, in which connection it might be mentioned that a story written by him "Dog Eat Dog," a narrative of one of his sniping experiences in the World War, will appear in an early issue of The American Rifleman. Captain McBride had handled about every type of small arms extant during his lifetime. His fondness for guns was acquired in his tender years, and he had shot his first deer and wild turkey before he was 10 years old. As a member of the Indiana National Guard Team he shot at the National Matches from 1905 to 1911 inclusive, and he won the Indiana State Championship in 1905, 1906 and 1907. Also, he attended six National Matches after 1919. He was the organizer of the Indiana State Rifle Association and many rifle clubs, and served as N.R.A. State Secretary for Indiana for a number of years. Captain McBride always maintained a close association with some military organization from March, 1888, up until the time of his death. He was associated with the Military Smokeless Powder Division of the Du Pont Company from 1907 to 1912, going back to British Columbia in 1912, where he ranged all along the Upper Frazer in connection with the building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad. In 1914 he was in command of a company of the Indiana National Guard, but resigned and went to Canada where he served as captain and military instructor in the 38th and 21st Battalions until the latter was sent overseas in May, 1915. He then resigned his commission and accompanied the battalion as a private machine gunner. He served overseas until early in 1917, when he was invalided home. Reaching this country late in April, he was assigned to duty as an instructor. He served throughout the remainder of the war in that capacity. when the Small Arms Firing School was organized at Camp Perry in May, 1918, he was one of the first instructors. Captain McBride, before wounds cut short his was service, was decorated with the British Military Medal for capturing 12 machine guns at the Battle of St. Eloi in Flanders in 1916, the Medaille Militaire for invading the German lines and capturing a German flag, and the Croix de Guerre. He was wounded seven times. In addition to his service in the World War, Captain McBride also saw service in the South African Boer War. Following the war, Captain McBride spent most of his time in Washington and Oregon, returning to Indianapolis about 18 months ago.

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