Flare-Pistol Pete

A recent interview on CBC Radio had members of the Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP) being interviewed. One of the points that was made was that most art was not produced in the theatre of war but often many years later. For example, A. Y. Jackson's paintings of war scenes were produced after he served with the 60th Battalion of the C.E.F. in WWI.

The CBC program also mentioned that many artistic works in this CFAP were not of specific scenes of war but of amalgamations of various events. This then got me thinking about some poetry that I had been reading recently by Flare-Pistol Pete.

Flare-Pistol Pete was the pseudonym of Burnett Alexander Ward, a teacher and poet. Burnett was born in Wingham, Ontairo on 28 March 1897 to John & Amelia Ward. When Burnett was still young, his family moved to Bracebridge, Ontario where his father worked as a carpenter. With the onset of WWI, Burnett then enlisted into the 122nd Battallion (a.k.a. the Muskoka Foresters.)

After the Great War, Burnett married Ruth Ellen Kinsey, a recent divorcee at Toronto's Riverdale Presbyterian Church on 7 November 1925.

They remained married until 2 March 1948 when they divorced in Vancouver, B.C. What happened to Ruth after this point in time remains unclear, but it is known that Burnett married once again. This time it was to Sheila Kathleen Falconer, a native of B. C., however, they too divorced in 1969.

In 1935, Burnett published a book of poetry called "Verey Lights, from the Listening Post". In which, he addresses the themes of social justice, religion, war, poverty, politics, etc. Of these themes, the one that really emerges is that of war. Again they seem to be conglomerations of various personal experiences with the 122nd and 208th Battalions of the CEF and are still relavent to him even though the Great War had ended more than a decade before. Adding to his poetry are some very striking art deco works by Sy Moyer.

To My Comrades Of The "Commonwealth"
And To The Dispossessed Of All The World

by Burnett A. Ward

We build today a mansion for the Morning
From out the ragged ruins of yesterday;
The firm foundations for a world new-borning
We build today.

Old gods are sunken, and their fanes decay;
Glad songs of yesterday are hushed in mourning,
Old orders crumble, and their kings are fey.

We build anew, their crumpled footings scorning,
With ashlars other buildings cast away
Of Justice, Truth, and Hope for the adorning,
We build today.


(Dedication to "Verey Lights", 1935): To My Comrades Of The "Commonwealth" And To The Dispossessed Of All The World This Book Is Dedicated By The Author.

Both Burnett and Sheila passed away a few weeks apart in 1974 in the Vancouver area.


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