Did a Ghost Save this Canadian Soldier?

Was Corporal Bird Saved by His Dead Brother at Vimy Ridge?

Corporal Will Bird of the 42nd Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, was sleeping fitfully in his cold dugout near Vimy Ridge, April 1917. Two warm hands on his back woke him. He opened his eyes expecting to see one of the lads from his company, but there was his brother Steve.

Will R Bird, 42nd Battalion, Black Watch of Canada, First World War

Will R. Bird, 42nd Battalion, Black Watch of Canada, claimed to have been saved by a ghost during the First World War

Steve Bird was also in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, or had been. He had been killed some two years earlier.

Will watched as Steve rose and walked towards the dugout door. Before leaving, Steve turned and beckoned to Will to follow. Will got up and followed his brother out into the cold pre-dawn morning.

Steve led Will over No Man’s Land to a ruined building. And then vanished. Will collapsed.

Will woke several hours later and hurried back to the trenches before he could be missed. The dugout, however, was no more. A German shell had scored a direct hit, killing everyone inside.

William Richard Bird was born in East Mapleton, Nova Scotia, in 1891. Soon after the Great War broke out, he and his younger brother Stephen volunteered for the Army. Will, however, was rejected due to the poor condition of his teeth. Steve was killed in France in 1915.

Due to the demand for more men, military health standards were lowered and, after having some teeth removed, Will was accepted for service in the 42nd Battalion, the Black Watch of Canada, and sailed for Europe as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Will Bird was demobilized in 1919, returning to Nova Scotia. He settled in the village of Southampton, married and started a family. He named his son Stephen after his brother.

After failing in running a general store, Will discovered a talent for writing. Amongst many others, he wrote two books about his experiences in the war: And On We Go (1930) and Ghosts Have Warm Hands: A Memoir of the Great War, 1916-1919 (1968).

His son Stephen joined the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and fought and died in the Second World War. Will Bird died in 1984.

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