Week 5: “Mopping Up! With the PPCLI”

The first thing to know about “Mopping Up! With the PPCLI” might be the one thing that turns you off:

It was written by a dog.

Bobbie Burns was a collie belonging to Lt. Jack Munroe of the Princess Pats. Bobbie was a regimental mascot who, though he remained behind the lines, manages to recount his master’s adventures, from the declaration of war that took the two out of their northwoods home in Ontario and the discharge from hospital that let them return.

Spoiler: It’s not the dog that gets hurt.

The conceit is whimsical and the writing effusive in the extreme, but it’s also a clear account of what the Pats did, where they went and the intensity of the battles they faced. I would read this alongside Agar Adamson’s letters — editor Norm Christie gives context to Bobbie’s account and explains who the players are as they come up in the narrative.

Here’s a sample of the writing:

“It was such an upheaval as must occur when, through a convulsion of nature, new lands, vomited from the deeps, are thrown upward above raging waters.”

This goes on for three pages. I have never read a more evocative description of bombardment from the point of view of the defenders.

“Mopping Up!” is a wonderful memoir, even though it is extremely biased against the Hun and in favor of Canada, Canada, Canada. And even though it’s written by a dog.

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