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Father's letters help 'Gunner' author learn Great War's toll

26th Field Regiment Honorary Col. Rick Felstead, left, shakes hands with Canadian film director, producer and writer Paul Almomd following the official ribbon cutting for the First World War exhibit with RAC Museum director Marc George and Base Commander Lt-Col. Stephen Joudrey at CFB Shilo on Monday.

BRUCE BUMSTEAD / BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

26th Field Regiment Honorary Col. Rick Felstead, left, shakes hands with Canadian film director, producer and writer Paul Almomd following the official ribbon cutting for the First World War exhibit with RAC Museum director Marc George and Base Commander Lt-Col. Stephen Joudrey at CFB Shilo on Monday.

It was a jam-packed few days in Brandon for author, director and producer Paul Almond.

After opening the Royal Canadian Artillery Museum’s newest exhibit, "The Great War 1914-1915," he sat down to read excerpts from his novel "The Gunner"’ yesterday at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba.

The book is set against the backdrop of the Great War and draws from some of the experiences of his father, who served in the artillery and was wounded six times in battle.

Almond found a series of letters his father wrote during the time and worked it into

the book. He also relied on detailed medical records.

"I never knew him because he had shell shock, which is called PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) today, and he went into hospital soon after I was born, so I never met him and he died in hospital before I could see him," he said.

With only letters to go on, Almond said he spent countless hours researching the book and leaned heavily on RCA Museum director Marc George.

That research helped him realize the incredible toll the First World War exacted, one of the deadliest in history.

"The hospital trains would have a nurse that would live on it for two weeks," Almond said.

"And the poor little thing would have to administer to all these ghastly wounds, bleeding and then at night she had to try to wash all the blood off her uniform for the next day."

» ctweed@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @CharlesTweed

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 6, 2014

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It was a jam-packed few days in Brandon for author, director and producer Paul Almond.

After opening the Royal Canadian Artillery Museum’s newest exhibit, "The Great War 1914-1915," he sat down to read excerpts from his novel "The Gunner"’ yesterday at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba.

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It was a jam-packed few days in Brandon for author, director and producer Paul Almond.

After opening the Royal Canadian Artillery Museum’s newest exhibit, "The Great War 1914-1915," he sat down to read excerpts from his novel "The Gunner"’ yesterday at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba.

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