It is nearly a century since my grandmother covered the shoebox with cream velvet, painted a Union Jack Flag on the lid and intertwined roses around the sides interspersed with the words God Save our King. It has travelled many miles and three generations since that night of October 14, 1914 when it held the evening lunch for a Box Social put on by the Belmont Patriotic Society as a fundraiser for World War 1 which had been declared on August 4 of that year. Little did she dream that nine months later this box would hold letters home from England, Belgium and France to his family by Jim, their 17 year old son.
In the beginning one of the most difficult tasks for me was deciding who should tell Jim’s story. Although I had travelled to the World War 1 sites in Belgium and France and although I had read many books about the battles, I could in no way imagine the horror of the conditions these soldiers were experiencing. In the end, I decided to let Jim tell much of the story through excerpts from his letters home and from his field diary. Through these I was able to follow his movements in the field and enlarge on the battles and events in which he was involved. By touching the tiny pencil with which he made his field diary entries, I felt his closeness. As I wrote I could not help juxtaposing these young men going off to war with our young country which was also growing and expanding and facing new challenges. I included aspects of Canadian history of the time to give context. By writing Hold The Oxo! A Teenage Soldier Writes Home for young adult and adult readers, my hope was to bring to life a part of our history which is quickly fading.