The Canadian Expeditionary Force Novels

Forging the Weapon cover 1914
Hammering the Blade cover 1915
Sharpening the Blade cover 1916
Tempering the Blade cover 1917


Frank Rockland

Characters > Fictional

Lieutenant Paul "McGill" Ryan


When Paul Ryan volunteered for the 65th Field Artillery, he didn’t really know what he was getting into. We first meet Paul when he is sneaking into his home after attending a lecture by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Montreal. The famous author was in Canada, at the bequest of the Canadian government, to promote the newly created Jasper National Park. His father was not pleased with Paul’s intent to become a writer.

Paul felt stifled at home by his overprotective mother and his father’s insistence that he study finance or engineering which could be useful for the family's manufacturing business. Paul was intent on moving out of the family home when he started his classes at McGill University in the fall.

When the war broke out, feeling pressure from his girl and friends he decided to volunteer for the 65th Field Artillery. His father objected because he believed, against conventional wisdom, that the war would be a long and bloody one. He offered to use his connections to get him out of the army but Paul refused.

At Valcartier he discovers what his real job was. It wasn’t glamourous. He was assigned a shovel to clean up after the horses that the regiment used to pull the 18-pounder guns. Paul did have some excitement with the occasional stampede by the first contingent’s steeds.

It didn’t improve much when he arrived in Salisbury Plain. as he spent much of his time chasing horses who decided to tour the countryside on their own. The wet weather was tough on Paul but it became even tougher on the animals since they sank deep in the mud. He was fortunate to find an inside job with the remount Bureau until he was transferred back to his unit.


At the start of 1915, Gunner Paul Ryan was training on Salisbury Plain waiting for orders to be deployed to France with the 65th Artillery. On the voyage, his ship got caught in a bad winter storm in the Bay of Biscay. Half his platoon was swept overboard.

When he landed he was sent with the advance party to help prepare for the arrival of the Canadian Division at the front. In March, he was at Ploegsteert Woods receiving instruction on the use of artillery to support the men in the front lines.

In April, he was in the Ypres Salient providing artillery support for the Canadian Division when the Germans delivered their devastating gas attack. During the battle, he got separated from his unit. Eventually, he joined up with Captain Llewellyn and the Richmond Fusiliers as they fought to stop the German onslaught.

At the battle of Givenchy, Ryan, acting as a forward artillery observer, was wounded by a sniper. At the casualty station, he was treated by nurse Samantha Lonsdale.

As his recovered during the summer, he was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant as the Division was desperate to replace lost officers. In the fall, he was assigned to the mortar teams that Lieutenant-General Alderson was experimenting with to provide additional support to the infantry in the front lines.

In the last weeks of 1915 he was in the trenches launching mortar attacks on German positions.


It was an eventful year for Paul. In January he got arrested on false charges for impersonating an officer and using fake leave papers when he was on a 10-day pass in London with his girl.

When he is released he returns to the Ypres Salient where he learns he is assigned to instruct and lead the new Stokes Mortar teams being formed with the Richmond Fusiliers.

In April he is transferred back to the 65th Artillery where he is assigned as an liaison officer with the 7th Belgian Field Artillery that is assigned to support the 1st Division’s operations. In May he rejoins the 65th where his battery provides fire support for the Richmond Fusiliers during the Mount Sorrel battles.

During the months of July and August he is training and preparing for the Canadian Corps move to the Somme. He also testing the new artillery technique of the creeping barrage.

It was during the October battles in the Somme when Major Llewellyn called in close fire support, the Germans were threatening to over the Richmond Fusiliers, that some of his shell fell short burying Lieutenant-Colonel Tennison, the CO of the Fusiliers, and Major Llewellyn in their trench. Tennison was so severely wounded that Llewellyn was given command of the Fusiliers.

In November Ryan is involved in testing the 18-pounders for barrel wear which impacts the guns accuracy. This also meant the constant use of the 18-pounders would affect their availability during the planned spring offensive at Vimy Ridge.

As the year comes to a close Paul is once again firing at the Germans on orders to discourage a repeat of the prior year’s Christmas’s fraternization between the common German and Allied soldiers.


Paul Ryan was born in May 13, 1896 in Montréal Quebec. He attended Westmount High School.

He’s the son of Theresa and Joseph Ryan. He has a fourteen-year-old brother, Cameron, and an eleven-year-old sister, Eloise. His father, Joseph Ryan, is an industrialist who owns several factories of the Montreal’s East End and was a member of the St. James Club.

Military Service