Edward Willett

My latest book: the First World War memoirs of my grandfather-in-law

The cover of One Lucky Devil: The First World War Memoirs of Sampson J. Goodfellow (Shadowpaw Press).

My latest book isn’t one I wrote, it’s one I edited. It’s One Lucky Devil, the First World War memoirs of my grandfather-in-law, Sampson J. Goodfellow, published by my new publishing company, Shadowpaw Press.

I always knew that this would be the second book from Shadowpaw Press, after my collection of short stories, Paths to the Stars, and also knew I wanted to time it to come out just before this November 11, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the Great War.

It’s had great publicity: here’s an interview from the popular John Gormley Show on CKRM Radio, and here’s a front-page feature from the Regina LeaderPost.

You can buy it, in both print and ebook formats, through all the usual bookstore channels, including Chapters/Indigo, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble, as well as directly from me through Shadowpaw Press or my own online store (in the latter two cases, you can, of course, get it autographed, although not, alas, by Sam, who died in 1979, and also not, alas, in the case of ebooks, because I haven’t figured out a good way to do that yet).

Here’s the back cover copy:

Born in Scotland, Sampson J. Goodfellow emigrated to Toronto as a child. Like many young Canadian men, he returned to Europe to serve his new country in the First World War, first as a truck driver, then as a navigator on  Handley Page bombers.

Over a span of just six years, Sam witnessed Canada’s deadliest-ever tornado, sparred with world-champion lightweight boxers, survived seasickness and submarines, came under artillery fire at Vimy Ridge, was bombed by German aircraft while unloading shells at an ammunition dump at Passchendaele, joined the Royal Flying Corps, was top of his class in observer school, became a navigator, faced a court-martial for allegedly shooting up the King’s horse-breeding stables, survived being shot down by anti-aircraft fire, was captured at bayonet point and interrogated, became a prisoner of war in Germany…and, in the midst of all that, got engaged.

When Sam was listed as missing, the family of his fiancée went to a fortuneteller for news of his fate. “You couldn’t kill that devil,” she told them. “He is alive and trying to escape.” She was right.

With a sharp eye, a keen mind, a strong body, and an acerbic tongue, Sam survived, as one RAF officer put it when he returned to England after the Armistice, “enough to be dead several times.”

“You have been through hell,” a military doctor told him, “and you have been very lucky as a soldier and airman.”

Sampson J. Goodfellow really was “one lucky devil.” This is his story, in his own words.

And a bit more about Sam:

Sampson J. Goodfellow was an engineer, inventor and First World War veteran. Born in Scotland in 1892, he immigrated to Canada in 1902. He grew up in Toronto, where he apprenticed as a machinist. He worked briefly in Regina, Saskatchewan (where he was a member of the Regina Rugby Club, forerunners to today’s Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club of the Canadian Football League), before returning to Toronto to attend Toronto Technical School. He enlisted in the Canadian Army and served as truck driver in France before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps, becoming a navigator on a Handley Page bomber. Shot down over German territory, he finished the war in a POW camp. During the war he became engaged to Anne Owen (Nancy) Ridgway; they were married on January 2, 1919, and returned to Regina, where Sam worked in machine engineering, eventually becoming president of Western Machine and Engineering. He and his wife were great patrons of the arts in their adopted city. Late in life, in honour of his work as an inventor, businessman, and philanthropist, Sam received an honourary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Regina. Nancy died in 1974; Sam died in 1979.

I’m thrilled to have these memoirs in print. I hope you’ll check them out.

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