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Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation, and unusual and inconsistent spelling in the original document has been preserved. There are many punctuation confusions and errors in this book. There are many obvious typographical errors in this book, these have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the end of this document.
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ON THE FRINGE OF THE GREAT FIGHT
ON THE FRINGE OF THE GREAT FIGHT
COLONEL GEORGE G. NASMITH, C.M.G.
McCLELLAND, GOODCHILD & STEWART PUBLISHERS :: :: :: TORONTO
COPYRIGHT, CANADA, 1917 McCLELLAND, GOODCHILD & STEWART, LIMITED TORONTO
PRINTED IN CANADA
TO MY WAR BRIDE
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
In Flanders fields the poppies grow, Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place, and in the sky The larks still bravely singing fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead, short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunsets glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe. To you from failing hands we throw The torch: be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies blow In Flanders fields.
JOHN MACCRAE, (Lt.-Col.)
By permission of the author.
PAGE PREFACE xi
CHAPTER I. ON THE ROAD TO A GREAT ADVENTURE 1
CHAPTER II. ON SALISBURY PLAINS 11
CHAPTER III. EARLY WAR DAYS IN LONDON 32
CHAPTER IV. DAYS WHEN THINGS WENT WRONG 46
CHAPTER V. THE LOST CANADIAN LABORATORY 62
CHAPTER VI. THE DAYS BEFORE YPRES 70
CHAPTER VII. THE SECOND BATTLE OF YPRES 83
CHAPTER VIII. THE AFTERMATH OF THE GAS 107
CHAPTER IX. THE MEDICAL ORGANIZATION OF THE BRITISH ARMY 125
CHAPTER X. KEEPING THE BRITISH SOLDIER FIT 134
CHAPTER XI. LABORATORY WORK IN THE FIELD 152
CHAPTER XII. SKETCHES FROM A LABORATORY WINDOW 169
CHAPTER XIII. PARIS IN WAR TIME 189
CHAPTER XIV. TABLE TALK AT A FLANDERS MESS 211
CHAPTER XV. ON THE BELGIAN BORDER 230
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Colonel George G. Nasmith, C.M.G. Frontispiece
Mechanical Transports in Salisbury Floods 16
Major-General M.S. Mercer, C.B. 64
German Barrage Fire at Night 104
French Soldiers Advancing under Cover of Liquid Fire 176
The Camouflage 208
"Home, Sweet Home"—Mud Terrace 232
British Tanks as Used in the Flanders Offensive 248
On April 22nd, 1915, the writer, in company with Major Rankin, saw the Germans launch their first gas attack near St. Julien upon the section of the line held by the French colonial troops and the first Canadian division.
This book was written primarily for the purpose of recording this as well as some of the other experiences of the first Canadian division as seen from the unusual angle of a scientist, in the course of 18,000 miles of travel in the front line area. It had the secondary object of giving the average reader some insight into what goes on behind the lines, and the means employed to maintain the health and efficiency of the British and Canadian soldiers in the field.
No attempt has been made to deal with the work of the real fighting men on land and in the air; others far better qualified than I are doing that.
If the book has no other merit, it has, at least, that of being literally true.
ON THE FRINGE OF THE GREAT FIGHT
ON THE ROAD TO A GREAT ADVENTURE.
It began with a wish. That takes me back to a pleasant day in early August, 1914, and a verandah at Ravenscrag, Muskoka—a broad, cool, verandah overlooking dancing dark waters. A light breeze stirred the leaves and gently wafted to us the smell of the pines and the woods, mingled with the sweet odours of the scented geranium, verbena, and nicotine in the rock-girt garden. But my mind was far removed from the peacefulness of my immediate surroundings: the newspaper I held in my hand was filled with kaleidoscopic descriptions of the great European tumult. Unconsciously I voiced aloud the thought that was uppermost in my mind: "I would gladly give ten years of my life if I could serve my country in this war." "Do not say that," warned my hostess, looking up from her magazine, "for everything comes to you on a wish," and nothing more was said of the matter at the time.
That day was a very quiet one with our little house-party. We made our usual launch trip through the lakes but nobody talked much. Each was busy with his own thoughts, wondering what England could do in the great emergency. Could she, or could she not, save France from the invading hosts of Germany? And deeper in each mind was the unspoken fear, "Perhaps it is already too late to save France—perhaps, even now, the question is 'Can England save herself?'" The great depression in men's minds during those early days of the war when the bottom seemed to have dropped out of life and men strove to grasp at something upon which to reconstruct a new system of thought and life and work, had enveloped us like a chill evening mist.
Those were ghastly days. While France, Russia and England were feverishly mobilizing, the brave little force of Belgians was being steadily rolled up by the perfectly equipped German war machine and the road to France hourly becoming easier. England had commissioned K. of K. to gather together a civilian army of three million men, and Canada had called for one division to be mobilized at Valcartier Camp, a place somewhere in the Laurentian Hills near the city of Quebec. Little did any of us dream how prophetic was to be that apparently chance remark of our hostess. But the first greeting from the maid when we reached home that evening was, "There is a long distance call for you, sir." The Minister of Militia had asked me to report in Ottawa immediately. Next morning I waved my friends, "Au revoir." That return was far from being as speedy as we expected, for my wish very shortly came true.
The greeting of the Minister of Militia, Sir Sam Hughes, as he turned from the desk where he sat in shirt-sleeves, with typewriters on all sides of him, was a cordial handshake and a slap on the back. Would I go down to the new camp at Valcartier and look after the purification of the water supply? I was delighted to get the chance.
A short wait at the office gave me a splendid opportunity of seeing a military headquarters office in operation. Officers of all ranks, from Generals to Majors, hurried in one after another to obtain permission to do this or that; prominent men anxious to do anything they might to assist in the great crisis, crowded the office. Telephone conversations, telegrams, cables, interviews, dictation of letters, reading of letters aloud—to watch or listen to the incessant commingling of all these, with the Minister of Militia as the centre of energy, was a unique experience for me. Sir Sam cracked jokes, dictated letters, swore at the telephone operator, and carried on conversation with a number of persons—all at the same time. It was a marvellous demonstration of what a man could do in an emergency, if he happened to be the right man—the man who not only knew what needed to be done but had sufficient force of character and driving power to convert his decisions into practical achievements.
The following night on our return from an inspection of the new camp at Valcartier I stood near the citadel in Quebec watching the moving lights on the St. Lawrence far below. As I looked the flashes of a powerful searchlight swept the river, lighting up the opposite shores and playing upon the craft in the river. This was the first concrete evidence I had that our country was at war; it was also a reminder that there was even a possibility that Quebec might be attacked from the sea.
Of the growth of that wonderful camp, of our experiences there, of the training and equipping of 33,000 men, of the struggles for position, and of the numerous disappointments and bitternesses because all could not go, I will not here attempt to speak. There was a great deal to do and to learn and the time passed quickly. It had been decided that I was to accompany the contingent as adviser in sanitation and in charge of the water supply, and, despite all delays and disappointments, the day did finally come when we drove in to Quebec to board our steamer for England.
At midnight, the Franconia slipped slowly and silently away from the dock. Only three were there to bid us farewell—a man and two women,—and though they sang with great enthusiasm, "It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary," the effect was melancholy. Imperceptibly the pier and the lights of the city receded and we steamed on down the mighty St. Lawrence to our trysting place on the sea. The second morning afterwards we woke to find ourselves riding quietly at anchor in the sunny harbour of Gaspe, with all the other transports anchored about us, together with four long grey gunboats,—our escort upon the road to our great adventure.
The brilliant afternoon sun of a typical Canadian Autumn day shone down upon Gaspe basin. Idly we lounged about the decks, gazing at the shores with their little white fishermen's cottages, or at the thirty odd troopships, and the four grey gunboats which studded the harbour. The surface of the water was rippled by a light breeze and all was quiet and peaceful in the shelter of that sunny haven. Even the gulls, gorged with the waste food from the ships, swam lazily about or flapped idly hither and thither.
My gaze had fixed itself upon the nearest of the lean, grey gunboats. As I watched, the sleeping greyhound seemed to move; in another moment the seeming illusion gave way to certainty—it was moving; gradually its pace accelerated and it slipped quietly out toward the open sea. A second gunboat followed, then a third, all making for the open. Immediately we were all excitement, for the rumour had been current that we might be there for several days. But the rumour was speedily disproved as the rattle of anchor chains became audible from the transports nearest the harbour mouth, and one by one they followed their little grey guides; and so, at three of the clock on October the third, 1914, the First Canadian Contingent with guns, ammunition, horses and equipment, left Gaspe en route to the great war.
Gradually method evolved itself out of apparent chaos. Three gunboats took the lead and the transports fell into line about a thousand yards from one another, so that eventually three lines were formed of about a dozen in each and the whole fleet moved forward into the Atlantic. The shores of Gaspe, dotted with white cottages; yellow stubble fields; hills red and purple with autumnal foliage—these were our last pictures of Canada—truly the last that many of us were ever to see, and we looked upon them, our hearts filled with emotions that these scenes had never given rise to before. Our ruddy Canadian emblem, the maple leaf, gave its characteristic tinge to the receding shores—a colour to be seen often on the field of battle, but never in the foliage of a European landscape.
We were making history; the great epoch-making enterprise of our young country was taking place—an undertaking that would go down in the annals of the Empire of Great Britain as a great incident of the period when the young cubs raced to the assistance of the old lion in her hour of need—this we realized. And yet it was hard to realize that we were actually fortunate enough to be taking part in an expedition, the like of which never was before, and probably never will be again. Never before had there been gathered together a fleet of transports of such magnitude—a fleet consisting of 33 transports carrying 33,000 men, 7,000 horses and all the motors, waggons and equipment necessary to place in the field not only a complete infantry division, and a cavalry brigade, but in addition to provide for the necessary reserves.
At night we steamed along like phantom ships. All windows and port holes were carefully screened so that one might walk the deck and see not a single ray of light to reveal the whereabouts of the accompanying vessels.
Off Newfoundland as our three lines of ships were ploughing along, about a mile and a half apart, we picked up H.M.S. "Glory" which took a position about ten miles away on our right. Our ship, the "Franconia," the flagship of the fleet, had the headquarter staff, the 90th Regiment of Winnipeg, and a number of nurses on board, and she held place in the centre of the middle line.
How an orderly fleet could be immediately dis-organized was well demonstrated one morning when our whistle blew sharply several times "Man Overboard." As we slowed down, with throbbing engines reversed churning the ocean into foam, we could see the tiny speck (a man's head) floating by. While our lifeboat was being lowered and the man was being rescued, the three lines of transports buckled and the ships see-sawed to right and left in their efforts to avoid collisions.
The man proved to be a painter who, unobserved, had fallen off the "Royal Edward" in front of us, and but for the vigilance of the lookout on our ship, would undoubtedly have perished.
There seemed to be about a thousand nurses aboard the Franconia—the real number was about a hundred but they multiplied by their ubiquity; they swarmed everywhere; sometimes they filled the lounge so that the poor Major or Colonel could not get in for his afternoon cup of tea. The daily lectures for officers, particularly on subjects like "artillery range finding" had an abnormal fascination for the nurses while subjects like "the Geneva Convention" and "Hygiene" which they might have found useful held little attraction for them. Such is the perversity of the nurse when given the rank of an officer and freed from all hospital restraint. At the concerts few officers could obtain seats and a few of us were mean enough to wish that it would get rough enough to put some of the nurses temporarily down and out. The nurses were in a doubly fortunate position in that they could demand the rights of both officers and women, according to which happened to be advantageous at the moment.
The 90th Regiment "the little black devils" of Winnipeg was a very fine body of men indeed; they were drilled by the hour on the decks, and were given lectures. They entertained themselves in their spare time by getting up boxing bouts and concerts. The antics of a bear cub and a monkey, the battalion mascots, amused the men for many hours at a time.
One night the officers gave a dinner party. The first plan was to invite no nurses at all. Then other counsels prevailed and invitations were to be given to a limited number. As this would have caused all sorts of petty jealousies and heart burnings, a compromise was effected by—asking them all.
The dinner was a great success. An eight-piece band, for which the instruments had been purchased the day before we left Quebec, had been practising assiduously on the upper deck for days with effects of a most weird character, and there made its first public appearance. With the aid of a pipe band it helped to drown the popping of corks and the various other noises due to the consumption of many bottles of champagne and hock. The dinner was followed by a dance and the nurses were allowed to stay up till midnight instead of being chased to bed at the usual hour of ten o'clock.
One of the unique and most interesting occasions of the trip was when the famous battle cruiser, the "Queen Mary" came up about dusk one evening and ran through our lines amid great excitement. This was the battle cruiser that had not long before converted the German cruiser "Emden" into a mass of twisted iron in a few minutes. As she steamed slowly by she presented one of the finest spectacles I have ever seen. Somehow nothing in the world looks as efficient for its particular job as a battle cruiser; it is the personification of power and beauty.
One morning at six o'clock a light was discovered in the distance. Someone said it was the light-house off Land's End. So it proved. By eight o'clock we could make out clearly the coast of Cornwall. As the land grew nearer the famous Eddystone Lighthouse came into view, and, making a great sweep around it, instead of running for Southampton as we all had expected, we headed for Plymouth. A number of torpedo boats, commonly called "Ocean Lice," accompanied us for the last few miles, as a protection against submarines.
The approach to Plymouth was wonderfully soothing. The hills covered with beautiful foliage in shades of brown and olive green were a most restful change from the monotony of the sea. A marked contrast to the peacefulness of the countryside were the fortifications everywhere visible commanding the approach to perhaps the most strongly fortified port in Southern England. With the possible exception of Sydney, Australia, Plymouth is said to be the most beautiful harbour in the Empire. One could well believe it.
Tugs puffed out to meet us, pilots climbed aboard, and we slowly steamed up the long sinuous channel, past Edgecombe to Davenport. All the warships being built or equipped, the forts, the training ships and the docks, indeed every point of vantage was thronged with cheering crowds of people,—civilians, soldiers and sailors. Cheer after cheer from our Canadian soldiers responded to those from our English friends as we slowly made our way up the channel. It seemed as though everybody had gone crazy.
It was a never-to-be-forgotten reception; we felt that we were indeed a part of the Empire in spirit as well as in name. About three o'clock we came to anchor, and during the afternoon ship after ship followed in and anchored alongside. At night we crowded up even closer to give the late-comers room. For the first time on our trip the vessels were all brilliantly illuminated, the bands played, the giddy ones danced, and all were happy to be once again in sight of solid land. At dinner the commandant, Col. Williams, made a speech and called for three cheers for our Captain, and never, I suppose, did any other Captain receive such hearty cheers and such a tremendous "tiger." It was the culmination of a marvellous and historic trip.
The trip to Salisbury by motor next day was a dream—a dream of hedges and great trees meeting over-head; of hills and valleys with little thatched cottages and villages nestling in them, of beautiful estates and sheep, of quaint old English farms, of ancient towns and villages. Through Ivy Bridge and Honiton to Exeter, where we stopped to see the beautiful old Cathedral, so warm and rich in colouring and passing by one long series of beautiful pictures, in perhaps the most charming pastoral landscape in the world, we came to the white-scarred edge of the famous Salisbury Plain.
ON SALISBURY PLAINS.
It was on the 15th of October that we landed in Plymouth. A few days later the whole of the 33,000 (with the exception of a few errant knights who had gone off on independent pilgrimages) were more or less settled on Salisbury Plain. The force was divided into four distinct camps miles apart. One infantry brigade and the headquarters staff was stationed at Bustard Camp; one section was camped a couple of miles away, at West Down South; a third at West Down North still farther away, and the fourth at Pond Farm about five miles from Bustard. Convenience of water supplies and arrangements for the administration of the forces made these divisions necessary.
The plains of Salisbury, ideal for summer military camps, are rolling, prairie-like lands stretching for miles, broken by a very occasional farm house or by plantations of trees called "spinneys." A thin layer of earth and turf covered the chalk which was hundreds of feet in depth; at any spot a blow with a pick would bring up the white chalk filled with black flints. The hills by which the plains were reached rose sharply from the surface of Wiltshire, so that Salisbury Plain itself could be easily distinguished miles away by the white, water worn rifts in the hillsides.
When we first arrived the plains gave promise of being a fine camping ground. Tents were pitched, canteens opened, work was begun and our boys settled down impatiently to receive the further training necessary before passing over to that Mecca to which one and all looked forward—the battle grounds of Flanders.
For a few days all went well; then it began to rain. About the middle of November it settled down in earnest and rained steadily for a month; sometimes it merely drizzled, at other times it poured; but it never stopped, except for an hour or so. The constant tramp of many feet speedily churned into mud the clay turf overlaying the chalk, and the rain could not percolate through this mixture as it did the unbroken sod. In a few days the mud was one inch—four inches—and even a foot deep. Many a time I waded through mud up to my knees.
The smooth English roads, lacking depth of road-metal, were speedily torn to pieces by the heavy traffic of motors and steam traction engines. Passing cars and lorries sprayed the hedges with a thin mud-emulsion formed from the road binder, and exposed the sharp flints which, like so much broken glass, tore to pieces the tires of the motors.
Cold high winds, saturated with moisture, accompanied the rain and searched one's very marrow. Nothing would exclude these sea breezes but skin or fur coats, and though accustomed to a severe climate, we Canadians felt the cold in England as we never had at home. Sometimes the temperature fell below the freezing point, and occasionally we had sleet, hail or snow for variety. Tents were often blown down by the hundreds, and it was a never-to-be-forgotten sight watching a small army of soldiers trying to hold and pin down some of the large mess tents, while rope after rope snapped under the straining of the flapping canvas. One day the post office tent collapsed, and some of the mail disappeared into the heavens, never to return.
The officers of the headquarter staff were fairly comfortable in comparison to the others. Our tents were pitched in a quadrangle formed by four rows of trees and scrub, which had evidently been planted around the site of a former house and served to break the high winds. Each officer had a tent with a wooden floor. Mine was carpeted with an extra blanket to exclude draughts and make it feel comfortable under one's bare feet in the morning. The tent was heated by an oil stove which was kept burning night and day; and at night I slept snug and warm in the interior of a Jaeger sleeping blanket in a Wolseley kit. My batman, Karner, had made a table from some boxes and boards which he had picked up, I know not where. It is unwise to ask your batman too many foolish questions as to the origin of things,—take what he gives you and be thankful.
This table covered with another blanket, served to support a splendid brass lamp with a green silk shade, for which I had paid a fabulous sum in Salisbury town. It also held some books, brushes, and other necessaries. A shelf underneath displayed a little brass kettle and other paraphernalia for making tea, while my other books were arranged in a neat row beneath.
The tents were wet all the time, and the clothes and blankets of the men soon became water soaked and remained so for weeks at a stretch for they had no stoves or other facilities for drying them. But Tommy, the resourceful, learned that he could get warm by the simple process of wrapping himself up in wet blankets and steaming as he would in a Turkish bath,—with himself as the heater. He also discovered that a pair of wet socks, well wrung out and placed next his chest at night would be half dry in the morning. He had to sleep in a bell tent with seven others, radiating like spokes of a wheel from the centre tent pole. He had nothing to give him any comfort whatever.
It was impossible to do any work, even route marching, and, having nothing to do but lie around and think of himself, Tommy began to grouse. Each camp had become a morass with mud a foot deep, and Tommy looked out upon it and behold it was not good, and he cursed both loud and long whoever he thought might be responsible for the conditions, and particularly Emperor Bill the cause of it all. The Canadian contingent had begun a process of mildewing.
One felt sorry for the poor horses. Picketed in the open plain or in the partial shelter of the occasional "spinneys," they stood with ears drooping and tails to the wind, pictures of dejection. No doubt they, too, cursed the Kaiser. Their feet became soft from standing idly in the mud, and in a good many cases had become diseased; in general they went off badly in condition. Standing orders prohibited the cutting down of a bush or tree on Salisbury Plain, but in the night time we could sometimes hear the familiar sound of an axe meeting standing timber, and one could guess that Tommy, in his desire for wood to build a fire, and regardless of rules, had grown desperate. As one of them said to Rudyard Kipling when he was down visiting them, "What were trees for if they were not to be cut down?"
Towards the middle of December, one evening there was a sharp tap on the tent of Capt. Haywood, Medical Officer of the third (Toronto) Battalion.
"Come in" he cried.
The laces were undone and Sergeant Kipple stepped into the tent. The Sergeant was a good man—an old soldier and reliable as the proverbial watch.
"Well, what is it?" said the M.O.
"I want you to give me somethink to buck me up" said the Sergeant in a tearful voice.
"But what is the matter?" said the M.O. "Have you a cold?"
"No, I aint got no cold" he said, "I just wants somethink to buck me up; some qui-nine or somethink."
"But what's the matter?" persisted the M.O. "What do you want it for?"
"Nothing's wrong with me" said the sergeant, "I jist want somethink to buck me up; this rine is getting on me nerves. It rines all day, and me clothes 'aven't been dry for a month—if I go out I get more wet. All day long I 'ave to splash about in the blinkin' mud and rine. At night I cawnt go to sleep. Me clothes are wet; me blankets are soaked. I 'ears the bl—— rine coming down on the bl—— tent which leaks all over; it makes a 'ell of a noise on the tent and I cawnt sleep. I gets up in the morning and 'ave to do me work and do me dooty. But Doc, it's gettin' me goat. I feel like cutting me bl—— throat. I 'ave 'ad thirteen years in the awmy and 'ave me good conduc stripes. I 'ave a wife and two kids at 'ome. I didn't come over 'ere to drown; I came over to fight. I wants to do me work but I cawnt do it. If you don't give me somethink Doc I am afraid I'll cut me bloody throat and I don't want to die. Cawn't you give me somethink to buck me up, Doc please?"
The Doc did give him something, and between that and a little judicious "jollying" Kipple was a different man in a few days.
Of course there was trouble. The contingent was going through a rough experience, and to most of us Salisbury Plain was becoming a nightmare. A fairly large number of the men were given leave, and an equally large number took French leave. The latter migrated in large numbers to the little villages around the outskirts of the plain where they settled down to a few days' comfort before they were rounded up by the military police.
Some went to London, and, worshipping at the shrines of Venus and Bacchus, forgot about the war, and tarried in the fascinating metropolis. Others sought a few hours' respite and forgetfulness in the town of Salisbury, where they hobnobbed with their British confreres and treated them to various drinks. At times the British Tommy, stung at the flaunting of pound notes where he had only shillings, smote his colonial brother, and bloody battles resulted in consequence thereof.
It was a curious fact that it was the Englishman who had gone out to Canada a few years before and now returned as a Canadian, who was the chief offender in this respect. He had gained a new airiness and sense of freedom which he was proud of, and it brought him into trouble. My own chauffeur, an Englishman, was the invariable champion of all American cars as compared with English cars, which he delighted in saying were from three to four years behind the times. This same man four years before had been working on automobiles in London, where he was born.
At one stage it looked as if the force was undergoing a process of decomposition, and would disintegrate. The morale of the men under the very depressing conditions which existed, had almost gone and they did not care what happened them. Privates, perhaps college men or wealthy business men in Canada, frankly said when arrested, that they were quite willing to pay the price, but that they had determined to get warm and dry once more before they were drowned in the mud. It is an easy matter to handle a few cases of this sort, but when you get hundreds of them little can be done, and threats, fines and punishments were of little avail in correcting the existing state of affairs.
As a matter of fact, under the conditions the military authorities were hard put to it to control the situation. Each night the motor lorries returned loaded with men under arrest, and each day an equally large number left the camp to undergo the same experience.
All the time the wastage went on. One soldier fell off a cart and fractured his skull; another had his legs amputated by a lorry; a third was accidently shot, and another committed suicide. It is astonishing how many accidents can occur among 30,000 men.
New huts were being built at Larkhill, near the ancient Phoenician remains called Stonehenge, but the progress made was so slow that finally our men were put on the job, and the huts began to go up like mushrooms. Hundreds of Canadians, belonging to Highland and other regiments, built roads, huts, and other works, in a country apparently filled with labouring men with no intention of ever going to war, and who, in fact, often did not believe that there was a war. We all felt somewhat relieved one night when we heard that the German fleet was bombarding the English coast, hoping that it would shake the country out of its feeling of smug self-complacency and lethargy.
On November 20th, there were 150 men in our hospital at Bulford Manor; three weeks later there were 780. It had rained every day in the interval, and there was a great deal of influenza and bronchial troubles, which made splendid foundation for attacks of other diseases.
Towards the end of the year the men began to move into the new huts at Larkhill. We had already officially forecasted in black and white, that the huts, being raised from the ground, would be colder to sleep in, and whereas there had been only eight men in the tent to be infected should one man become ill with a communicable disease, there would now be forty in each hut; and that in consequence we should expect a great increase in illness from such diseases. And there was.
It began to increase as soon as the men got into the huts. These huts were heated with stoves, and fuel was provided. Consequently the men, before going to bed, got the stoves red hot, closed and sealed the windows with paper, contrary to standing orders, and went to bed with the huts overheated. When the stoves went out the huts cooled down and the usual story one heard was of the men waking at three or four in the morning cold and shivering. The heat also served to shrink the floor boards so that the draughts came through and made matters worse.
Then the scare came. Prior to this the report of an odd case of cerebro-spinal meningitis had not occasioned any concern. Under these menacing conditions cases of the disease became more numerous and when Col. Strange died of it uneasiness culminated in real alarm.
My proposed trip to Scotland for Christmas was postponed and instead I was sent up to London to get an expert bacteriologist on the disease and arrange to start a laboratory. The object was to see what could be done in locating "carriers" of the disease germ, and thereby keep the disease from spreading. Accordingly, on the day before Christmas, I arranged with the Director of the Lister Institute for the loan of Dr. Arkwright of his staff and for the necessary apparatus to equip a laboratory at Bulford Cottage Hospital. It was a forlorn hope, but it was the only thing that could be done to try to get this elusive disease under control. I spent Christmas day in camp, and it was a melancholy day indeed. The men were all well looked after, and for those in the hospitals the day was made as bright as possible. It seemed years since we had left Canada.
When we brought down the bacteriological apparatus by passenger train a few days later we paid excess baggage on 780 pounds but we got it through. It took five men to shove the trucks containing the boxes, and we held the connecting train for five minutes at Salisbury Junction until we made the transfer. This saved time, for the London people would not guarantee delivery for five weeks.
The epidemic of cerebro-spinal meningitis proved to be a blessing in disguise, for it educated both combatant officers and men as to the necessity of observing certain simple precautions to prevent the spread of any contagious disease; and it also showed them that when disease once got out of hand it would be possible to put whole battalions hors de combat. Col. Mercer kept his brigade moving about on the sod in tents all winter, and as a result, there was very much less sickness in his brigade than in the other brigades housed in huts.
Then nature came to our rescue, and took a hand in the game. The rains grew less frequent; the sun put in an occasional appearance; training was begun once more, and a rapid improvement was immediately apparent in the men. Again the sound of singing was heard in the tents at night and on route marches; and again one began to see smiling faces. With the improvement in weather conditions, training went briskly on, and the division began to rapidly round into shape.
Meanwhile the artillery and cavalry had gone into billets in the surrounding villages, and were behaving splendidly. The people took to them very kindly, and the men themselves looked so clean and happy that it was difficult to realize that they were the same unkempt, dirty individuals who had been seen not so long before wading through the mud and filth of the plains.
All sorts of rumours were current. A favorite one was that we were to go to Egypt to finish our training there. Another one whispered among the staff was that we would shortly leave for France. The men worked hard at their training, anxious to make good and get to the Front. They had the old Viking spirit of adventure in their blood, and wanted to get to the battle ground. We all knew that many of us would be killed, but we all felt that it would be the other fellow—not ourselves.
After the laboratory had been started, the force had to a large extent been reassured thereby that everything possible was being done that could be done. When, with better weather, the sickness began to abate, I obtained permission from our Surgeon-General to try to get the rest of our men inoculated against typhoid fever. We had arrived in England with 65 per cent. of the men inoculated, and it was my ambition to get them all done before the division left for France.
Accordingly I settled down in the Bear Hotel in the little Wiltshire town of Devizes, the head-quarters of the artillery brigade, and began my educational campaign.
The old Bear Hotel was one of the famous old coaching houses of former days; it had seen much life in ye olden times when it had been the chief stopping place of the bloods of London en route to the famous City of Bath and the historic Pump Room. It was a homey-looking old place, with the usual appearance of comfort pertaining to an English Inn, and the maximum amount of discomfort as judged by our modern standards. The food was good, and the fire places looked bright and cheery, like the bar maid behind the polished bar. It was mostly in looks. No wonder that the British people fortify themselves with copious draughts of stimulants to help keep out the cold. There were some magnificent pieces of old furniture and Sheffield plate in the halls—pieces that many a collector had tried in vain to purchase. My room lit by two candles in earthenware candlesticks; and with a fire in a corner grate—at a shilling a day extra—looked cozy enough but the bedroom furniture was ancient and uncomfortable.
The officers of the Artillery Headquarters lived at the hotel, and I took my meals with them. Col. Burstall, the officer commanding, gave me every assistance and issued orders to his officers to aid in every possible way in the campaign.
My object was to educate all the artillery and cavalry units on the danger of using impure water, on typhus fever and how it was conveyed by lice, and on the value and necessity of anti-typhoid inoculation.
The following day I gave my first talk in a large shed in the town, to about 700 artillery men of the first artillery brigade. It was a unique experience, standing on a great stack of boxes of loaded ammunition beside Colonel Morrison and the medical officer Lt.-Col. McCrae, talking to the brigade drawn up at attention around us. It was an attentive audience; the men had to listen, though as a matter of fact, they really seemed interested. When paraded next day 370 uninoculated were discovered and given the treatment; the few who refused were sent to the base depot and replaced by others.
The campaign begun so successfully was carried on from day to day. Arrangements were made by telephone or wire with the O.C.'s of the various units, to have their men paraded for my lectures. The weather was frequently wet, and the talks were given in farm yards, village squares, churches, schools, hay-lofts, and open fields. In some instances the units, broken up into small sections, were scattered about the country so that I would have to talk to 50 men at once instead of several hundred.
One of the most unique occasions was the Sunday when I addressed the 3rd Artillery brigade, after church parade in the market square of Market Lavingdon. We arrived early and sat and listened while, from the little stone church high up on the hill above us, drifted the sound of soldiers singing. It was unutterably sad to me to hear the full mellow soldier chorus swelling out on "Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War." One felt that the words must have had to all of them a meaning that they never had had before.
Then the brigade formed up and was played by the village band to the market place where they were drawn up into a square with some gun carriages in the centre. When all was ready I mounted a gun carriage and gave my talk with all the earnestness I could muster, while the villagers congregated at one side, stood and gaped, and wondered what it was all about.
My talk had settled down into a 20-minute discourse, and I gave variations of it as often as four times in an afternoon at places 10 miles apart. In this way one saw a good deal of the Wiltshire scenery in the late winter season. It was a never-failing source of wonder and pleasure to me to see the ivy covered banks, the ivy clad trees and the rhododendrons and holly trees in green leaf in the middle of the winter. In the garden at the back of the famous old Elizabethan house in Potterne—a perfect example of the old Tudor timbered style of architecture—cowslips and pansies were in full blossom, and I was told the wild violets were in flower in the woods. The trim, well kept gardens, hedges and fields of the country side and village were a continual delight to a native of Canada where everything in comparison looks so unfinished and in need of trimming. The winter wheat was as green as the new grass of spring time, and many of the meadows also were fairly green. Some shrubs, and in particular an unknown yellow-flowered, leafless vine, were in blossom. I heard afterwards that it was the Jasmine.
During those January days when the sun shone fitfully, some wonderful atmospheric effects were to be seen at times on the plains. For the painter who wanted atmosphere and light and vivid contrasts, that was the place to be, for never did I see elsewhere such wonderful pastel effects; never such vivid-colored banks of spray and fog.
The little straw-thatched farm houses with their small paned windows frequently filled with flowers in bloom, nestling in gardens and shrubberies and orchards, had a more or less comfortable and homey look during the day time; but at dusk when the light was failing and the lamp light shone through the windows, these farm houses took on a wonderfully attractive and romantic appearance. It made you feel like going to the door and asking for a glass of new milk or a cup of cider; and you had visions of blazing fires in the great fireplace, and brass utensils, hanging from the walls; comfy ingle nooks, old beam ceilings and ancient oak furniture; hams suspended from the kitchen ceilings, and old blue willow pattern plates on the walls. That nothing can give a house such a homelike appearance as a thatched roof and leaded panes, I am perfectly convinced.
To a Canadian the bird-life of the plain was marvellous. There were birds by the tens of thousands. You would see crows settling on a spring wheat field on the open plain by hundreds; you would see starlings in great flocks following the plough, and gulls sometimes literally covered acres of newly ploughed ground.
One day as we approached a hamlet near Netheravon, I fancied I was witnessing an optical illusion: the whole surface of a field was covered with black and white, vibrating as though waves were passing over it. When we came nearer we saw that the field was covered so thick with gulls that the ground was hidden. The gull was a small white variety about the size of a pigeon, with a black ruff around its neck. The wave-like motion was made by the birds digging away in the newly turned earth for worms and larvae; judging by the way they worked, they must have cleaned up millions of them.
Then there were robins, thrushes, magpies, and scores of other birds which were unfamiliar to us, while later on the larks spiralled with delirious songs into the sky. The pheasants were so tame they would scarcely get out of the way of a passing car.
Salisbury Plain had evidently been the site of many an armed camp and had probably seen many a battle since the time of the Romans. The archaeologists in charge of the unearthing of "Old Sarum," perhaps the most ancient remains of a city in Great Britain, have, during the last ten years, found many wonderful things. Old Sarum is situated about two miles from the present city of Salisbury on the plain. It was built on the top of an enormous circular mound of earth several hundred yards in diameter, and was supposed to have been surrounded by the usual fosse and ditch. Roman, Saxon and Norman remains have been, and are still being, found, as the stonework of walls and buildings is being uncovered. It is supposed that much of the original stone was used in the 12th century to build the present cathedral of Salisbury.
One day at the opposite side of the plain toward Tinhead, Colonel (now General) Panet, of the horse artillery, took me out to see the enormous white horse cut in the chalk in the face of the hill ascending to Salisbury Plain. The figure, representing King Alfred's famous white charger is supposed to have been carved in King Alfred's time, to celebrate a famous victory in the neighborhood. The natives have kept the figure ever since carved white on the hillside by the simple process of digging away the surface earth and sod, and leaving the underlying chalk exposed.
Stonehenge, situated in the middle of the plain, is one of the weirdest and most interesting sights of England. It consists of two series of colossal stone columns arranged in circles with the lower ends stuck in the ground, and the upper ends supporting huge slabs of stone placed across them. A few of the stones have fallen, and lie prone upon the ground. Perhaps no relics in the world have caused more wonder and evoked more speculation in the lay and scientific mind than these curious stones standing in the middle of the plain, miles from any town. Books have been written about them. They are supposed to be of Phoenician origin. Each stone weighing many tons, must have been brought a great distance, and suggest the use of powerful means of transport not known to-day. Hundreds of thousands of people have travelled to Stonehenge and have gone away but little wiser than when they came. What the stones were for no man knows; he can only speculate and wonder.
All over the plain, too, are gently rising circular mounds called "barrows" supposed to be Roman burial places. It is against the law to dig into them or damage them in any way, just as it is unlawful to harm one of the rabbits or hares, which abound on the plains. England has laws to cover all contingencies.
In about two weeks I had completed my campaign, and returned to Bustard Camp where I rounded out my course by lecturing to the officers of the various infantry brigades with the exception of the Highlanders. In this way, though the returns were not quite completed before the division left for France, it was estimated that 97 per cent. of the men had been inoculated against typhoid fever.
During that winter the difficulties of the medical service were very great. At the beginning of December the manor house at Bulford was obtained as a nucleus for a hospital and was equipped and manned by number one general hospital. Across the way from the manor was a field which was utilized as a tent hospital for venereal diseases. Then some new cottages just being completed about 200 yards away were obtained and equipped; two other houses at different places about two miles apart were requisitioned and finally the riding school at Netheravon was taken over as well as some shacks for hospital purposes.
The hospital, therefore, consisted of six distinct units spread over a five-mile area, and all operated by the same hospital staff. It was very difficult from the standpoint of administration, though it was excellent training for the personnel of the hospital. At the beginning it was difficult to obtain drugs. The transportation of sick men from Pond Farm camp to Netheravon a distance of about 16 miles over very rough roads in rain and cold can be better imagined than described. And yet it was the best that could be done under the circumstances. Salisbury Plain is a great rolling field without town or village and the places chosen were the nearest and in fact the only places, that could be found reasonably close to the camp suitable for hospital purposes.
We had been reviewed by Lord Roberts and the King early after our arrival, and now it was rumoured that the King would review us again. Inspections of various sorts became a daily occurrence; inspectors from the War Office came down and condemned nearly everything we had including motor and horse transport, harness and other equipment. Later on we realized that it had been very wise to sacrifice a few score thousands of dollars worth of equipment in England in order that standard parts and replacements of equipment could be obtained at any time in the field and the efficiency of the force thereby maintained at all times. The authorities were much wiser than we knew.
Of course it rained on the morning of the day that the King came down to review the Division; at breakfast the rain hammered the tin roof of our mess room at Bustard Camp like so many hailstones and the outlook was most gloomy. Later on it cleared, and when the guns boomed out the royal salute announcing the arrival of His Majesty, the rain had entirely ceased.
A review by the King in war time is a pretty sure indication that the division will move shortly. I had an excellent point of vantage on a little hill opposite the saluting base where the King and Lord Kitchener stood. That review was the real thing. It lacked, perhaps, something of the wildness of the review that took place on the sandy plains of Valcartier, but it had a dignity that was very inspiring.
Only the division that was actually going across was reviewed. One felt that it was the last review that many of the men were ever destined to see and it seemed to be peculiarly fitting that before they left for the field of battle they should see that figure,—the head of the Empire—that stood for freedom and that intangible something that had made them come thousands of miles to fight and, perhaps, to die.
A young officer—Captain Klotz of the third battalion—of German descent and a very fine boy,—sat with me and chatted for a while as we watched the division march past. Although he was orderly officer of his battalion he had not been able to resist the temptation to slip away for the day to see a little of the march past. Poor chap! He was killed at the second battle of Ypres three months afterwards. The first Canadian division as it swung past was certainly a magnificent spectacle and I was quite willing to agree with a General who told me later in the day that though he had been at reviews for many years he had never seen such a fine body of men in the whole of his career. The King and Lord Kitchener both seemed to be greatly impressed with the division.
Finally the time did arrive for the division to leave and one night it disappeared—for Southampton everybody thought—though an officer who had been left behind sick was unable to find any trace of it later on in the day when he arrived at that port. Certainly the British do not tell all they know.
The impedimenta left behind in camp was something to marvel at, and included pianos, a Ford car, gramophones, bayonets, rifles and many other things. Why a man should leave behind his rifle, and how he managed to do so without getting caught, will probably always remain a mystery. The first Canadian Division had passed on to the great adventure in Flanders.
EARLY WAR DAYS IN LONDON.
In the early part of our sojourn in England I was sent to London on duty. On the surface the city looked about as usual, except that the taxi-cabs, buildings and squares, were plastered with recruiting posters, the chief ones reading "Your King and Country need you" and "Enlist to-day." After you had read them a couple of thousand times they met your eyes with no more significance than do the bricks in a wall or the people in a crowd.
London at night, however, was much different, because the city was in darkness. The system of darkening adopted was rather amusing, as all the squares and circuses, which in other times were most brilliantly illuminated, now were darker than the streets, the contrast making them, to an aviator, as distinguishable as before. Later on more judgment was used in the control of lighting, as well as many other things in England.
Soldiers were plentiful on the streets and in the theatres, hotels and restaurants,—soldiers on leave from the various camps. But we were more inclined to notice the tens of thousands of physically fit men walking about in civilian clothes. Nobody seemed particularly disturbed about the war. Kitchener was raising his army, and "the Navy, thank God! was in excellent shape. Just wait till the Spring, and Emperor Bill would get his bumps. We are willing to go if they need us but not till they do. Why worry?"
In Clubland the difference was very marked—it had been deserted by the younger men, and the clubs sheltered only a few of the older men who had nowhere else to go. For, be it said to the eternal glory of the man-about-town,—the wealthy knut who knew little more perhaps than to run an expensive car, give expensive dinners and get into trouble—the upper class drone—that he was among the first to volunteer and get into active service. Perhaps all he could do was drive a car; if so he did it—drove a London bus out at the front, or a wagon; or did anything else at which he would be useful. Many of the idle rich young men, and the majority of the young titled men of England, rose to the occasion and went out and fought and died, and many now lie buried in Flanders for the sake of Old England—for the freedom of the world.
These posters shouting for recruits somehow did not look like England; they were too hysterical; they were not effective: London, with more posters per head of population than any other city in the Empire, recruited men less swiftly than any other place.
Thousands of sight-seers crowded to the football matches while the newspapers vainly lashed themselves into fury. It was only when Lloyd George asked for more men, and gave convincing reasons that they were needed, that the country responded. Day by day the newspapers made the best of bad news from the front, and day by day did the readers thereof conclude that England was doing well, and they "supposed that she would bungle through." No man of prophetic foresight had yet risen to say "This is a life and death struggle for us; we need every man in the country, and every shilling to win the war." The common talk was that we had stepped in to keep our treaty with France and to assist poor Belgium, whose neutrality had been violated. Englishmen did not feel that England's fall was first and last the object of Germany's ambition. They did not realize that Germany saw in England the nation which was always thwarting her and frustrating her desire for "a place in the sun."
Should the theatres be kept open? should German waiters be still allowed in the hotels? should German music be played at Queen's Hall? should horse racing be continued?—these were the questions whose discussion occupied a considerable amount of space in the newspapers. Of course the theatres kept open, German music was played, and horse racing continued: A large section of the public had to be amused, and the livelihood of the actors and actresses and their relatives depended upon it; if all German music were eliminated there would be little left to choose from; and the important racing horse industry could not be allowed to languish on account of a mere vulgar war.
So everything went on as before war-time except that gradually the German waiters disappeared. "Business as usual" was the slogan, for the ordinary business man rather fancied that he belonged to a nation great enough to carry on war as a side issue without seriously altering its daily routine.
For a while the big hotels and restaurants had a bad time of it, and the management of the Cecil and Savoy thought of closing down. At this trying juncture Sir Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia for Canada, arrived in London and put up at the Savoy; other officers came to see him and stayed there also. Temporary offices were opened; men looking for contracts frequented the place and the Savoy quickly became the Canadian headquarters in London.
Special rates for rooms were given Canadian officers and it was possible to obtain a magnificently furnished, steam-heated room for no more than was paid at other hotels for much inferior accommodation. The Savoy Hotel, warm, comfortable and American like, located at the heart of things, close to the theatre district and the War Office, had a "homey" appeal to us, and it speedily became the centre of all things Canadian in London; and the patronage of the Canadians tided it over a bad financial period.
If you knew that one of your Canadian friends was in London, all you had to do was to sit in the rotunda of the Savoy and watch the door. You would be sure to see him come through those revolving doors some time during the day. In that rotunda I met men whom I went to school with, men who lived in my own city, but whom I had not seen for 20 years; others whom I met there had travelled all over creation since I had last seen them. It soon got to be quite the natural thing to meet old friends in this way.
In theatre land the problem play had disappeared as if by magic. Several attempts to revive former successes of this type proved absolute failures and the plays were quickly withdrawn; now there were real tragedies to think about, and the old threadbare, domestic triangle disappeared from the boards. Revues and musical comedies succeeded, and "The Man Who Stayed at Home" a war spy play was a tremendous success, as were the comedies "When Knights Were Bold" and "Potash and Perlmutter." To be a success a play had to have the merit of real comedy, or touch some national sensibility of the moment.
No new great literature had appeared, nor had the tragedy of the world yet brought forth any great poetry. Monographs on special phases of German character, thought and culture, were plentiful in the bookstalls, and translations of Bernhardi and Treitschke sold in vast numbers.
The love of music, so strong in England, was shown by the crowded attendances at the Queen's Hall and the Albert Hall concerts. A good deal of Russian music was heard, the Russian National Anthem being played on every possible occasion. At the Christmas season not a seat was empty at any of the presentations of the Messiah at Albert Hall. Yet curiously enough England had banished her military bands, one of the most effective aids to recruiting, and it was only after a violent newspaper controversy on the subject had taken place that she used them again.
Down in the city in Cheapside scarcely a uniform was to be seen; the heart of ancient London seemed to beat as usual. In the theatre district at night, particularly on the Strand, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, crowds of women promenaded as usual, like spiders hunting for their prey. And the prey was there too, wanting to be hunted.
This is one of the great tragedies of London,—the terrible maelstrom of fallen humanity which is allowed to circulate there year after year, sweeping into its vortex tens and hundreds of thousands of boys and girls, who, but for it, might and probably would escape. In war time when soldiers were involved, it was more terrible than ever, for the results, as the medical men saw them, were disastrous from the military standpoint alone.
From this great ulcer in the heart of London a deadly poison passes far and wide into the national organism. The ulcer is there still for the knife of some strong man to excise, for there is little doubt that though restrictions will not prevent vice, it is equally true that making vice open, enticing and easy, increases it.
During that first winter, tickets for the theatre were sold at half price to men in uniform. On the other hand, an officer's uniform seemed to be the signal for increased prices in the shops, particularly in the smaller ones. A London physician, an officer, told me that when he went shopping he always dressed in civilian clothes because it was so much more economical to shop as a civilian.
The badge "Canada" of course, had been the badge for high prices from the day we landed in Plymouth. It was "Canada, our emblem dear" in very truth. It was well known that the Canadian Tommy received a dollar and ten cents a day, whereas the British Tommy received only 25 cents, and it was assumed that officers were correspondingly better paid than the British officer, while as a matter of fact, we received less, rank for rank. The question of overcharging Canadians became such a scandal that later on it was brought up in the House of Commons in an endeavour to fix prices for certain commodities in the Canadian Shorncliffe area.
The story is told of a Canadian going into a store and asking the youngster in charge the price of some article. The youngster called up stairs and the answer came back 1s. 10d. "But it is a Canadian" said the child; "Oh, 2s. 6d." came back the answer.
The war in France was but faintly felt in England in those early days. There had been no invasion of English soil such as had galvanized France into a united endeavour to repel the invader. No Zeppelins had yet dropped bombs on England. Great Britain had sent an expedition to France,—"An Expeditionary Force," it was called. The very name did not seem even to suggest a nation in arms. And yet away down underneath it all England was uneasy. Well-informed people whose sons were at the front knew the seriousness of the whole business. Casualties had returned in large numbers, and the rolls of honour published showed the terrible hammering England's wonderful little army was being subjected to on the continent. Those despised Germans had made great headway, and there were doubts as to whether the French were sufficiently well equipped to stand the tremendous pressure put upon them.
The battle off Chili had only been wiped out by Sturdee's victory, and the exploits of certain raiders and submarines made the Briton realize that the control of the oceans of the earth was a big undertaking. The rallying of the colonies to his assistance touched him greatly, and made him feel proud; on the other hand, strikes for higher pay in munition factories and ship yards angered and disgusted him.
There was no great leadership anywhere, and the Englishman in his heart of hearts knew it. Lloyd George, whom he acknowledged to be the only genius in the Government, he either idolized or cursed, according to whether he approved of his socialistic ideas or not. Englishmen I talked to, even in France later on, fairly foamed at the mouth when the little Welshman's name was mentioned, and refused to read the "Times" which they said was run by "that traitor Northcliffe." It was all very interesting to us, who hoped against hope that the man who to our perspective was the one great man of vision would be given the opportunity to become the man of action.
It was when one reached the heart of things, the War Office, that one began to realize the undercurrents which were being set up in the national life as a result of the war. In the court yard of the War Office, which was carefully guarded by policemen, were large numbers of women, young and old, waiting for news of son or husband, wounded or killed. The looks on their faces were sufficient evidence of tragedies which were increasing from day to day, and which would eventually waken England. Inside the door was a reception room where those who had business of any sort showed their credentials, signed the necessary form, and were sent on to the various departments to charge of a boy scout. Cots in the corridors, and specially walled-off offices indicated the expansion going on in the various departments.
The war office authorities were going at the problem in hand in a most unbusiness like way as far as the enlisting of recruits was concerned but already had 800,000 men in training in England. Those in training were not even equipped with rifles and uniforms.
After all the fault-finding in Canada before we left about the slowness in getting us away it was interesting to learn that our contingent had probably been more quickly outfitted and prepared for the field than any other territorial or militia unit in the Empire.
In the course of my stay I dined at many of the famous London restaurants, but the larger ones were usually empty and depressing. One had to eat somewhere and one might as well take every possible opportunity of seeing this phase of life in London in war time. One night at the "Carlton" there were not twenty others present; even the waiters seemed to be dejected, probably at the falling off of their revenue from tips, and we left as soon as possible and went over to the Royal Automobile Club in search of something brighter. There we found a cheery log fire and sat in front of it until early morning, talking of the war.
One heard the Russian and French national anthems very frequently, not only in the streets, but in the theatres and public performances, such as those in Queen's Hall. The finest playing of any national anthem that I have ever listened to was the London Symphony Orchestra's rendering of The Russian National Anthem one Monday night with Safanoff conducting; it was sublime. I had heard the same number on the preceding day in the same hall by another orchestra and the difference was remarkable;—the first one sounding like an amateur organization in comparison. No orchestra ever impressed me as did the London Symphony Orchestra, with the possible exception of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
To be in London, not sixty miles from the firing line, in a city firmly convinced of coming Zeppelin raids and prepared for naval raids, and find the press discussing the plays and the music of the day seemed strange indeed. It must have made the men in the trenches nearly mad to realize that while they were fighting under the most adverse conditions day by day and being killed in the defence of their homeland, there were 30,000 slackers at one football match at home.
England is a strange country. We felt that perhaps if a force of 50,000 or 100,000 Germans would land in England she would waken from the long sleep she had slept since her shores had been invaded by William the Conqueror. 30,000 men could watch a football match at the very moment the British line in Flanders was actually so thin that if the Germans had tried to advance there was nothing to stop them. Fortunately, for the moment, the enemy, too, was exhausted and before he could recuperate our reinforcements had arrived.
The dying session of parliament was worth going to see; Bonar Law, Beresford, McKenna, and Winston Churchill spoke. The latter made his defence of the Navy which was as famous and as reassuring to the country as Kitchener's statement in the house of Lords the day before had been in regard to the Army. Mr. Bonar Law was the smoothest of the speakers; Churchill gave one the impression of having much force of character, despite his stuttering, but Bonar Law was the man you felt could be trusted to look upon any proposition with coolness and play the safe game for his country.
When the House was adjourned until February 2nd, there were very few members left. This closing of the House of Parliament after a three weeks' session in war time and after the raising of billions of dollars of war loan by public subscription was remarkable for its simplicity. There was no fuss or feathers, no music or formality. The members just strolled out—those that happened to be there.
From the great window of the Savoy Hotel, I watched the funeral of Lord Roberts, the national hero. The Thames embankment could be seen, but, though a garden of not fifty yards in width separated the building from the embankment, the fog was thick enough to make the people as indistinct as though they had been half a mile away. Beyond the embankment the grey wall of fog shut out everything but an occasional gull which flitted out for a moment and disappeared again.
The embankment road was lined with Highland soldiers in khaki greatcoats and Scotch caps, drawn up in quarter companies, while on either side of the road stood a solid black wall of humanity—waiting, some with umbrellas up to protect them from the fine drizzle. Not a hundred yards away Cleopatra's needle stood like a tall sentinel in the mist, and one wondered what tales of battle and heroic deeds it could tell, if it could speak. One could imagine that during the long ages it must have witnessed other magnificent funerals of kings and heroes, and smiled, perhaps, at the brevity of human life.
The silence was broken by the long roll of kettledrums, and the strains of Chopin's funeral march floated to us through the heavy air; sadder than ever before they seemed to me, and yet, too, more dignified than ever before. Then along the embankment, past Cleopatra's needle, the head of the procession burst up through the fog as though coming out of the ground.
The band came first, followed by the London Scottish with arms reversed, the brass butts of the guns visible before the soldiers themselves, making a curious reflection in the fog.
Then followed other regiments of infantry, squadrons of horses, Indian troops with strangely-laden mules, guns; then, more cavalry. The horses sent out great spurts of steam from their nostrils into the cold raw air.
Then a space, and the funeral car drawn by six horses with riders approached. The coffin, covered with a Union Jack, looked very small, and a big lump came into my throat as I realized that this was all that remained of the great little soldier, whose motor car not three weeks before at Salisbury Plain had stopped beside mine, and whose deeply seamed and furrowed face I had studied with the greatest interest, remarking then that he looked very, very old.
After the car, the General's horse, with boots reversed in the stirrups, was led,—riderless.
Next came a dozen or more coaches bearing the mourners, including the King, and the pall-bearers, one of whom was Lord Kitchener. Squadron after squadron of cavalry filed past two and two, until one felt the procession was never going to end. The fog thinned somewhat, and a tug and scow whirled past down the river on the rapidly flowing tide, disappearing again into the mist.
As the last horses disappeared, the crowd began to move; motor cars appeared; and the cortege of one of the greatest British generals passed on to St. Paul's, the last resting place of the great soldiers and sailors of the Empire.
One felt that Lord Roberts was greater than all those soldiers who had gone before him, for his life had been without blemish. Seldom—indeed, never before—had any British soldier or statesman the opportunity to say to the nation "I told you so." For ten years without avail, Lord Roberts had been warning the nation about the great need of being prepared for a war that was bound to come; he had tried by every possible means to wake it from its sleep and had failed; and when the great war came as he said it would, he offered no word in the way of reproach or self glorification, but bent all his energies to help his Empire to his utmost in the hour of her greatest need. And although he "passed over" before victory had come to us, he had seen enough to know that the ultimate result would bring security to the Empire and freedom to the human race.
DAYS WHEN THINGS WENT WRONG.
One day things went wrong; they are always going wrong in the army,—that is part of the game. It takes a considerable portion of an officer's time correcting mistakes of brother officers; otherwise there wouldn't be much to do in peace times.
Well, as I was saying, things went wrong. We had been on the qui vive for two weeks, expecting a telegram from the war office to leave for France. We had everything ready to pack aboard the motor truck in one hour. Then, by diligent enquiry, we discovered that our truck was to go to France when a spare convoy of trucks went over.
The Colonel in charge at Bulford Camp said it would not be this week—there might possibly be a convoy going over the next week or the week after—or next month—he could not really say when. He had a letter from the war office on his desk about the matter and would notify us at the earliest possible moment.
We went away tearing our hair out, and we have no superfluous hair to lose. We held a council of war. We leaped into our trusty car and sped swiftly into Salisbury. The Canadian General, the object of our quest, had just left for Shorncliff and would be back, perhaps, in two or three days. We hunted for the A.A. & Q.M.G. of the 2nd Canadian Division. After searching the register of three hotels we ran across an officer who said that the A.A. & Q.M.G. had also gone to Shorncliff. We had arrived too late to obtain assistance from this quarter.
As it was now after 7 o'clock we had to have dinner. This was an ordeal for we hated the Salisbury hotels; they had been so crowded that winter with Canadian officers and their wives that the proprietors had lost their heads. They didn't care whether they served you or not. One of them even paid a "boots" to stand at the door and insult possible guests, the idea being to turn as many away as possible. The hotel keepers must have heaped up untold wealth that winter, and the abundance of custom had ruined their sense of hospitality.
So we discarded the idea of a hotel dinner. We referred to our chauffeur, who was "some chauffeur, believe me." "What about that little chop house ('The Silver Grill') which he had frequently lauded with fulsome praise?" He did not now wax enthusiastic—a point we noted, and of which we found the explanation—but he drove us there.
The Silver Grill was a curious old place, with winding stair-case, ancient beamed ceilings in the smoking-room, and a general appearance indicating that it had seen service at least two hundred years. Climbing to the attic, we entered a little dining room, perhaps twenty feet long, with room for about sixteen diners. The tables were occupied chiefly by officers, and we took the settee next the wall and ordered the chef d'oeuvre—a steak smothered in onions, and French fried potatoes.
Norah, the one serving maid, a pretty little thing, was evidently a great favorite with the habituees of the place. The wife of the proprietor was a handsome big woman dressed in a close fitting black frock, with the figure of a Venus de Milo. She hovered about talking to the men and acting "mother" to them all. One officer was plainly "overseas". The landlady watched him like a sister, got him to put his hat and coat on properly and steered him past the smoking-room and bar to the front door, and she was careful to explain to us two, knowing we were Canadians, "I have never seen Captain X like that before. You know we have become very fond of the Canadians. Poor Lt.—who was killed last week came to wish me good-bye." And, dropping into a chair beside us, she talked of this and that Canadian officer; of how nearly all the medical men and veterinary officers had dined at the Grill; she told us also about her three children, including the baby which was now eight months old and could talk.
By this time all the diners had gone except one, a civilian, sitting in the farthest corner of the room. The land-lady had again begun to talk about the Canadians, when the civilian suddenly interrupted sneeringly "The Canadians! what good are they? An expense to the country. What have they done? If I had my way I'd hang every one of them."
For a moment we were petrified with anger. "What do you mean?" I finally managed to demand.
"Oh! you know" he sneered.
"No I don't" I returned; "that is strange talk; you will have to explain yourself."
"I don't need to explain anything" he said.
"Then allow me to tell you that you are a d—— liar" put in Captain E—— glaring at the man ferociously; "I say you are a d—— liar" repeated the Captain with greater emphasis and deliberation.
But the cad was very thick-skinned; he made not the slightest show of resentment at the opprobrious epithet. So we got up and walked over to him.
"You miserable shrimp" said Captain E—— as he stood over the fellow with hands a-twitching to take hold of him. "You mean, skulking coward, to talk like that of men who have come over to fight in the place of wretched gutter-snipes and quitters like you."
"Three of us here are Canadians" I added, "and if you will be so accommodating as to step outside, any one of us will be delighted to give you the darnedest licking you ever got in your life."
The skulker didn't even move. Captain E—— got worked up to the point of explosion as he watched the fellow unconcernedly keep on eating. "You snivelling cur I've a good mind to rub your face in that gravy, by G— I will rub it in that gravy!" exploded the Captain, and in the instant he seized the dinner-plate in one hand and the fellow's head in the other and brought them quickly together, rubbing the man's chin and nose briskly round and round in the mixture of congealing gravy and potatoes.
"Be very careful what you are about" sputtered the creature, looking up when Captain E—— had desisted, and wiping the streaming grease from his face with his pocket-handkerchief.
It was tremendously ludicrous; the utter spinelessness of the creature so at variance with the boastful scorn of his previous words and tone so obviously showed him to be a coward that all we could do was laugh and turn away. You could no more think of striking that weak, backboneless poltroon than of hitting a six months' old baby.
We tendered the landlady a sovereign in payment for our dinner, but she only kept eyeing with intense anger and disgust and shame this wretched specimen of a fellow-countryman who had wantonly insulted two of her colonial guests in her house and in her presence. During the gravy-rubbing performance she had run downstairs to tell her husband in case there should be a "scene," and he had retailed the story to the crowd of "select patrons" gathered in the little smoking-room. Again we called the lady's attention to the proffered coin, but in her agitation, it took her at least five minutes to total our bill correctly.
We offered our apologies for our forcible language, but she considered no apology necessary. "You were insulted in my house" she said, "and I admire you for the stand you took. That man will never enter this place again." Following us downstairs she begged us to step into the smoking-room "just a minute, to see that all our customers are not like that one" and when she thought we were not going to accede to her request she laid a hand on my arm and almost beseeched me to come back and have a cup of coffee or something to drink.
Her husband, a fine looking, tall, curly-headed Englishman, seconded her invitation, and we went back to the smoking-room. As we entered, every man stood up and bowed, and several made room for us. They had heard the story, and, by their reception of us they tried to show that they strongly disapproved of their countryman's insult to the colonials.
A few minutes afterwards, the clock struck nine, and the doors were closed upon all but Captain Ellis and myself. Nothing was too good for us, and to the accompaniment of numerous cups of coffee, brought by Norah, we talked away till ten o'clock. Both the landlord and his wife walked out to our car with us, and continued to offer their regrets for the treatment which we had received.
By the time we got "home" we were fairly cooled off, and we went to bed that night with the proud feeling that we had saved the name of Canada.
Another time "things went wrong" was one Saturday afternoon when we took a half-day off. It was not that we needed the holiday from overwork, because, for two weeks, three of the four of us had been doing nothing. The fourth man, a captain of Highland descent, had, unlike the rest of us, really been working hard. Yet we all needed the holiday, for loafing anywhere is usually the hardest work in the world; but loafing on the edge of Salisbury Plain with little to see was work even harder than the hardest. Napoleon is said to have remarked that "war is made up of short periods of intense activity followed by much longer periods of enforced idleness" or something to that effect. Of the "intense activity" of war we as yet had had no experience but with "enforced idleness," we were all too distressingly familiar. In civilian life we had been very busy men; and here we had been plunged into a world where for months at a time there was almost nothing to do—and what was worse, there was no place to go to and forget about it.
So, after a hard two-week's work doing nothing, we studied the map and decided that the sea was within easy range of our four-cylinder thirty. Accordingly we struck out for the sea, followed the track of the little river Avon, which flows past Salisbury Plain, through Amesbury and the ancient city of Salisbury and empties into the British channel at Christchurch.
It was a glorious March afternoon, with intervals of brilliant sunshine; the roads were good, and we rolled along through the little English villages with their thatched-roofs, at a speed which quickly brought us to the New Forest. All of a sudden a strange, familiar tang in the air thrilled us. Every man sat instantly erect and gulped down, in wonderment at his own action, a succession of great, deep satisfying breaths: And then the explanation broke from two of us at the same moment, "Canada!" It was the familiar Canadian smell of the autumn forest fires that had for the moment penetrated from the outward senses to the inmost soul of each and it left us for the moment just the least bit homesick.
Less than an hour and a half brought us to the prosperous city of Bournemouth, filled with the omnipresent "Tommy." The sea looked mighty good to us, for we hadn't seen it since our landing in October, though we had seen plenty of water—rain water—since. We raced our car along the beach, got out and snapshotted one another, admired the views, and cut up generally like a gang of boys let loose from school. Then somebody said "tea," and we drove to a little rather suspicious looking "Pub" on the beach.
There we got tea and toast but we didn't stay long, for out of the window we could see the chauffeur under-cross-fire of a policeman, and in England that always means trouble.
An itinerant dog fancier had two diminutive "Norwegian truffle 'unters" which he was anxious to part with, but we couldn't wait to talk to him. Nor had we time to ask him whether truffle growing was an industry in Norway, or whether the substituting of dogs for pigs in hunting truffles was a recent innovation.
The Cop had been watching for us from across the way, and we were hardly out when he was already upon us. "Excuse me, sir, but you 'aven't a hidentification number on your car" said the Cop.
"We have not" I replied, "what is the sense of having a number?"
"To hidentify the car, sir," said the Cop.
"Can't you identify the car with that label on" I queried, pointing to the bonnet upon which was a label reading: Canadian Government; the car also had three O.H.M.S. signs upon it.
"Our orders is, sir, to see that all cars on 'is Majesty's service 'ave Hidentification numbers" persisted the Cop.
"We are very sorry," I replied, "that we had our identification all printed out so that you could read it, instead of getting a number; it was stupid of us."
"Orders is orders" said the Cop.
"You people make me sick" suddenly broke in Mac. "We came over here to fight for you and all you do for us is make it as damned disagreeable as possible; you are a miserable people."
"Pardon me, sir" said the Cop softly, "I thought I was speaking to a gentleman." During the controversy we had got into our car and without ceremony we drove off, leaving behind us a discomfited policeman. Fortunately Mac had not heard the parting remark of the policeman. Had he done so it is doubtful if we would have left Bournemouth that night, for heaven only knows what would have happened to that policeman. When I chaffed him by repeating the policeman's sally when we were a mile away, Mac was for a moment knocked speechless with anger, then he begged us to go back and help him find the policeman.
Having escaped the arm of the law we went for a little drive about town, with its wonderful shops: the shops of Bournemouth are the best I have seen in England, and are rivalled only by those of Glasgow. Then we drew up at the best hotel in town—"The Royal Bath Hotel," which, with its long low facade and its lack of upper stories looked more like a luxurious club house than a modern hotel.
The main lounge was something to marvel at. Apparently it had been given over to a band of decorators and furnishers gone delirious, for the evidence of their delirium was to be seen on every side. The walls were all broken up: One wall was covered with hangings; two parts of the remainder had an upper border of hand-painted men in battle array; a glass wall through which the dining-room could be seen made a third; and the fourth was occupied by a balcony from which one descended scarlet carpeted stairways into the room.
The woodwork was a hideous golden-oak. The ceiling was broken by a series of beams radiating unevenly from one annular space, in all directions, and with no apparent design. The furniture was rattan and plush, upholstered and plain, and was crowded together with a few writing tables scattered here and there. It was a discordant orgie of decorative effects and the result was unutterably depressing.
We sank into chairs and gazed about us in awe. No hotel had ever affected any of us like this before. At first we talked in whispers; then as our courage revived, we became critical. Then somebody thought of having a "Scoot"; tremulously he pressed the button for the waiter. The waiter came and they had two "Scoots" each. Then somebody made a funny remark and one of us laughed out loud. Suddenly the laugher stopped and said, "I feel as if I ought not to laugh; I feel that nobody ever laughed in this place before."
Dinner time approached. Old ladies in wonderful dresses began to appear, followed by old English gentlemen in dress clothes. The dining-room began to fill up. We decided to wait till the room was nearly full before going in so that we could get an idea of the fashionable watering place people of England. Somebody thought that it would be as well to reserve a table, and Captain R—— was deputed to do so. In fifteen minutes he came back twisting his black moustache and looking depressed.
"Nothing doing," he reported in disappointment.
"What!" we cried.
"Nothing doing" he repeated mechanically. "We may possibly get a table after 8.30."
"Do you mean to say" cried Mac, jumping from his chair in a rage, "that we can't get anything to eat?" Captain R—— nodded. "Let's leave this d—— morgue; I hate it anyway" stormed Mac, and we filed sadly out.
In the hall we had a try with the head clerk, and another with the head waiter, but it was no use. "Guests must be served first" was the only argument; pointing out that there were a dozen tables yet unset made no difference. Our chauffeur had gone, so we left our address for him, ordered a taxi, and drove to the Burlington Hotel two miles away. Before dismissing the taxi we took the precaution of seeing that we could get dinner, and finding that the hotel authorities agreed to furnish us with a meal we clambered out; after divesting ourselves of our overcoats we were ushered into a dining room crowded with beautiful women and, mostly, ugly men. There were some hummers among the women.
The relief at the change from the dismal, deliriously-decorated hotel to this bright, cheery room, was so great that we suddenly grew exceedingly gay and enjoyed ourselves hugely. A little concert afterwards added to the enjoyment, which was only slightly marred by a bill for forty-two shillings.
Our homeward journey was through little villages all asleep, and silent as the adjacent churchyards; and as we two tumbled into our cots at midnight we voted that we had spent "a fine day" in spite of the mischievous tendency of things "to go wrong."
Another of these "days" came later. We had been waiting at Bulford Cottage for three weeks for orders from the war office to leave for France, and we were growing decidedly fidgety. The fine weather feeling of Spring in the air may have had something to do with our restlessness. The buds were swelling on the great trees near by, and the leaves had actually broken from their bonds on some of the hedges. The air was full of bird songs; the lark in particular seemed to be mad with the joy of springtime. At Bulford Manor I had picked the first wall-flowers in bloom in the open garden; Roman Hyacinths, Daffodils, Snowdrops, English daisies, and another little unfamiliar white flower were in blossom, and even the Japonica was bursting into scarlet against the sunny walls.
It was a pleasant time for loafing and under any other circumstances we would have enjoyed it; but this was war time. Already our Canadian Division had been at the front for four weeks and here were we doing nothing, when we might have been making ourselves useful at the front. The war office was advertising for "one hundred sanitary officers who would be of vital service to the force in the field" and here were two of us, with long experience in practical sanitation and eager to make use of that experience, idling in the valley of the Avon on Salisbury Plain.
Our chief was in France, and in our impatience we concluded that something had gone wrong at the war office in regard to our little unit. The only way to find out was to go to London; so we set out,—the Medical Officer of Health of Ottawa, Captain Lomer; the provincial bacteriologist of Alberta, Captain Rankin; and myself. We left Bulford at eleven o'clock, or to be precise, at five minutes to eleven. We stopped twenty minutes at Andover to send a cablegram, and were held up at a level crossing for five minutes. At one thirty we passed the official centre of London, Hyde Park corner, and were having our dinner in the Marguereta Restaurant in Oxford Street at a quarter to two. We therefore had covered the distance of ninety-eight miles in two hours and fifteen minutes actual travelling time, or at an average speed of nearly forty-four miles an hour. At one time our indicator registered sixty-five miles an hour and for quite a number of miles we travelled steadily at fifty-six miles an hour. Of course this was in England, where roads are as smooth as asphalt and where raised or sunken culverts, the curse of motorists, are unknown.
We did enjoy that Bohemian dinner. We had all the things that one does not have in a military mess on Salisbury Plain. Hors d'oeuvres, salad, fish, duck, and so forth. We were just finishing, and had lit our cigarettes while waiting for coffee, when the door porter came in and whispered to Captain Rankin that a policeman had our chauffeur in charge and wanted to see one of us. The doughty Captain went out, and came back in a minute to say that the cop wanted him to go to the police station and explain why we did not have a number on our motor. He also added that there was a number of people around the car. "What did you tell him?" I asked. "I said I would go after I had finished my dinner," said the Captain, which seemed to me quite Canadian and reasonable.
He had not raised his cup to his lips when the same porter tapped him a second time on the shoulder, with "Beg pardon, sir, but the officer says he can't wait." We were grieved, and looked it.
"It's very unreasonable," said the Captain, "to disturb us at dinner like this."
"If we don't go now I guess it will take a good deal longer to get the car away from the police station," I said. "Besides, supposing Rad has cheeked them and they lock him up, we won't be able to get back till tomorrow. None of us can run the car well enough to get out of London without getting into a smash up." So saying, I put on my coat and sallied forth.
Before I got to the front door I could tell there was something doing, for the restaurant windows were filled with diners standing on chairs. Through a vacant space I could see a great crowd and two policemen's helmets standing up above the middle of the throng. They considerately opened a passage up for me to the two policemen who were standing beside the car with Rad at the wheel looking quite unconcerned.
"What is the matter?" I demanded.
"Your car has no number on it," said a policeman.
It was so similar to our experience the week before at Bournemouth that I smiled inwardly, and went through the same formula.
"Why should a government car have a number?" I asked.
"To identify it, sir, those are our orders, sir."
"Can't you identify that car?" I asked. "It says, written in big letters on the front, "Canadian Government, Divisional Headquarters," in case you can't read! The car belongs to the Canadian Government. We are waiting to go to France; we came into London less than an hour ago on business to the War Office. Is there anything more you want?"
"We would like the chauffeur's name," said the cub policeman, who had caused the trouble. I spelled it out to him three times; it sounded very German, but he said nothing.
Then in turn I took out my note book and took the numbers of the policemen. The crowd had listened with great interest, and were evidently against the policemen. A boy looked under a policeman's arm and grinned; I winked at him covertly, and he went into a paroxysm of laughter. Then with dignity I got into the car and we drove off to the bank, leaving behind the discomfited policemen and a crowd of several hundred people.
"Where did the cop get hold of you, Rad?" I enquired.
"Over on Bond Street," he said, "he insisted on my going to the police station with him. "All right," I said, "jump in," and he did so. I knew where the police station was in a street off Oxford Street, but when we got to the street I passed it. The officer called out, but I didn't hear him. At the next corner he yelled again, but I got in front of a convenient bus."
"Why didn't you turn there," he said.
"Then you would have had a real charge against me," I said, "for breaking the rules of traffic."
Finally he asked "Are you going to turn or not?" and I said "I guess we will turn here" and turned around, stopping in front of the Marguereta Restaurant.
"What are you stopping for?" he asked.
"The officers who are in charge of the car are in there at their dinner," I said, "you had better speak to them." Gee, he was mad."
All the rest of the afternoon I chuckled with delight at the picture of the anger of that cub six foot two policeman as he was being whirled along Oxford Street against his will, to a restaurant he did not want to go to, to meet people he didn't want to see.
THE LOST CANADIAN LABORATORY.
At the War Office in London, in the autumn of 1914, I met Captain Sydney Rowland of the staff of the Lister Institute. He was a man who had made a reputation in the scientific world and had just been authorized by the British War Office to purchase a huge motor caravan to be equipped as a mobile laboratory. The caravan had been built originally by a wealthy automobile manufacturer at a cost of 5,000 pounds, and had been completely equipped for living in while touring the country. It even had a little kitchen, and the whole affair was lined with aluminium. Tiring of it, the builder had sold it to a bookmaker who used it for less legitimate purposes.
Captain Rowland had heard of this machine and finally located and purchased it. All the expensive interior was torn out and replaced with work benches and sinks, while shelves and racks were provided for glassware and apparatus. It was a beautifully equipped, compact machine, and he was justly proud of it.
When he took it over to France he drove it up to the army area himself, and told me that as he approached the front through villages and towns at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour he had an absolutely unimpeded road. After one look at this huge affair, which was about the size of one of our large moving vans, bearing down on them like a runaway house, people fled or took to the side roads. Captain Rowland described with great glee the sensation it had caused, and his enjoyment of that drive.
That was the first mobile laboratory, the beginning of the field laboratories and the model upon which all others were constructed. The list of equipment prepared and used by Captain Rowland was also used as the basis for the requirements for all mobile laboratories subsequently equipped. A second bacteriological laboratory and two hygiene laboratories were sent out before permission was obtained from the Director of the Canadian Medical Service, to send out a Canadian laboratory. For some unexplained reason the Canadian Government refused the necessary funds for the chassis so that we were compelled to pack our equipment in twenty-four numbered cases, all of which could be carried on a three-ton motor lorry. I had discovered that the officers in charge of these laboratories at the front had already found them too small to work in comfortably, and had removed and placed the equipment in some convenient house, using the lorry merely to carry their equipment. We were able to carry twice as complete an equipment, costing altogether less than $2,000 in a borrowed lorry, and saved the cost of $10,000 for the motor chassis.
When the first Canadian Division went to France, No. 1 Canadian General Hospital had been left behind on Salisbury Plain, to take care of the sick. It had been decided that I was to go to France in command of the Canadian Mobile Laboratory, and that I should take with me two officers and several men from the staff of that hospital. The Lozier car which had been given me by the Canadian Government was also to go as part of the equipment. After working in the office of the Director of Medical Services for a couple of weeks straightening out the records in regard to typhoid inoculation, and cerebro-spinal meningitis, and in purchasing the necessary equipment, I received word that the laboratory was to go to the front immediately. The Surgeon-General accordingly made all the necessary arrangements, and left for France, while I went down to Bulford to wait for the expected telegram which was to speed us on our way.
We waited over three weeks for the message, growing more and more desperate every day. Finally we went up to London and found that somebody had made a mistake and that we were supposed to be in France long ago. We were instructed to leave on the second day following.
The men were all greatly excited at the good news. We had a farewell dinner that night at the mess, which assumed a somewhat convivial character, and when I left to drive two visitors into Salisbury, the hospital dentist was making a rambling, tearful plea to a few hilarious auditors, on behalf of Ireland, while the great majority were paying no more attention to him than if he did not exist.
Next morning with our equipment, men and car, we set out for Southampton, amid the envious farewells of our brother officers, whose call had not yet come. Everything was loaded on board the transport at noon, and late in the afternoon we left for Havre, accompanied by two torpedo boat destroyers.