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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -
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"THE RED WATCH"
WITH THE FIRST CANADIAN DIVISION IN FLANDERS
"THE RED WATCH" WITH THE FIRST CANADIAN DIVISION IN FLANDERS
BY COLONEL J.A. CURRIE, M.P.
LONDON: CONSTABLE AND COMPANY, LTD. 1916
COPYRIGHT, CANADA, 1916 By McCLELLAND, GOODCHILD & STEWART, LIMITED TORONTO.
PRINTED IN CANADA.
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF THE CANADIAN SOLDIERS WHO FELL IN FLANDERS
These for the Empire stood in war array, Barring the Hun invader on his way; Into the battle rushed at Duty's call, Resolved to hold their trenches or to fall; That Britons ne'er to tyrants bend the knee But live as they were born, unyoked and free. Now, in the bosom of a distant land These warriors sleep, for such is God's command. The Fates in all decree, and have their will, And mortals must their destiny fulfill.
J.A. CURRIE, M.P., Colonel.
CHAPTER I Kilties in Canada 11
CHAPTER II "The Red Watch" or 48th Highlanders 18
CHAPTER III The Newer Colonial Policy 22
CHAPTER IV The Call to Arms 28
CHAPTER V Organizing Imperial Battalions 37
CHAPTER VI The New Armada 46
CHAPTER VII Salisbury and the Stones of Stonehenge 63
CHAPTER VIII Under Field Marshal Earl Roberts 72
CHAPTER IX Moulding an Army 81
CHAPTER X His Majesty the King, and Field Marshal the Right Hon. Viscount Kitchener 90
CHAPTER XI Off for France 100
CHAPTER XII Somewhere in Flanders 112
CHAPTER XIII With Field Marshal Sir John French 116
CHAPTER XIV Under Hiex Shells 122
CHAPTER XV The Flare-lit Trenches of Fromelles 132
CHAPTER XVI With General Sir Douglas Haig 146
CHAPTER XVII The Battle of Neuve Chapelle 155
CHAPTER XVIII Billets and Bivouacs 174
CHAPTER XIX With General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien 182
CHAPTER XX The Historic Salient at Ypres 189
CHAPTER XXI The Red Cock Crows 197
CHAPTER XXII German Gas and Turcos 204
CHAPTER XXIII The Battle of St. Julien 216
CHAPTER XXIV Hanging on 228
CHAPTER XXV All that was Left of Them 245
CHAPTER XXVI Digging in with General Snow 257
CHAPTER XXVII Twelve Glorious Days 267
CHAPTER XXVIII Winning Another Championship 275
CHAPTER XXIX An Appreciation of Valor 281
CHAPTER XXX Wanted, More and More of Them 286
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Col. John A. Currie Frontispiece
Capt. R. Clifford Darling, Adjutant 24
Officers of the 48th Highlanders 40
Group of Non-Commissioned Officers, 48th Highlanders 56
Aboard Ship in Winter Garb 72
Our Pullman Coach 88
48th Highlanders at Church Service near Messines 104
Church Steeple where V.C. was Won 120
Signallers in Flanders 136
The Trenches in Winter 152
First Aid in the Trenches 168
Trenches at Neuve Chapelle 184
Map of the Original Salient at Ypres 194
The Famous Road to Ypres 200
Map of the Break in the Salient 206
Sniping Through a Port Hole 216
A narrow Escape 232
Map of the Salient Flattened 248
The Muster of the 48th Highlanders after the Battle of St. Julien 264
The kind reception given to the rough notes from the Author's Diary, which appeared first in the daily papers in Canada, encouraged the production of this book. These notes, in order to make them more readable, have been put in narrative form. There is no pretence that this is a history of the war. It is only a string of pen pictures describing life and incidents of the campaign common to almost every corps in the field.
Where anything is omitted it must be borne in mind that the author cannot give any information of a military character which might assist the enemy while the war is in progress.
Opinions and observations on military matters are omitted. Discussions on the merits of the various arms, equipments, rifles, work of the staff, errors, omissions and criticisms of the manner in which the war is conducted, must wait for a future volume.
It is hoped that this publication will encourage all young men to "take their places in the ranks" and bear arms for the King and Empire, regardless of whether our military system be volunteering, conscription or National service.
It is more evident every day that there is need for the mobilization and consolidation of all the resources of the Empire. Consolidated and mobilized the Empire is self-sustaining and invincible. Its military and financial powers would be quadrupled. There is nothing to justify any delay in accomplishing this object except political expediency. In union there would be not only immediate strength, but confidence and harmony.
The world is just as full of brave deeds and stirring events as ever. The British Empire is yet a lump of clay unfashioned and formless on the wheel of the potter. That is the colonial view. It is for us to help "Mould it nearer to our heart's desire."
It is a great privilege to live in this age when such glorious deeds are being performed and history is being written. It is better still to be permitted to die, doing brave deeds, that our Empire may live, greater, freer and happier than ever.
TORONTO, OCTOBER 2ND, 1916.
KILTIES IN CANADA.
With this book as with many others the first chapter should be read last. The reason it is placed first is that the chronological order must be maintained. Besides, when stirring deeds by brave men are recalled, it matters not how briefly, they demand better treatment than being embalmed in an appendix.
This chapter deals with the first appearance of the Highland soldier in Canada. That appearance was both interesting and tragic. The stories and legends surrounding the campaigns of these brave men have furnished many themes for the poet and novelist. This chapter can only briefly refer to them.
If you search the great plains and rugged mountains of Canada from end to end, you will find many beautiful plants and flowers, but not a single spray of heather. Only in one spot in the whole vast Dominion will you find the plant that is so characteristically Scottish, growing naturally, and that is in Point Pleasant Park, Halifax. Tradition has it that on this spot, in 1757, the soldiers of the "Black Watch," the 42nd Highlanders, first set foot on Canadian soil. Here in this park, one of the most beautiful in America, the visitor is shown a plot of Scottish heather, flourishing vigorously in spite of souvenir hunters and vandals.
The Black Watch arrived at Halifax in the spring of 1757 to take part in the expedition against Louisburg, under General Abercrombie. Some say that the men of the Regiment, desirous of perpetuating the badge of so many of their clansmen, planted the heather seed where it now grows. Others, that the palliasses or mattresses of the soldiers were emptied here after the voyage, and the heather with which they had been filled in Scotland provided the seed from which this plot grew. It matters very little how it came. The heather still flourishes on the spot where the Black Watch first pitched its tent in Canada.
The expedition against Louisburg was abandoned, but the following year the regiment took part in the operations against the French under Montcalm at Lake George. Visitors there are shown the ruins of the ramparts of Ticonderoga. Around these ruins cling many legends and stories, but the name of Ticonderoga will live forever in the weird tale immortalized by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, Parkman and the poem of Robert Louis Stevenson. It is told how on the eve of the battle there appeared to Duncan Campbell, of Inverawe, Major of the Black Watch, the wraith of a relative, murdered by a man to whom Campbell had granted sanctuary. This wraith had years previously appeared to him and warned him that he would meet him at "Ticonderoga." The following day Major Campbell died at the head of the assaulting columns of the Black Watch, and that brave regiment lost 655 officers and men, nearly equalling the losses of the "Red Watch," the 48th Highlanders of Canada, at the Battle of St. Julian in Flanders, when their roll showed 691 casualties.
The charge of the Black Watch at Ticonderoga was one of the bravest exploits of British arms. The gallant Highlanders advanced against the log redoubts and abattis of the French under Montcalm, hacking at the branches with their broadswords, climbing the ramparts with the assistance of their comrades, only to be hurled back, torn and bleeding, with the grape shot from hidden guns and musket-fire from many loopholes. They assaulted again and again, and finally had to be withdrawn.
For their gallant conduct at Ticonderoga the "Black Watch" were made a "Royal" regiment by the King.
The Black Watch was quartered for many years afterwards in Canada and quite a few of the descendants of these old warriors helped to make history for the Canadians in this latest and "Greatest War."
The second appearance of the armed Highlander in Canada was characteristically dramatic. They came in the persons of Fraser's Highlanders, hard on the heels of the gallant Black Watch. This regiment, known as the old 78th, was celebrated in many ways. This is the corps raised by Lord Lovat, that Pitt was said to have had in mind when in the British House of Commons he delivered the famous panegyric on the Highland troops.
This regiment distinguished itself first at the taking of Louisburg. It was the first to climb the Heights of Abraham and its fame has come down through history with that of Wolfe's victory at Quebec. The fierce charge of this regiment at Quebec which broke through the French line as if it were paper, is accounted for by the story that the Highlanders were rendered frantic by the fall of Wolfe whom they idolized, as the young staff officer who, on the day after Culloden, dared the anger of his Commander by refusing to pistol a wounded Highlander. A Canadian poet, Mr. Duncan Anderson, in describing the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, refers to the Frasers thus:
"And the shrill pipe its coronach that wailed, On dark Culloden moor, o'er trampled dead, Now sounds the 'Onset' that each clansman knows, Still leads the foremost rank where noblest blood is shed."
While Fraser's regiment were in garrison in Quebec, an incident occurred that was later on duplicated in Flanders. Owing to the inclement weather in Quebec, some of the officers in authority decided that the men should discard their kilts and don trousers. The officers and men of the regiment would not hear of it, and the historian of the regiment says that the kilt was retained winter and summer and that "in the course of six years the doctors learned that in the coldest of winters the men clad in the Highland garb were more healthy than those regiments that wore breeches and warm clothing."
In the trenches at Neuve Chapelle an agitation arose to give the kilted Canadian soldier in the trenches trousers. With the snow on the ground and half an inch of ice on the water pails in the morning, they would not hear of anything but the kilt. Their health was similarly good, colds being unknown.
Along with Fraser's regiment there came also the Montgomery Highlanders, the 77th, raised by Hon. Arch. Montgomery, son of the Earl of Eglington. This regiment took its full share of the operations against the French at Fort DuQuesne and elsewhere.
Romantic interest clings around the memories of the Montgomery Highlanders. This regiment was known as the "Lost Regiment." The legend says that one of its gallant leaders, Major Charteris, fell in love with a young woman of his native parish of Perth before he went to the War. She promised to wait till he returned when he would have carved a name for himself with his good broadsword, which was his only fortune. Whilst his regiment was in America his letters failed to reach her, and finally the troop ship on which Charteris sailed for home was driven ashore and his regiment took eight months to make the voyage. All hands were given up as lost, and Major Charteris' sweetheart consented to marry another officer, a "slacker" who had not gone to the war. While the wedding bells were ringing, the regiment marched into Perth, but half an hour too late. Charteris returned to America and died the death of a soldier. His name is still perpetuated in that of a town in Illinois, Ft. Charteris.
The first Highland Regiment to be enlisted in Canada was the Royal Highland Emigrants, still known in the army list as the 84th. No regiment ever embodied in the British service deserves kindlier remembrance in Canada than this gallant corps. The name and number has been perpetuated in the British Army List. Its exploits will never be forgotten and should be cherished by all Canadians. This regiment was enlisted in 1775 when the Revolutionary War broke out, from the Highlanders of Fraser's, Montgomery's and the Black Watch regiments that had settled in America.
When the Revolutionary War broke out Lieut.-Col. Allan McLean, of Torlousk, and Capt. John Small of Strathardle, in Athole, proceeded to embody the members of the Highland regiments that had settled in America. These old Highlanders rallied to the colors of the new battalions, two in number, and they served with great distinction throughout the revolutionary period. McLean raised one battalion in the States among the loyal Highlanders of Virginia and the Carolinas. He was assisted by Capt. McLeod, a former officer in Fraser's regiment. Through many perils and devious routes the men who enlisted found their way to the battalion rendezvous, and when they had all gathered they marched to Quebec, and virtually took charge of the stirring defence of that famous fortress against the American army under Montgomery and Arnold. Throughout the siege, the order and gallantry of the Highlanders animated the garrison and it was before the muskets of the Royal Highland Emigrants that Montgomery fell at the barrier beneath the citadel.
No greater service was ever given to the British Crown than that given at Quebec by the Royal Highland Emigrants, during the second siege. Their undaunted conduct stirred to emulation the brave French-Canadians who mustered to assist the British, and by their joint efforts the American invasion and siege came to an end.
The second battalion served in Nova Scotia during the war. Five of the companies accompanied Lord Cornwallis in his operations in New York and the Southern coast States. Later the two battalions were formed into the 84th Regiment, Sir Henry Clinton being appointed Colonel-in-Chief.
History repeats itself and the descendants of the gallant Royal Highland Emigrants, more than a hundred years later, in the ranks of the "Red Watch," or 48th Highlanders of Canada, fought side by side in the same brigade in Flanders with the gallant Royal Montreal Regiment, composed largely of French-Canadians.
When the Royal Emigrants were disbanded in Canada after the war, the men returned to their farms. Colonel McLean's battalion settled chiefly in Ontario. Many of their descendants still live on their original homesteads and have filled honourable positions in the public and private life of their country. The members of Small's battalion settled in Nova Scotia, and their descendants were in evidence when a Highland corps was organized by Lieut.-Col. Struan Robertson of Pictou, to take part in the "Greatest War."
During the War of 1812, a regiment was raised amongst the Highlanders of the County of Glengarry, Ontario, known as the Glengarry Fencibles. Descendants of these soldiers were amongst the first to offer their services for Flanders in 1914. One gallant officer of the 48th, Captain Archibald McGregor, who gave his life at the Battle of St. Julien, was a descendant of these men of Glengarry.
The Glengarry Fencibles fought amongst the foremost at the Battle of Lundy's Lane alongside the 100th Prince of Wales Regiment, which at that period was uniformed in kilts.
Many distinguished highland regiments served in Canada during the nineteenth century. Amongst those that are still held in kindly remembrance are the following: The Highland Light Infantry, the 73rd, 74th, 78th, 79th and 93rd. Many of the officers and men of these regiments bought out in Canada or else settled in the country at the end of their period of service.
Thus it will be seen that the kilted soldiers have played a prominent part in the pioneer life and settlement of Canada, where men of Scottish blood have always found a congenial home. The highest offices in the gift of the people have gone to the men of Scottish origin like Sir John Macdonald, Alexander Mackenzie, George Brown and Sir Oliver Mowat, whose genius for organization and government made possible Confederation. In the financial and industrial life of the country the names of Lord Strathcona, Sir James Drummond and many other Scots will always be cherished.
It matters not whether the Scottish lad comes from the "dim shieling" or the ancestral castle, when he reaches the shores of Canada he finds the Field Marshal's baton in his pocket, and he can be a leader in whatever sphere of life he chooses.
THE "RED WATCH" OR 48TH HIGHLANDERS
It was while doing duty in Scotland, shortly after the Jacobite rising, that the 42nd Highlanders came to be called the "Black Watch." The sombre color of their kilts and the work in which they were engaged combined to give them this nickname, which has clung to this famous regiment ever since. The 48th Highlanders of Canada wore a sombre tartan like the "Black Watch," interwoven with a broad red check, and it was whilst doing duty as patrol over a steel plant at Sault Ste. Marie that some striking Scotchmen first called the Canadian Regiment the "Red Watch." The name has been accepted and alternates with the "48th" in describing this corps. The brave Seaforths have a light grey check in their tartans, the gay Gordons a brilliant golden check, but the 48th have this check in red, and when the kilts are properly made the stripe comes on the fold of the tartan and gives a peculiar shimmering effect to the swaying kilts while the men are on the march. The nickname of the "Red Watch" is not as well known as that of the "Black Watch," but the Imperial Battalion of the "Red Watch" loyally earned the name at the great salient at Ypres, where they watched at the post of honor and halted the German masses in their second great drive to Calais. This story has most to tell about these stirring days, but a word about the Canadian Militia and this regiment in particular may be in order.
Reference in the foregoing chapter has been made to the Highland regiments that served in the Colonial Wars. These troops were regular troops, but always serving with or against them were the Canadian Militia.
From the very beginning of the Colonies there was a Canadian Militia. From its inception during the Indian wars down to the time of writing, this Militia has been distinguished for bravery. It came into being in the days of the early French settlement, and the Canadian Militia helped Montcalm to fight at Ticonderoga, Detroit and Fort DuQuesne. During the Seven Years' War, the Canadian Militia served continuously. At the capitulation of Canada it was stipulated that the Provincial Militia were to be allowed to return unmolested to their farms. They marched out of the fallen fortresses with all the honors of war, with arms and badges, drums beating, colors flying and matches lit. When Canada became British, the militia was incorporated into the new State organization. It distinguished itself again during the War of 1812 at Chateauguay, Detroit, Queenston Heights, Chippewa and Lundy's Lane. On numerous occasions the Imperial authorities commended the gallant conduct of the Canadian Militia.
When the Confederation of the Canadian Colonies was accomplished, in 1866, it was decided that the defence of the country should be left largely to the Militia, and a condition of Confederation was that this force was to be retained and strengthened, and a certain sum of money should be spent upon it annually.
When an invasion was threatened from the United States in 1866, the Canadian Militia sprang to arms and manned the frontiers. When General Louis Riel raised the banner of rebellion in the North-West Territories of Canada on two occasions, it was the civilian soldiers that suppressed the uprising. When the British power under Lord Wolseley went to the assistance of General Gordon in the Soudan, a contingent of Canadians, under Colonel Frederick Denison, C.B., M.P., helped to pilot the Nile barges up that historic river. Again when war broke out in South Africa, the Canadian contingent covered itself with glory on the hard won field of Paardeburg, helping materially to win the first decisive victory in South Africa for the British Army.
The 48th Highlanders Regiment in the Canadian Militia was formed in 1891. A number of enthusiastic Scotchmen met in the City of Toronto and decided to organize a Militia Regiment wearing the tartan kilt and feather bonnet. Committees were formed and in a very short time sufficient funds were raised to enable the regiment to be uniformed. Sir George E. Foster, then Minister of Finance for the Dominion of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister, and Sir Oliver Mowat, the Premier of the Province of Ontario, lent their patronage to the movement. The writer was associated in the work, and appeared in the first Gazette as a Captain of the new corps. The first Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel J.I. Davidson, Lieutenant-Colonel A.M. Cosby, Lieutenant-Colonel W.C. Macdonald, Lieutenant-Colonel Robertson and Lieutenant-Colonel William Hendrie were on the original committees of the regiment. At the time of writing this book, the regiment had one Colonel and five Lieutenant-Colonels on active service, namely, Colonel Currie, M.P., Lieutenant-Colonels Marshall, Hendrie, Dansereau, Miller and Chisholm.
One of the leading spirits in the formation of the corps was Hon. Lt.-Colonel Dr. Alexander Fraser, Ph.D., A.D.C., the noted Celtic scholar and antiquarian. The tartan chosen was the old Davidson tartan in honor of its first Colonel. The badge was the Celtic motto "Dileas Gu Brath." It was given the number "48" in the Canadian Militia list, which number on its bonnets and badges it has since proudly worn on two continents and in three countries, on tented ground and hard fought field. In the South African War the regiment sent its quota and the men served with much distinction.
Many Highland gatherings in Canada were held under the auspices of this regiment. A bayonet team was sent to the Royal Military tournament, at Islington, in June, 1897, and this team carried off the three principal events, viz.: the Colonial Individual Competition, the All-Comers' Individual Championship and the Team Championship. Private George Stewart it was that won the Championship, and a great reception was tendered him when he came home to Canada.
The regiment had always paid a great deal of attention to musketry and in 1913, the year the writer became Commanding Officer, the blue ribbon of Rifle shooting, the King's Prize, was won at Bisley by a member of the corps, Sergeant Hawkins. In that year the Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment, General Sir Ian Hamilton, arrived in Canada on a tour of inspection of the Overseas Forces of the Crown. He reviewed the regiment and expressed himself as well pleased. This visit was considered a great honor.
Early in the year 1914, the strength of the regiment was raised to a peace establishment of 867, rank and file, and the field training of the corps took place at Petawawa, where Lord Brooke had command of the Canadian forces in training. The regiment behaved well and showed evidence of the high standard of efficiency which it subsequently reached. The greatest enthusiasm prevailed, and the corps was in excellent form when the war was declared in August, 1914. It was the first to volunteer as a unit for Overseas service.
THE NEWER COLONIAL POLICY
"I suppose now that Great Britain has declared war on Germany, Canada will throw in her lot with the United States," so laughingly spoke an American friend that I met the day Great Britain declared war on Germany.
"Not a bit of it," I said. "Before the week is over you will hear the drums beating and see recruits foregathering here. Canada is at war as well as Great Britain."
"But won't you have difficulties with Quebec?"
"Nothing of the kind. Depend upon it, the last gun in favor of British connection in Canada will, if necessary, be fired by a French-Canadian. They marry young and may be a trifle slow in volunteering on that account. It requires a great effort for a man to tear himself away from a young, helpless wife and a large small family, but they come of good fighting stock, and when it comes to war, blood will tell."
"Well, you can depend on the Monroe-doctrine anyway."
"Yes, we believe in the Monroe-doctrine just the same as you do. We are going to fight for it on the Plains of Flanders."
"But you don't mean that Canada is going to take an active part in the war?"
"Well, nobody ever thought you would."
In this he was expressing the traditional view of Colonial connection. At the time of the break with the American colonies, Turgot, the great French economist, coined a phrase which has been accepted by the chancelleries of Europe as a truism: "Colonies are like fruit, when they become ripe they drop from the parent stem."
When Germany decided to cross the Meuse into Belgium the Emperor had been assured by his foreign office that Great Britain would not take part in the war. There were the disturbing questions of Home Rule for Ireland, Socialism and anti-Militarism, and the Colonies had grown in wealth and population to such an extent that they were ready to drop from the parent stem if ever they would do so. Would Great Britain risk civil war at home and the loss of her Colonies abroad in order to vindicate her pledge given years before, to keep inviolate the frontiers of Belgium? The answer was the prompt declaration of war on Germany, the cessation of political warfare at home, abroad the splendid enthusiasm of the Colonies with offers of men and money.
Previous to the break with the American Colonies, Great Britain had adopted a colonial policy very much on what we would call Imperial lines. The Navigation Laws of Cromwell gave her virtually command of all trade by sea, protective tariffs and bounties built up inter-Imperial and home trade.
At the end of the Seven Years' War, the Empire, judged from the world's standard, was far greater than it is now. The Colonies were vaster and comparatively more powerful. The general impression now is that Britain's Colonies in America were in those days managed the same as Germany managed her African Colonies, that they were oppressed and had nothing to say about how they were governed and that the mother country played the part of a despot. Such was not the case. The constitutions of the American Provinces were most democratic, more so than many colonial constitutions of to-day. All the provinces in America possessed a parliament elected by the people, and three of them, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, elected an upper House or Senate. Rhode Island and Connecticut elected their own Governors, and these two provinces, along with Maryland, could enact laws without the veto or interference of British legislators or the Crown. In 1762 Great Britain had 337,000 men under arms, and of these over 25,000 were Colonials from America. Fifteen thousand New England seamen volunteered for the Spanish War, and during the Seven Years' War the Colonials manned over 400 privateers or ships of war, and the State of Pennsylvania spent L440,000, a great sum of money in those days, for military purposes.
With the Colonies so loyal and so willing to assist Great Britain in time of trouble and danger, how was it that in a decade the Empire was shattered and the major portion of the Colonies were busy building up a nation of their own? At this distance of time it is still hard to view the question dispassionately.
Who was responsible for this great criminal folly?
Was it some individual?
Was it the old Colonial policy?
Or, was it petty parish politics?
The trend of political thought in the Colonies has generally been the antithesis of political thought in Great Britain. Colonial thought has always been an enigma to the British. Of recent years it has been both disturbing and confusing. The Colonial, who, with his own eyes, within the span of a few years in his own country, views the transition of a bit of landscape from barbarism to civilization, the hunter giving way to the shepherd, the herder to the farmer, cities and towns springing up over night with factories and banking established in a few months, seldom arrives at the same political conclusion as the theorist who tries to conjure up the genesis of political economy from books and musty documents. His is the school of hard experience, which teaches lessons that fine-spun theories cannot upset. It is so with his Colonial theories of economics and government. The dead weight of tradition does not hang around his neck where State affairs are concerned and precedent only counts when it is right and just.
Governor Pownall, of New Jersey, immediately previous to the time of the Revolutionary war, wrote a book, entitled: "The Administration of the British Colonies." In this work he pointed out the necessity of closer political union between the Colonies and the mother country; in fact, he outlined an Imperial constitution. He pointed out that there had always existed two lines of thought among English-speaking people. One favored unity, centralization, Imperialism, the other disunion, or individualism, claiming that in the absolute independence of each small unit of the Empire rested liberty and freedom. This struggle is still on.
Had Pitt followed up his idea of uniting the Colonies into a Dominion, or into an even greater union such as he was pressed then to do, the American Revolution would in all probability have been averted.
But Pitt's energies were turned to the war then being carried on in Germany, and the Colonies were for the time-being neglected with disastrous results.
The historical philosophers of modern Germany cherished the delusion that history would repeat itself.
Ever since the American Revolution, Great Britain had adopted a different Colonial policy from the policy of Pitt. The navigation laws had been repealed, protection and bounties had been withdrawn, the doctrine of laisser faire prevailed.
When the American Colonies secured their independence, each colony of the thirteen was a helpless independent unit. They had united for the war of Independence, but the union was one of sentiment, there was no constitution, no common ground on which they could unite for political action. Fortunately, the war had produced such wise patriotic men as Washington, Franklin and Hamilton, and through their efforts a political union of the Colonies was accomplished. It took the better part of ten years to do this. It was part of the policy of reconstruction. Later on, the Colonies in Canada followed suit. They united under a constitution which, at the same time, guaranteed the autonomy of the provinces within and solidarity in external affairs. Australia and South Africa followed suit. The policy of Imperial unity had been gathering force and momentum, but when the great war came it had not yet reached that point where the pressing of a button would set machinery at work which would marshall all the financial, mechanical, political and military resources of the Empire. That day will come.
The example of the Colonies in rallying immediately to the aid of the mother country proved the saying that after all it is the horse, not the harness, that pulls the load. The Imperial harness is an aggregation of shreds and patches, not yet even a conception, but when the time of trial came, the Imperial spirit rose superior to all obstacles, surprising the German Emperor and the whole world.
In vain were the seeds of sedition sown in various parts of the Empire and in neutral countries.
An old Irish woman voiced the Home Rule sentiment abroad thus: "The English have not used the Irish right, but we will forget that for the moment, for we will never be able to lift our heads again in New York if we let the Germans bate us."
The most preposterous thing in connection with the German program was the propaganda of anti-militarism preached among the British people, and the most amazing thing was that the British were so lacking in self-respect that they would listen to such doctrines. A noble and unsullied past has given the British people the right to be in the highest sense a military nation. For a century the sun has never risen, but its rays have fallen on the face of a Briton who has died for liberty. Wherever Britain has been compelled to draw the sword there has followed freedom and peace. There is the record of India, Canada, of Egypt and of South Africa to point to. No person unless steeped to the eye-brows in pro-Germanism can, in the face of that record, assert that Great Britain ever used her military power to oppress the weak, or tyrannize over the people she, of necessity, had to conquer. Why then should Britain be asked to disarm and turn over the business of maintaining the world's peace to the Hun and the Turk? To preach anti-militarism to a British people is to insult their intelligence. Britain alone of all nations has brought peace with her sword. The interests of Christianity, of humanity and of civilization demand that she be always a great military power. Had she not listened to the pro-German pleas of the so-called anti-militarists, Austria-Germany would not have dared to dream of conquering the world. Much suffering would have been avoided, and life and treasure would have been saved. This war is fairly laid at the door of those who practised and preached anti-militarism in the British Empire. If Great Britain had possessed a national army of half a million men in 1913, there would have been no war.
Somebody has to police the world and the best policeman is the man who wears khaki and speaks the English tongue.
THE CALL TO ARMS
In the War of 1870, the Germans advanced across the Rhine on the frontier of France. The independent State of Luxemburg and the Kingdom of Belgium were not disturbed. The Germans at that time respected the neutrality of these countries. They kept the treaties that had been made years before, guaranteeing these countries from invasion in case of war. Bismarck, although a man of "blood" and "iron," as a rule, respected treaties.
With the French frontier bristling with guns, fortresses and entrenchments that had been deliberately prepared in advance, the Germans, in 1914, stood a good chance of being beaten in the first round if they had attacked the eastern frontier of France on the declaration of war. Behind a ring of entrenchments the French Generals could deliberately mass their armies, and the battle front could be narrowed to such an extent that the preponderance of numbers which the Germans could put in the field could not count.
For some years, however, German military writers had been advocating that the German army of invasion should march through Belgium and Luxemburg. It was known that the latter country could not object, but with Belgium it was different. The Belgians had been warned, and were busy arming, under the leadership of their ruler, who was universally beloved. The Belgians are a proud people, and since the days of Caesar they had on numerous occasions hurled the invading Germans back and held their homes and frontiers inviolate. The Germans, however, imagined, that once their vast armies crossed the Meuse and began a march on Namur and Charleroi, the martial ardor of the Belgians would cool and that beyond a formal protest, no resistance would be offered.
As France and Belgium had been on terms of friendship for many years, the Franco-Belgian frontier had not been protected by fortresses. The German frontier of Belgium, however, had been fortified some years before under the direction of a famous Belgian engineer, named Brailmont, who was the successor of other eminent military Belgian engineers, such as Vauban, who had taught the art of fortification to a previous age.
On August 2nd, 1914, the Germans declared war on France, and the First field army of Austro-Germans crossed the Meuse near Liege. For two weeks the Germans delayed before Liege, expecting that the French would send several armies into Belgium and thus weaken the forces before Metz. The French generals refused the bait, and were ready when the German main army struck along the old road from Metz to Paris. The Germans were defeated and left 40,000 dead on the battlefield. This was the greatest battle in the history of the world.
Great Britain declared war on Germany for violating the neutrality of Belgium and the war feeling in Canada became intense. It was realized that Canada must participate. The only question was what form aid would take.
For a number of years the question of the "German Peril" had been discussed, but a great many people imagined that the anti-German talk was a mild form of Jingoism. It soon became known that Great Britain would accept the defence of the sea as her share of the war, and that only a small field army would be sent abroad. The great question for a few days was, would Canada be allowed to send a contingent to serve with the Allies? Again, as in the case of the South African war, the arm-chair critics were in favor of drafting a number of Canadians to serve with the British regiments. Sir Robert Borden, however, was not long in making it known that a contingent of Canadians would be enlisted and that they would serve abroad as a unit, under their own officers. Then there was much rejoicing.
The next question that arose was whether the unit was to be composed of regiments of militia, drafts from militia regiments, or recruits from outside the militia. The Minister of Militia and Defence promptly announced that he would accept battalions or units from Militia regiments and that the men would serve under their own officers. This was highly satisfactory.
The guiding hand of his Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, Governor-General, the first soldier of Europe, was seen everywhere, at the beginning and throughout the war. It was a fortunate matter for Canada that he was Governor-General at the time.
To the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, was due the splendid response to the call to arms of the Canadian people. He put duty before public applause of petty politics like a true Canadian. Future generations will do full credit to his unselfishness.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the leader of the Opposition, brushing aside all partizanship, earnestly seconded the efforts of the Government. His splendid patriotism never rose to greater heights than in this trying time.
A meeting of the 48th Highlanders was immediately called at the Officers' quarters, and they were asked to say whether they desired the regiment to go as a complete battalion. The first man to say "yes" was the regimental surgeon, Major MacKenzie, whose subsequent services at Flanders were of great value. Other officers tendered their services and it was seen at once that there would be plenty of officers; as for the men, numbers were available, and it was decided then and there that the regiment would go as a unit. Some officers could not see their way to go. Business and family ties prevented them. Happy is that militia regiment whose senior officers are at all times ready to sacrifice their business as well as their lives in the service of the country.
It was my duty as the Commanding Officer to see the Minister of Militia at once and tender the services of the 48th Highlanders as a unit. Those were strenuous days for the Minister. At Ottawa I found him surrounded by his staff, with sleeves rolled up, dealing with heaps of correspondence and a long row of people outside in the ante-room waiting to see him. I asked him if he would take the Regiment, kilts and all, and he promptly said he would, that in a few hours orders would be issued for the Militia to enlist for foreign service and that a great camp of instruction would be formed at Valcartier, where they would all be prepared for overseas service. In the meantime, the units enlisting or volunteering would be drilled at local Headquarters, and the 48th and the Toronto units would go into camp at Long Branch for a few weeks. The announcement was made in the press that the 48th had volunteered, under my command, and on my return I ordered a parade of the regiment on Friday, August 8th, to start work for overseas and open recruit classes.
On Friday evening, the battalion paraded nine hundred and fifty-three strong. The great Armories were thronged with people and hundreds had to be refused permission to enter. The people were filled with the war spirit and the excitement was intense. The two bands were on hand, the brass with forty-five musicians and the pipes with twenty pipers. The battalion marched through the streets, and all along the line of march for over a mile the streets were so thronged with a cheering crowd that it was almost impossible for the men in fours to march through. Thousands of flags waved and the people were much excited. Some one for a joked waved the German flag at the head of the regiment and in a moment it was torn from his hand and trampled to pieces by the crowd. The joker had a narrow escape with his life. That night, three hundred and fifty-five recruits joined for overseas service. Many men in the regiment had served for years and in some instances father and son stood side by side in the ranks.
It was felt it would not be fair to take many men of middle age along. This was going to be a long war and required young men, and the age limit was put at thirty years, the height at five feet eight inches and the chest measurement at thirty-eight inches. These were the limits given to the recruiting sergeants, and with lots of men offering, we knew that we would have no difficulty in getting all we required.
Orders for the mobilization, on the 15th of August, of the Canadian Militia, were issued. Instructions for the Toronto Corps to go into training at Long Branch were also given and I was instructed that whilst at Long Branch I would have to officiate as Brigadier. On the 17th of August the 48th Highlanders paraded at the Armories and, headed by the pipers playing "We will take the High Road," they marched to the Union Station and entrained for Long Branch Camp.
Long Branch is located about twelve miles west of the City of Toronto. Here there is an excellent Rifle Range and ample accommodation for four or five thousand men. Major Sweny, a Canadian officer in the British Army, who was attached to the Canadian instructional staff, and Major Dixon, acted as Brigade staff officers, and very soon the camp was in running order.
The first night the Battalion spent in camp there was a terrible thunder-storm, one of the worst in years. It was our first night on active service and no doubt many wondered if this presaged the future of the "Red Watch" in Flanders.
There was not much sleep for the Commanding Officer that night. What with the terrific storm which lit up the landscape as light as day, and the newly-acquired responsibility of drilling and disciplining a battalion of raw troops for the war, the outlook spelt much hard work. Drilling a Battalion of Militia once a week was fun compared with such work, for besides the foot and arm drill there was the field training, and worst of all, the training of the men and non-commissioned officers in the duties of a soldier in quarters and in the field. The material was of the very best quality, comprising college men, business men, and men associated with the industrial life of the country. The responsibility of its form and future rested on its commanding officer. The officers and non-commissioned officers had to be trained from the beginning. In the British army the tradition of the duties of officers and non-commissioned officers,—the interior economy of the regiment—descends from generation to generation as unwritten laws or rules. Certain things are done in a certain way, often differently from other corps, in memory of some event in the history of the regiment. We had no standing orders and no regimental traditions. In a regular regiment a non-com. learns how to "carry on" his work from practical experience and seeing other non-coms. doing their work. Long before he becomes a "duty" non-com., he knows what to do. In our case these duties would have to be taught by means of lectures. This would be difficult. The first morning we were in camp, classes for the officers and non-commissioned officers were started. The Adjutant, Captain Darling, and Lieutenant Warren, who was made Assistant Adjutant, rendered very valuable services at this juncture, as did also Sergeant-Major Grant, Sergeant Alex. Sinclair, who was given a Commission, and Sergeant Radcliffe, who subsequently became a Company Commander in one of the Battalions of the Staffordshire regiment, and was wounded at the Dardanelles. The men were turned over for musketry instruction to Captain McGregor. Fortunately, we had several good musketry instructors, among them Sergeant Hawkins, winner of the King's prize at Bisley, Sergeant Graham and Sergeant Williams, bayonet instructor.
All young men who desired to qualify as non-coms. and instructors were asked to join these classes, and they responded in large numbers. They became highly efficient, and when we went to England, quite a few transferred to the New Army as instructional officers and rose very rapidly in the British service.
The organization and discipline of the Light Division in the Peninsular War, trained by Sir John Moore and General Crauford, has always been noted as a model for future armies. It was decided to follow as closely as possible this system, and the Standing Orders of the Light Division, that served with such distinction under the Duke of Wellington in Spain, Portugal and France, became the basis of the standing orders of our new Highland battalion. The instructional classes, once established, ran on very smoothly. Great stress was laid upon acquiring a good clear, decisive and loud word of command. There is nothing that will galvanize a Highland Battalion into action like a sharp word of command with the "rs" well sounded.
The duties of Brigadier at Long Branch did not prove as onerous as expected, as the units that went out for training there were officered by experienced instructors who were accustomed to training camps at Niagara, so the work of hammering the various troops into shape proceeded very rapidly. The anti-militarists, however, were very busy and persisted in anonymously calling me up by telephone and pointing out to me what a terrible thing it was to take up arms against the Kaiser and to take so many fine men off with me to the war. Others wrote annoying anonymous letters calling down the wrath of Heaven on my head for trying to mix Canada in the war, whilst a third faction suffering from the Celtic gift of second sight described how mysterious falling stars and meteors flashing across the sky at night, and other portents, presaged dire disaster to the British arms in the war, and more particularly to the 48th Highlanders.
Staff officers, Majors Dixon and Sweny, were both soon called to Valcartier to help organize the first contingent. Later, Major Sweny left for England to join his regiment, which had been ordered to the Front. Had Major Sweny remained in Canada he no doubt would have been given a command high up on the staff, and very rapid promotion, but he chose to play the manlier part, and joined his own regiment in England when called. The war gave him well deserved promotion.
On August the 18th, the House of Commons met in Ottawa and the Speech from the Throne was read by His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, khaki being the uniform of the military men present. A short visit to Ottawa to say good-bye to colleagues in the House of Commons, a brief trip to Collingwood in my constituency to lay the corner stone of a new postoffice building, and I was back again at the work of preparing for Flanders. The soldiers were hardly settled in camp at Long Branch, when orders were given that every man would have to be inoculated against typhoid, and the process began on a Saturday. The men lined up cheerfully and let the regimental surgeon, Major MacKenzie, jab a needle and the serum into their arms.
The following Sunday there was a Church parade. The sermon was preached by Rev. Major Crawford Brown, the regimental Chaplain. The various units in camp paraded at a small natural amphitheatre near the lines. Many people motored out from Toronto to attend the service. The band of the regiment, under Lieut. John Slatter, came out and supplied the music for the service. The day was beautifully bright and a trifle warm. After the sermon had commenced, many of the men began to feel the effects of the serum and a few toppled over, and for the first time the new battalion heard the call of "stretcher bearer." The men were all ordered to sit down. The effect of the inoculation is to make one have real typhoid for a few hours, after that there is a quick recovery, and the absence of typhoid among the men subsequently spoke volumes for the efficacy of the preventative.
Every evening the battalion had a camp fire and "sing-song," and hundreds of people came out from Toronto to join in the fun, which consisted of band music, choruses and Highland dancing. The days passed very pleasantly and quickly. On August 27th, orders arrived for the battalion to go to Valcartier to join the contingent being formed there for overseas service, and an advance party left for that camp at once. The date for the departure of the battalion was fixed for Saturday, August 29th. That was to be the first march on the road to Flanders.
ORGANIZING IMPERIAL BATTALIONS
The work of organizing and equipping the Canadian Imperial battalions for overseas service was taken up with great vigor by the Minister of Militia, Major-General Sir Sam Hughes, and the officers of his Department.
Owing to the influence of the churches the best class of youth in the country came forward in large numbers. The Clergy appealed to the athletes that had been trained in the Gymnasiums of the Y.M.C.A., and the ranks soon contained a large sprinkling of Canadian lacrosse and hockey players. It was afterwards to be shown that the manly and strenuous native Canadian sports, lacrosse and hockey, practised by almost every boy in the country from the time he is able to walk, are of a character admirably suited to produce bold and courageous soldiers. Boys who have been accustomed to handle lacrosse and hockey sticks, develop arm and shoulder muscles that make the carrying and use of the rifle easy. Firing for hours during a hot and sustained engagement does not fatigue nor exhaust them as it otherwise would. In the rough work of the bayonet charge, they keep their heads, and have confidence in their ability at close quarters to overcome their antagonist. They do not dread a blow or a bayonet, for they have been accustomed to roughing it all their lives. When it comes to "cold steel," it is the man who has the courage and confidence in himself that wins, for nineteen times out of twenty the other man is dominated before blades are crossed, and at once either throws up his hands or runs.
The moral character and influence of these men permeated the first contingent, with the result that never since the days of Cromwell's New Army did the Empire possess a more athletic, courageous or God-fearing army than the First Canadian Contingent. The work of carving the name of "Canada" in the annals of the war was entrusted to the hands of these clean, sober, religious, athletic young men. How they kept this trust history in future ages will tell in letters of gold. Many clergymen of various denominations who had been foremost in preaching Pacifism, upon hearing of the ruthless invasion of Belgium, realized the hollow sham of German culture, and saw the Hun in his true light. With the Empire plunged into a great war, it was not a time to consider the ancient and pampered ideas of consistency. Until the German was destroyed there could be no peace of any kind. To their eternal credit, be it said, they flung themselves whole-heartedly into the cause, and none equalled them in preaching resistance, recruiting and working night and day for the Red Cross Society and various other patriotic and national organizations.
With such vast numbers of men coming forward there was a good deal of discussion as to who should be first taken, the arguments being very much in favor of the veterans or "ribbon" men who had seen service in previous campaigns. About two thousand of the men who had gone from Canada to the South African war were still living, and a great many veterans from the Old Country had immigrated to Canada, and with few exceptions they unhesitatingly offered their services. If they passed the surgeon they were taken on, and afterwards they did good service. They were especially numerous in the Princess Pats, the British Columbian and Western Regiments. These men, although foreign born, prided themselves on being "Canadians." They increased, however, the percentage of those in the first contingent born outside of Canada, but the officers of the first contingent almost to a man were Canadians.
On Saturday, August 29th, 1914, our Battalion paraded early in the morning and bade farewell to Long Branch Camp. The night before we left we had a "sing-song" or concert. Arrangements had been made for us to take cars for Toronto in the morning and rendezvous at the Armories during the noon-hour, when the men would be allowed to see their friends or sweethearts. We entrained safely and made a brave show as we marched up Queen Street to the Armories, the pipes playing "Highland Laddie." Shortly after one o'clock the people began to gather and they soon filled the drill hall. There was very little gloom and everybody was cheerful.
As we fell in, the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir John Gibson, and Lady Gibson, arrived and they spoke to me of their son, Lieutenant Frank Gibson, who was one of my officers, expressing their pleasure at his being an officer of the corps. A gallant young soldier he was, indeed; a graduate of the Royal Military College, and always wearing a pleasant smile. Other parents spoke of their sons to me. Some of the older officers of the garrison were afraid that my officers were too young and that we did not have enough officers of mature years, but experience was to show that age does not give a monopoly of courage or bravery, nor of fortitude and good judgment.
Memorable addresses were delivered by the Lieutenant-Governor, the Mayor of the City, Mr. Hocken, and by the Chaplain Major, the Rev. Crawford Brown. His excellent address was full of comfort and cheer for the men. He told them it was a great honor to be permitted to go to the front and that their country would always esteem them and owe them a debt of gratitude. The Armories rang with cheers as the pipes struck up the war tune, "Well take the High Road," and the battalion swung out of the doors and into the drizzling rain that was falling, but in spite of which, thousands of people lined the streets. Every step we took the excitement became more intense, and by the time we reached the Don Station where we were to entrain for Valcartier, almost all semblance of order was gone from the ranks. Young ladies carried the men's rifles, others decorated them with flowers, others clung to their arms and the sidewalks were a mass of excited cheering humanity. Friends and relations came from all over the Province of Ontario to see the regiment off for the front. I have seen many crowds in my life, and excited ones at that, but the crowd that covered the Don Bridge above the station and every available vantage point and avenue that led to our train that afternoon was by long odds the largest. It was estimated that 100,000 gathered to see us off. The farewell the people gave us was very touching. There were no tears, no wailing, but cheers, earnestness and good will, and a hearty send-off. In spite of the crowd the men found their way to their respective cars, and we pulled out of the station on the second lap of our journey to the Front, on time.
Lieutenant Barwick acted as transport officer and the parade state showed 970 men and officers.
We had an excellent run on the Canadian Northern Railway to Quebec, but lost a little time there and were late in reaching Valcartier. The men had their blankets, rifles, and equipment complete with them. They were fitted out ready for the field with everything but ammunition.
When we arrived at Valcartier it was still raining, but the troops already there turned out and lined the roadway to cheer and see us march in. The Minister of Militia met us at the station, together with Lt.-Colonel Murphy of Ottawa, and guides led us to the lines where we were to be quartered for the night.
Nature has done much to adorn Valcartier and every mile along the road from Quebec to this beautiful valley is rich in historic associations. First, there is the St. Charles river, whose shallows and mud flats foiled General Wolfe in his first assault upon Quebec. A few miles along we came near to the ruins of the famous Chateau Noir or Hermitage of Intendant Bigot, made famous in story by Kirby in "Le Chien D'Or;" by Sir Gilbert Parker in "The Seats of the Mighty"; by W.D. Howells and by Joseph Marinette. Only a heap of ruins are left. The famous maze is gone, chopped into firewood, no doubt. Still nightly the spirit of Caroline, according to local traditions, haunts the spot where she was murdered by her jealous rival, Madame Pean. Further on, there is the village of Loretto where hundreds of years ago the first mission to the Indians was established in Canada. Here are living to-day the last of that mighty Indian tribe, the Hurons, who in the beginning cast in their lot with the French settlers, and paid for it later by being annihilated by the fierce Iroquois, the Allies of the British. For over two hundred years, since 1697, this remnant have lived in security within the sound of Loretto Falls, and worshipped for over one hundred and fifty years in the Mission Church of Loretto, which is a replica of the Santa Casa of Loretto and contains a copy of the Loretto figure of the Virgin.
[Illustration: OFFICERS OF THE 48TH HIGHLANDERS
From Left to Right—Top Row: Lt. J.A.M. Livingstone, (W); Lt. W.P. Malone; Lt. L.V. Jones, (G.P.); Lt. H.M. Scott, (G); Lt. G.P. Taylor, (K); Lt. R.H. Davidson; Lt. Q.T. Langmuir,(K); Hon. Capt. Moffat, Chaplain; Lt. H.A. Barwick,(G.P.); Lt. F.M. Gibson,(K).
Second Row Standing: Lt. A.J. Sinclair, (W); Lt. E.W. Bickle, (W.G.); Lt. A.E. Muir, (K); Lt. C.V. Fessenden, (G.P.); Lt. E.O. Bath, (G.P.); Lt. W.B. Lawson; Lt. F.H.C. MacDonald, (G.P.); Lt. F.J. Smith, (G.P.); Lt. J.A. Dansereau (W.G.); Lt. W.W. Jago, (W); Lt. W. Mavor, (G.W. 3); Lt. P.G. Campbell; Lt. P.P. Acland, M.C., (W).
Sitting Down; Capt. Frank Perry; Capt. A.M. Daniels, (K); Capt. C.H. Musgrove, (W); Capt. F.G.M. Alexander, M.C., (G.P.); Surgeon Major A.J. MacKenzie; Lt. Col. Wm. Hendrie, (Divisional Remount Officer); Col. J.A. Currie, M.P., (G), (Commanding Officer); Major W.R. Marshall, D.S.O., (K); Major J.E.K. Osborne, (W.G.P.): Capt. G.H. McLaren, (G.); Capt. A.R. McGregor, (K.); Capt. R.R. McKessock, (G.W.P.).]
Further on, the road leads to where, through a deep gash in the mighty Laurentian Mountains, the Jacques Cartier river makes its troubled way to the broad St. Lawrence. There, in a beautiful wide valley, amid high mountains rising in graceful terraces from the river and overlooking the St. Lawrence, about one hundred years ago, a number of veterans that had followed Wellington to Waterloo formed a settlement, and beat their swords into ploughshares. They sleep now in the village churchyard, unmindful of drum or trumpet. Their descendents lived there only yesterday, but now their lands had been bought out to provide the grounds for Valcartier Camp.
The outlook for us was not very inviting after the clean camps pitched in the green fields at Long Branch, but the Department had done wonders during the time at its disposal. In less than three weeks a swamp had been cleared up, streets laid out with water mains, and even in some places sidewalks were laid. Mount Roby resounded to the shrill blast of the bugle, the rattle of rifles and the roar of field guns. The work of making a camp on a large scale was being carried out by hundreds of workmen, under foremen skilled in laying out cities and towns in Western Canada. The day after we arrived we were given our own lines and we settled down to hard work.
We transferred to our battalion enough men to fill our ranks up to the Imperial Establishment of 1,170 rank and file, including the base company and the transport. In order to accomplish this small detachments were taken from the 95th regiment, Cobalt and Sudbury, composed of miners and prospectors, also from the 31st Regiment, of Grey County, and the 13th Scottish Dragoons.
The 48th Highlanders, the "Red Watch," became the 15th Battalion of the First Canadian Division, C.E.F. It was subsequently, with all its officers, N.C.O.'s and men, granted the status of a Regular Imperial Regiment and given its name, "48th Highlanders," in the British Army List.
The regiment was turned over by the commanding officer, fully uniformed and equipped for the field as a regular Highland battalion without expense to the Crown except for rifles, bayonets and knapsacks, thus saving the country $25,000.
The camp was under the command of Colonel Victor Williams. It was no small task to clothe, equip and drill, ready for active warfare, some thirty-three thousand men. No liquor was allowed in the camp and there was very little difficulty with the men.
On Sunday, September 7th, the Division was reviewed by the Duke of Connaught. The battalions marched past in lines of half-battalions and made a very good showing.
Night and day the officers and men were hard at it. One of the greatest of many difficulties that were met was the selection of the officers and men for the contingent.
At first it was suggested that all the officers should be examined as to their fitness, and a Board was appointed to look them over, but in a few days this Board threw up its hands and the matter of selection was left to the Commanding Officers.
Many who had never served in the Militia were clamoring for commands and the Minister of Militia had some work on his hands. The contingent was formed into brigades and our battalion was put into the Highland Brigade, which consisted of our Regiment, the Royal Highlanders of Canada, Montreal, the Royal Regiment of Montreal, made up principally of French-Canadians, and the 16th battalion, subsequently called the Canadian Scottish, a composite corps consisting of Highland Companies from Victoria and Vancouver, B.C., from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and from Hamilton, Ontario. Each company wore a different tartan, but that did not interfere with their efficiency. Colonel Turner, V.C., was given the command.
On the 14th of September we were again reviewed by His Royal Highness, in the presence of General Crozier, an American officer. Rain to some extent interfered, as it had with the previous review. On Sunday, September 20th, Canon Scott, of Quebec, preached a field sermon to the Division. A platform had been erected and His Excellency and his staff took part in the service and subsequently reviewed the troops. The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, arrived in the morning and called on our battalion. Our officers were all introduced. He was accompanied by Lady Borden. The transports were already beginning to gather in the St. Lawrence that were to carry the contingent to England. Our equipment was very nearly complete and enough drill had been given to make us fairly respectable. We all thought we were fit for the field. We learnt differently afterwards.
It is very strange how the idea seems to get hold of a man, the minute he gets into khaki uniform, that he is a fully-trained soldier. In Canada, for years, we had no regular soldiers, and the training generally was of a kind patterned after the South African War. Straw hats and overalls were worn by the infantry, and the irregular cavalry swagger was the fashion. It was fondly imagined that any Canadian who could shoot straight and who had a week's training could take his place in the ranks and would be just as good a soldier as a regular of the King's first Army. No sooner was a man in uniform than everybody began asking him the question "When are you going to the Front?" assuming that was a question he could settle himself, and that he would be anything but in the way and a nuisance at the Front, owing to his lack of discipline and training. The public in this way made the men's and officers' lives very miserable. It was almost impossible to settle down to a hard course of training. Lord Kitchener had placed the period necessary for getting a man into shape as a soldier at six months. By great effort that period might be shortened, but from the experience we gained nine months would be nearer the mark. The training could be hurried by giving two months of foot and arm drill, two months' special training of the men in special units, such as signallers, stretcher bearers, machine gunners, bomb throwers, etc., and two months in hard field-training with lots of night work. But the press of the country was clamoring for us to go to the Front, and public opinion said "hurry." The battalions were all organized and orders came for us to move on the 29th of September.
There was a slight drizzle of rain in the morning when we paraded for the march out. Our transport waggons had to move out early and march to Quebec, and it was a difficult job to get them started.
I had done everything in my power to suppress gambling and swearing among the men, and on several occasions when individuals were paraded before me for using bad language, I had reprimanded them and informed them that the use of strong language was always left to the Officer Commanding. This particular morning some choice words had to be used to get the transport moving. They moved, however, to the tick of the clock and Sergeant-Major Grant, with a grin on his face, suggested that from now on there would be no more swearing in the ranks, as everybody was quite satisfied with the Commanding officer's qualifications in that regard.
Again the pipes struck up "We'll take the High Road," and after a march of about a mile and a half to a siding, we entrained in two sections for Quebec.
At Quebec we had not long to wait. The transport "Megantic," one of the finest ships on the North Atlantic, was hauled up at the pier with long planks out to take our regiment on board. The horses and waggons were to go on a separate ship, although there was plenty of room for them on board. We were all glad to get away, for it was becoming monotonous having everybody we met asking "When are you going away?"
THE NEW ARMADA
The St. Lawrence River at Quebec presented a busy scene. Never since the days of the Tercentennial of the discovery of the River by Jacques Cartier, when King George and the British fleet, headed by H.M.S. "The Indomitable," were present, was there so much activity, or so many ships in the harbor. As soon as each transport was loaded it pulled away from the pier and dropped anchor in the stream. When all our troops were on board the "Megantic" we cast loose, pulled up the stream off Cape Diamond, and "dropped our hook," as a landsman in the ranks was heard to remark. The hotels and boarding houses of the City were filled with friends of the men who had come on excursions to bid the soldiers good-bye. The City was full of life and activity and brilliantly lighted up and the scene at night was very beautiful. Old Cape Diamond wearing its crown and sparkling with thousands of electric lights looked its name. In its shadow on the evening before he climbed the heights at Ainse d'Fulon Cove, now dim and silent in the distance, to win the immortal battle of the Plains of Abraham, General Wolfe had recited Gray's "Elegy" and unconsciously the prophetic words "The Paths of Glory lead but to the Grave" arose in the mind. In these shadows Wolfe had brooded over those plans which on a succeeding morrow were to mature and lead to three of the greatest epochs in the history of the world—the fall of Quebec, which placed in the hands of Britannia the trident of the world's naval supremacy, destroying the foundations of the ancient regime of France, and laying the corner stone of the great American Republic.
Some one among the crew was humming the refrain of the old anchor-hoisting song, "Le Chien d'Or—I love your Daughter;" a melody that has haunted the River St. Lawrence since the day when his comrades forcibly carried off Admiral Nelson, then a "middy," from the wiles and fascinations of the daughter of the landlord of "Le Chien d'Or."
The distant tramp of battalions, the rumble of battery after battery as they marched through the crooked streets, came faintly from the shore. The slumbers of a hundred years of peace had been rudely broken. Europe was ablaze. The hands of the clock of civilization had been turned back a century. The Empire was again threatened and Canada was at war.
We lay in the river off Quebec from Saturday night until Tuesday evening, when we pulled up to the pier again and took on fresh water. The Captain had asked me if the bar was to be opened. I said, "No, close it up," which he did most cheerfully, remarking that it was the first time in twenty-seven years that the White Star line had sailed a "dry ship." He had thought he had plenty of water to take us to England, but after three days' experience with a lot of dry Highlanders he came to the conclusion he was mistaken, so he pulled up alongside of the dock again, and a miserable stream of water trickled slowly into the tanks, all afternoon and evening.
Colonel Penhale of the Divisional Ammunition Column was on board and entitled to seniority. I was very glad to be rid of the responsibility of ship management, with its round of inspections at all hours and in all weathers.
We had no sooner got settled on board than I asked the Captain to give us a plan of his lifeboat stations so that the men could assemble if necessary, without any confusion, at their posts at the lifeboats in the shortest possible time. I got this plan and then the trouble began. The orderly room began to attach the men to their stations by lists and I waited patiently for a day and there was still nothing but confusion, showing how difficult it is for an office to run a gang of men, something I had learned long ago. The Adjutant said "Rush," and every time a list was made out it was found that some names were missing and then fresh lists had to be made over again. Finally I took the sketch of the ship, showing the position of the boats, called the Captains of the companies and divided up the boat space among them, and told them to first place the men of their companies at the different stations with their life belts on, call the rolls of each boat squad, then dismiss them, and that in an hour or so I was going to "beat" the troops "to quarters." In an hour I caused the alarm bugle to sound and there was some scrambling, but I inspected the decks and found every man at his post with his life-belt on. The first time it took twenty-five minutes. We did this turn three times, so that the men soon knew the direct road from their berths to the lifeboats and were able to get into position in ten minutes, which is considered very good.
A time table of physical drill was prepared and carried out every morning and evening. From 9 to 10.30 the right half battalion practised first twenty minutes' run round the deck, then the balance of the time they spent at physical drill. This was repeated again in the afternoon, and the men were all fit when we landed. Officers and all had to go the round.
We pulled out of Quebec on Wednesday night at 10.15 and very soon everybody settled down to sleep. The night was dark and still as we floated down past Cape Diamond. We had a splendid ship, and every day our admiration of her increased. Even if there was a gale outside, the ship was as steady as a church. Every three men had a room and there was a berth for each one. They lived like millionaires. As for the officers and sergeants they had every comfort.
Our Captain was a very fine man by the name of James. He was an Englishman from Liverpool, with an aristocratic air, but quite modest, a gentleman and a seaman every inch of him.
Finally, we pulled into the stream and departed for parts unknown. We had a beautiful trip down the St. Lawrence. The sun was shining next day, and on the shore we could see the outlines of the French-Canadian villages, the long narrow farms and big churches. As we neared Gaspe Peninsula the mountains in the distant background were covered with snow. One by one we overhauled the steamers that left before us. In the evening we were off Flame Point, having dropped our pilot. At Flame Point they burned blue rockets or flares on the shore at dusk to give us a send-off. Gradually we swung around Gaspe Peninsula as dusk closed in. It was then we learned that sealed orders had been given the Captain to rendezvous at Gaspe Basin. Soon we came in sight of the lights that mark the entrance to this harbor. The Captain had his sounding-line going, and I was on the upper deck with the signallers. Pretty soon we made out the outlines of a small ship shrouded in darkness. We turned our signalling lamp on her and asked her name. In a moment came the answer "British Warship, don't go into the harbor until daylight." The Captain could not find bottom with his anchor with one hundred fathoms of chain out, so he had to stay outside, backing and going ahead, all night. We all went to bed feeling secure, with that cruiser lying a short distance away. When I woke up in the morning the bugles were sounding the "Officers' Call" to breakfast. I looked out of my cabin window and after dressing, hastily scrambled on deck. The sight in Gaspe Basin was one never to be forgotten. Twenty-eight transports were swinging at anchor, many of them the flower of the North Atlantic merchant fleet. The ship we were on was the finest of the White Star Line, the "Megantic." Some distance away was her sister ship the "Laurentic," also the "Franconia," the "Allonia," the "Royal George," and the "Royal Edward," all first-class ships. The weather was bright, clear and warm, and the water of the Basin as smooth as oil.
Some of our officers got letters before they left Quebec, stating that on the previous Sunday prayers had been offered up in the churches for the safety of the contingent, which was supposed to be at sea, while it was riding quietly at anchor in Quebec harbor. We were waiting for the last of the transports to come before we left. About ten o'clock I was on the bridge, when I heard cheering, and some one calling my name. I ran down the deck, and saw the Minister of Militia, who had come on alongside on a tug. He was going the rounds of the fleet. He spent a day among the ships, and there was a good deal of talk about his going on board one of the transports, but he did not. We all expected to see him waiting for us when we landed in England. The day passed quietly. No one was allowed ashore. The ship's gig went down to see some of the other ships of the White Star fleet and we got some of our belated mail. On Saturday we were to sail with the ebb tide. All the transports had come in and there was assembled in Gaspe Basin the greatest Armada that ever set sail for British shores. We were going in this great Armada to assist the Mother Country to maintain the Pax Britannicum. There were over twenty-five thousand men in thirty-one transports. They were anchored in the harbor in lines, and as the tide rose and fell they shifted about, now heading one way, and after the lapse of a few hours, in another direction. The Government had kindly issued to the officers Colt Automatic Pistols and high power field glasses. My glasses were of a very high power, and I could pick out the figures of the women and men working about the farm houses five miles away. The British warships in the basin were obsolete small cruisers of slow speed, the "Diana," the "Eclipse," the "Talbot" and the "Charybdis." The latter was the flagship of the Admiral. We looked upon these ships with a good deal of apprehension. The "Dresden" or "Karlsruhe," the German ships in the Atlantic, would only have a mouthful in any one of them, in fact in the whole four. They all anchored apart in a separate part of the harbor, and the signaller on the Admiral's ship amused himself by signalling, "Is your bar open?" "How is the Scotch?" Our men answered back in kind. This mosquito fleet appeared to have a big job on its hands to convoy this Armada across. Presently a naval "gent," or "hossifer" as some of the crew called him, came aboard, and gave the Captain his secret instructions, that is, the formation of the convoy, and a rendezvous for each day in case the convoy was scattered by fog, storm or other cause. The Captain said we were to sail at three o'clock, in three columns, right, centre and left line, with some ten ships in each line. The speed was to be ten knots. We were to lead the left line, with H.M.S. "Eclipse" four cable lengths ahead. The "Charybdis" was to lead the centre, and the "Diana" the left of the line, while the "Talbot" acted as a rear guard. Our ship started out first. The Captain of the "Eclipse" sent the height of his mast back to our Captain and we kept the distance constantly by the officer of the deck reading off the proper angle with the sextant. In and out our line threaded, and then began to zig-zag, until by-and-bye we were out of sight of Gaspe Cape and all three lines were abreast.
On the afternoon of the last day before we left a black gas boat filled with people came away from the shore. I scanned them carefully with my glasses. They came within a couple of hundred yards of our ship and after halting, went past, looking over the rest of the fleet. The crew were men and women, evidently fisherfolk, all except one woman, who sat huddled in the stern. She looked very much like a German and under her rough coat she had a fine blouse and good clothes. I had my suspicions and could not help thinking she was either a newspaper woman or a German spy. I was surprised to find that when I mentioned this boat to the Captain at the dinner table, he said she had a suspicious passenger on board, like a "German woman." He was some observer, was Captain James, R.N.R. He said "My word, we had one like her on board the last passage over. I set sail north for Greenland, keeping out of the way and coming in by Belle Isle. This woman had a basket on her arm when she came on board. I noticed her basket, and the pigeons in it soon found their way to the pot. I took them from her. She raised a storm, but I did not want any carrier pigeons on board. They made good pie."
Now I should say a word about this country before we leave it. The Basin where we rendezvoued was beautiful and well protected. A number of fishing boats flew white sails and proclaimed the principal industry of the villagers. French-Canadians reside on the shore. The most prominent objects on the horizon were the great churches that have the customary gilded spire and the clusters of white cottages about them. The shore rises steeply and the farms taper back into the forests that crown the hills of the background, which rise fully one thousand feet above the sea. On our left hand as we left the Basin were huge clay or sandstone cliffs cut away by the fierce swells of the Gulf. A lighthouse crowned the Point, with a flag staff from which a Union Jack stood out in the wind as stiff as a board. On the left there were masses of rock to mark the shore line, and several small islands. In one place we could plainly see an arched rock called "Pierced Rock," where the sea passed below a natural bridge.
The moon came up brightly as we sailed out into the Gulf. By-and-bye clouds fleeced about it and formed a peculiar halo resembling a cross. We took that for a good omen. We were speculating whether we were to go by Belle Isle or Cape Ray, but about nine o'clock the three lines set their course southeast and then we knew we were to take the southern route. The weather was all that could be desired, and the water as smooth as a mill pond. It was slightly cool, as the breezes always are from Newfoundland. In the morning we could see that ancient Colony, Cape Rae, with its lighthouse and wireless station. We had wireless on board, but were not allowed to use it except to intercept messages. When the Captain took his observation at noon, October 4th, we were in Lat. N. 47 deg. 36', Long. W. 59 deg. 51'. On a chart at the main companion way each day's run was recorded with the latitude and longitude. We had what they called north-easterly gales and fine weather. Along about noon we caught a glimpse of Cape Breton in the distance. Nothing occurred all day. It was cloudy to the north and west and clear to the south, with the sun shining. We had started a dry canteen when we left Quebec, and it was doing a land office business. No drinks of an intoxicating nature were sold on board.
When the Captain took his observation we had only sailed 190 miles from Gaspe. The next day was fine. In the morning we saw a ship loom up on our left and the cruiser flew out to "speak" her. Evidently she was all right, "The Bruce," bound from Newfoundland to Sydney. When she saw us first she started to run away, for the sight of our Armada was a very impressive one. The chase lasted only a short time when she discovered we were friends. Then in a very strange way a large grey battleship slid in from the horizon on our left and was etched against the bright sky. Volumes of smoke rose from her large funnels and two big masts with fighting tops made her look quite formidable. She had been out of sight just beyond the horizon all the time. We found that she was H.M.S. "Glory," a dreadnought. It felt very comfortable to have her there, speed twenty-three knots and four twelve-inch guns.
Along in the afternoon two whales spouting water came along and had a look at the fleet. They kept with us for some time but presently got tired.
At noon on the 5th, we were in Lat. 46 deg. 17', Long. 35 deg. 03', having sailed 213 miles in the 24 hours. The transport "Monmouth" had been giving us trouble, by constantly dropping back. The next day we would be out of sight of Newfoundland, and we wondered what weather we would get. The men were kept busy drilling and exercising, so were the officers. I was made Hon. President of the ship's Y.M.C.A., and a concert held on board netted a neat sum for the Patriotic fund. We had four preachers on board. We were to have had a priest, but in some way he did not turn up. To-day another steamer was chased by the "Charybdis" but she gave us the slip. She had the "legs" on us all, as the Captain said, and disappeared into a bank of fog to the north. Then we got clear of Cape Race, which we did not see. The wind changed to southwest, and began breaking up the nasty swell that came down the Atlantic. We had made in the twenty-four hours only 210 knots, our position being Lat. N. 45 deg. 36', Long. W. 50 deg. 11'. During the night the rudder gear jammed and our ship began to run amuck among the fleet. We all slept through it, but the Captain had to stay on deck till it was fixed. No harm done.
The next day was also fine. There had always been a storm behind us, but it had not yet caught up. On the 7th of October at noon we were Lat. 46 deg. 46' N., Long. 45 deg. 25' W., another 210 miles to our credit, and we were due about the 20th in Southampton at this rate. In the evening we were amused by a school of dolphins that chased each other about the ship, jumping out of the water, and acting up generally. We expected very soon to be in the Gulf stream, where the weather would be milder. The electric heater in my room was hardly large enough to cope with the chill in the air. On the 8th we made 214 miles and the "Monmouth," which was still giving trouble, was ordered up to the front and signalled by the Admiral to "stoke up." The Admiral had all the Captains scared stiff. Along in the afternoon we got into the Gulf stream. A man threw a green canvas pail overboard, dipped it full and took the temperature of the water. It was 56 deg.. Next day at noon it was 62 deg..
On the 9th we made 250 miles, which was a record run. The "Monmouth" had found her second wind and was going strong. Some of the ships were tossing but not very much. I forgot to say that on the 7th, a soldier on the ship astern of us died. He was a reservist going home to rejoin his regiment. The ship dropped out of the line and lowered her flag to half mast, and tolled her bell, whilst they buried him at sea.
All this time the weather was all that could be desired, with bright sunny days, a mackerel sky and moonlight nights, the moon being at its full.
The first night out, the Captain called my attention to a comet which was showing to the north, and according to traditions said to be a harbinger of war, but when we went to look for it with our glasses it had gone down. We saw it on the evening of the 7th just south of the second star in the tail of the "Dipper" or Great Bear. Looking through my glasses, which were the most powerful on board, being more so than the ship's telescopes, I could see it quite clearly with a great tail stretching to the northeast. In a week or so it would be quite large. The weather continued bright and all the time a storm hung on behind us, but never caught up.
On the 8th we got well into the Gulf stream, and the temperature of the water registered 62 deg. to 65 deg.. The nights had been so cold before this that I had to get out my eiderdown, but when we got into the warm water, that had to be discarded. We had a bit of a swell from the north, and we all felt a shade miserable but not enough to be really sick. During the day a large six-masted schooner, with a barge ahead of her, hove in sight and started down the line. The "Eclipse" went after her and led her out of the convoy line. "My," said the Captain to me, "that fellow will have his ticket taken from him for not keeping out of the way of a convoy." I found that a complaint from a naval officer can take away the papers of an officer of the merchant service.
On Saturday the 10th, when I got up, and looked out of my window, there on the port bow was another big warship. When I had a good look at her, I recognized that she was of what they call the Superdreadnought class. It turned out that she was the "Princess Royal," nicknamed H.M.S. "Hellfire." She has a speed of 34 knots an hour, and carried eight 13-1/2" guns, besides being very heavily armoured. God help the German that she marked down, for she was one of the most powerful fighting machines afloat.
On Saturday afternoon I gave the men a half-holiday, which they appreciated very much. The officers spent their spare time playing shuffle board, and other games such as are practised on board ship.