Canadian Expeditionary Force, Books, local history, Canada, Ca, Can, Canadian, World War 1, WWI, WW1, First World War, 1916-1918
Canada in Flanders Logo
CANADA IN FLANDERS
By SIR MAX AITKEN, M.P.

THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE
CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
VOLUME I.

CHAPTER I


MOBILISATION


War without warning-Canada's loyalty~Improvising an
.....Army-Efforts of the Minister of Militia-Camp at Val-
.....cartier-Canadian Armada sails-Arrival at Plymouth-
.....Lord Roberts's interest-King's visit to Canadian Camp
.....-Training completed-Sailing for France.


"0 by wandering tempest sown
.....'Neath every alien star,
Forget not whence the breath was blown
.....That wafted you afar!
For ye are still her ancient seed
.....On younger soil let fall-
Children of Britain's island-breed
To whom the Mother in her need
.....Perchance may one dav call."

-WILLIAM WATSON.

.....WAR came upon us without warning, like a
thunderbolt from a clear sky. Our people were
essentially non-military, fearing no aggression from
a peace-loving neighbour, and ignorant of the im-
minence of German aggression. Yet,in seven weeks,
Canada created the first apparatus of war. In seven
weeks we assembled an army which, a few months
later, was to save Calais on the battlefield of Lange-
mark. As a demonstration of practical loyalty the
exertions of Canada were only equalled by Australia

B


2...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.

and New Zealand. As an example of administra-
tion rising to an emergency, the effort has never been
surpassed in military history.
.....When the British ultimatum to Germany demand-
ing the recognition of the neutrality of Belgium
expired, the Canadian Government decided to raise
an Expeditionary Force. As this news flashed
across the Dominion, the fires of patriotism, which
had been smouldering, burst into flame in every
province. Parliament was in vacation, but the
rime mister returned from the West and sum-
moned his Cabinet. The Minister of Militia was
already at work in his office, for the proposal of the
Canadian Government to raise 20,000 men had
been accepted by the British Government.
..... Within two months of the outbreak of war between
Great Britain and Germany, the Dominion of
Canada concentrated, armed, and sent to Europe
an Expeditionary Force of 33,000 men. A volun-
tary army, the first complete Canadian Division
ever assembled, with more than half a Reserve
Division, this force was by far the greatest body
of soldiers that had ever crossed the Atlantic at
one time. It comprised cavalry, artillery, infantry,
engineers, signallers, supply and ammunition
columns, field ambulances and hospital staffs, pro-
vided with all the apparatus required for the
handling and treatment of the wounded; it carried
its own complement of rifles, machine guns, field
guns, and heavy artillery, and a store of ammunition.
.....It was not the first time that Canadians
had taken up arms in defence of Imperial
interests. In the Crimean War, Canadians fought in
the ranks of the British Army. The Indian Mutiny
MOBILISATION................3

saw the old Prince of Wales' Royal Canadian
Regiment at Gibraltar and at Malta. More than
7,000 Canadians fought for England in the South
African War. But now the Empire was to be tested
its foundations. The Minister of Militia, Major
General the Hon. Sir Sam Hughes, K.C.B., acted
with the promptness and energy for which he was
already famous in the Dominion. In less than a
month the Government, which had asked for 20,000
men, found almost 40,000 at its disposal, and the
Minister of Militia deemed it necessary to issue
orders that no more recruits be enrolled for the first
contingent.
.....Thus did Canada answer the call. From the work-
shops and the offices of her cities, from the lumber
of her forests, from the vast wheatfields of
from the farms and orchards of the East,
from the slopes of the Rockies, from the shores of
Hudson Bay, from the mining valleys of British
Columbia, from the banks of the Yukon, from the
reaches of the St. Lawrence, the manhood of Canada
hurried to arms.
.....No mere jackboot militarism inspired them. They
sought neither the glory of conquest nor the rape
nor the loot of sacked cities. No selfish
ideal led them to leave their homes and exchange
the ease and comforts of civil life for the sufferings
of war and the risk of death. They came forward,
free men and unconstrained, with a simple resolve
to lay down their lives, if need be, in defence of
the Empire - their Empire too-the very existence
of which, as they swiftly saw, was menaced by the
formidable military combination which had
ever sprung to arms. The first contingent was born


4...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.

partly of the glory of adventure but more of the
spirit of self-sacrifice; and this spirit, in its turn
was born of the deepest emotions of the Canadian
people-its love of Country, of Liberty, and of
Right.
.....The Government, in deciding to raise a contingent
for service in Europe, were carrying out the national
will, and when Parliament entered upon its special
session, some days after the declaration of War
unanimity prevailed. The Prime Minister spoke
for all parties when he declared that Canada
stood "shoulder to shoulder with Britain and
the other British Dominions in this quarrel." Sir
Wilfrid Laurier spoke of the "double honour
of Canadians of French descent in the opportunity
of "taking their place to-day in the ranks of the
Canadian Army to fight for the cause of the allied
nations." The Government announced its further
intention of raising a sum of fifty millions of dollar
for war purposes.
.....As soon as the policy of the Government had
been ratified, General Hughes devised and ordered
the establishment of the largest camp that had ever
been seen on Canadian soil. The site at Valcartier
was well chosen. It lay some sixteen miles to the
west of Quebec, within a day's march of the gather-
ing transports. The soil was, in the main, light and
sandy, and a river of pure water was available
Yet the work of adapting this virgin soil to mili-
tary purposes was enormous, and the transforma-
tion, effected within a fortnight by an army of
engineers and workers, a remarkable triump
of applied science. Roads were made, drains laid
down, a water supply with miles of pipes installed,
MOBILISATION................5

electric lighting furnished from Quebec, and in-
cinerators built for the destruction of dry refuse. A
sanitary system, second to none that any camp has
seen, was instituted. Every company had its own
bathing place and shower baths; every cookhouse
its own supply of water. Troughs of drinking-water,
for horses, filled automatically, so that there was
neither shortage nor waste. The standing crops
were garnered, trees cut down and their roots torn
up. A line of rifle targets 3 1/2 miles long-the largest
rifle range in the world-was constructed. Three
miles of sidings were run out from the wayside
station, and a camp telephone exchange was quickly
put in working order.
.....Camp and army leaped to life in the same hours.
Within four days of the opening of the camp, nearly
6,ooo men had arrived in it. A week later the
number was 25,000. In those August days all
roads led to Valcartier, and the railways rose to
the occasion, gathering the first Division to the
rendezvous, from every corner of the country, in great
trains, each of which carried and fed 6oo men.
.....The assembling force comprised elements from
every phase of Canadian life. There were those
whose names were known throughout the land.
There were men who had fought at Paardeburg-
some of them "very barely" within the age limit of
One, who had retired from a colonelcy of a
regiment offered to serve as a private, so anxious
was he to go. He was more than satisfied when he
received a majority. Another, who had spent his
fifteenth birthday as a bugler in South Africa, has
since celebrated his third war birthday in the Flemish
trenches.


6...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.

.....The original intention of the authorities was
to send to England a Division, consisting of the
regular complement of three infantry brigades; but,
on September 1st, General Hughes announced at
the camp that a fourth brigade would be formed,
to be used as drafts to supply the war wastage in
the other three. Towards the end of the month
the Government decided to send all four brigades
over together. "The total reinforcements for the
first year of a great war," said Sir Robert Borden
in announcing his decision, "are estimated at from
60 to 70 per cent. If the reserve depôts necessary
for supplying such reinforcements were established
in Canada, eight or ten weeks might elapse before
they could reach the front. . . . For these reasons,
as well as others, we deem it advisable that the
reserves shall be kept on hand in Great Britain, as
the Force at the front must continually be kept at
full strength, and that without the slightest unneces-
sary delay."
.....While the new army underwent its preliminary
training at Valcartier, there were other preparations
of every kind to be made. The cloth mills of Mon-
treal began to hum with the manufacture of khaki,
which the needles of a great army of tailors con-
verted into uniforms, greatcoats and cloaks. The
Ordnance Department equipped the host with the
Ross rifle-a Canadian-made arm. Regiments were
shuffled and reshuffled into battalions; battalions
into brigades. The whole force was inoculated
against typhoid. There were stores to manufacture
and to accumulate; a fleet of transports to assemble;
a thousand small cogs in the machine to be nicely
adjusted.
MOBILISATION................7


.....Early in September, the whole First Division was
reviewed by the Governor-General in a torrential
downpour of rain; and again, towards the end of
the month, a few days before embarkation, the Duke
of Connaught (accompanied by the Duchess and the
Princess Patricia) took the salute at Valcartier from
the first army of Canada. At this final review the
contingent was fittingly led past the saluting base
by the man whose name, more than any one other,
will be linked in history with the first Canadian Divi-
sion. General Hughes had cause to be proud of
the 33,000 men who marched past that day, fully
armed and fully equipped, well within two months
of the declaration of war in Europe
.....The feat of raising such a force is all the more
remarkable when one considers that, with the ex-
ception of the Princess Patricia's Light Infantry,
the overwhelming majority of the men who volun-
teered for the great War were civilians, without
previous experience or training. The "Princess
Pats," as that already famous regiment is now
commonly called, was the only one that consisted
almost entirely of old soldiers.
. .....The Governor-General's review over, news from
the camp came fitfully. The censor was at work,
and the public guessed rightly that the division was
on the move. Through the darkness and the rain
and the mud of the night of September 23rd-24th,
the guns crawled down the sixteen miles of valley
that brought them to Quebec at daybreak, the men
drenched, but happy in the knowledge that they were
at last off to the war. The weather was so bad that
the infantry, instead of marching, were brought
down in a long succession of heavy trains. The




CANADA IN FLANDERS...............8


embarkation of horses, men, guns and wagons was
completed in less than three days. And so the First
Canadian Division, with its Reserves, sailed away
down the St. Lawrence, in a fleet of Atlantic liners
such as the mighty gateway of Canada had never
before borne on her~bosom.
.....The fleet assembled in Gaspé Basin, on the coast
of Quebec, where the warships which were to convoy
it across the Atlantic awaited it. On October
3rd the transports steamed out of Gaspé Bay
in three lines ahead, led by His Majesty's ships
Charybdis, Diana, and Eclipse, with the Glory and
Suffolk on the flanks, and the Talbot in the rear.
Later, the Suffolk's place was taken by the
battle-cruiser, Queen Mary. The sealing-ship
Florizel, with the Newfoundland Regiment aboard,
joined the fleet after its departure from Gaspé
Bay.
.....The voyage was uneventful if rather long, the
fleet entering Plymouth Sound on the evening of
October 14th. So strict had been the censorship
that the arrival of the Canadian Armada was quite
unexpected by the people of Plymouth and Devon-
port; but no sooner had the word gone forth that the
Canadian transports had arrived, than the townsfolk
flocked to the waterside, to cheer and sing, and cheer
again.
.....No one was allowed on board the transports, but,
when on the succeeding days the troops were landed
and marched through the streets, they received a
welcome which they will never forget. Hundreds
of the men had relatives and friends who were
anxious to catch a glimpse of them at the dock,
but access was refused. The only exception
9...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


made throughout the various disembarkations
in the case of the late Field-Marshal Lord
Roberts.
.....Lieut.-General Alderson 1 had been appointed to
of the contingent, and visited the com-
manding officers before the work of disembarkation
began.
.....The Canadian Division, the Princess Patricia's
Canadian Light Infantry, and the Newfoundland
Regiment occupied camps on Salisbury Plain at
bustard, West Down South, West Down North,
Pond Farm, Lark Hill, and Sling Plantation. Here
the Canadians remained until their departure for
France. Here, in the mud and cold and rain of
four dismal months they worked and lived
and displayed that spirit of endurance, courage,
and willingness which has since proclaimed them

1 Lieut.-General Edwln Alfred Harvey Alderson, C.B.,
has a distinguished record of service. He was born in 1859, at
Ipswich, and began his military career with the Militia from
which he passed to the Regular Army in December, 1878. He
joined the West Kent Regiment as Second Lieutenant and
was promoted to Lieutentant in July, 1881; and in this year he
saw active service with the Natal Field Force In the Trans-
vaal campaign. He was ordered to Egypt in the following year,
serving there with the mounted infantry. He was in two actions,
at Kassassin and at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir on Septem
ber 13th. He received the medal with clasp and the Khedive's
star. Lieut. Alderson took part in the Nile Expedltion
of 1884-1885. He was promoted Captain In June, 1886 and
Major in May, 1896, and received the brevet of Lieut.-Colonel in
1897. In 1896 and 1897 he served in South Africa under Sir
Frederick Carrington. In October, 1899, he was given the
command of the mounted infantry of the 1st Cavalry Brigade.
His services throughout the South African campaign were constant
and distinguished. In 1903 he was promoted Colonel, and
appointed to the command of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Army
Corps. He became a Major-General in 1906, and in 1908
commanded the 6th Division, Southern Army, India. His rank
of Lieut.-General dates from October 14th, 1914.




10...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


to the world as troops of the finest quality. On
the sodden grazing lands, in the fog and mud of
the battalion lines, in the dripping tents and
crowded, reeking huts, the men of Canada gave
promise of the great spirit they possessed, and their
officers saw it and were proud.
.....Lord Roberts visited the Division soon after its
arrival in England. It was the last public appear-
ance of this great soldier in England, and the
following are the principal points in his speech to
the Canadian troops :-

..... "We have arrived at the most critical moment
of our history, and you have generously come
to help us in our hour of need.

*.....*.....*


..... "Three months ago we found ourselves in-
volved in this war, a war not of our own seeking,
but one which those who have studied Ger-
many's literature and Germany's aspirations,
knew was a war which we should inevitably
have, to deal with sooner or later. The prompt
resolve of Canada to give us such valuable
assistance, has touched us deeply. That re-
solve has been quickened into action in a mar-
vellously short space of time, under the
excellent organising and driving power of your
Minister of Militia-my friend, Major-General
Hughes.

*.....*.....*


..... "We are fighting a nation which looks upon
the British Empire as a barrier to her develop-
ment, and has, in consequence, long contem-
plated our overthrow and humiliation. To

MOBILISATION................11.


attain that end she has manufactured a magni-
ficent fighting machine, and is straining every
nerve to gain victory.

*.....*.....*


..... "It is only by the most determined efforts
that we can defeat her."1


.....The King paid his first visit to our troops early
in November. His Majesty was accompanied by
Field-Marshals Lords Roberts and Kitchener, Sir
George Perley, Member of the Canadian Cabinet in
charge of the office of the High Commissioner in
London,2 and Sir Richard McBride, Prime Minister
of British Columbia.
..... The Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry
left Salisbury Plain early in December and joined
the 27th British Division. The Regiment was
brigaded with the 3rd King's Royal Rifles, 4th
King's Royal Rifles, 4th Rifle Brigade, and 2nd
King's Shropshire Light Infantry.
.....The King again visited the Canadian troops on
February 4th, 1915; and on the following day
a Division composed of three infantry brigades, three
artillery brigades, ammunitiom column, divisional

1 .....From Canada of October 31st, 1914.

2 ..... When war was declared Sir George Persley, K.C.M.G., M.P.,
was in London, on his way from Canada to attend a congress of
the International Parliamentary Union for Peace, at Stockholm
He remained in England to act as High Commissioner for
Canada in succession to the late Lord Strathcona, whose place
had net been filled. Sir George is the first Commissioner from
any Dominion, of Cabinet rank, and the advantage to Canada is
at once obvious. He is, of course, a man of vast business experi-
ence, and it would he difficult to~over-estimate the services he has
already rendered to the Imperial Government and the Govern-
ment of Canada.




12...............CANADA iN FLANDERS.


engineers, divisional mounted troops, and divisional
train, marched off Salisbury Plain and entrained for
their port of embarkation under the command of
Lieut.-General Alderson.
.....Lieut.-Colonel (now Major-General) M. S. Mercer
commanded the 1st Infantry Brigade, which was
composed of the 1st Battalion (Ontario Regiment)
under Lieut.-Colonel F. W. Hill, the 2nd Battalion
under Lieut.-Colonel (now Brigadier-General) David
Watson the 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment) under
Lieut. -Colonel (now Brigadier-General R. Rennie,
and the 4th Battalion under Lieut.-Colonel A. P.
Birchall, who was killed in action.
.....The 2nd Infantry Brigade was commanded by
Lieut.-Colonel A. W. Currie (now Major-General),
and his four battalions, the 5th, 7th, 8th, and 10th,
were commanded respectively by Lieut.-Colonels
G. S. Tuxford, W. F. H. Hart-McHarg L. J.
Lipsett (now Brigadier-General), and R. L.
Boyle. Colonels Hart-McHarg and Boyle fell
at Ypres.
.....Colonel R. E. W. Turner, V.C., D.S.O., who has
since been promoted to the rank of Major-General,
commands the 3rd Infantry Brigade, with Lieut.-
Colonels F. 0. W. Loomis, F. S. Meighen (now
Brigadier-General), J. A. Currie, and R.G.E.
Leckie (since promoted to Brigadier-General) com-
manding respectively the 13th Battalion (Royal
Highlanders of Canada), the 14th Battalion (Royal
Montreal Regiment), the 15th Battalion (48th High-
landers of Canada), and the 16th Battalion (Cana-
dian Scottish).
..... Lieut.-Colonel (now Brigadier-General) H. E.
Burstall commanded the Canadian Artillery, with
I
MOBILISATION................13


Lieut.-Colonels E. W. B. Morrison (now Brigadier-
General), J. J. Creelman and J. H. Mitchell com-
manding artillery brigades. The Officer Command-
ing Divisional Engineers was Lieut.-Colonel C. J.
Armstrong (now Brigadier-General); Lieut.-Colonel
F.C. Jameson was in command of the Divisional
Mounted Troops and Major F. A. Lister of the
Divisional Signal Company.
..... The Division sailed from Avonmouth, and the last
transport reached St. Nazaire, on the Bay of Biscay,
in the second week of February.
..... The 6th, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 17th Battalions
were left in England as the Base Brigade of the
Division. These battalions were formed later into
the Canadian Training Depôt; later still, together
with reinforcements from Canada, into the Canadian
Training Division, under the command of Brigadier-
General J. C. MacDougall.
.....Such, in its principal commands, was the Army
which left Canada for the Great Adventure. It
carried with it, and it left behind, high hopes. It was
certain that no men of finer physique or higher
courage could be found anywhere in any theatre of
this immense struggle. But there were some-and
these neither faint-hearted nor unpatriotic-who
recalled with anxiety the scientific organisation and
the tireless patience with which Germany had set
herself to create the most superb military instrument
which the world has ever seen. And they may have
been forgiven if they asked themselves:
....."Can civilians, however brave and intelligent, be
made in a few months the equals of those inspired
veterans who are swarming in triumph over the
battlefields of Europe?"






14...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


....."Can Generals, and Staffs, and officers be
improvised, able to compete with the scientific
output of the most scientific General Staff which
has ever conceived and carried out military
operations?"
.....These were formidable questions, and even a
bold man might have shrunk from a confident
answer.
..... The story of Canada in Flanders, however in-
adequately told, will make it unnecessary ever to
ask them again.


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Copyright Dates:
Second Publication: Monday, 12-Mar-2001 21:50:00 MST
First Published: March 1, 2001
CANADA IN FLANDERS

Index

I
Mobilisation


II
Warfare


III
Neuve Chapelle


IV
Ypres


V
A Wave of Battle


VI
Festubert


VII
Givenchy


VIII
Princess Patricia's Light Infantry


IX
The Prime Minister


X
The Canadian Corps


Appendix I
The King's Message to the Canadians


Appendix II
Canadians in Despatches


Appendix III
The Prime Minister and the War


Appendix IV
Lieut.-General E.A.H. Alderson, C.B., Commanding the Canadian Corps


Appendix V
Honours and Awards Granted


Appendix VI
Statement of Casualties