Canadian Expeditionary Force, history, Canada, Ca, Can, Canadian, World War 1, WWI, WW1, First World War, 1916-1918
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Review in Lansdowne Park-Princess Patricia presents the
.....Colour~South African veterans and reservists-Princess
.....Patricias in the trenches~St. Eloi-Major Hamilton Gault
.....-A dangerous reconnaissance-Attack on a sap-A
.....German onslaught-Lessons from the enemy-A march battle-Voormezeele-Death of Colonel Farquhar-
.....Polygone Wood-Regiment's work admired-A move
.....towards Ypres-Heavily shelled-A new line-Arrival of
.....Major Gault-Regiment sadly reduced-Gas shells-A
.....German rush-Major Gault wounded-Lieut. Niven in
.....command-A critical position-Corporal Dover's heroism
.....-A terrible day-Shortage of small arms ammunition-
.....Germans' third attack-Enemy repulsed-Regiment
.....reduced to 150 rifles-Relieved-A service for the dead-
.....In bivouac-A trench line at Armentières-Regiment at
.....full strength again-Moved to the south-Back in
.....billets-Princess Patricias instruct new troops-Rejoin
.....Canadians-A glorious record.

"Fair lord, whose name I know not-noble it is,
I well believe, the noblest-will you wear
My favour at this tourney?"

   ON Sunday, August 23rd, 1914, on a grey and
gloomy day, immense numbers of people assembled
In Lansdowne Park, in the City of Ottawa. to attend
divine service with the Princess Patricia's Canadian
Light Infantry, and to witness the presentation to
the Battalion of the Colours which she had worked
with her own hand. The Regiment, composed very




Neuve Chapelle


A Wave of Battle



Princess Patricia's Light Infantry

The Prime Minister

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


largely of South African veterans and Reservists,
paraded with bands and pipers, and then formed
three sides of a square in front of the grand stand.
Between the Regiment and the stand were the
Duchess of Connaught, Princess Patricia, and their
ladies-in-Waiting. The Princess Patricia, on pre-
senting the Colours to Colonel Farquhar, the Com-
manding Officer of the Regiment, said: "I have
great pleasure in presenting you with these Colours
which I have worked myself; I hope they will be
associated with what I believe will be a dis-
tinguished corps; I shall follow the fortunes of you
all with the deepest interest, and I heartily wish
every man good luck and a safe return."
   Not even the good wishes of this beautiful and
gracious Princess have availed to safeguard the
lives of the splendid Battalion which carried her
Colours to the battlefields of Flanders; but every
member of the Battalion resolved, as simply and
as finely as the knights of medieval days, that he
would justify the belief in its future so proudly ex-
pressed  by the lady whose name he was honoured
to bear.
   It is now intended to give some account of the
fortunes of the Battalion since the day which seems
so long ago, when with all the pride and circum-
stance of military display, it received the regimental
   The Princess Patricias, containing a far larger
proportion of experienced soldiers than any other
unit in the Canadian Division, was not called upon
to endure so long a period of preparation as the rest
of the Canadian Expeditionary Force; and at the
close of the year 1914 they sailed from England at
146...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.

a moment when reinforcements were greatly needed
in France, to strengthen the 80th Brigade of the
27th Division, and to take their part in a line thinly
held and very fiercely assailed. For the months of
January and February the Regiment took its turn
in the trenches, learning the hard lessons of the
unpitying winter war.  A considerable length of
trenches in front of the village of St. Eloi was
committed to its charge.  Its machine-guns were
planted upon a mound which rose abruptly from
the centre of the trenches.
   The early days were uneventful and the casualties
not more than normal, although some very valu-
able officers were lost. On February 28th, 1913, the
Germans completed a sap, from which the Battalion
became constantly subject to annoyance, danger
and loss. It was therefore determined by the Bat-
talion Commander to dispose of the menace. Major
Hamilton Gault and Lieut. Colquhoun carried out
by night a dangerous reconnaissance of the German
position, and returned with much information.
Lieut. Colquhoun went out a second time, alone, to
supplement it, but never returned. He is to-day
a prisoner of war in Germany.
  The attack was organised under Lieut. Crabbe;
the bomh~throwers were commanded by Lieut.
Papineau.  The last-named officer, a very brave
soldier, is a lineal descendant of the rebel of 1837.
He is himself loyal to his family traditions except
when dangers and wars menace the Empire. At
such moments, in spite of himself, his hand flies to
the sword. The snipers were under Corporal Ross.
Troops were organised in support with shovels
ready to demolish the parapet of the enemy trench.


The ground to be traversed was short enough, for
the sappers' nearest point was only fifteen yards
from the Canadian trench. The attacking party
rushed this space and threw themselves into the sap.
Corporal Ross, who was first in the race, was killed
immediately. Lieut. Crabbe then led the detach-
ment down the trench while Lieut. Papineau ran
down the outside of the parapet throwing bombs
through the trench.  Lieut. Crabbe made his way
through the trench, followed by his men, until his
progress was arrested by a barrier which the
Germans had constructed.
   In the meantime, troops had occupied the rear
face of the sap to guard against a counter-attack.
A platoon under Sergeant-Major Lloyd, who was
killed, attacked and demolished the enemy parapet
for a considerable distance. The trench was occu-
pied long enough to complete the work of demolish-
ing the parapet.  With dawn, orders were given
for the attackers to withdraw, and as the grey
morning light began to break, they made their way
to their own trenches, with a difficult task well and
successfully performed. Major Gault was wounded
in the course of the engagement, in which all ranks
behaved with dash and gallantry, although the men
had been for six weeks employed in trench warfare
under the most depressing conditions of cold and
   On March 1st the enemy made a vigorous attack
on the Princess Patricias with bombs and shell fire.
Between the 1st and the 6th, a fierce contest was
continually waged for the site of the sap which the
Battalion had destroyed. Sometimes the Princess
Patricias defended it; sometimes the British

148...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.
battalions, with whom they were brigaded and whose
staunch and faithful comrades they had become.
  On March 6th, carrying out a carefully concerted
plan, our men withdrew from the trench lines, which
were still only twenty or thirty yards from the
German trenches; and our artillery, making very
successful practice, obliterated the sap and the
trench which the enemy had used for the purpose
of creating it  The enemy were blown out of the
forward trenches, and fragments of dead Germans
were thrown into the air, in some cases as high as
sixty feet. The bombardment was carried out with
high explosive shells.
  The Canadian soldier is always adaptable, and
the Battalion learned, when they captured the sap
on February 28th, that the German trenches were
five feet deep with parapets two feet high, and yet
that every day they were pumped and kept dry.
This knowledge resulted in a considerable improve-
ment in the trenches occupied by the Regiment.
The experience was welcome, for the men had been
standing in water all through the winter months and
the Regiment had suffered much from frostbite.
  On March 13th, while the Princess Patricias were
in billets, the Germans, perhaps in reply to our
offensive at Neuve Chapelle, made a vigorous attack
in overwhelming numbers upon the trenches and
mound at St. Eloi. The attack, which was preceded
by a heavy artillery bombardment, was successful,
and it became necessary to attempt by a counter-
attack to arrest any further development.
  The Battalion was billeted in Westoutre, where, at
5.30 on March 14th, peremptory orders were received
to prepare for departure. At 7 p.m. the march was

begun. At Zevecoten the Princess Patricias met a
battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps, and
marched to Dickebush. At 9.30 it reached the cross
roads of Kruistraathoek. Here a short halt was made,
after which the Battalion reached Voormezeele,
where it was drawn up on the roadside. While it
was in this position reports were brought in that
the Germans were advancing in large numbers to-
wards the eastern end of Voormezeele.  The Bat-
talion Commander, therefore, as a precaution against
surprise, detailed Number 4 Company of the Bat-
talion to occupy the position on the east.  Soon
after 2 a.m. orders were received to co-operate with
a battalion of the Rifle Brigade in an attack on the
St. Eloi mound, which had been lost early in the
day.  The zone of the operations of the Battalion
was to the east of the Voormezeele-Wameton road.
   The following rough diagram may make the
position clear:-

150............... CANADA IN FLANDERS.
  The actual situation in the front line was still
obscure. It was known that the mound and certain
trenches to the west of it, were in German hands.
It was also known that towards the east we had lost
certain trenches known to our Intelligence Staff as
P and A. It was uncertain whether the trench T
was still held by our troops. It was decided, in a
matter in which certainty was unattainable, to pro-
ceed towards a farm building which was an easily
recognised objective. This course at least promised
information, for if trench T had fallen it was certain
that the Battalion would at once be heavily attacked.
If it was still intact the Battalion would, it was
hoped, cover the commencement of an assault along
the German line against trenches A and P and the
mound, successively.
  The alternative was to advance southwards with
the Battalion right on the Ypres-St. Eloi road. The
adoption of this plan would have meant slow pro-
gress through the enclosures round St. Eloi, and the
subsequent attack would have been exposed to heavy
flanking fire from trenches A and P.
  The progress of the Battalion was necessarily
slow; the street in Voormezeele was full of stragglers.
Touch was difficult to maintain across country with-
out constant short halts. It was necessary always to
advance with a screen of scouts thrown out.
  It was ascertained in St. Eloi that trench A had
been retaken by British troops.  This knowledge
modified the plan provisionally adopted. The Bat-
talion altered its objective from the farm building
to a breastwork 200 yards to the west of it. This
point was reached about twenty minutes before day-
light, and an attack was immediately organised by


Number 2 Company against trench P, approaching
it from the back of trench A. The attack was made
in three parties.
   The advance was made with coolness and resolu-
tion, but the attackers were met by heavy machine~
gun fire from the mound. No soldiers in the world
could have forced their way through, for the fire
swept everything before it. It was clear that no
hope of a surprise existed, and to have spent
another company upon reinforcement would have
been a useless and bloody sacrifice. Three platoons
were, therefore, detailed to hold the right of the
breasttwork in immediate proximity to the mound,
and the rest of the Battalion was withdrawn to
Voormezeele reaching Dickebush about 8 a.m.1
  The forces engaged behaved with great steadi-
ness throughout a trying and unsuccessful night,
and at daylight withdrew over open ground without
Voormezeele,, reaching Dickebush about 8 a.m.
   On March 20th the Battalion sustained a severe
loss in the death, by a stray bullet, of its Com-
manding Officer, Colonel Farquhar. He had been
Military Secretary to the Duke of Connaught. This
distinguished officer had done more for the Bat-
talion it would be possible in a short chapter
to record. The Regiment, in fact, was his creation.

1 Commenting on the Princess Patricias at St. Eloi, in Nelson's
"History of the War" Mr John Buchan says :-" Princess
Patricia's Regiment was the first of the overseas troops to be
engaged in an action of first-rate importance, and their deeds
were a pride to the whole Empire - a pride to he infinitely
heightened by the glorious record of the Canadian Division in the
desperate battles of April. This Regiment five days later suffered
an irreparable loss in the death of its Commanding Officer, Col.
Francis Farquhar, kindest of friends, most whimsical and delight-
ful of comrades, and bravest of men."

152 ...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.

A strict disciplinarian, he was nevertheless deeply
beloved in an army not always patient of discipline
tactlessly asserted; he was always cheerful, always
unruffled, and always resourceful.  Lieut.-Colonel
H. C. Buller succeeded him in command of the
  After the death of Lieut.-Colonel Farquhar, the
Battalion again retired to rest, and it has not since
returned to the scene of its earliest experience in
trench warfare. On April 9th it took up a line on
the Polygone Wood, in the Ypres salient, and there
did its round of duty with the customary relief in
billets.  By this time the men were becoming
familiar with their surroundings, and gave play to
their native ingenuity. Near the trenches they built
log huts from trees in the woods, and it was a
common thing for French, Belgian, and British
officers to visit the camp to admire the work of the
Regiment. Breastworks were built also behind the
trenches under cover of the woods, and the trenches
themselves were greatly improved.
  The Battalion presently moved into billets in the
neighbourhood of Ypres, and on April 20th, during
the heavy bombardment of that unhappy town
which preceded the immortal stand of the Canadian
Division, it was ordered to leave billets, and on the
evening of that day moved once again to the
  From April 21st and through the following days
of the second battle of Ypres the Regiment re-
mained in trenches some distance south and west
of the trenches occupied by the Canadian Divisio~
They were constantly shelled with varying intensity,
and all through those critical days waited, with ever-


growing impatience, for the order that never came
to take part in the battle to the north, where their
kinsmen were undergoing so cruel an ordeal.
   May 3rd, after the modification of the line to
the north, the Battalion was withdrawn to a sub~
sidiary line some distance in the rear. From eight
in the evening to midnight small parties were silently
withdrawn, until the trenches were held with a rear-
guard of fifteen men commanded by Lieut. Lane.
Rapid fire was maintained for more than an hour,
and the rear-guard then withdrew without casualties.
   On May 4th the Regiment occupied the new line.
On the morning of that day a strong enemy attack
developed. This was repulsed with considerable
loss to the assailants, and was followed by a heavy
bombardment throughout the day, which demolished
several of the trenches. At night the Regiment was
relieved by the King's Shropshire Light Infantry
and withdrawn to reserve trenches.  In this un-
healthy neighbourhood no place, by this time, was
safe, and on May 5th, Lieut.-Colonel Buller was
unfortunate enough to lose an eye from the splinter
of a shell which exploded 100 yards away. Major
Gault arrived during the day and took over com-
mand.  The Battalion was still in high spirits, and
cheered the arrival of an officer to whom all ranks
were attached.
   Just after dark on the night of May 6th, the
Battalionn returned to the trenches and relieved the
2nd King's Shropshire Light Infantry.  Through-
out  night, and all the following day, it was
assailed by a constant and heavy bombardment.
The roll call on the night of the 7th showed the
strength of the Battalion as 635.

154................CANADA IN FLANDERS.

   The day that followed was at once the most
critical and the most costly in the history of the
Battalion. Early in the morning, particularly heavy
shelling began on the right flank, soon enfilading
the fire trenches. At 5.30 it grew in intensity, and
gas shells began to fall. At the same time a number
of Germans were observed coming at the double
from the hill in front of the trench. This move-
ment was arrested by a heavy rifle fire.
  By 6 a.m. every telephone-wire, both to the
Brigade Headquarters and also to the trenches, had
been cut. All signallers, pioneers, orderlies, and ser-
vants at Battalion Headquarters were ordered into
the support trenches, for the needs of the moment
left no place for supernumeraries.  Every single
Canadian upon the strength was from that time
forward in one or other of the trenches. A short
and fierce struggle decided the issue for the time
being. The advance of the Germans was checked,
and those of the enemy who were not either
sheltered by buildings, dead or wounded, crawled
back over the crest of the ridge to their own trenches.
By this time the enemy had two, and perhaps three,
machine-guns in adjacent buildings, and were sweep-
ing the parapets of both the fire and support
trenches. An orderly took a note to Brigade Head-
quarters informing them exactly of the situation of
the Battalion.
  About 7 a.m., Major Gault, who had sustained his
men by his coolness and example, was severely hit
by a shell in the left arm and thigh. It was impos-
sible to move him, and he lay in the trench, as did
many of his wounded companions, in great anguish
but without a murmur, for over ten hours.


The command was taken over by Lieut. Niven,
the next senior officer who was still unwounded.
Heavy Howitzers using high explosives, combined
with field-guns from this moment in a most trying
bombardment both on the fire and support trenches.
The fire trench on the right was blown to pieces at
several points.1
   At 9 o'clock the shelling decreased in intensity;
but it was the lull before the storm, for the enemy
immediately attempted a second infantry advance.
This attack was received with undiminished resolu-
tion.  A storm of machine-gun and rifle fire checked
the assailants, who were forced, after a few in-
decisive moments, to retire and take cover. The
Battalion accounted for large numbers of the enemy
in the course of this attack, but it suffered seriously
itself.  Captain Hill, Lieuts. Martin, Triggs, and
De Bay were all wounded at this time.
   At half-past nine, Lieut. Niven established con-
tact with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
on the left, and with the 4th Rifle Brigade on the
right.  Both were suffering heavy casualties from
enfilade fire; and neither, of course, could afford
any assistance.  At this time the bombardment
recommenced with great intensity. The range of
our machine-guns was taken with extreme precision.
All, without exception, were buried. Those who
served them behaved with the most admirable
coolness and gallantry. Two were dug out, mounted
and used again. One was actually disinterred three
times and kept in action till a shell annihilated the

1German bombardment had been so heavy since May 4th
that a wood which the Regiment had used in part for cover was
completely demolished.

156................CANADA IN FLANDERS.

whole section.  Corporal Dover stuck to his gun
throughout and, although wounded, continued to
discharge his duties with as much coolness as if
on parade.  In the explosion that ended his ill-
fated gun, he lost a leg and an arm, and was com-
pletely buried in the débris.  Conscious or un-
conscious, he lay there in that condition until dusk,
when he crawled out of all that was left of the
obliterated trench, and moaned for help. Two of
his comrades sprang from the support trench-by
this time the fire trench-and succeeded in carrying
in his mangled and bleeding body. But as all that
remained of this brave soldier was being lowered
into the trench a bullet put an end to his sufferings.
No bullet could put an end to his glory.
  At half-past ten the left half of the right fire
trench was completely destroyed; and  Lieut.
Denison ordered Lieut. Clarke to withdraw the
remnant of his command into the right communicat-
ing trench. He himself, with Lieut. Lane, was still
holding all that was tenable of the right fire trench
with a few men still available for that purpose.
Lieut. Edwards had been killed. The right half
of the left fire trench suffered cruelly. The trench
was blown in and the machine-gun put out of action.
Sergeant Scott, and the few survivors who still
answered the call, made their way to the communica-
tion trench, and clung tenaciously to it, until that,
too, was blown in. Lieut. Crawford, whose spirits
never failed him throughout this terrible day, was
severely wounded.  Captain Adamson, who was
handing out small arms ammunition, was hit in the
shoulder, but continued to work with a single arm
Sergeant-Major Fraser, who was similarly engaged


feeding the support trenches with ammunition, was
killed instantly by a bullet in the head.  At this
time only four officers were left, Lieuts. Papineau,
Vandenberg, Niven, and Clark, of whom the last
two began the war in the ranks.
  By 12 a.m. the supply of small arms ammunition
badly needed replenishment. In this necessity the
snipers of the Battalion were most assiduous in the
dangerous task of carrying requests to the Brigade
Headquarters and to the Reserve Battalion, which
was in the rear at Belle-Waarde Lake. The work
ws most dangerous, for the ground which had to
be covered was continually and most heavily shelled.
  From 12 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. the Battalion held on
under the most desperate difficulties until a detach-
ment of the 4th Rifle Brigade was sent up in re-
inforcement.  The battered defenders of the
support trench recognised old friends coming to
their aid in their moment of extreme trial, and gave
them a loud cheer as they advanced in support.
Lieut. Niven placed them on the extreme right, in
order to protect the Battalion's flanks. They remained
in line with the Canadian support trenches, pro-
tected by trees and hedges.  They also sent a
machine-gun and section, which rendered invaluable
   At 2 p.m. Lieut. Niven went with an orderly to
the Headquarters, in obedience to Brigade orders,
to telephone to the General Officer Commanding the
Brigade, complete details of the situation.  He
returned at 2.30 p.m. The orderlies who accom-
panied him both coming and going were hit by
high explosive shells.
   At 3 p.m. a detachment of the 2nd King's Shrop-

158...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.

shire Light Infantry, who were also old comrades in
arms of the Princess Patricias, reached the Support
line with twenty boxes of small arms ammunition.
These were distributed, and the party bringing them
came into line as a reinforcement, occupying the left
end of the support trench.  At four o'clock the
support trenches were inspected, and it was found
that contact was no longer maintained with the
regiment on the left, the gap extending for fifty
yards. A few men (as many as could be spared)
were placed in the gap to do the best they could.
Shortly afterwards news was brought that the bat-
talions on the left had been compelled to withdraw,
after a stubborn resistance, to a line of trenches a
short distance in the rear.
   At this moment the Germans made their third and
last attack. It was arrested by rifle fire, although
some individuals penetrated into the fire trench on
the right. At this point all the Princess Patricias had
been killed, so that this part of the trench was
actually tenantless.  Those who established a
footing were few in number, and they were gradually
dislodged; and so the third and last attack was
routed as successfully as those which had pre-
ceded it.
   The afternoon dragged on, the tale of casualties
constantly growing; and at ten o'clock at night, the
company commanders being all dead or wounded,
Lieuts. Niven and Papineau took a roll call. It
disclosed a strength of 150 rifles and some stretcher-
   At 11.30 at night the Battalion was relieved by
the 3rd King's Royal Rifle Corps. The relieving
unit helped those whom they replaced, in the last


sorrowful duty of burying those of their dead who
lay in the support and communicating trenches.
Those who had fallen in the fire trenches needed
no grave, for the obliteration of their shelter had
afforded a decent burial to their bodies. Behind the
damaged trenches, by the light of the German flares
and amid the unceasing rattle of musketry, relievers
and relieved combined in the last service which one
soldier can render another. Beside the open graves,
with heads uncovered, all that was left of the Regi-
ment stood, while Lieut. Niven, holding the Colours
of Princess Patricia, battered, bloody, but still
intact, tightly in his hand, recalled all he could
remember of the Church of England service for the
dead. Long after the service was over the remnant
of the Battalion stood in solemn reverie, unable it
seemed to leave their comrades, until the Colonel
of the 3rd King's Royal Rifle Corps gave them
positive orders to retire, when, led by Lieut.
Papineau, they marched back, 150 strong, to reserve
trenches. On arrival they were instructed to pro-
ceed to another part of the position, where during
the day they were shelled, and lost five killed and
three wounded.
   In the evening of the 10th the Battalion furnished
a carrying party of fifty men and one officer for
small arms ammunition, and delivered twenty-five
boxes at Belle-Waarde Lake. One man was killed
and two wounded. It furnished also a digging party
of 100 men, under Lieut. Clarke, who constructed
part of an additional support trench.
   On May 13th the Regiment was in bivouac at the
rear.  The news arrived that the 4th Rifle Brigade,
their old and trusty comrades in arms, was being

160................CANADA IN FLANDERS.

desperately pressed. Asked to go to the relief, the
Princess Patricias formed a composite Battalion
with the 4th King's Royal Rifle Corps, and success-
fully made the last exertion which was asked of them
at this period of the war.
  On May 15th Major Pelly arrived from England,
where he had been invalided on March i5th, and
took over the command from Lieut. Niven, who,
during his period of command, had shown qualities
worthy of a regimental commander of any experience
in any army in the world.
  At the beginning of June the Princess Patricias
took up a trench line at Armentières and remained
there until the end of August. In the middle of
July Lieut. C. J. T. Stewart, a brave officer who
had been severely wounded in the early days of the
Spring, rejoined the Battalion.  Other officers re-
turning after wounds, and reinforcements from
Canada, brought the Battalion up to full strength
  Trench work and digging then alternated with
rest. About the middle of September the Battalion
moved with the 27th Division to occupy a line of
trenches held by the 3rd Army in the south.
  When the 27th Division was withdrawn from this
line the Princess Patricias were moved into billets
far back from the battle zone, and for a while the
Battalion was detailed to instruct troops arriving
for the 3rd Army.
  On November 27th, 1915, they were once again
happily reunited with the Canadian Corps after a
long separation.
  Such, told purposely in the baldest language, and
without attempting any artifice in rhetoric, is the


history of Princess Patricia's Light Infantry Regi-
ment from the time it reached Flanders till the
present day.
   Few, indeed, are left of the men who met in
Lansdowne Park to receive the regimental Colours
nearly a year ago; but those who survive, and the
friends of those who have died, may draw solace
from the thought that never in the history of arms
have Soldiers more valiantly sustained the gift and
trust of a Lady.
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Copyright Dates:
Second Publication: Monday, 12-Mar-2001 21:51:34 MST
First Published: March 1, 2001