Canadian Expeditionary Force, 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 X

THE CANADIAN CORPS

Tranquill Canadian line~German reconnaissance-Incident
.....at "Plug Street "-Pte. Bruno saves Capt. Tidy-A sniper's
.....month-Sharpshooters' compact-Sergt. Ballendine-The
.....Ross rifle-" No Man's Land "-Our bombers-Sergt.
.....William Tabernacle-His new profession-General Sir
.....Sam Hughes' visit-Canadian patriotism-Civilian armies
.....-" Last Word of Kings "-Art of the "soldier's speech"
.....Lord Kitchener's inspiration-Lord Roberts and the
.....Indians-General Hughes arrives in France-At British
.....Headquarters-Consultation with King Albert-Meeting
.....with Prince Alexander of Teck-Conference with General
.....Alderson-The second Canadian Contingent-In the firing
.....line-Many friends-General Burstall's artillery-Inspec-
.....tion of cavalry-Meeting with Prince of Wales-The
.....Princess Patricias-Conference with Sir Douglas Haig-
.....General Hughes' suggestions-Meeting with General
.....Foch-Impressed with General Joffre-The ruin at
.....Rheims-General Hughes' message on departure-A
.....quiet August-The Canadian Corps-General Alderson's
.....new command-An appreciation of a gallant Commander
.....-Conclusion.

"Fortes a fortibus creantur."
Brave men are created by brave men.

   SAVE for the great interest aroused by the visit
of the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Borden, an
almost uncanny tranquillity reigned along the whole
Canadian front during the month of July.
   The enemy soon became aware that new troops
had taken up the position, and reconnaissance
parties were very active in endeavouring to ascertain
 
175
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




176...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.

 
precisely what troops they now had opposite them
They had probably caught a few words from our
trenches which were sufficient to tell them that they
were now opposed to Canadians, and they were no
doubt anxious to discover whether they were con~
fronted by the experienced veterans who had proved
their qualities at Ypres, or whether their opponents
were the soldiers of the 2nd Division, as yet fresh
to the field of war.
  We, for our part, had a similar curiosity. We,
too, were anxious to discover the identity and, there-
fore, the quality, of the men whose trenches it was
our lot to watch by night and by day.
  Knowing, however, that their reconnaissance par-
ties were moving about, we were content to bide our
time to await the opportunity of seizing upon one
of their detachments when they were either careless,
ill-led, or over-bold.
  That opportunity came at "Plug Street" at half-
past eight on the morning of July 27th. One of the
observers of the 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment)
reported a party of the enemy in the wild wheat,
never to be garnered, growing between the British
and German lines. It was then that Captain Tidy,
with Private Bruno, who had joined the Battalion
at Valcartier from the Queen's Own of Toronto, and
wo other privates of the names of Candlish and
Subervitch, left the trenches and crawled out to
take the enemy by surprise. In this they were suc-
cessful.  Two of the Germans surrendered the
moment they were covered by Captain Tidy's pistol;
but the third, though putting up his hands at
first, lowered them again and fired at the officer.
At this, Bruno, who was in a crouching position
THE CANADIAN CORPS................177

among the wheat, fired two shots from the hip and
killed the treacherous German. The party returned
safely with their two prisoners, though the whole
affair had taken place in full view of the German
trenches. The prisoners, when questioned, stated
that they had been sent out during the night in the
hope that they would be able to identify our troops.
   July was a sniper's month. True, every month
is a sniper's month; the great game of sniping never
wanes, but the inactivity in other methods of fighting
left the field entirely free for the sharpshooter in
July.
   It was during the fighting at Givenchy in June,
1915, that four snipers of the 8th Canadian Bat-
talion (Winnipeg Rifles) agreed to record their pro-
fessional achievements from that time forward on
the wood of their rifles.
   Private Ballendine, one of the four, is from
Battleford.  He is tall and loosely built In his
swarthy cheeks, black eyes, and straight black hair,
he shows his right to claim Canadian citizenship
by many generations of black-haired, sniping
ancestors. He learned to handle a rifle with some
degree of skill at the age of ten years, and he has
been shooting ever since. At the present time he
carries thirty-six notches on the butt of his rifle.
 Each notch stands for a dead German - to the best
of Ballendine's belief. One notch, cut longer and
deeper into the brown wood than the others, means
an officer.
   To date, Private Smith, of Roblin, Manitoba, has
scratched the wood of his rifle only fourteen times;
but he is s a good shot, has faith in his weapon, and
looks hopefully to the future.
  


178............... CANADA IN FLANDERS.


  Private McDonald, of Port Arthur, displays no
unseemly elation over his score of twenty-six.
  Private Patrick Riel makes a strong appeal to the
imagination, though his tally is less than McDonald's
by two or three.  He is a descendant of the late
Louis Riel, and when he enlisted in the 90th Win-
nipeg Rifles at the outbreak of the war, and was
told by one of his officers that his regiment had done
battle against his cousin Louis at Fish Creek and
Batoche, he showed only a mild interest in this trick
of Time. Riel, like McDonald, comes from Port
Arthur way.  Before the war he earned his daily
bacon and tobacco as a foreman of lumber-jacks on
the Kaministiquia River.
  The weapons used by these four snipers are Ross
rifles, remodelled to suit their peculiar and par-
ticular needs. Each is mounted with a telescopic
sight, and from beneath the barrel of each much of
the wood of the casing has been cut away. The men
do their work by day, as the telescopic sight is not
good for shooting in a poor light.  They are
excused all fatigues while in the trenches and go
about their grim tasks without hint or hindrance
from their superiors. They choose their own posi-
tions from which to observe the enemy and to fire
upon him-sometimes in leafy covers behind our
front-line trench, sometimes behind our parapet.
Very little of their work is done in the "No Man's
Land" between the hostile lines, for there danger
from the enemy is augmented by the chance of a shot
  from some zealous but mistaken comrade. The men-
tion of "No Man's Land" reminds me that, on the
Canadian front, this desolate and perilous strip of
land is now called "Canada." The idea is that our
    
 




THE CANADIAN CORPS................179
patrols have the upper hand here, night and day-
that we govern the region, though we have not
stationed any Governor or Resident Magistrate there
as yet.
   Our bombers, too, are an interesting and peculiar
body of men, evolved by the needs of this warfare
from all classes. Sergeant William Tabernacle is
a bomber.  He has lived for so long in an
environment of cramped quarters, alternating five
days and five nights of narrow trenches and
low dug-outs, with five days and five nights of
circumscribed huts in the reserve lines, week after
week, month after month, that he sometimes wonders
if the pictures in the hack of his mind-pictures of
dry-floored houses, wide beds, and secure streets-
are memories or only dreams. At first, for a little
while, he fretted after the soft things of the old, soft
life in far-away Canada; but now he is content to
shape his life and live it only from day to day, to
question the future as little as to review the past.
The things that matter to William now are the
things of the moment-the trench mortars behind
the opposite parapet, the guns screened in the wood
behind our own lines, food, and his ration of rum.
   William loves bombs, though he had never heard
of such things before the war and had never believed
in them until two exploded near him, in the first trench
of his experience - long ago, before the Second
Battle of Ypres. It seems that he brought to France
with him, all unknown to himself or his comrades,
an instinctive understanding of and affection for
every variety of explosive missile.  He grasped
the idea and intention of this phase of warfare
in a flash - in the flash of his first hostile




180...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.
         
grenade. He was told to be a bomber; so he be-
came a bomber, and everything he threw exploded
with precision.  His Colonel made a Corporal of
him. As Corporal he added to his duties of throw~
ing bombs the work of overhauling the bombs of
others and of manufacturing a few on his own
account. He became a Sergeant-and now he is an
accepted authority on bombs.  He makes them,
repairs them, assembles them, takes care of them,
issues them to his men, and sometimes heaves a few
himself, just to show the youngsters how the trick
is done.
   Nothing comes amiss to William.  Bombs and
grenades that enter his trench and fail to explode
are quickly investigated, and, sooner or later, are
returned to their original owners in working order.
Rifle grenades that explode in William's vicinity
never fail to attract his attention, and while others
attend to the wounded he looks for the stick. Find-
ing the stick, he immediately welds it to the base
of a small, cone-shaped bomb from his own stores
-and, behold, a rifle grenade of superior quality all
ready to be fired against the enemy's loopholes.
  William is considered by some to have grown
peculiar in his habits.  His dug-out is hung and
cluttered with the materials and tools and weapons
of his trade.  He fondles specimens of British,
French, and German bombs, even as old ladies back
in Canada fondle their grandchildren.  He ex-
patiates on their good points and their defects. He
has his favourites, of course, and should anyone
venture to belittle the fuse, the detonating charge,
or the explosive quality of one of his favourites, he
becomes arrogant, ill-mannered, and quarrelsome.




THE CANADIAN CORPS. ...............181
 
   William lives to-day for the explosion of to-
morrow.  If he were Lord Kitchener doubtless this
war would end very suddenly, some fine day, in a
rending crash that would split and rip these fair
lands from the sea to the high hills.
   William is a Canadian. Before the war his fellow-
countrymen believed that he lacked ambition and
smoked too many cigarettes. But here he is doing
his queer work, in his own queer way, in a trench in
the Low Countries -one of the hardest rivets
to break or bend in that long barrier which the
fighting legions of Germany can neither bend nor
break. 
   One cannot help wondering what William will
do for excitement when he returns to that little town
in Ontario-if ever he does return.  Perhaps, an
Uncle Toby of the New World, he will tell, "with
remembrances," the story of how he "fought in
Flanders"on the old soil and with the old weapons.

              *     *    *    *     *    *
         
   At the beginning of August the men were cheered
by a welcome visitor from home-Major-General
Sir Sam Hughes, K.C.B., whom the men naturally
regard as the father of the Canadian Contingent.
   The passionate love of country, the lofty, if in-
articulate, patriotism which called men from the
lumber camp and the mine, the desk and the store,
was expressed in the formation of great armies, by
the guiding hand of the Minister of Militia.
   At that supreme moment in our country's history,
when Canada was at the cross roads of her destiny,
she was indeed happy in the possession of the man
who gathered in and marshalled, with a speed and
                 
  




182...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


noble energy seldom, if ever, equalled, the hosts of
willing but untrained civilians who came rushing
from the Pacific Coast, the Rockies, the grain-belt,
the Western Prairie, and the fields and forests and
cities of the East, to offer themselves to the Empire
in her hour of need.
  It is unnecessary to dwell upon the efforts which
in a few weeks assembled the first armies of Canada,
armies which were in a brief period to prove that
they were able to meet on equal terms the military
brood of the great Frederick. Indeed, properly to
enforce the true spirit and meaning of Canada's
great arming, one cannot insist too strongly on the
wonderful fact that by a supreme effort of organisa-
tion, men who had, in the main, passed their lives
in peaceful pursuits, were forged into an army fitted
to face with honour and success the highly trained
hordes of a nation steeped for centuries in the tradi-
tions of militarism.
  These gallant men of ours have displayed a
valour which has never been surpassed; they have
become versed in the arts of war with a thorough-
ness and swiftness which gives them a superb con-
fidence, even when faced by overwhelming numbers
of the Kaiser's hosts. And they are full of a great
joy and a great pride when they consider that new
born civilian armies have done so much.
  Every Canadian soldier, too, is heartened by an
appreciation of the fact that in every detail of arms,
equipment, and supply, the organisation behind him
works ceaselessly to make every Canadian unit as
perfect a fighting machine as can be. They know
that, thanks to Major-General Carson, the Agent
of the Militia Department in England, all their




THE CANADIAN CORPS ...............183


requirements for fighting purposes are thought out
in advance, and provided to the last detail in more
than good time. Such confidence makes for material
well-being, and a spirit of intuitive military flair
does the rest.
   General Hughes is a business soldier, though he
possesses a true soldier's heart. A soldier is popu-
larly supposed to be a silent man. When the
statesmen and the politicians have ceased talking,
when all their speeches have been of no avail and it
is left to the guns to speak "the last word of Kings,"
the civilian believes that his military leaders are not
in the habit of speechmaking. That idea, however,
is profoundly mistaken. A study of military history
shows that all great leaders who have inspired troops
to resist to the death when disaster appeared to be
certain, and all great leaders who have victoriously
led assaults which seemed the very children of
despair, have had the capacity of making what in
armies is known as a "soldier's speech."
   It is an art which cannot be cultivated. It is the
instinctive knowledge of precisely the right road to
the soldier's heart at the supreme moment when an
appeal may make all the difference between success
or failure.1


1 The classic example of this form of eloquence is contained
in Napoleon's address to the Army of Italy, made on April 26th,
1796.

"Soldiers ! In fifteen days you have won six victories, captured
twenty-one flags, fifty-five guns, several fortresses, conquered the
richest part of Piedmont: you have made 15,000 prisoners: you
have killed or wounded nearly 10,000 men.

"Until now you have fought for barren rocks. Lacking every-
thing, you have accomplished everything. You have won battles
without cannon, crossed rivers without bridges, made forced
marches without boots, bivouacked without brandy, and often




184...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


   War makes men's minds simple and sentimental.
Without sentiment, armies could never, in free com-
munities, be got together, and armies could never be
led.  Lord Kitchener proved that he had a very
great understanding of the art of the "soldier's
speech" when he issued his message to the Expedi-
tionary Force on the eve of its sailing for France.
It made an ineffaceable impression on the men, and
its inspiration saw them through the bitter hours of
the long retreat from Mons.
    Just before his death Lord Roberts made a speech
to the Indian troops, from which they drew a fervour
which carried them through many a bloody welter,
in which the best soldiers in the world might have
succumbed.
    The Military Correspondent of The Times, too,
has borne witness to the fact that Sir John French
knows precisely what to say to reach and stir the
soldier's heart.
   And General Hughes has the same gift. He em-
ployed it well when he spoke to the troops he had
come to visit. He did not say much, but his words
 had an electrical effect upon the men's patriotism,
and strengthened them to fight even more sternly
than they had already done for freedom; while, in
the contemplation of soldierly glory, he made them
forget the horrors and losses of the preceding months.
   It was on Thursday, August 5th, that the Minister


without bread. Only the phalanx of the Republic, only the
soldiers of Liberty, could endure the things that you have suffered.
"There are more battles before you, more cities to capture, more
rivers to cross. You all burn to carry forward the glory of the
French people; to dictate a glorious peace; and to be able when
to the conquering army of Italy."'




THE CANADIAN CORPS. ...............185


for War crossed from Folkestone to Boulogne on a
British destroyer, accompanied by Brigadier~General
Lord Brooke, acting A.D.C. to Lord Kitchener, and
Lieut.-Colonel Carrick, M.P., the Canadian repre-
sentative at the General Headquarters of the British
Army in France. At Boulogne the party was met
by Captain Frederick Guest, M.P., A.D.C. to Sir
John French.
   Early  the following morning Sir Sam Hughes
motored to the British Headquarters, where he was
received by the Commander-in-Chief. After a
brief meeting, the party motored to Belgian
Headquarters, whence they made a tour of the
Belgian lines and inspected the Belgian trenches.
   Later, the Minister met King Albert in a little
cottage on the seashore, and there, with the King,
he went thoroughly into the whole Belgian position,
and in particular the Belgian defences, while shells
were whistling unceasingly overhead. That night he
returned to the British Headquarters, where he met
Prince Alexander of Teck, who, until the outbreak
of the war, was Governor-General Designate of
Canada.
   The next day, accompanied by Prince Alexander,
the Minister met General Alderson and his Staff
near Armentières. And it was deeply interesting to
watch the meeting between these two men-the man
who  had called the Canadian Army into being, and
the men who commanded it in the field.
   It was at this time that discussions took place
and decisions were reached in regard to sending the
2nd Canadian Division to join the Army in France.
   From that meeting the two Generals went straight
into the firingline, and General Hughes made an
         
         


186...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.


inspection of the men he had come so far to see.
He noted how cheerful, fit, and well the men were
in spite of the perils and hardships they had under-
gone.
  Along the line of trenches the General met many
officers and men he knew. All of them knew him.
There were delighted greetings, quick handclasps,
and brief exchanges of conversation, from which
radiated pride, heartiness, and good sense.
  Later, the Minister went up to the main artillery
observation post, and here General Burstall gave a
very effective exhibition of what Canadian guns can
do. But it was a demonstration which called forth a
reply from the German trenches, and soon enemy
shells were screaming inwards.
  Next the General inspected Strathcona's Horse,
the Royal Canadian Dragoons, and King Edward's
Horse, under Brigadier-General the Right Hon.
J. C Seely, M.P., with whose soldierly mind and
strangely similar personality the Minister found
himself in accord.
  That evening, on his return to the British Head-
quarters, he dined with Sir John French and the
Prince of Wales.
  On the Sunday morning the General inspected
the Princess Patricias, and later in the day he
spent some time with General Sir Douglas Haig.
Sir Douglas realised at once General Hughes'
gift for the appreciation of military positions,
and went very fully with him into the defences
of the 1st Army.  It must afford Canadians
not only satisfaction, but pride to know that
their Minister was able to make suggestions of
great value. Then the General set out for Festubert
         




THE CANADIAN CORPS...............187
and Givenchy. Afterwards came the inspection of
the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery under Colonel
Panet.
   On Monday morning the Minister motored to the
Headquarters of General Foch, and the meeting was
a pleasant one because the two men were old friends.
They had been companions on three successive
years at British and French Army manoeuvres, and 
they had much to discuss as, during the afternoon,
they traversed the French lines.  Major-General
Hughes spent the evening with the French
Generalissimo, with whose clear, bold thinking
and kindly but robust personality he was much
impressed.
   On Tuesday be went to Rheims, where he was
met by General D'Espéré, of the French 1st Army,
in whose company he witnessed the terrible traces
of recent heavy fighting-shattered caissons, splin-
tered gun carriages, and ruined buildings, and,
above all, that towering monument to German
"frightfulness"-the shattered mass of the great
cathedral.
   The next day Major-General Hughes proceeded
to Paris where he was entertained by Lord Bertie,
the British Ambassador, and met the President of
the Republic and the French Minister of War.
   He returned to England as he had come, in a
destroyer.
   Before sailing from Liverpool, the Minister wrote
the following farewell, which was made known to
the troops through Orders of the Day
    "In departing for Canada, it is my desire to
   thank all the splendid forces-Canadians of
   whom we are so justly proud-at the front, for
         






188...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.
their splendid services to King, country, and
the glorious cause of Liberty.
  "When these troops left Valcartier last year
and sailed from Canadian shores, I took the
liberty of predicting that when they met the
foe they would give an account of themselves
that would reflect honour upon the glorious
Empire whose liberties we are all endeavouring
to maintain.
  "The highest predictions have been more
than fulfilled.
  "I am leaving you all more than ever proud
of our gallant boys.
  "They have already earned the recognition
of a grateful country.  Throughout whatever
trials these valiant soldiers may pass, they will
be encouraged and strengthened by the thought
that behind them, in Canada, those near and
dear to them realise that their duty will be done
fearlessly and well.
  "May kind heaven guard and prosper these
brave fellows in their great struggle.
  "(Sgd.) SAM HUGHES, Major-General,
     "Minister of Militia and Defence."
             *   *     *    *    *     *
   August passed quietly by.1 The enemy some-


1 It was on August 1st that the enemy carried out a severe
bombardment of a location known as "Ration Farm," opposite
Messines, which drove the men of Major Hesketh's squadron of
Strathcona's Horse, who were in reserve, into their dug~outs.
The farm was hit repeatedly, and suddenly sounds as of heavy
machine-gun fire were heard coming from the midst of the
shattered buildings. Major Hesketh left his dug-out and entered
the farm to investigate. He saw that the magazine, containing
100,000 rounds of ammunition with the reserve supply of bomb'
and grenades, had been pierced and set on fire by a high explosive




THE CANADIAN CORPS...............189
times shelled our trenches, but never heavily, and
the Canadians enjoyed a comparatively peaceful
summer month.
   In the early days of September the Canadian
Government determined, in response to the require-
ments and necessities of the Empire, to furnish
another Division, thus placing a complete Army
   It was a matter of intense gratification to the
Canadians that General Alderson, who had so bril-
liantly led the 1st Division in the terrible and hard-
fought battles in Flanders, was appointed to com-
mand the Corps.
   General Alderson is a soldier with great experi-
ence and with great military gifts, and, above all, a
genius for the leadership of men.
   Apart from his qualities as a soldier, however, a
simple and noble personality illumines his character.
It is not too much to say that every officer and man
under his command loves and trusts him. Not only;
however, have they confidence in his military leader-
ship, but they know that in his personality, and in his
whole outlook upon humanity, he is to be respected
and trusted too.
   With the arrival in France of the 2nd Division,1


1In spite of the fact that the position was still under
persistent shell fire, that the small-arms ammunition was explod-
ing rapidly under the influence of the heat, and that the entire
contents of the magazine was likely to explode at any moment,
Major Hesketh fought the fire with sacks and extinguished it.

1Prior to its departure for France the 2nd Division was com-
manded by General Sam Steele, C.B., M.V.O., a distinguished
Steele's military experience dates from the days of the Red River
Expedition, and his appointment was much appreciated by the
officers and troops of the 2nd Division during their period of
training. He has since joined the Imperial Service, and is now
the General Officer Commanding at Sborncliffe.




190...............CANADA IN FLANDERS.
and the formation of the Canadian Army Corps, a
point is reached which clearly marks the end of the
first phase of Canada's part in the world war.
  Henceforth we shall be represented in the field by
an Army Corps, a noble contribution to the necessity
of the Empire. When we contemplate, quite apart
from their moral value, the immense material
contributions which the Dominions have made
to this campaign, we may reflect with irony upon
the strange errors of which many brilliant men are
capable.
  Professor Goldwin Smith wrote of the Cana-
dians :-" Judge whether these men are likely to
pour out their, blood without stint for the British
connection; see at least first, whether they are ready
to pour out a little money or to reduce their duties
on your goods." And he joyfully quoted Cobden.
"Loyalty is an ironical term to apply to people who
neither obey our orders nor hold themselves liable
to fight our battles."
  We may perhaps be permitted to hope that the
study of the past is sometimes more helpful to those
who presume to foretell the future.
  The 2nd Division cannot fail to be inspired by
the superb example of that with which it is linked.
It has the advantage of being commanded by a most
distinguished and experienced officer, Major-General
Turner, V.C., the Brigadier-General Turner who
held the left at Ypres in the great days of April.
  Of all the officers of high rank fighting to-day in
Flanders, none is more modest, none more resource-
ful, none more chivalrous. He is in Canada a great
national figure. Conspicuous among the heroes of
Ypres, he will in his new position write his record     




THE CANADIAN CORPS...............191

in Flanders, in letters not indeed more glorious, but
upon a larger slate.
   And here for the present we take leave of the
Canadians in Flanders. After incredible hardships
patiently supported, after desperate battles stub-
bornly contested, their work is still incomplete. But
they will complete it, meeting new necessities with
fresh exertions, for it is the work of Civilisation and
of Liberty.


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Copyright Dates:
Second Publication: Monday, 12-Mar-2001 21:49:37 MST
First Published: March 1, 2001