The Minute Book
Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Farrier Sergeant's Whiskey
Topic: Humour

Officers of the Governor-General's Body Guard. Humboldt, Saskatchewan. [1885] "L. to r. standing: Maj. Dunn, Lt. Col. G.T. Denison, Capt. Denison, Lt. Merritt. Seated: Quartermaster Charles Mair, Lt. Fleming, Surgeon Baldwin." (1972-270; LAC; C-002594)

The Farrier Sergeant's Whiskey

Soldiering in Canada; Lt.-Col George T. Denison, 1900

[The farrier sergeant] came to me one day [during the 1885 campaign] with a requisition for some horse medicines, for I had no veterinary surgeon, as ours had left Canada just before we started. I looked over the list of things ordered, and forwarded it to Colonel Jackson at Winnipeg. The farrier sergeant told me to mention a particular druggist in Winnipeg, who had furnished us supplies before we left; I did so. Before the box, or large case of medicines, arrived I had a slight suspicion in my mind that he might send a little liquor with the medicines.

When the box arrived, addressed to me and marked veterinary supplies, I said: "Put that in my tent." Major Dunn was with me. I opened it and found some dirty-looking bottles marked colic drenches, regular horse medicine to all appearance. I drew the cork of one bottle, poured a little of the contents into a tin cup, smelt it, tasted it very carefully and passed it to Major Dunn. He tasted it, looked at me and said: "The d—:—d thief." I ordered a parade of all the men, put the farrier sergeant under arrest and the box in front of the line of men. I took the bottles one by one, opened them, generally by knocking the necks off, poured a little into a tin cup and called out the men whom I thought were experts and would know whiskey and not object to it, and would hand them the cup and ask them what it contained. They would say "That is whiskey, sir," and I would empty the bottle out upon the ground. I went on for a number of the bottles, calling up different men and giving them about a glass each, so as to have evidence that it was whiskey. Among others I called Sergeant Patrick Macgregor, who had been in the 13th Hussars, and was a splendid swords-man, and an equally good judge of whiskey, from an experience gained by drinking all he could get.

I poured out a fairly good glass for him, he drank it solemnly and I said "Well, Macgregor, what is it?" "Colonel," he replied, "if I am to take my solemn oath before a court, I would not feel safe to do it on such a small taste as that." I poured out another good glass and he drank it slowly, looking up now and again and taking sips and evidently enjoying it, and everyone laughing at his wise and solemn expression, until he finished it. He then felt himself over the waist, straightened himself up with an air of satisfaction and said very seriously: "Yes, Colonel, that is whiskey, Iam ready to go before any court and swear to it. And what is more, it is devilish good whiskey."

I poured out eighteen bottles in this way and also a gallon or two of alcohol which was in a tin case, and when all that was out, all the medicines left in the box could have been put into a teacup. The farrier sergeant begged me to let him leave the corps and not to have him tried for the fraud. I thought the simplest way todeal with him was let him go, so we got him into plain clothes and started him back to the East.

The fame of this incident spread all through the North-West. Such a thing as spilling liquor was unheard of, except by the Mounted Police, and they were not keen to do it, and I am afraid my reputation in all that country was not improved by the story. I telegraphed to Colonel Jackson to stop the payment to the druggist, and wrote a full report. I am afraid that this sort of thing was done a good deal in ihe campaign, and that I only let in one little ray of light. The result of this was that I got the reputation of being very severe, and one who would destroy liquor like a fanatic id I heard of it.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Friday, 2 January 2015

The Art of Command
Topic: Leadership

The Art of Command

By; A.C.K.; published in the Sabre and spurs : the regimental journal of Lord Strathcona's Horse (R.C.) Cadets. Vol. 1, no. 1 (1933)

"Is command an art?" will perhaps be asked by some who feel that nothing can be easier than giving orders. Anyone, however, who thinks so, ignores the fact that the only man capable of command is the man who has learned to obey, and that an order is only justified, if, under the circumstances of the case, it was absolutely necessary. Even then, it can only be approved if it be unobjectionable both in matter and manner.

Every order places the subordinate to whom it is given in a position of constraint to which he willingly submits without any question if he recognizes the necessity for it, in such a case obedience is not a servile submission, but the free gift of a free man, but he complied with an order unwillingly it it is dictated merely by the pleasure of giving orders, or the desire to magnify one's own importance.

Fondness for domineering leads to tyranny and incites insubordination; it does no good but compromises discipline. We can see this in thousands of cases in the army, where there are superior officers who compel the willing obedience even of insubordinate men, while there are others to be found who make even the best men refractory.

Only the man who himself knows how to obey, who has learned from personal experience how grievous an inopportune or superfluous order can be, and how inexpressibly hard it is, in such a case, to resist the impulse to revolt, only such a man will avoid blunders when he is himself in a position of command.

We should always keep this fact before out eyes; we want a cheery and willing, nor a slavish servile obedience. It is the first alone which conduces to happiness in the regiment, ensures a firm unshaken discipline and inspires men to heroic deeds in action. It is the first kind of obedience alone, which acts educationally and forms the character.

Another serious drawback involved in a mania for giving orders is that all independence, all initiative, and all love of responsibility on the pay of subordinates are killed. Modern conditions require thoughtful leaders trained to be independent, and self-restrained men, capable, from devotion to their officers and their regiment, of proving their firm will to conquer even when their leaders are absent.

Good leaders and good men are not produced by orders, superfluous in themselves, and beside the mark; but we undoubtedly do get them if we give no more orders than are absolutely essential, and if we praise every independent action, even if it be not altogether apt or appropriate. In such a case what is wrong must be reproved, but not severely, not sharply, not in the form of censure, but only in the way of kindly instruction.

No man likes to be found fault with, but everyone is willing to accept instructions, and does better another time. The man who has cause to fear fault finding, forswears initiative. With regard to the form of an order, it should be borne in mind that only a definite distinct order, as short as possible, in which not a needless word is said, and which cannot be misunderstood. Every superior who finds that he has been misunderstood should first look for the fault in himself; if after careful consideration, he finds that it was not his fault, then, and not till then, he may take his subordinates to task.

We learn most from mistakes and misunderstandings, and it is therefore well to let them run their course. Untimely interference, repeated orders and such like, produce instead of trustworthiness, independence, and initiative which should be our aim, a feeling of insecurity and uncertainly which destroys all willing ness to accept responsibility.

This much is certain, that superior officers who give their subordinates…everywhere it is possible to do so…the independence which is their due, and even demand such power of initiative from them, will never be left in the lurch.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Sergeant Major's Welcoming Address
Topic: Drill and Training

The Sergeant Major's Welcoming Address

Sergeant-Major Rafuse's standard welcome to new recruits at Camp Aldershot, beginning around 1939.

A cartoon sketch from an earlier war, but showing the same spirit of presence that Sergeant Major Rafuse undoubtedly strived to maintain.

He spoke, "My name is Clifford Rafuse." Then, taking his swagger stick and touching the crown insignia on his arm, he would say, "I am a Sergeant-Major. You will not address me as Clifford, Cliff, Rafuse, sir, hey you, or any of the foul names you really think of me in your pea-sized brains. I am a Sergeant-Major – here, in the shower, in the latrine, in my drawers, in my pajamas, or when I am dead. I am, and always will be Sergeant-Major Rafuse to you. If you pumpkin-heads see me on the street twenty-five years from now—and most of you won't survive this training to live that long—I will still be addressed as Sergeant-Major by you. Do you understand that?" Then bellowing again, he demanded they scream an answer: "Yes, Sergeant-Major."

He would then go on: "I'm not your mother; I won't tuck you in bed; and I won't be your pal. I will make you bleedin', sloppy, unwashed, useless, pudgy loafers who thought this army was a holiday camp into battle shape. I shall turn your pudgy asses into such shape that you will have muscles in your defecation. Some few of you who fooled your way through some little school may think you are smart and will think you will fool me because you know the ABC's! You will not fool me; you are not smart. And when I say "jump", you say "How high". When I say "defecate", you say "Yes, Sir, and what colour, Sir?. I shall make you baggy, civilian lot of unwashed, sloppy, buggers into cleaned, shined, well-spoken, and obedient battle-ready troops. Or … you will suffer a fate and terror worse than heck.

"Your Mother can't save you. Nobody is tougher than I am. I am tougher than any Kraut you ever encounter. Even the Padre is scared of me. I'll march you, drill you, train you, punish you, and toughen you into soldiers. Don't talk back; don't complain, even to the Padre; because my words will even bring tears to his eyes. Now tighten up those soft pudgy asses, pull in those sagging chins, and suck in those baggy guts. Hands by your sides with thumbs down the seams of those potato-bag looking trousers.

"Like this," as he demonstrated, "and when you get that right, we'll take you ladies to a lovely King's breakfast of such quality you'll be glad when we let you work in our kitchen. Our next present to you slobs will be a visit to His Majesty's barber so as you can get that bleedin', mangled, lady-length, dirty, bug-infested civilian hairdo cut off. You will then, at least, not look like a bleedin' civilian, with a filthy mat on your head. Now fall out, ladies, and form up for the cookhouse. MARCH – quickly, before I lose my f…n' temper"

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Where the War-Dead Rest
Topic: Remembrance

Holten Canadian War Cemetery

Where the War-Dead Rest

The Beauty of the War Graves Commission Cemeteries

The Evening Citizen; Ottawa, Ont.; 6 November 1948

The well-kept beauty of the Canadian military cemeteries in Northwest Europe is a tribute not only to the care and skill of the Imperial War Graves Commission, but to the people of the surrounding areas. Writing in The Legionary, organ of the Canadian Legion, Major Colin McDougall, Canadian army photographer who visited Europe last summer, describes what he saw.

At Holten in eastern Holland, where lie men killed in the last stages of fighting in Holland and Germany, soil conditions were not right for landscaping, and in the past two years the weather has been bad. Yet the seed grass sown has now grown into a lovely lawn. Lying amid rolling country, the setting with its growths of Scots pines and a profusion of purple heather, reminds visitors of parts of Scotland.

The district is used as a holiday resort, and each day during the season hundreds of visitors enter the cemetery to view its 1,300 graves. At the head of each grave flowers bloom, and all around the flowers is the soft grass.

Similar scenes may be viewed at Groesbeek, also in Holland, where the cemetery, situated on a hilltop, overlooks the Rhine and the Hochwald, which Canadians will recall as the scene of particularly bitter fighting in February, 1945, when the drive to smash the northern flank of the Siegfried line was launched; and at Beny-sur-Mer and Bretteville-sur-maize in Normandy. At the former, one can see the English Channel over which the invasion fleet sailed to France, while the cemetery at Brettville is associated with the straight road from Caen to Falaise, scene of one of the bitterest struggles in Canadian Military annals.

The Imperial War Graves Commission plans to replace the crosses that now mark the graves with headstones, each with a Maple Leaf and a cross engraved on it. The Commission, which acts on behalf of, and is financed on a pro rata basis by all the Commonwealth governments, has kept in mind the overall simplicity and uniformity of design which is desired in these burial grounds. The caretakers it engages are veterans who approach their task with a sense of dedication.

Assisting the Commission is the National War Graves Committee, formed by the Dutch people. Through this committee many families and institutions in Holland have adopted allied graves on their soil. They visit the cemeteries regularly, to lay cut flowers on the graves, to pay homage to and pray for the men buried there. Many correspond with Canadian relatives of the dead, and inform them of the care received by the graves of their loved ones. And in Norandy, the people have similarly interested themselves in the Canadian cemeteries.

Besides visiting the cemeteries where rest the dad of the Second World war Major McDougall spent a brief time at Ypres, Belgium. Here at the Menin Gate each night Belgian veterans sound the Last Post in memory of the 50,000 men of the British Empire who perished in the Ypres Salient in the First World War. Damage to the area caused in the last war, is now being repaired. Workmen are restoring the historic Gate to its original perfection. Beside the new Cloth Hall built on the site of the old, some of the ruins have been left standing.

Each of the Canadian cemeteries was visited last summer by General H.D.G. Crerar, war-time commander of the First Canadian Army, while he was a member of as special Canadian mission which attended the coronation of Queen Juliana of The Netherlands.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Tuesday, 30 December 2014

MARBLEHEAD STORM 12; The Brigade Staff War Diary
Topic: Forays in Fiction

This is Field Marshal Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley, KP, GCB, OM, GCMG, VD, PC (1833–1913). In the late Victorian era, Wolseley was a trouble-shooter for the British Army, he was sent all over the world to "unfuck" things and get them organized. He was so effective at this that the phrase "All Sir Garnet" came to be a euphemism for everything being correct and working efficiently. This story is not about him.

Advisory Note:

This is a work of speculative fiction. Any resemblance to persons living, dead, or headquarters staff is purely coincidental and should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Personal humour filters should be firmly in place before reading and set to highest tolerance levels for maximum enjoyment.

The Brigade Staff War Diary

By: Michael M. O'Leary (copyright 2012)

Who's Who in the HQ Zoo:

The Brigade HQ Staff
Dramatis Personae

Obligatory literary quote to infer author is well-read:

The typical staff officer is the man past middle life, spare, unwrinkled, intelligent, cold, passive, non-committal; with eyes like a cod-fish, polite in contact but at the same time unresponsive, cool, calm and as damnably composed as a concrete post or a plaster-of-Paris cast; a human petrifaction with a heart of feldspar and without charm or the friendly germ; minus bowels, passion or a sense of humour. Happily they never reproduce and all of them finally go to hell. - Anonymous

The Chief of Staff (COS)—a Lieutenant Colonel, supervisor to all the headquarters staff. His mission in life is to make sure that the staff effort is efficient, economical, sensible, and moving in the direction indicated by the Commander's intent. His reality is like herding cats through a dog pound. His is an unforgiving existence, besides riding herd on a curious mix of staff personalities that might actually work better together than anyone might expect, he's also the foil that bears the brunt of dissatisfaction from subordinate commanders who discover that not following the Commander's plan doesn't work well for them. "The Boss," "The Old Man," or just plain "COS," the best chiefs of staff are patient and seldom surprised, they are a calming influence who maintain a steady keel even as others are launching life rafts. An embittered or hostile chief of staff infects the staff with his mood, creating more friction than he resolves.

The G3—Operations (Ops)—an experienced Major, combat arms, with a wealth of experience under the hat he wears to hide a rapidly receding hairline which wasn't genetically predetermined. He manages the day-to-day operations, doing his best to keep diverse unit command personalities happy and moving in concert with the issued plan. He's the Chief of Staff's right hand man in riding herd on the HQ staff and the solver of myriad problems that provide operational friction impeding the Brigade's training goals. Some of that friction comes from outside the Brigade and the G3 can bare his teeth and bite off big chunks. Some of it, however, comes from within, and then he grits his teeth, smiles politely, employs tactful delaying measures, and checks to see if the Chief of Staff is hungry.

The G5—Plans—a grizzled, gruff Major, with a wry sense of humour that few ever see. Usually, a Gunner or a Sapper because they tend to be detail oriented in planning, whereas Infantry officers are too quick to form square and bayonet the naysayers, while Cavalry officers never seem to understand why you need three options when they only plan charges. The G5's long years of experience give him the ability to close most of the loopholes in any Plan before it gets issued for Operations to execute. He's learned that some people will smile and nod while receiving the plan, and then fight their way upstream during execution while blaming the plan for their troubles, no matter how well it's written. Nothing surprises the G5 anymore, but the potential still exists to deepen his disappointment in humanity when his well-constructed plans go sideways.

The G1—Personnel—a youthful Major from a logistics background and a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Always a study in contrasts; is it unknown to science how someone with such an unforgiving job portfolio (i.e., all the Brigade's personnel management problems) could actually smile so much. Yet, the G1 perseveres. A logistician, she may play second fiddle to her combat arms peers in the perceived pecking order, but gives no leeway when it's her turn to run an administrative sausage machine. The others know it's time to back away slowly after she loses patience with their sluggish combat arms minds.

The G4—Logistics—seemingly, the youngest Major of the four, though perhaps just because he doesn't bear the crushing weight of responsibility that they claim to. He, however, smiles at their claims, knowing well that "amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics." He also knows that no-one will recall later if the timings for a range got screwed up, but everyone will know who to blame if the rations are short. Logistics by trade and appointment, he also brings in a sense of adventure only a buoyant young officer from la belle Province could provide (because every Anglo staff needs its stranded Franco officer). His quick smile and eager readiness to cooperate with his peers may be hiding a deep uncertainly about their sanity.

The Public Affairs Officer (PAO)—a Captain—one of those odd positions that is seldom actually filled by a Public Affairs Officer, thank God! The incumbents seem to shift between two stereotypes. The first are young captains who dedicate themselves to following the PA guidance, even if most PAOs seldom seem to. The second are crusty old staff captains, who ignore the detail of the PA guidance and still produce credible staff work out of long habit. The advantage to either of these out-of-trade officers is that neither is going to try to explain to the COS how the operational plan has to change to match the public affairs intent.

The Adjutant—a Captain—vastly experienced on both sides of the commissioning divide, she's a stern and caring mother hen who keeps the paperwork flowing for the command cell and keeps the rest of the staff in line. Unafraid to lecture a Major for his overgrown haircut or counsel a Corporal with a personal problem, she's one of the few truly stable people in the headquarters staff. Her calm presence provides a stable point of reference when the rest of the place is heading for hell. But that caring and calm demeanour can only last so long, when the moment calls for it, an old school Adjutant comes forth like a summoned demon. Laying waste within the headquarters with knowledgeable criticism and cutting remarks, she can channel the memory of Adjutants past who have made Generals' blood run cold.

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19 August 2012
CFB Blankville, Camp "A"; EXCON

The day dawned bright, and almost clear, as soft scattered clouds floated over the slumbering Exercise Control (ExCon) staff who skipped breakfast to rest while the Primary Training Audience (PTA) counted heads and issued extra rations in honour of absent comrades. The G3 and G5 bickered over who was more agile at avoiding blame for the snags encountered during the deployment, deciding in the end to redirect all inquiries to the G4 for shits and giggles, while simultaneously cranking the G1 into a frenzy over nominal roll totals. Confusion reined outside the wire, as the sub-unit that decided to change bivouacs complained about the absence of shitters in their new location, and sections shrunk steadily as uncountable heads revealed the gaps in the multitude of attendance promises made by units in weeks past. Confusion may have existed, but it was not the white hot dysenteric failure that reputedly caused a sister Brigade to stand down for a day to unfuck their own efforts to launch an exercise in the beautiful vistas of CFB Pandastan. All in all, Day 1 was a success, as the Reservists achieved their best efforts at what they excel; the reorganization of a collection of arriving personnel and equipment into a training organization ready and capable to pursue the best level of training goals they could. As the day drew to a close and the creatures of the night (raccoons and, allegedly, recce forces) occupied the battlespace, the winner of the draw for a three-day all-expenses paid mid-week vacation in Collingwood was announced; sadly it was an unfilled line serial and the tickets mysteriously disappeared. All staff remain alert for the disappearance of any of the section heads for an extended period.

Late morning: tension grows and boundaries are being established. The G5 controls the printer in the Planning Quonset, while the G3 has a firm hand on the coffee urn. The two officers trade barbs, coming to an uneasy truce. The G5 can have coffee if he doesn't spill any in the G3's area, while the G3 can print documents … somewhere else. In the resulting atmosphere of tension, nearby staff wait uneasily for the appropriate time to abandon the camp for lunch.

The G4 shows up at lunch, his first appearance since disappearing "for the Log Brief" after breakfast. His growing boredom without enough to keep himself busy is evident in his call for a movie night in Camp "A". The Adjutant afterwards pronounces him ADHD, though perhaps not in so many words, a diagnosis not refuted by others with any haste.

The weather, unpredictable at best, has been unchanged for most of the day. After lunch a steady downpour traps the staff in the briefing Quonset. Despair sets in as the feelings of isolation increase. The rain stops after twenty minutes. Life goes on.

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20 August 2012
CFB Blankville, Camp "A"; EXCON

We are still here. The COS hasn't been seen in three days. The Adjutant swears. She also affirms that she has ensured that the COS has been fed and watered regularly. She takes credit for keeping him busy with real work and away from the exercise staff. The staff appreciate the fiction and express gratitude, however weakly it is inferred under its veil of sarcasm.

Beyond the camp concertina Brigade soldiers are counting accomplishments as they build tactical teams and prepare for the transition to Mudstone. In Camp "A", the inmates are scratching the numbers of days on the wall of the Quonset, counting sleeps until they can have a hot shower. The G5 starts rationing his own cigarette supply. He eyes the other smokers warily, wondering if they are hoarding theirs; wondering if he can convince the COS to order the collection of scarce supply items. Nicotine addictions can be dangerous things. The G3 laughs at him, calling him weak, and holds the coffee urn tighter.

The G4 continues to be in good humour, which only serves to accentuate the relative misery of those around him. Soon, the other section heads mutter, soon, his new headquarters appointment will suck the joy from his soul too. The G3 is quiet, too quiet, either things are going well, or they are so far off the rails he's afraid to start talking about them. Reports from the field are mixed, some may be incorrect, others may be wrong.

The G5 continues to get increasingly possessive of his corner of the briefing Quonset. We have to watch him when he prowls the room as he tries to determine if anyone has touched his stuff. We are concerned he may start pissing on the bounds of his declared territory, though we will laugh at those who afterwards sit in his folding chairs.

By days' end, the busy-ness of the staff was taking its toll. The Adjutant, a stalwart herder of colonels at the best of time, was near homicidal madness after a long day with one more errant Colonel and his 30 civilian visitors. Returned to Camp "A" after a steak dinner in the Officers' Mess, she was seen to be smiling. We're not sure if it's because she's happy, delirious, or she just saw someone hurt themselves.

Today the Intelligence Terrain Analysis team arrived. It's a small team, consisting of only one damn fine looking Sergeant. He smiles, but that will end, he hasn't been here long. True to form, they executed a terrain analysis of the inside of the Planning Quonset, and summarily took over half of it. After long hours of counter-attacks over the lost ground, his space was reduced to one-quarter of the hut. We smiled as he failed to understand he was next to the G5.

The G5 and G3 continue to snipe at each other. Rumour has it they challenged one another to a duel, but agreed it had to be a non-contact contest. They finally decided on a duel of wit by e-mail, but neither could identify a Second they trusted to proofread their work before it was fired at the other. The lack of connectivity in the Planning Quonset was also considered an obstacle to settling honour between them. In the end, they circled one another in a verbal standoff, facing one another like a stuffed tiger and a bas-relief lion carved in Ivory soap by a maximum security lifer, they postured aggressively but it was activity without influence. The tension between them remains, and continues to be ignored by everyone else.

The staff's day draws to a close as each day does, with the ExCon Coord Meeting. The G5 looks stern, but it doesn't last. The sister brigade is reported to be continuing their state of massive fail, having reportedly climbed inside their own colon and died there. The staff in Camp "A" celebrates. All things being relative, their failure can only make us look better to the General.

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21 August 2012
CFB Blankville, Camp "A"; EXCON

This is the twenty-first of August in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve. It is the third day of our estrangement from civilization. We strive to improve our living conditions, but we cannot yet forge iron, grow avocados or make a drinkable cafe mocha. This is the week of our discontent.

The day dawns bright. A black pall hangs over the Officers' Quarters. The G4, gentle soul that he is, accuses someone of disturbing his child-like restful sleep. "J'accuse", cries Bonhomme, to anyone who will listen. Sadly, precedents have been set, one officer having been voted off the island (allegedly for a snoring offence, or offensively snoring, as the case may be) even before the arrival of the main body occupants. Evil grins erupt, the cracks are showing in the G4's armour of joyful expressiveness. Plans are hatched to hide his ceinture fleche, so that no-one gets strangled in the night.

In the Planning Quonset, the G5 sits alone in his corner. No-one will talk to him. He tries raising any of his Observer-Controller staff by radio. He has less success than the SETI program. Life goes on around him.

A bright spot has emerged to illuminate this day. (No, not the sun, I said it was already up.) Showers have been authorized. "Bless us," rises the cry, in hopes that the G3 will be in a better mood once those around him stink less. Perhaps he will smile. It is accepted that the G5 will not smile. Reportedly, he has not smiled since the Leafs traded Gretsky and his own application for political asylum with Gretsky's new franchise city was denied.

The PAO wrestles with his Blackberry, having previously refused to join the smart phone era. He mutters regrets over having issued an exercise News Release in the first place. What reporters don't know of, they cannot ask to visit. He makes plans to drive a stake through the Blackberry's heart before he returns it to its rightful owner, the PAO who selfishly stayed home to bond with his new children instead of facing Exercise MARBLEHEAD STORM 12 like a man.

The G3 and G5 trade pithy barbs. No-one listens anymore. It is rumoured someone asked how long they had been married. No-one laughed. The joke is already old.

The mood in the Planning Quonset calms. The G3 and G5 appear to have made up, they are now chatting with mutual good humour. They're probably plotting one another's untimely demise. They trade stories of "the old army" as they remember it, before women joined the combat arms, when all they were expected to care about was having horses to ride and a regimental band to play in the Mess on dinner nights. (It has now become clear why the Gunner crossed the road … it was to get to the other gutter.)

The G5 describes some of the exercise players, mostly notional, as acting within the scenario under duress. This we can relate to. It becomes apparent that our own training audience has found a way around the limitations of the exercise instructions. Failing to read them, after all, has always been an available Course of Action (COA).

The Intelligence (Int) crew has been reined in. Their intended Motor Rifle Division meeting engagement poised to meet the battle group at the break-in to the Mudstone training area has had to be scaled back due to Opposing Force (OPFOR) limitations. They have no motors, few rifles, and the divisions among them are regimentally stimulated. The enemy, fierce as ever, will be a platoon(ish) sized force (that is, doctrinally, a section plus(ish)). Allegedly there may be ladies among the insurgent force. These could be single-minded fanatics, or hookers, volunteers are being sought. The G5 suggested the G1 could fill either role, but refused to mention it to her. While seeking to identify alternatives, the G4, stiletto heels and face paint were brought up. Everyone was uncomfortable after that. The willing readiness of the Int team to support the exercise is reflected in the support they were offered for weather reporting, which is apparently available for each ten-metre square section of the training area. So, if you don't like the weather you're having, move 33 feet in any cardinal direction for a new weather report.

The G5 continues to struggle with the battle group handling information differently than expected. The guiding principle countering his efforts is set forth by Norman Dixon in the seminal work "On the Psychology of Military Incompetence", in which one of the principles of military incompetence he identifies is "A tendency to reject or ignore information which is unpalatable or which conflicts with preconceptions." Coherent military forces can be shaped, silly putty, not so much. The battle group's coefficients of elasticity and cohesion continue to be observed to determine where they lay on that spectrum.

The G1 reports ongoing fluctuations in arrivals and departures. Exercise attendance numbers creep upwards, glacially slowly. Some units have deployed more soldiers than others. Some have met their forecasts better than others. The opportunity is ripe for the brigade report card to measure both attendance rates, and accuracy in prior reporting. We do all love the brigade report card.

The G4 dropped in to discuss the surprise plan to change the road move. This, unfortunately, would require a change to the environmental assessment and, for any hope of such a change actually occurring, a possible sexual act performed with the Pope. There were no volunteers for the latter, so the plan remained unchanged. In the ensuing discussion, the G4 did reveal to his peers his secret to being a new-generation, relaxed staff officer, which is to delete all e-mails that require scrolling because the sender is obviously incapable of distilling their message into a readable form that fits his attention span.

Waldorf and Statler continue to critique everything, especially each other, from their respective corners of the Planning Quonset.

The G5 posts a wanted poster, offering three packs of cigarettes to anyone who catches the good idea fairy in the exercise yard and shanks the bitch. The scraping sound of toothbrush handles being sharpened on concrete can be heard late into the night.

Rumour Int: Our sister brigade's woes deepen. Their attempts to exercise control themselves out of a pit of despair may have come in conflict with the expectations of other participants and supporting organizations which prefer to play through the set course. (Get on the pony troops; the more it hurts, the more you learn.)

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22 August 2012
CFB Blankville, Camp "A"; EXCON

Inevitably, dawn breaks once again over the slumbering souls of Camp "A." The world has not ended. The exercise must go on.

This is the day the River Styx must be crossed. The ferry man has been paid in advance with sweat, the companies and other sub-units formed into a semblance of readiness; now every piece of the battle group and exercise support staff must complete their small part of the evolution from National Park Blankville to the frigid waters and beautiful shores of a Great Lake. Unfortunately for the troops, it's hard to appreciate the beauty of the scenery when you're breathing pure dust and have eyes blinded by your own sweat. The G3 turns up the air conditioning in his truck to drown out their righteous soldierly grumbling. The G5 continues to tinker with the plan, writing new versions that no-one will read either. The G4 poses in the morning sunlight, his eyes hidden behind his trendy shades.

Military wisdom, such as it is, states that no plan survives past the start line. The plan may not survive, but all hope that the trucks and boats do. What happens inside the new camp boundary is the oncoming test, and even the best steel can break if struck just right. The G5 grins and flexes his stringy biceps, relishing the manly blacksmithing analogy for the plan he has hammered into shape to test the battle group. The battle group ignores him, and rewrites the plan as it advances into the unknown future.

The pack-up of Camp "A" begins. Organizations often have specialties, skills they have mastered beyond the average level of capability. For some Reserve units, that specialty is packing up. Many bases, particularly those staffed by anal-retentive groups of unicorn breeders and other unrealistic people, have such particular expectations of departing units. These may include expecting gold-plated toilets to be left where silver-plated ones were found on march-in, requiring all the pine needles in a bivouac area re-arranged in a fashionable herring bone pattern, or orienting the louvered screens of all the shitters to face the tropical trade winds for most efficient ventilation. To achieve these requirements takes a level of skill mastered by few, but deeply ingrained in those who have been subjected to them. Accordingly, the unnecessary parts of Camp "A" were bundled, stacked, sorted and counted with a determination and attention to detail not seen since the Grinch stripped Whoville of Christmas.

The Planning Quonset went from bustling staff centre to empty hanger in a flash, leaving not even a crumb that would be too small for a mouse. The coffee urn was torn from the G3's hands, the imaginary tape was peeled from the boundaries of the G5's cubicle (this last word only to be said with exaggerated finger quotation marks). The G4 and his staff worked around the clock to fit 30 people into 20 vehicles, revealing in the end the true nature of the G4 staff: "One man, One truck."

The remainder of the Planning Quonset chain gang ventured forth to face new adventures. Mudstone appeared soon enough on the horizon, truly an Army base compared to National Park Blankville, but one with its own pitfalls. Salute the front gate flag when the national anthem plays (a test of situational awareness), two-strap those small packs (lest some base staff Warrant Officer correct you), and watch your speed on those range roads (Range Control has been practicing all summer just to be ready to greet new training audiences with strong admonitions).

Most of our merry band: G3, G5, Adjt, and PAO, hurled themselves forward into the unknown, advancing on individual schedules to all end at Mudstone by nightfall. The G3 monitored the route sign following test, helping each winning team celebrate with a roadside fireworks display. The G5 gathered his flock of wayward infanteers, armoured recce, and sundry others in the woods at a local airport, there to wait for the next stage of their Exodus. The Adjutant came along to keep performing her most critical task, keeping the COS on the straight and narrow. The PAO took a few photos, found the boat launch site (thankfully with the help of a Pukka Sapper Colonel he encountered nearby) and made plans to watch the next day dawn while standing on the frigid bay's rocky shore.

Our protagonists would go separate ways for the next 48 hours, each chasing their own tail in new and interesting ways. Sadly for the tenor of our tale, that emotionally conjoined pair, the G3 and the G5, previously attached at the sarcasm and sharing a single sense of humour, would be apart for hours on end, neither being able to practice their self-proclaimed witty repartee on the other. The frazzling of nerves was the accepted risk.

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23 August 2012
Training Centre Mudstone, The Dreary Building; EXCON

This day started, and somewhat later dawn occurred. By then, too many people were already too tired to care about the artistically soft reddish hues in the Eastern sky, quite unlike the Group of Seven, which never had to carry 80 pounds of kit while they watched the summer sun rise over calm Canadian inland waters and shoreline copses. Although one company of infantry started the day with a pleasant boat ride on calm waters, theirs was not the fate of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Instead, they reached their shoreline destination and everything, although topographically uphill, was all downhill from there.

The PAO continued to cultivate his future media career by escorting a news videographer to the pre‑dawn boat launch. With a face for radio, and a voice perfect for silent films, we expect the PAO to go far in his new career, and hope he goes away to start it soon. Later in the morning he also interviewed live on air with a local radio station. Broadcast after a Led Zeppelin song, the station, mercifully for the sanity of listeners, did not let him sing along. The unanswered question continues to linger, like hazy blue smoke in a dingy 1980s strip club with a one-eyed hooker working the pole with the enthusiasm of a bored monkey; why … why would the COS let a guy with the people skills of an angry rhino talk to the media? This, surely, will go down as one of the mysteries of our civilization.

Amidst the turmoil of altered plans and drifting time lines, the G5 found his Zen. This was the challenge he lived for, one million moving parts, each of which required his constant director's cues to enter the stage according to the script and to remember their lines in an appropriate voice-procedurish manner. In all his glory, his face shining with sweat, his handshake still steady and strong, he strode across the battlefield, master of all he surveyed, and of the lint in his pockets. Under his tutelage, Saint Barbara would have her due.

The G3 grinned maliciously at hearing of his compatriot's trials, or maybe it was gas from his breakfast eggs. Regardless, he tirelessly worked to coordinate his end of the game, and also his escape plan in case disaster actually struck. Sadly, that plan was foiled by the G4 who laughed heartily when he reviewed the administrative request for "Batmobile, times one."

The G5 is found on the first enemy objective by the PAO. In the absence of the expected battle group rep in the grid square, the G5 graciously agrees to be filmed, recorded for posterity. He readies himself, practicing his lines under his breath as he inhales renewed life force through burning tobacco. At last, his face still glistening with sweat from charging about the training area with fierce determination, he turns to the camera, fixes his gaze on that lens and says: "Ladies, I am the man your man could smell like … don't look at him, just look at me ..."

The day drags on with the efficiency of a thick rope being pushed by the G5. Try as he might, even with the assistance of other staff, each heave on the hawser reveals new kinks, random interactions of forces, and unexpected changes of direction. Damning the nautical analogies as he gazes out over the quiet waters of the bay, the G5 raises his "God Gun" with a threatening look at anyone who meets his steely gaze. In the wilderness, assisted by a hearty band of misfit OCTs, the G5 tries to shape a battle that refuses to cooperate. Try as he might, the force of will of one stern looking Gunner cannot command thought and free will of others. And we won't let him use HE.

The G1 and the G4 have arrived in Mudstone. Each leap into action, the G1 renewing her efforts to count every soldier in sight, and then to sort them so many ways that each is placed into a unique and special category. The G4 asks that his category simply be labeled "special and unique." No-one disagrees.

The G4 drives forward like a prize-winning Canadian Forces Trucker, studying the requisite actions to separate the Brigade from Mudstone with a clean break and minimal hurt feelings. Having his feelings minimally hurt, that is. He seeks ways to return or, alternatively, to hide, destroy or sell vehicles, weapons and equipment with the best intentions of creating a material management smoke screen so dense he will be posted long before it clears. His first loyalties and objectives remain firm; these being to stay out of the COS' special projects gunsight, and getting himself home to a refreshing bath and a stiff cosmopolitan.

The staff settles into a new routine. The discomfiting lack of computer connectivity in Blankville has been replaced in Mudstone by more Army computers than people who want to use them. After almost a week of isolation, they throw themselves at the opportunity to send one another e-mails and retreat from that uncomfortably unpredictable spoken system of communications.

The reports from the field are mixed, the operational picture is confused. The staff has ceased caring; they have reconciled themselves to waiting to assist the G5 in recovering from his MARBLEHEAD STORM 12 PTSD. Priorities are shifting faster than the assignment of blame for Happy Hour shenanigans as each new detail is revealed. The Adjutant and the COS debate the Change of Command seating plan, doing their best to guess how many COs, Honoraries, and sundry hangers-on will require designated seating. The Adjutant prints hundreds of signs reading "YOUR NAME." She giggles fiendishly as she imagines saying to each invited guest, "Right this way sir, I have a seat with 'Your Name' on it for you."

The day draws to a close, sliding into night like a rat slipping into a sewer. The lack of interest in where it has been is only overshadowed by the lack of interest in where it is going. Darkness descends on our merry band as they await the sage wisdom of the G3 and the G4 in their nightly comedy routine. We all love late night coord meetings.

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24 August 2012
Training Centre Mudstone, The Dreary Building; EXCON

This is the day. The finale. The denouement. This day will dawn over the final attack, closing the tactical portion of the exercise and leading by day's end to another ending. As one Commander stands down to be replaced by a new Commander; the staff will bow low, murmuring "The King is Dead, Long Live the King." As the new Commander rises from the ashes of the signing ceremony, they will whisper, "I hear his middle name is 'Awesome'."

But first, Objective HUMMER. The staff rush to fulfill background responsibilities as the battle group prepares to strike. The PAO brings along the news video guy, showing once again that a crusty old grunt can be trusted to talk to civilians. The Adjutant plays mother hen to that most fickle of flocks, visiting COs and RSMs and Honoraries, all come to watch the war.

The G3 leads the watchers to their aerie, his control of the exercise already slipping to the G4 for the wrap-up and return to home garrisons. A gleam of megalomania has been seen shining in the G4's eyes, but all are willing to deny that there's any danger. He reminds them that "amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics." The others tell him to just make sure the buses are on time. The G1 prepares to count down her numbers of soldiers as they depart this slice of heaven on a Great Lake shore, as she looks forward to seeing the total near zero with a smile. She's probably imagining each of them disappearing in a puff of smoke as her white board dispassionately records their departures.

The G5 strides across the final objective. Wrapped in acrid white smoke he appears not like a god, but a man with a "God Gun," choosing to kill or revive as the whim strikes. In an amazing coincidence, that striking whim is in harmony with the needs of the evolving training. His calm determination contrasts with the camouflaged shapes leaping from first-floor windows to cross the danger zones between buildings. Some are like graceful athletes, others demonstrate somewhat less coordination, but all move with equal determination. The End Exercise signal beckons, like a Siren singing to sailors on a rocky shore, and the soldiers all plunge forward into the unknown; maze-like buildings with all the décor and atmosphere of square-cut caverns.

Finally, the buildings are occupied by the friendly forces. The staff breathes a deep sigh of relief as the successful conclusion is announced. Some of them may be no closer to having a stiff drink, but the sense of impending need for one diminishes slightly. A surprising number of soldiers appear from buildings and, those that aren't among the piles of bodies where approaches intersected with beaten zones. The OCT God Guns resurrect soldiers by silencing their squealing weapons' effects harnesses. The troops start to unload ammunition and clean weapons in an almost zombie-like state as the adrenaline seeps from their bodies. Exhaustion is a universal silencer.

The Adjutant releases her flock to visit with the troops. Soon she will usher them away, for there is much work to be done, by the soldiers. The G3 and the G5 congratulate one another on a successful week, as they describe each week when neither of them lands in cells. The COS is happy, despite his dour look, and all can rest on the ride back to ExCon where new tasks await immediate attention. There may be no rest for the wicked on earth, but staff officers will write memos in hell for all eternity because there isn't enough time on earth to punish them for their misdeeds.

As the end of our tale draws near, our valiant band of senior staff hope to live happily ever after, deluding themselves during that brief period of mixed exhaustion and sense of achievement. One exercise is behind them, another one, and many other tasks, are ahead of them. The COS magnanimously tells the senior staff to take two days off … Christmas and Boxing Day … of 2015.

The Frontenac Times

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2017 11:12 PM EST
Monday, 29 December 2014

No Better Soldiers
Topic: CEF

The soldiers of some countries have too much discipline. Some haven't enough. Some are brutal and some are soft. But the Canadians seem, to have about the right blend of discipline and democracy, dash and cool-headedness, of citizen and soldier.

No Better Soldiers

The Evening Citizen, Ottawa, Ont., 26 August, 1942
(William Philip Simms in New York, "World-Telegram" and other Scripps-Howard newspapers in U.S.)

Washington, Aug. 21.—That the smashing raid on Dieppe was a success (sic) came as no surprise to old-timers here when told that the 10,000 Commandoes who took part were largely Canadians. (NOTE: This article was writen within days of the Dieppe raid, at a time when any mention of the results of the operation would not have passed the censors.)

If the Canadians did not invent that kind of warfare, they most certainly were the first to make use of it during the first World War. Subsequently they developed its technique to such a point that it came into common use.

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Early in 1915, near Festubert, the Germans threw up a road block supported by a network of trenches which very much annoyed the Canadians opposite. These happened to be the Seventh Battalion, under a young major by the name of Victor Odlum. He worked out a plan to put an end to the nuisance, got it approved and carried it out with brilliant success.

What Major Odlum started is still going on, only it is blossoming into something bigger. I recall watching Canadian and, later, British units rehearsing a coming raid. Behind the lines they would mark out with white tape the exact trench formation they intended to invade, then practice on it daily until they could do the whole show blindfolded.

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Similarly they made life miserable for any Germans that gor into no-man's-land. They did not regard the space between their trenches as nobody's. It belonged to them. They patrolled it regularly, and woe to any hostile patrol they happened to encounter. So skilled did they become that they were seldom caught napping. They did the surprising.

The senior officer commanding the Dieppe raid was Maj. Gen. J.H. Roberts of Kingston, Ontario, and every Canadian air squadron in the area was in the umbrella protecting the raiders. But down under, in Australia, there is at least one man who may be excused if he reads about the Dieppe raid with envy. He is the Canadian High Commissioner, Major Gen. Victor Odlum, the major who staged the raid at Festubert in 1915.

It is nothing new for Canadians to be good soldiers. There are none better anywhere. During the first World War nothing made me prouder than to hear Allied generals compare out doughboys with the Mapleleafers and be told that ours were just as good.

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The soldiers of some countries have too much discipline. Some haven't enough. Some are brutal and some are soft. But the Canadians seem, to have about the right blend of discipline and democracy, dash and cool-headedness, of citizen and soldier.

I was with General Watson's Fourth Canadian Division when it took Regina Trench, in the Somme, in 1916. I saw the Canadians later at Mount St. Eloi, Sanctuary Wood and at Vimy when they stormed the crest of that chalky eminence and made it British for the duration.

It was with them still later, in Flanders, as the rains turned the whole plain into a quagmire. The tanks bogged down in the undrained fields. Strong men drowned in water-filled shall-craters which could not be seen beneath the surface of the muck. Countless wounded choked to death as they fell unconscious in the bloody mud. But Sir Douglas Haig needed Passchendaele, on the comparatively dry ridge east of Ypres, and asked the Canadians to give it to him. And they did.

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Near Lens, I saw a Canadian soldier rescue a mongrel dog abandoned by the Germans in a booby-trap dugout when he might have been blown to bits at any moment for his pains. Moreover, the dog, hungry and terrified by what it had been through, did its best to tear the soldier to pieces. Later it became a company pet named—of course—Fritz.

In the first World War the Canadians were sure-fire trench raiders and trouble-shooters. Where the going was hardest, there they were.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Sunday, 28 December 2014

New Role For The Militia (1959)
Topic: Canadian Army

New Role For The Militia

The Montreal Gazette; 25 March 1959

The development of long-range missiles is forcing a drastic reorganization of the world's military forces.

The long-range missile means that in all-out was No-Man's-Land would be 5,000 miles deep and the front line on each side would be at home, the industrial centres which would be an enemy's prime targets.

In recognition of this fact the Canadian Militia, like the British home forces, has been given an increasingly larger responsibility in the preparation and organization of Civil Defence. For several reasons, the term Civil Defence, particularly in reference to the Army's role, is incorrect.

"I think it is unfortunate that the term civil defence should have been chosen to define this part of what is essentially passive military training …," said Lieutenant-Colonel Julian Benbow, commander of the Royal Canadian Hussars, in 1957, when the change in training had been introduced. Colonel Benbow explained that half the militia training was on the military role in civil defence, half on normal military functions.

"This new training that we have been called upon to undertake can be interesting," said Lieutenant-Colonel Benbow, "and should not have any adverse effect on the keenness of all members of the unit."

The militia's new role, as outlined by Prime Minister Diefenbaker this week, would include warning of attack, location and monitoring of explosions and fallout, assessment of damage, decontamination, clearing of affected areas and rescue of injured in such areas. Special equipment is being supplied militia units for such work.

This is similar to the reorganization of the reserve air force, which is being re-equipped to act as an emergency transport service. Both the militia and the air force reserve will be available for civil emergencies, as well as military.

Since the Second World War, the militia has been trained with Second World War weapons; now it is being given a job as modern as a ballistic missile. That job, as the Prime Minister outlined it, is a part of Civil Defence that might well be called Nuclear Survival.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 27 December 2014

Paris Leave, 1918
Topic: British Army

Paris Leave, 1918

Scarlet Fever; A Lifetime with Horses, John Cusack, MM, and Ivor Herbert, 1972

On December 27 [1918], just as the regiment was going forward into Germany, the Squadron Leader said to me, 'Your leave has just come through.'

I was flabbergasted. 'What leave?'

He said, 'Your Paris leave, of course.'

I'd put in for this leave two years previously, when I was with the Royals and before I was married. I'd never heard of anyone getting Paris leave throughout the whole war! I went to the paymaster and asked, 'How about some money ?' The paymaster said he had no francs at all, but he said, 'There's the deposit on those beer kegs you bought in Liege. Take 'em back and use that 300 francs.' I'd had a new uniform made, beautifully tailored and I'd been issued with a new set of underwear. I set off like a gay dog for the railway station in company with the Canadian staff sergeant, with whom I had shared the night out with the two sisters. There were no timetables for the trains, and all were crowded. They arrived and left without anybody knowing where or when. I heard I should get some tickets, but as soon as I went off, the train left, bearing away my valuable underwear. We finally reached Paris at half-past two in the morning. We were taken into an office by the Military Police, told when we would be returning, given a package of prophylactics and a lecture about behaving ourselves. We were warned that our return from Paris might be delayed by American soldiers who had gone absent without leave, but had kept their rifles and who held up returning leave trains as they went slowly over broken bridges and robbed them of all the spirits on board.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Friday, 26 December 2014

Return to Pre-War Sailing Traditions (1946)
Topic: RCN

Warrior, a Colossus class light fleet aircraft carrier, was completed in 1946 and served in the Royal Canadian Navy for her first two years. In 1957 she was headquarters ship for Britain's atom bomb tests on Christmas Island. In 1958 she was sold to Argentina and became their Independencia, and was withdrawn from service in 1971. Source: Wikipedia

Halifax to See Pre-War Fanfare as R.C.N. Exercises Start Today

And, if the weather is good, the departure will be in the colorful peacetime tradition — a marked contrast to the stealthy wartime movements of allied men-o-war who fought out of this old port.

The Montreal Gazette; 5 November 1946

Halifax, November 4.—(CP)—Two spic and span ships of Canada's Atlantic Squadron are going to steam out of port tomorrow [6 Nov 1946] to rendezvous with Pacific Squadron ships in tropical waters for the first large-scale peace-time exercises of the Canadian Navy.

And, if the weather is good, the departure will be in the colorful peacetime tradition — a marked contrast to the stealthy wartime movements of allied men-o-war who fought out of this old port.

Haligonians, used to peering rather self-consciously at the big troopers and warships as they sneaked out of the harbour in drab warpaint and camouflage, will get a kick out of watching tomorrow's departure. For the R.C.N.'s first capital ship — the aircraft carrier Warrior — and her Tribal Class destroyer escort Nootka, will come down the harbour with sirens screeching, band playing, pennants flying and bluejackets lining the decks.

The sailors, with their chin straps set for the breeze and standing rigidly along the high flight deck of the carrier and the low slung fighting deck of the destroyer, will keep their positions until the ships are standing out to sea.

As soon as the ships reach the sea, the Warrior is going to launch a flight of her fighting planes as a farewell salute to Halifax.

The November and December training program is designed to give the maximum seas drill to new entry personnel and allow the ships — in command of Capt. Frank L. Houghton, O.B.E., of Ottawa — to take part in navy exercises and manoeuvres.

It is being times to coincide with the shift of the Warrior from Halifax to her new station on the Pacific Coast.

It is understood she will eventually be succeeded here by the new carrier Magnificent, which is being fitted more appropriately for winter Atlantic operations.

After making a brief call at Bermuda, the Atlantic Squadron will train in the Caribbean.

The Nootka will leave the Warrior at the Canal Zone and steam back to Halifax to arrive here November 23. The Warrior will rendezvous with the cruiser Uganda and destroyers in Magdalena Bay, Mexico, for full-scale exercises.

After the drill in Mexican waters, the ships will steam up the coast, paying one brief call at San Diego, Calif., before reaching Victoria, December 14.

The Uganda is the only war veteran in the fleet, having fought in the closing battles of the war in the Far East and having made a training cruise around the South American continent.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas Day; A Soldier's Diary
Topic: British Army

Christmas Day; A Soldier's Diary

A Soldier's Diary of the Great War, Anon., 1924

December 25th, Christmas Day.

The guard-room is a small shed with dirty straw, which we share with a machine-gun section of the Regulars. These cheerful souls are this quiet morning engaged in picking lice out of the seams of their clothing.

For dinner we warmed two tins of Maconochie (M. and V. ration) and some Christmas pudding sent from home, with biscuits, butter, jam, and coffee.

Life is one great battle with water and mud. The paths are neatly labelled with names reminiscent of home, 'Piccadilly Circus', for example. One ramshackle hut has a notice board outside, SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI.

Even the German shells and our axes have not yet spoilt the beauty of these great woods. In spring they must be lovely. Last year's nests still swing on the rustling twigs; and robins, wrens, and chaffinches chirrup still around. They resound to the blows of hammer and axe, to the tramp of feet, shouts and whistle and song, or to the scream and crash of a shell; but when the rare gleam of winter sunshine strays al December ong the rides, one cannot help thinking of the high woods of home.

Last night was a cheerful one in the trenches and barricades. We all made merry with carols, mouth-organs and popular songs. The Germans also made a rare noise, and all along the lines there was cheering and singing.

Today a number of our fellows and the Germans have been chatting between the lines, swapping cigarettes, and so on. The Regulars H.Q. have sent out to us of the guard some hot roast beef, potatoes, fruit, and beer.

I joined the company at 8 p.m. at the breastwork, curled up round the brazier, and slept for a few hours. Followed long hours of fatigues (sand-bags to the firing line) and then the company took over the front line.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 29 November 2014 4:19 PM EST
Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Canadian Army Christmas (1954)
Topic: Tradition

A modern table set for a Soldier's Christmas Dinner.

No Forgotten, Lonely Soldiers Among Forces At Home or Abroad

The Montreal Gazette; 24 December 1954

The Canadian Army has taken steps to ensure that there will be no "lonely" or forgotten soldiers at any Canadian Army camp or station at home of abroad this Christmas.

In Korea, Japan, Germany, Indo-China, the United Kingdom, and at all camps in Canada, including several isolated stations in the far north, special Christmas menus will include turkey and all the traditional Yuletide trimmings.

Christmas dinner at most camps will be served personally to privates, gunners and troopers by their officers and non-commissioned officers who will act as waiters.

Canadian Army troops stationed at Fort Churchill, Man., will play host Christmas Day to RCAF and US Army men stationed at the northern base. Christmas entertainment will include two parties for children of servicemen and a number of unit parties for servicemen and their families. Midnight Mass will be celebrated at midnight Christmas eve in the chapel of Our Lady of the Snows Church, one of two service chapels at the camp.

In Korea, Canadian troops have gone out of their way to add a typical Canadian touch to their Yuletide celebrations. Lighted Christmas trees have sprung up everywhere in a land now almost devoid of trees of any size. But first prize for Christmas ingenuity goes to members of the 42nd Infantry Workshop, Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers who have erected a huge neon sign in the Canadian sector. Winking on and off, round the clock, the sign wishes all who pass it "Christmas Greetings to all our Customers—the Management and Staff, 42 Infantry Workshop, RCEME, Light and Power Corporation."

The unit, one of the last of the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade to remain in Korea, handles vehicle repairs for all units of the brigade and spends much of its time keeping all units supplied with electrical power.

Korea Menu

Christmas menu for Christmas in Korea this year includes shrimp cocktail, roast turkey with giblet gravy and cranberry sauce, steamed broccoli, buttered corn, cauliflower-au-gratin, Franconia potatoes, pumpkin pie, preserved peaches, fruit cake, nuts, raisins, candies and coffee.

Troops in Europe will be served a similar meal if they remain in camp, but many will enjoy Christmas dinners with their families in newly-built married quarters or with German families. Several hundred have accepted invitations to spend Christmas with German friends.

On the other hand, more than 1,200 German kiddies in the Soest area have been invited to a Christmas tree party being held for some 3,000 youngsters of Canadian Army personnel serving with the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade.

Midnight Mass and Christmas Day communion services in military churches in the five main Canadian Army camps in the Soest area will bring all ranks in close touch with the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas Day menu for Canadian troops in Germany includes a choice of fruit cocktail or tomato juice, soup, combination salad with French dressing, roast turkey with savoury dressing, giblet gravy, cranberry sauce, whipped potatoes, buttered carrots, fresh green peas, plum pudding wil caramel sauce, hot mincemeat pies, fresh fruit, mixed nuts, candies, hot buttered rolls with cheese and a choice of Canadian beverages.

Canadian Cigarets

To help brighten Christmas, 280,000 Canadian cigarets and 18,000 bottles of Canadian ale will be distributed to all ranks of the brigade on Christmas Day. The cigarets are a gift of the province of Ontario and the ale was shipped to the troops by Labatt's brewery.

At typical Canadian camps such as Camp Borden and Petawawa, both in Ontario, soldiers will enjoy a break in training, a Christmas feast that can be topped only by Christmas dinner as "mother used to make it," and number of Yuletide parties, most of them for dependent children.

At Army Headquarters, in Ottawa, where several thousand officers and men are stationed, troops received an unusual but welcome pre-Christmas present. They were granted permission to come to work each working day from now till the New Year in civilian clothes.

In the Far North, Christmas will be a little different for some soldiers than the usual family Christmas they remember, but it will not be "lonely."

At 19 stations of the Northwest Territory and Yukon Radio System, manned by members of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in the far north, Christmas will be a community effort planned and enjoyed by all.

Party in the Yukon

Six soldiers and their families, including nine children, stationed at Dawson, Yukon Territory, have planned a big Christmas Eve party in the settlement. Christmas Day, all member of the station have been invited to Christmas dinner at the home of Sergeant Major (WO I) R.A. McLeod, a native of Vancouver and station commander.

There are no married soldiers or youngsters at the Army signal station at Fort Reliance in the Northwest Territories, but the four unmarried soldiers and their civilian cook stationed there plan to have the best Christmas possible under the circumstances. They have been hoarding their turkey and other typical Christmas rations received before the freeze-up and plan a special Christmas dinner. However, work at the isolated station will be carried out as usual Christmas Day.

In Indo-China, Canadian personnel will enjoy a Christmas dinner with "all the trimmings," even though most of it will be out of tins. But their important job as members of the truce teams will go on as usual.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Rating Takes 'Ship's Command' in Yule Tradition
Topic: Tradition

Royal Canadian Navy (R.C.N.) - Leading Seaman Pat Hughes and Able Seamen Fred Derkach and Orville Campbell distributing nuts and oranges during preparations for Christmas dinner aboard the infantry landing ship H.M.C.S. PRINCE DAVID, Ferryville, Tunisia, 25 December 1944. Photographer: Donovan James Thorndick. MIKAN Number: 3202074. From the Library and Archives Canada Faces of War collection.

Rating Takes 'Ship's Command' in Yule Tradition of the Navy

The Montreal Gazette; 25 December, 1943
By James McCook

Every corvette skipper may hope to command a battleship—but not at Christmas.

The Royal Canadian Navy, at Ottawa, describing naval Christmas tradition, relates that just before noon on Christmas Day the captain assembles all his officers and they make the rounds of each mess in the ship, wishing the crew a Merry Christmas.

"For the captain, this is an easier task in a corvette of destroyer than in a battleship, for he is offered a drink in each mess and a battleship may have 40 or 50 messes," said the Navy.

"The drink may range from issue rum to a cup of tea and the captain may not slight any mess by refusing hospitality.

"It takes a sturdy captain to retain his appetite for dinner."

The necessities of war will curtail Christmas tradition on ships at sea, but in port the observances will be as full as the commanding officer decides. Generally, messdecks are decorated with whatever greenery and colored paper the men can pick up ashore.

Discipline is somewhat relaxed. With the men permitted to have a bottle of beer or wine.

A large loaf of bread, pinned to the table with a bayonet, will be the central decoration of seamen's mess tables in every Canadian warship observing the full naval Christmas tradition.

Royal Canadian Navy (R.C.N.) cooks M.B. McLean and Patterson mixing rum into a Christmas pudding aboard the destroyer H.M.C.S. ASSINIBOINE, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, December 1940. MIKAN Number: 3567053. From the Library and Archives Canada Faces of War collection.

Custom is Maintained

Beside the loaf will be a neatly printed inscription: "The staff of life, at the point of death"—an ancient custom probably originating with a seaman who felt it should be made clear that there were better things to eat on Christmas Day, the Navy suggested.

By strict tradition, the youngest rating in each ship should don the captain's uniform and be ruler of the ship for the day. Similarly, ship's boys wear petty officers'' badges and carry out petty officers' duties. This is a survival of an old Roman custom whereby masters waited on servants at Christmas.

Naval authorities said any such program is definitely out for ships at sea; but in port it is customary for all officers to go ashore after the ceremony, except for the officer of the watch who remains in case of emergencies but usually keeps to his cabin.

In the olden days the departure of the officers for shore almost was a necessity for celebrations in the messdecks were so rowdy there would almost certainly be charges of mutiny if they stayed aboard, the Navy said.

After being captain for a day, the youngest boy in the ship has another important duty on New Year's Eve. As the hour of midnight strikes, he rings the ship's bell 16 times, eight for the old year and eight for the new—the only time in the year the bell is rung more than eight times at once.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 22 December 2014

Canadian Army, Christmas 1940
Topic: Canadian Army

Canadian soldiers enjoying a few drinks on Christmas Day at the front, Ortona, Italy, 25 December 1943. Photographer: Frederick G. Whitcombe. MIKAN Number: 3227877. From the Library and Archives Canada Faces of War collection.

Canadian Army to Continue Watch During Special Christmas Dinner (1940)

The Montreal Gazette; 23 December 1940

Somewhere in England. December 22.—(C.P. Cable)—Canada's fighting men in Britain will spend Christmas in military fashion in their camps where readiness for instant action is imperative even during such a festive season.

Every mess in the extensive system of Canadian camps will have a special Christmas dinner. Some turkeys and other fowl have been obtained and puddings, cakes and candy have been included in preparations for a bang-up feed.

Lt.-Gen. A.G.L. McNaughton, who will likely spend the day in his corps area, has issued instructions that no special food favours are to be available to the troops other than those enjoyed by civilians.

The Canadian Red Cross has made arrangements to supply turkeys to many of the units which could not raise them independently. Menus will also include soup, pork, mince pie and plum puddings.

Many lucky soldiers whose regular leave happens to fall on Christmas week are going far afield, some to Northern Ireland and others to remote parts of England, Scotland and Wales.

Various service clubs are arranging special dinners and entertainments for Canadians while large numbers will spend at least part of the day in private homes.

Some regiments sent our their own Christmas cards, printed with regimental crests and distinctive greetings.

Among the best of these was that of Quebec's Royal 22nd which carries a photograph of the regiment mounting guard at Buckingham Palace last April and a greeting in French.

A round of Christmas entertainment for the overseas forces started Saturday with a party and dance given by the women's war committee of the Royal Empire Society. A number of Canadian soldiers and airmen were among the 300 members of the forces present.

The Royal 22nd Regiment, the Van Doos, parades at Buckingham Palace, 1940.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014 5:15 PM EST
Sunday, 21 December 2014

Giants and Heroes; Regimental History
Topic: Commentary

Giants and Heroes; Regimental History

By: Michael O'Leary

I've had the privilege of speaking to our young officers' course each year since 2008 on "The Regiment and the Great War." Since the direction of my presentation focuses more on the soldiers of the regiment and less on tactics, battles and dates, I would often situate my presentation on the First World War by talking about "giants and heroes."

Published regimental histories are not so much the full story of a regiment's history as they are the story of that regiments giants and heroes. Although we learn, at first contact, to accept the published tale as the accepted "full" story, it's easy to miss the fact that it describes a very small cross-section of the regiment. To be mentioned in a regimental history almost exclusively required that one have executed some great, and usually highly rewarded, deed on the battlefield (the heroes), or to have become known as a pillar of the regimental institution (the giants), in which case one's career would be entwined in the regimental story as a recognizable name at many points of contact.

But these tales of giants and heroes merely skim the surface, touching on the high points of a much more varied and encompassing tale. For organizations whose success, their presentation (within and outside of military circles), and their very reputation, relies solely on the cumulative dedication, commitment and hard work of the men and women who form them, this historic approach to regimental histories leaves out so much more than it includes.

The full story of a regiment is the collection of stories of each soldier, non-commissioned officer, and officer who has served in and with the regiment. That service does not require the wearing of the regiment's cap badge because no regiment is composed of single trades any more. Any regiment's story is also expanded by the roles played by retired members in promoting and supporting the regiment, and by various ancillary groups such as Associations that can take a formal role in regimental affairs. While it is beyond reasonable expectation that a published history should be able to include every single thread of a regiment's story, the challenge still remains to ensure we are all aware that the published story is merely the tip of an iceberg.

When I commanded a rifle platoon in the quiet days at the end of the Cold War, there was no impending mission on the horizon, there was no busy pre-deployment training cycle with seemingly unlimited funding, there was only a repetitive annual training cycle. Our service was about maintaining skills we might never be expected to use. For the most part, we were far too young to be eligible for the "giants" label, and we had no opportunity to earn the "heroes" label. The not so welcome highlights of the period for a young subaltern were dealing with the occasional drunk, debtor, or absentee,

And, in time, the question this left in my mind was "where was my platoon (or its equivalent in any past era) in the regimental story." As I would tell the regiment's new officers; while reading the old volumes of regimental history made me feel pride in regiment, and I found connections to those giants and heroes, it left me wondering where my platoon of ordinary soldiers outside of the historic high points was in the regiment's story. It was in my evolving research into mt regiment's service in First World War that I began to answer that question for myself.

As I researched the regiment's service in the Great War, my focus was seldom on the operational descriptions of battles, the movements of forces and clash of adversaries. It was on the soldiers, the NCOs and the officers. This deepening interest grew out of collecting medals awarded to soldiers of my regiment, with a specific interest in those for the Great War.

Along the way I transcribed the regiment's War Diary, to make searching for names easier, but found that to be as little populated with names (other than those of officers) as the published history covering the period. Following this disappointing result (despite the usefulness of the transcription), I was next pointed at the regiment's Part II Daily Orders. These orders were the compiled personnel notes that would be transcribed at HQ in London and Ottawa into individual soldiers' service records. Though not containing a complete compilation of notes on any given soldier, they would hold the critical events for any soldier while they were with the regiment.

1500 pages of original documentation and eight months of full time transcribing work resulted in over 17,000 lines of data. While any individual item, an arrival or departure, a promotion or demotion, leave, punishment or reward, was merely an interesting fact on a single soldier, the compiled data was a wonderful end resource. It was here I found the soldiers who had never received mention in the published history. Not only the drunks and deserters, but also many whose accomplishments just didn't make them stand high enough to be counted among the recorded giants and heroes. Some with long service, and others with minimal service time. Here was "my platoon" in that era. Here were glimpses of their stories, of those many Royal Canadians, each of whose service formed one of the many strands of the regiment's story, but which were never examined in isolation.

There were soldiers whose story in the Part II Orders included promotion, demotion, reward, punishment, drunkenness and absenteeism. And there were others whose regimental story was told in only two brief entries; "Taken on Strength" followed a short time later by "Killed in Action." Over 4700 individual stories which, intertwined, formed the tale of that overseas battalion. Isolating only a few, whether they be the giants and heroes, or the drunks and deserters, doesn't tell the full story. But perhaps the wealth of understanding of a regiment's history comes not from how many individual strands we examine, but the variety of individual stories from which the selected strands are chosen.

I know from my research that I now understand my regiment better than I did after reading the published history. It was not in those pages I found my platoon, but in the examination of tens of thousands of other data points that accumulated the stories of thousands of soldiers, for most of whom their service would never lead to a label of "giant" or "hero," yet they served, for the most part well and with honour. And we should forgive the transgressors, for no regiment, regardless of what a published history claims, is truly made of plaster saints.

Who's missing from your regimental history?

Pro Patria

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 20 December 2014

Unwritten Rules
Topic: Forays in Fiction

Unwritten Rules

By: Michael O'Leary

The Senior Subaltern

Matt runs his fingers through his hair, trying to get that devil-may-care look with the short cropped strands, the gel he once used liberally now hardly discernible, even to the touch. He breathes in deeply, at least this time no-one will be trying to make him buy drinks for being "out of dress."

Inhaling again, he deliberately "sucked in his stomach, stuck out his chest." The black vest hugs his abdomen, the pants fit well around his ass—no doubt the girls will notice that later—and the red jacket, finely tailored, fits like a glove. Have the tailor measure your dad, they said. You'll grow into it, they said. You won't need to buy a new one as soon, they said. 'Fuck them,' Matt thinks, 'I look good in this.'

He is barely comfortable wearing the oxford shoes, jacket and tie ensemble of his dress uniform. In comparison, the tight straight-leg pants, waistcoat and jacket of the Mess Dress—for official dinners in the Officers' Mess—is an almost surreal departure from the jeans and t-shirts he wore almost exclusively before he joined the Army. Matt despises Mess Dinners—long hours surrounded by starchy and boring older officers—dinners more endured than experienced—but afterwards, Matt knows his red jacket will stand out in the local bars, like a flame to the already tipsy moths from the sororities. It's the only time he can get away with wearing it downtown.

Half remembered snippets from an antiquated "Guidance for Young Officers" and other dreary advice filter thorough Matt's mind. Don't talk of women, religion or politics. Light drinks before dinner. Subalterns should treat their seniors as they would a rich uncle from whom they have expectations—what the fuck does that even mean?

'To hell with it.' he thinks. Pulling open the cloak room door, Matt streps through towards the bar. He nods to three peers already in the lounge with drinks, still in issued uniforms and not yet the privately purchased Mess Kit he notes, and then on into the bar room itself.

Matt subconsciously half halts, his mind whirls to recall that he has checked every detail of his uniform. He is sure of it. 'Let them look, they never wore it this well,' he thinks. He pushes his way through to the bar, past more senior officers, some he'd never seen before.

Who is that Major lecturing the Commanding Officer with one pointed finger, a sloshing scotch in his other hand. Surely he will be taken to task. Matt can't believe his ears when some old Captain addresses the Brigade Commander, a General, by his first name.

His ears capture snippets of conversations.

The Major, slurring, already, before dinner: "… I'll tell you Colonel, you were one of the better young officers I trained, but …"

The Captain, his precise elocution failing to hide his burning emotions: "…I tell you Bob, there's no good way to manage that affair, you've got to push the regimental plan, and damn the Army …"

An anonymous voice, obviously not schooled in "Guidance for Young Officers" rings clear: "I met her in church, noticed her when I was sorting out that NDP-loving husband of hers, and she invited me over for tea when he wasn't at home. I tell you, she sure serves some interesting sweets with her tea."

Matt finally squeezes through the crush of pre-dinner meeting and greeting, placing himself tight against the edge of the polished wood bar in the one small accessible gap. Looking left and right, he notes the usual pair of officers manning the bar ends like alcoholic sentries posted there for the pre-dinner gathering. They are "the gargoyles," as the subalterns have labeled them. To the left, an ancient Major who looks like he truly believes subalterns should be seldom seen and never heard. To the right, a burly Captain, reputed to be a beast when training officers and an even greater beast when drunk at Mess Dinners. 'Please God,' thinks Matt, who only invokes the deity at such crucial moments, 'may I not be sitting near to either of them this time.'

Having caught the bartender's eye, uncharacteristically but according to seldom followed protocol, Matt orders a sherry. "Light or dark?"—'How the fuck would I know?'—"Uh, light."

The dainty glass arrives. 'Shit, I'm not walking into the lounge carrying that,' he thinks. "And a draft," he blurts before he had lost the steward's attention. The sherry disappears as a quickly downed shot while the beer foams into the glass from the tap.

Back through the crush, with only one boot heel scraping across the toe of his right Quarter Wellington boot, brand new and now duly christened. Matt joins the other subalterns in the lounge. It's a reversal of norms. The subalterns would usually be the louder crew in the bar, and the senior officers more subdued and in the lounge. But Mess Dinners seem to make their seniors all start the night thinking they are still subalterms together once more, regardless of rank and decades of service. Most can't live up to their own self-promotion and will leave soon after the dining room empties. But some, a mix of the best and the worst, will remain to goad the actual subalterns into drunken risks of life, limb and career.

Playing a subalterns' game of chance, Matt ignores the seating plan until just before going into the dining rom. No sense dwelling on bad news, they agree. As he follows the crowd to the table he glances at the seating plan, discovering that he is seated well up the centre wing of the "E" shaped table. 'Fuck,' he thinks, 'the CO can see me there.' Beside him is some unrecognized Colonel who will likely ignore him all evening, and across the table sits one of the gargoyles, the Major. No-one close by is a familiar face, so he resigns himself to a quiet dinner, pretending polite attentiveness amidst other people's conversations.

Dinner. The courses come and go. Mesclun salad with raspberry vinaigrette. Butternut squash soup. Broiled salmon with dill sauce. Roast beef (invariably overdone), parisienne potatoes, multi-coloured baby carrots. Unimpressed, Matt wonders if he can have a pizza smuggled by the staff. Raspberry cheesecake, drizzled with chocolate. At least the white and red wine glasses are kept more or less filled throughout. Dutifully, in the tradition of young officers everywhere, Matt tries to ensure his glass is empty each time he sees the wine stewards approaching. It's already paid for, he reasons, might as well take advantage.

The table is cleared. Port decanters pass from hand to hand in the usual manner of conflicting traditions. Some hold the decanter above the table, insisting the recipient take it that way. Others deliberately make contact with the crystal and the table top, pushing it to the next officer. The sotto voce arguments over which manner is truly the regimental tradition are old, oft repeated, and never resolved.

The Loyal Toast is called. "Mr Vice, the Queen!" The Vice stands, barely. He is clearly worse for wear, having trusted his dining companions to keep him ready for this solemn duty. Matt notices that the other gargoyle, the Captain, a gleam in his eye—is it mischievousness, or perhaps madness—has been sitting next to the junior subaltern. Matt rolls his eyes. 'Well, there's your problem,' he thinks.

The junior subaltern, Vice-President for the dinner, blurts his required line. "Mesdames at messieurs, la Reine du Canada!"

Glasses are raised. "The Queen!" Port is sipped, with the usual muttered accompaniment by the old guard. "God Bless Her." The scraping of chairs as everyone sits. The process repeats itself, with a different proposer, to toast the Regiment as the Vice slides out of his chair, the night's first casualty.

"Do ye not drink lad?"

Matt blinks. It's the major across the table.

"Pardon me sir?"

"Do ye not drink, lad, you're only takin' wee sips o' that port. Your father would have held the decanter and slugged a full glass for every toast."

'Fuck,' thinks Matt as he mentally frames a reply, 'can't I once attend a Mess Dinner without someone invoking the drunken memory of the old man.'

'Ah, fuck it, if you can't beat 'em …'

Dispensing with a reply, Matt winks at the old major, and downs his glass. Resigning himself to his fate, he reaches for the decanter.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 20 December 2014 1:32 AM EST
Friday, 19 December 2014

"Foghorn" MacDonald Attains Distinction (1916)
Topic: CEF

Canadian Scot Becomes Major

"Foghorn" MacDonald Attains Distinction in Service at Front
Comes From West
Belongs to "Black Devils," Eighth Canadian Battalion

Toronto World, 30 October 1916

London, Oct. 21.—"Foghorn" MacDonald admits he's as "Scotch as oatmeal." But what he doesn't have to admit is that he is beyond doubt the best-known man in the wonderful big army Canada has sent over to fight for the mother country; General Sir Sam Hughes, Canadian minister of militia and defence, is not jealous of "Foghorn's" distinction. The rawest rookie in the rearmost ranks of the Dominion forces proclaims it on the fighting line, and looks up to this world-wandering scion of the Clan MacDonald as a shining example of what a lowly 'buck' can do in trying times like these.

For "Foghorn" came over as a private himself just two short years ago. Some of his home folks told him he was a "darned old fool" to enlist at 53. But "Foghorn" had been a miner all his days. He had hit the western trail from sun-baked Batopilas in the wilds of Mexico, to the snow-shrouded valleys of the Yukon, and he knew what perseverance and pluck and courage and sacrifice could do.

He knew he would "make the grade," and so did a great crowd of his friends who gather a day or two ago to "wet" that new third stripe and crown on the cuffs of his khaki army jacket. He was back from the front to receive this latest promotion, and he was toasted a major of his majesty's forces.

"Foghorn" was born Neil Roderick MacDonald, but there are comparatively few who know him by that distinguished name. It's just plain "Foghorn" nowadays from one end of the trenches to the other, and one earful of that low rumbling, window-chattering, rock-shivering voice explodes all possible doubt as to the derivation of the nickname.

There are plenty of Germans who know "Foghorn," too. In the days of the death stonewalling, when trenches crept closer and closer together, he was one of those who burrowed beneath the earth and set off great mines under the enemy. He had not been a mining engineer in vain, Often his voice would go booming across "No Man's Land" hurling picturesque invective at the Germans.

Not to know "Foghorn" MacDonald is to miss one of the big human personalities of this war. It is not difficult to realize what a tower of encouragement and strength he is to the soldiers at the front.

"He is the sort of officer whose men would follow him to the gates of hell itself and walk in laughing," declared Major "Eddie" Holland, a long-time friend, and a V.C. of the South African War.

Called Black Devils

"And speaking of hell," he added, "there may or may not be something to the fact that "Foghorn" belongs to the Black Devils.

That is the name the Germans have given the Eighth Battalion, Canadian Infantry, and the battalion has adopted as its insignia a small black imp dancing in glee. They were delighted with the appellation, and are living up to it according to all reports from the Somme.

It has been said of "Foghorn" that "he not afraid of any man—and very few women." His home is in the great American west. He has lived much in the Unites States and almost every province of Canada can claim him as their own. His heart is as big as the world in which he has lived; and he has a way of calling a superior officer "Bill" or "Jim" or "George" and referring to a corporal as a "brother officer," that is quite baffling to the Englishman's idea of discipline. Someone spoke to "Fog" about it.

"Well, sir," he explained, "it's a man's war, by God, sir, and I respect every mother's son who's out there doing his bit. I was once a full-fledged 'buck' myself once, and I know what they have to go through."

Acts as Transport Officer

"Foghorn" has been serving for some time as transport officer of the "Black Devils," and has been riding about the front lines on what he described as a "mighty fine hoss," Where he got the horse he will not tell you. "It wouldn't be passed by the censor," he says.

A good transport officer tries to keep his losses to a minimum and to make the deficiencies good as quickly as he can. "Foghorn" had his men in then Black Devils trained to the minute in that respect.

"One night," he says, "we were taking some loads of ammunition away up in front. It was blacker than the ace of spades, and if you struck a match you'd get your eye shot out. But in the midst of all this blackness and the shelling we were getting, I heard one of my men say to his partner, "Keep your eye out for a good hoss, Bill, this ought to be a good night to get one."

A day or two ago a staff colonel, fresh from Canada, walked into the Savoy Club. "Hello Foghorn," he called out; "I heard you a couple of blocks down the street and came in to see you. Do you remember me?"

"Remember you?" repeated "Fog," "why, bless your brass-hatted old soul, I'd know your hide in a tanyard."

A "brass-hat" is the army name for all staff officers, and it comes, of course, from the abundance of gold braid they wear on their caps.

Someone asked how things were going at the front.

"Going?" said "Fog," "why, the boys are getting so gay out there one of our battalions came parading up to the front line trenches the other day with a brass band playing for all it was worth. They were right where you could get killed any minutes, too., and even my old hoss thought they were crazy."

"Guess I'll be getting back to the front soon myself," he concluded, with a sigh, "this quiet life of London is getting on my nerves."

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Thursday, 18 December 2014

HMCS Algonquin (1953)
Topic: RCN

Famous Fighting Ship Docks Here In New Anti-Sub Role for R.C.N.

The Montreal Gazette; 28 October 1953

One of Canada's famous fighting ships, [H.M.C.S. Algonquin, has been] re-converted to carry on the tradition in a new role — commanded by Cmdr. Patrick F.X. Russell.

Originally commissioned in Feb., 1944, as a V-Class destroyer, the Algonquin was reconverted to an anti-submarine destroyer escort, to become the first ship of its type in the Royal Canadian Navy.

Fresh from N.A.T.O's "Exercise mariner", where she proved herself in her new anti-submarine fighting role, the Algonquin is a ship with a history.

She was one of many ships employed in attacks on the German pocket-battleship Tirpitz and in June 1944 played a part in Operation Neptune supporting the Normandy invasion. During this time she carried General Crerar and his staff to France.

In the latter half of the year she protected convoys to Murmansk. In one encounter with a German convoy off the Norwegian coast the Algonquin accounted for two German escorts and assisted in a third. In this fight eight of the 11 German ships were sunk and one driven ashore.

After being re-commissioned in February, 1953, ships officers said she was used to test various new weapons and methods of anti0submarine warfare. Now, they say, the evaluations of equipment are "pretty well complete."

Cmdr. Russell was born in England but came to Canada in 1922. He joined the Royal Canadian navy in as a cadet in 1934. His wartime sea appointments include service on H.M.C.S. Margaree, St. Francis and Skeena.

Among the ship's officers is Lt.-Cmdr. James C. Carter of Montreal west. He joined the R.C.N. as a cadet in Sept. 1941.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Rations in the South African War
Topic: Army Rations

The Army Service Corps in South Africa. See full image.

Rations in the South African War

Maj.-Gen. John Frederick Charles Fuller,
(1 Sep 1878 – 10 Feb 1966)

The Last of the Gentlemen's Wars; A Subaltern's Journal of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, Mcmxxxvii

The Boer, his language and his dwelling did not, however, much concern us; for outside hunting down the enemy in the field and bringing in his womenfolk to the concentration camps established during the second half of the war, we seldom met him or occupied his house. From start to finish the war was a tented one, and wherever we went our tents went with us. We did not live in luxury as we did during the World War, and though food was seldom scarce it was exceedingly simple, the staple diet being ration biscuit (which looks like a small dog biscuit and is nearly as hard as a slab of concrete), bully beef, tinned stew and alum-settled dam water. Sometimes we had tomato jam, raspberry-flavoured, which came from Natal; sometimes tinned butter, fresh meat and bread, and at rare intervals tinned mutton or tinned ham. What we should have done without canned foods it is hard to imagine, and as the war lengthened out, more and more varieties made their appearance. I remember tinned eggs and bacon, tinned camp pie, tinned apple pudding, tinned slabs of bacon (good for greasing boots), besides the normal tinned foods which are to be bought at every store.

Of all the canned foods the one I disliked the most was the 'Knock-me-down' tinned stew. It was a mess of stewed meat and vegetables with an unmistakable twang. When turned out on a plate or a piece of newspaper it was the nearest approach to a dog's vomit that can be imagined. It had the further unpleasant habit of exploding directly a tin opener was applied to its container; and to make certain of not being gassed, an old hand would always examine his tin before piercing it. Should it show the slightest sign of a bulge it was as well to leave it alone, for by this one knew that it was in a truculent mood.

The only official drinks were raw rum and raw lime juice, the latter so sour and bitter that it had to be administered on parade, otherwise the men threw it away.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Rogue's March
Topic: Humour

Drummers of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

The Rogue's March

Military Customs, Major T.J. Edwards, M.B.E., F.R.Hist.S., 1947

Mention must be made of a musical custom which has happily disappeared from military life—the playing of "The Rogue's March" at the "Drumming-out" ceremony. Up to about the middle of the last century, when a soldier was discharged with ignominy he was "drummed-out," which, in practice, meant that the battalion formed up in two ranks facing inwards, one end touching the barrack gate: at the other end the prisoner and his escort were assembled, together with the Adjutant, who read out the man's offence and his sentence, after which the Provost Sergeant cut off his badges, buttons and shoulder straps. Then the party moved down the ranks while the drums and fifes played "The Rogue's March." This performance of reading the crime and sentence was repeated at intervals, and when the prisoner reached the barrack gate the smallest drummer boy administered a kick to his posterior.

Although the tune was generally well known during the last century, a lack of knowledge of it by a certain municipal body was responsible for a rather amusing incident. The band of a regiment was in attendance at a ceremony when the Mayor cut the first sod of the ground on which some much needed waterworks were to be constructed. At the conclusion of the ceremony the City Fathers insisted upon being played back to the Town Hall, much to the annoyance of the band who were eager to get back to barracks, which lay in the opposite direction, and in which some sports were in progress. However, the band struck up a tune and the Mayor and Corporation stepped out in a brisk manner, much to the amusement of the spectators. When the perspiring Mayor reached the Town Hall he enquired the reason for the hilarity on the part of the populace, and flew into a rage when he learned that he and his municipal brethren had been hurried, in a rather undignified manner, through the town to the tune of "The Rogue's March."

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 10 December 2014 6:09 PM EST
Monday, 15 December 2014

Canadian Soldiers; Courage at Sea
Topic: Canadian Army

Canadian soldiers aboard a troopship arriving at Greenock, Scotland, 31 August 1942. Photographer: Laurie A. Audrain MIKAN Number: 3203270

Canadian Soldiers Receive Mention for Sea Conduct

Ottawa Citizen; 18 November 1942

London, Nov. 18—(C.P. Cable)—Eighteen Canadian soldiers have been commended in Canadian army routine orders for distinguished conduct when the ship in which they were crossing the Atlantic was damaged in a collision.

The stem of the troopship was damaged above and below the waterline by a collision with another vessel in a convoy bound for England.

The troopship was forced to leave the convoy because the captain fears the forward bulkheads of the chain lockers might give way. When volunteers were called for to help brace up the bulkheads, the 18 Canadian responded.

They are:

  • L.-Cpl. E.P. Hogan, Nelcon, B.C.,
  • L.-Cpl. W. Lehmann, Maillairdville, B.C.,
  • Tpr. J.M. Ewung, Medicine Hat, Alta.,
  • Tpr. E.J. Godin, London, Ont.,
  • Tpr. W.C. Guthrie, Tiverton, Ont.,
  • Tpr. O. Lawrence, Vancouver, B.C.,
  • Tpr. N. Swift, Vernon, B.C.,

all of the headquarters squadron of the 3rd Canadian Armoured Brigade;


  • L.-Cpl. W.E. Smith, Woodstock, Ont.,
  • Tpr. H.E. Jamieson, Port Stanley, Ont.,
  • Tpr. J. Dowell, St. Thomas, Ont.,
  • Tpr. W.E. Murray, London, Ont.,
  • Tpr. F.W. Cole, Talbotville, Ont.,

all of the Elgin Regiment;

  • Cpl. J.P. Greenought, Halifax, N.S.,
  • Pte. J.B. Sanford, Truro, N.S.
  • Pte. J.P. Phiney, Lower Five Islands, N.S.,
  • Pte. E.S. Davis, Lower Five Islands, N.S.,
  • Pte. P. McKenna, Charlottetown, P.E.I.,
  • Pte. H.L. Parks, Four Falls, N.B.,

all of the Canadian Forestry Corps.

Orders said the men gained access to the chain lockers through a manhole in the forecastle and for more than seven hours they worked in small groups in an ill-ventilated, restricted space, knowing there was little chance of escape if the bulkheads yielded of if the ship were attacked by the enemy.

"The commander-in-chief of the 1st Canadian Army has directed that these acts of distinguished conduct be recognized by the promulgation of this order and recorded on these soldiers' conduct sheets," the order concluded.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 15 December 2014 12:08 AM EST

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