Topic: Canadian Militia
The New Training Ground for the Canadian Militia
A Description of the Petawawa Camp
Harbor Brace Standard, 4 November 1905
The following are the impressions of a Canadian artillery officer with respect to the new camp grounds at Petawawa, as given to the "Canadian Military Gazette": —
I have just returned from the new camp grounds at Petawawa, just west of Pembroke on the C.P.R. and can not speak too highly of this new place as a camp. Or the treatment extended to me there, my only regret being that I could not remain there longer, although it was cold. I profited by the careful and friendly instruction given willingly by the officers in charge, as well as by the N.C.O.'s. I will confess that I learned more and got a better idea of real soldiering than I have obtained in several camps, and have taken more hard knocks from tree branches in a few days than I ever took in my life.
The country is of a most interesting nature, hills, valleys, and rivers, with very few 'billiard table parade grounds.' This does away with ceremonial work and permits the targets being so placed that it requires keen sight to pick them out and keep them in sight, thus training the eyes. It also makes the correct observations of rounds more than ever necessary, and which, by the way, is not by any means an easy task at the Petawawa ranges, even with a good field glass, as the trees and sandy soil sometimes swallowed the projectile, seemingly without a sputter, so that hot a few rounds must be marked doubtful and acted upon accordingly.
The woods, although not of heavy timber, are thick, and the necessity of keeping the waggon line (400 yards in rear) correctly in touch with the guns, has been more clearly demonstrated. It is not so easily done, as has been proved in our other camps, and my sympathies are with the captain if he does get lost, waggons and all, as happened more than once. The placing of guns in action under real (not imaginary) cover, and the use of aiming posts, was the feature of the war game this year, and it certainly was the most interesting procedure, the real importance of which cannot be over-estimated, as exposure to enemy's fire and heavy casualties reduce efficiency and may mean loss of guns or position. Apart from this advantage, it enables the battery to come into action quietly and without unnecessary hurry or exceitment, thus saving the men and gun layers, and enabling them to move perfectly and at the same time carry out their work correctly.
The actual shooting scores of the competing batteries from all accounts do not seem to be brilliant, but the work has been gone through and mistakes and difficulties pointed out or explained will no doubt pave the way for excellent work next year on these hard and yet unknown ranges.
The first day was occupied by the visiting battery teams in qualifying the gun layers, the second being instructional day, in which firing was done and general matters thoroughly explained. The third day there were the firing competition, but in some cases where the weather was bad the instructional part took place in the morning and the competitions were carried out in the afternoon, making a fairly heavy day of it.
The drawbacks to Petawawa as a camp seem to be those particularly affecting the N.C.O.'s and men. The place does not suffer from any over-supply of visitors —in fact, it is lonely. Reading matter is scarce, and the darkness comes down early, so that it is a case of all work (and hard work, too) and no play. Perhaps this may be remedied next year. I think a good big tent (not a little marquee for 150 men), well lighted, where the men could have some sport of listen to 'their bands,' would be a perfect boon, and more than appreciated by one and all.