The Minute Book
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
Sunday, 14 December 2014

Militia Training Schools 1924
Topic: Drill and Training

Many Soldiers at Training School

Revived Interest in Militia Service Shown by Enrolment for Canada
Officers and Non-Coms.
Classes for Infantry, Cavalry, Machine Gun and other Work Are Offered

The Montreal Gazette; 14 January 1924

Major & Brevet Lt.-Col. R.O. Alexander, D.S.O. (1933)

Major & Brevet Lt.-Col. R.O. Alexander, D.S.O. (1933)

More officers and non-commissioned officers are being trained for the various branches of the militia service at the present time than at any period since the conclusion of the war, with the subsequent drop in interest in military training, it was stated yesterday by Lt.-Col. R.O. Alexander, D.S.O., who, as general staff officer for Military District No. 4, is in charge of all this work.

Lt.-Col. Alexander said there was every indication of a recrudescence of interest in militia work, since all the schools for the qualification of officers and non-coms. in the district were crowded to capacity, with waiting lists. Indications pointed to a strong list of officers of all ranks during the coming year to supply the various battalions, with the number of young officers and non-coms. who are now qualifying for their certificates and commissions.

A school for qualifying officers and non-coms. will open tomorrow at the armouries of the Carabiniers Mont-Royal and the Grenadier Guards, with 40 provisional officers and non-coms. in attendance, to qualify for rank. This school is in command of Major H.L.M. Salmon, M.C., of the Royal Canadian Regiment, the attendance being as high as the lists will stand.

Capt. & Brevet Major W.J. Home, M.C. (1933)

Capt. & Brevet Major W.J. Home, M.C. (1933)

A machine gun school is being conducted for officers and non-coms. to qualify for rank at the armory of the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade on Jeanne Mance Street, and also at the armory of the 8th Machine Gun Brigade, Verdun. These classes are being conducted under Capt. W.J. Home. M.C., of the Royal Canadian Regiment, with 25 officers and non-coms. studying to qualify for rank.

A school of signalling will start today at the Craig street armories, under Company Sergeant Major Instructor Carruthers, of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signallers (sic), with a full class of subalterns and non-coms. working to qualify.

At Sherbrooke on January 21 an infantry school for officers and non-coms. will open, under Lt.-Col. S.W. Pope, C.M.G., commanding "D" Co. of the Royal Canadian Regiment in Montreal, for which a full list of entrants has been made.

Another infantry school will start at Three Rivers on February 11, under Capt. Home, of the R.C.R., for the officers and non-coms of the Three Rivers Regiment.

The militia staff course is progressing at militia headquarters here, with eleven officers taking the course. This is a particularly severe course, and will not end until April, when the final series of examinations and tests in actual work will be held. This course has been proceeding under Lt.-Col. Alexander's direction since November, and the candidates for staff certificates have been doing a lot of hard work in order to qualify for the highest honors of the service.

C.O.T.C. Course

The Canadian Officers Training Corps course for lieutenants and captains is going on with a large number of entrants, and the examinations in theory will be held about February 20, with a number of provisional officers from McGill University, Loyola College and the University of Bishop's College, Lennoxville. The practical examinations will take place for this course in February, with the written examinations on theoretical work in March. A number of instructors are engaged in this special training work, under Lt.-Col. Alexander.

A school of cavalry instruction is also being conducted at the St Johns barracks of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, with fifteen officers and non-coms. in attendance to qualify for their certificates in the cavalry service. A similar school for the training of infantry officers is proceeding at the Drummond Street barracks of the R.C.R., with six in attendance, this being a six weeks' course.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 13 December 2014

Guards Officers' Dress
Topic: British Army

Guards Officers' Dress

Even When Off Duty It Must be Strictly According to Rule

The Montreal Gazette; 13 December 1913
Via the London Standard

A check to the growing carelessness and slackness in the matter of men's garments has been administered by instructions that have been issued to the effect that all Guards' officers, when not in uniform, are to wear black coats and silk hats when in the neighbourhood of Buckingham Palace.

Instructions of this nature are not officially issued, but through channels that are just as stern, and they have caused considerable discussion in military circles. It is not generally credited that the new order is in deference to the wishes of the King, although the fact that it applies to the "neighbourhood of Buckingham Palace" would point to that conclusion. It is accepted that the order has come from the new General Officer Commanding the London DistrictMajor-General Sir Francis Lloyd, who succeeded Lieut.-General Sir Alfred Codrington on September 1 last.

Major-General Sir Francis Lloyd has a reputation as a very precise and exact soldier if not a martinet and on his appointment to his present command the officers of the Brigade of Guards expected some new and surprising orders. He has been a Grenadier Guardsman since 1874, and has seen considerable service in Egypt and South Africa. He vacated the command of the Welsh Territorials when appointed to his present position.

The discussion in service circles is; Should a Guardsman be compelled to be a dandy in his own time? Those in favour say a commission in the Guards carries with it social obligations of an exacting nature; that the traditions of the Brigade are that its officers should be the leaders of fashion in times of peace; that men join the Brigade well knowing these traditions, and should be prepared to keep them up. It is also advanced that the people of England look to the officers of the Guards to keep up their reputation for smartness both on and off parade, and that to see an officer in London dressed like a chauffeur or groom is a violation of the best traditions of the Brigade of Guards.

On the other hand, it is advanced that no laws are unchangeable; that the motor car and the growing popularity of golf have changed all the laws of fashion; and that to insist upon the silk hat in modern London is barely less extreme than to demand the revival of knee breeches, satin coats, lace ruffs, and three-cornered hats. It is also claimed that a gentleman looks a gentleman in any garb; that your true Guardsman is a Guardsman in his shirt sleeves; and that there is quite as much distinction and fashion to be got out of a tweed suit, cap, and mackintosh as there is in the silk hat or the frock coat, which is now little more than the mark of the shop assistant.

The Senior Subaltern

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

New Colours for Navy (1967)
Topic: RCN

HMCS Algonquin

Navy Bluer Than Ever

Person to person, By Shirley Foley
Ottawa Citizen; 9 November 1967

When Joan Broughton gets going with her paint brush the ship's captain may be found in the Blue Room.

The Royal Canadian Navy is scuttling the tradition that battleships are grey, inside and out. It has ordered a co-ordinated colour scheme for the control rooms of four soon-to-be-built destroyers.

Miss Broughton, colour consultant for a paint company, has been called in on the job. She is suggesting blue walls, off-white cabinets, and khaki trim. She sees the controls themselves in deep blue, rust or olive shades.

"I wasn't given any particular direction on the colour scheme," Miss Broughton says, "although one commander was a little apprehensive that I might come up with shocking pink."

What will the green-clad sailor think of a colour-coordinated control room?

Miss Broughton thinks the colourful environment will have a beneficial effect at sea as it has proved to have in industry. "It's just going to be a more colourful world from now on."

Working from the very imprecise colour names offered in the article, this is one possible interpretation of the proposed colour scheme for the control rooms Iroquios class destroyers.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Thursday, 11 December 2014

Perpetuation of the CEF
Topic: CEF

Perpetuation of the CEF

Work of Several Years
War Records of 600,000 Canadians Were Examined

The Montreal Gazette; 30 September 1929
(By Canadian Press)

Ottawa, September 29.—Final approval has now been secured from His Majesty the King for the emblazoning of the regimental colour of Canadian permanent and non-permanent active militia units the honours won by those regiments during the World War. At present 68 regiments have been given definitive sanction to embroider those honours on their colour, and in due course the remainder of the militia will receive authority according to the qualifications of the regiments concerned. Thus a question that has consumed several years, and that has involved little short of scanning the war records of every one of the 600,000 Canadians who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, is settled once and for all. Every one of the "fighting" battalions of the Canadian Corps—50 in all—is perpetuated in the non-active militia (exclusive of the three infantry regiments of the permanent force). The perpetuating unit, therefore, has been accorded the right to carry the honours won by its corresponding Canadian Corps battalion.

There were, however, 260 battalions raised for overseas, and practically every man of those saw active service in one or other of the "fighting" battalions. The problem of how to award honours to those militia regiments who perpetuate the 210 battalions that were broken up in England to reinforce the Corps was a thorny one. The solution was reached after many months of deliberation that where it could be shown that a minimum of 250 men from a reinforcing battalion participated in any engagement for which a battle honour was awarded, the militia regiment which perpetuates that battalion would be entitled to carry the honour on its colour. Inasmuch as the men from such battalions were not infrequently distributed in small drafts among a number of Canadian Corps battalions, the necessity of closely checking the movements of practically every man—or at least, every group of men—was obvious. It was also arduous and painstaking work.

Toronto and Ontario

Thirty-one Ontario militia regiments have been given authority to carry the Battle Honours in this, the first allotment made. These, together with the Canadian Expeditionary Force units they perpetuate, are:

The following Toronto regiments:

The Mississauga Horse (4th Canadian Mounted Rifles)
The Queen's Own Rifles (83rd, 95th, 166th and 255th Battalions, C.E.F.)
The Royal Grenadiers (58th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The 48th Highlanders (15th and 134th Battalions, C.E.F.)
The Queen's Rangers, 1st American Regiment (20th and 35th Battalions, C.E.F.)
The Toronto Scottish (75th, 84th and 170th Battalions, C.E.F.)

The following city and country regiments:

The Canadian Fusiliers, of London (1st, 33rd and 142nd Battalions, C.E.F.)
The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, of Hamilton (4th and 204th Battalions, and The 86th Machine Gun Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, Hamilton (19th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Princess of Wales Own Regiment, of Kingston (21th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Dufferin Rifles of Canada, Brantford (4th, 36th and 125th Battalions, C.E.F.)
The Peterborough Rangers, Peterborough (2nd Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Ottawa Highlanders, Ottawa (38th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Essex Scottish, of Windsor (18th, 99th and 241st Battalions, C.E.F.)
The Lake Superior Regiment, of Port Arthur, Ont. (52nd and 141st Battalions, C.E.F.)
The Ontario Regiment, of Oshawa (116th and 182nd Battalions, C.E.F.)
The Halton Rifles, of Georgetown (37th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Oxford Rifles, of Woodstock (71st and 168th Battalions, C.E.F.)
The Elgin Regiment, of St. Thomas (91st Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Sault Ste. Marie Regiment, of Sault Ste. Marie (119th and 227th Battalions, C.E.F.)
The Northern Pioneers, of Huntsville (122nd Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Wentworth Regiment, of Dundas (129th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Middlesex Light Infantry, of Strathroy, Ont. (135th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Grey Regiment, of Owen Sound (147th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Bruce Regiment, of Walkerton (160th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Huron Regiment, of Goderich (161st Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Lincoln Regiment, of St. Catharines (176th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Simcoe Foresters, of Barrie (177th Battalion, C.E.F.)
The Kent Regiment, of Chatham (186th Battalion, C.E.F.)

Typical Honour List

Only ten battle honours of the War can be embroidered on the regimental colour, irrespective of how many the unit concerned may be entitled to. Regiments, however, are credited with all honours in the Militia List. Those which are borne on the colour appear in the Militia List in heavy type, while those not carried on the colour are printed in ordinary light-face type. An illustration of this is furnished in the Peterborough Rangers, for example, which perpetuates the 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion. The battles in capital letters will be carried on the colour, while those in small letters are credited only in the Militia List, as follows:

"YPRES, 1915, '17, Gravenstafel Ridge, ST JULIEN, FESTUBERT, 1915, Mount Sorrel, SOMME, 1916, Pozieres, Flers-Courcelette, Ancre Heights, ARRAS, 1917, '18, VIMY, 1917, Arleux, Scarpe, 1917, '18, HILL 70, PASSCHENDAELE, Amiens, Scarpe, 1918, Drocourt-Queant, HINDEBURG LINE, Canal du Nord, Pursuit to Mons, FRANCE AND FLANDERS, 1915-18"

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Command Characteristics
Topic: Leadership

Command Characteristics

Men against Fire; the Problem of Battle Command in Future War, S.L.A. Marshall, Colonel, AUS, 1947

The characteristics which are required in the minor commander if he is to prove capable of preparing men for and leading them through the shock of combat with high credit may therefore be briefly described:

(1)     Diligence in the care of men.

(2)     Administration of all organizational affairs such as punishments and promotions according to a standard of resolute justice.

(3)     Military bearing.

(4)     A basic understanding of the simple fact that soldiers wish to think of themselves as soldiers and that all military information is nourishing to their spirits and their lives.

(5)     Courage, creative intelligence, and physical fitness.

(6)     Innate respect for the dignity of the position and the work of other men.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Honi soit qui mal y pense
Topic: Humour

One panel of the cartoon "The Push"—in Three Chapters. By one who's been "Pushed", by Bruce Bairnsfather, published in Fragments from France.

Honi soit qui mal y pense

Dorothy Bradridge, VAD, No. 2 Red Cross Hospital, Rouen

The Roses of No Man's Land, Lyn MacDonald, 1980

I was working on the brass-hat ward, which meant that there was no rank lower than a major and they were all in separate rooms. Bruce Bairnsfather was one of my patients - or rather he was a patient while I was there, because VADs were only allowed to do very humble tasks in that ward. He was the cartoonist who invented the famous character of Old Bill, and on the wall of his room he had drawn a lifesize cartoon of a VAD sweeping dust about and raising great clouds of it with some gusto. She had a very plain face to my mind, because we actually considered ourselves to be a very goodlooking lot of VADs. I was foolish enough to ask him why he hadn't drawn a pretty VAD. 'A pretty VAD?' he exclaimed. 'Well, that's probably because I've never seen one.' It served me right for fishing for compliments! However, I always liked to feel that I got my own back on him at mealtimes because I always left his tray until last, and I left his bell unanswered as long as I dared. Needless to say, he was not a surgical or a serious case, so he was able to spend quite a time decorating the walls.* [Footnoted: Captain Bruce Bairnsfather was suffering from mild shellshock.]

Qhen Mary, during the First World War.

The patients were fond of drawing on the bare walls, and nobody minded because it cheered the place up a bit. This led to an embarrassing occasion once when we had a royal visit. Queen Mary came with the Prince of Wales and a whole entourage of brass-hats. We knew she was coming and there had been tremendous 'spit and polish' for days beforehand. I think perhaps she had not been expected to go into this particular room because it had rather a risque drawing on the wall. It was a stockinged female leg with a garter at the top - very shapely and seductive-looking. But just at the side of the garter a large mirror was hung, so that when anyone glanced at it they naturally assumed that the rest of the picture was hidden behind the mirror. Needless to say, everyone pushed the mirror sideways to see what was underneath. That is exactly what the Queen did, and like everyone else she saw that there was no continuation of the picture but simply the words Honi soit qui mal y pense. She was not amused! Her face simply froze, so none of the other people who were following her could laugh either. Walking behind the Prince of Wales as part of an unofficial 'Guard of Honour' I could see the effort he was making not to laugh aloud. His shoulders were absolutely shaking!

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 29 November 2014 4:21 PM EST
Monday, 8 December 2014

Feeding an Army 1903
Topic: Army Rations

The standard vehicle for the movement of ammunition, engineer stores, food, and fodder was the General Service Waggon.

Feeding an Army

The problem in the Manoeuvres at Aldershot
South African Lessons
Soldier Learned Quite a Lot in His Years of Actual Experience of Living in the Field

The Gazette, Montreal, 17 October, 1903
(Special Correspondent, London Telegraph)

There is an impression among some people that a British soldier can carry enough food with him to last a week; but, unfortunately, no ground exists for the belief, despite the progress which has been made in the art of compressing nourishment, both solid and liquid, into a minimum of space. Apart from the questions of strategy, tactics, and the individual training of the soldier to the conditions of field service, the army manoeuvres are expected to tFeeding an Army 1903each some valuable lessons regarding the supply of necessaries and transport, two considerations which enter so largely into every problem of war. It is a true saying that a "soldier marches upon his stomach," and his fighting power depends upon the prompt arrival of bread and meat, as well as ammunition, from his base of supply. A portion may travel by train, but the regimental transport by road is the service upon which he must usually rely when operating in an enemy's country. In the case of the First Army Corps, which has just taken the field, the base of supply is Aldershot, to which a force of nearly 20,000 men must now look for the supply of their daily wants, and it will be the duty of the Army Service Corps to see that every unit of that force is provisioned, no matter to what part of the manoeuvre area of 1,600 square miles the soldiers may be called or driven by the fortunes of war. It is possible in real war to "feed your troops on the country" or to billet them upon the population; but in this September campaign, Tommy Atkins must rely upon his friends at Aldershot and some miles of wagon transport.

The manoeuvre ration is fairly liberal. It consists of five big biscuits and 2 1/2 ounces of Canadian cheese, carried in the haversack. In addition to bread and meat of excellent quality, sent from Aldershot, the soldier is allowed the following quantities per day.—Tea, 1/3 ounce; coffee, 1/3 ounce; sugar, 2 ounces; pepper, 1/32 ounce; salt, 1/2 ounce; condensed milk (1 tin to 20 men), 4/5 ounce; jam, 4 ounces; or if procurable, potatoes or other fresh vegetables, 8 ounces; bacon or German sausage (breakfast), 4 ounces.

Daily Fuel Allowance

To cook the foregoing an allowance of two pounds of fuel wood per man is made daily, or on the alternative one pound of coal, with one pound of kindling wood to every twenty pounds of coal. No less than 240,000 rations, consisting of the above items, were ordered for the manoeuvres of the First Army Corps alone, based on the assumption that provisions for twelve days was to be made for 20,000 men. It is estimated that a large proportion of the sum of £200,000 which the manoeuvres of the two army corps are supposed to entail will be expenses on these supplies, and a still larger sum will be swallowed up by transport to the fighting line. There will be a considerable excess of rations packed up at Aldershot and ready for travel which will not be required, seeing that Sir John French's force is less than 20,000, and that the men will be back in barracks within ten days at the most. Apart from the expense of surplus packing, however, no loss will be sustained, and the authorities will recoup themselves for Tommy's grocery bill by the somewhat drastic measure of deducting 3 1/2 d per day from his wage!

Meat and bread for the soldier are issued from the butchers and bakers of the Army Service Corps at Aldershot, but the remaining items are supplied by civilian contractors. The latter commenced work some weeks ago in two small tents at the base, whence they removed as stores accumulated to a spacious drill hall. I had the advantage of seeing and tasting the groceries, and can guarantee that the samples were excellent. They were packed in brown paper parcels suitable for messes of five, ten, twenty, and fifty men, and these parcels were encased in strong wooden boxes, which will bear the jolting of the regimental waggon. Some boxes contained only 250 parcels, and other as many as 1,000, according to the requirements of the unit for which they are intended. Messrs. R. Dickenson & Co., the army contractors, describe the bacon as smoked rolled shoulders, and the cheese as best Canadian, while the jam has been specially prepared in scaled tins. Each cheese weighs 80 pounds, and, like bacon, biscuit, and jam, is distributed to the troops not in parcels, but "in bulk," according to requirements. A man-of-war's-man with such a daily ration would deem himself lapped in luxury, but the sailor is taken in hand by his country much earlier than the soldier, and consequently is trained to a diet when at sea which would rather stagger Mr. Atkins. In one respect, however, the bluejacket fares better; he has a daily allowance of one-eighth of a pint of rum, mixed with two-thirds of water. The soldier, except on active service, enjoys no such concession, though his is allowed to buy during the manoeuvres as much as two pints of beer per day.

The rations having been prepared, we come to the task of forwarding and distributing them. For this work the Army Service Corps, one of the few departments which emerged with credit from the war enquiry, has made special preparations. The troops under Sir John French left Aldershot with two days' supplies carried in the transport waggons, and later the "supply park," or magazine, left for the front with a reserve.

The Beginning of Manoeuvres

With the commencement of the manoeuvres the supply proceeds under army corps arrangements and comes under the direct orders of the general officer commanding. The "supply park"—a square formed of waggons—is the distributing centre for the troops, and is kept replenished by other waggons, which proceed either to and from the base at Aldershot or to the nearest railways station, where bread and meat, dispatched in special train by London and Southwestern railway, are received daily. In addition to the rations for the troops, supplies of ammunition for the guns and forage for the horses, distributed over a very large and scattered area, must be maintained every day, a feat which accounts for the employment of a small army of civilian drivers and a large number of subsidized horses. The maximum load of the general service waggon is 2,600 pounds and two horses will generally suffice. In South Africa our supply waggons often carried 7,000 pounds weight of goods, drawn by thirty or more oxen, and the pace barely exceeded two miles per hour. The waggons of the First Army Corps, travelling over the high roads of the middle southern counties with no dongas and rough country to interrupt their progress, do much better.

It must be confessed that the South African experience developed for making the soldier's capacity for making the most of his raw materials. The meat from Aldershot may be cooked, as usual, with the primitive appliances of a "field kitchen" and fire trench, but the bully-beef and biscuit exact more careful treatment. Mr. Atkins can improve both. He has a mess tin which serves alternately as a saucepan, frying pan, and teapot. The bully-beef is made quite tasty for a hungry soldier when stewed with a few vegetables, which can be found throughout the manoeuvring area, and the biscuits when boiled with the condensed milk and sugar take the place of pudding. Experiments are to be made with a new patent oven, of which great things are expected, also with a water sterilizer apparatus, which is to be tried for the first time. In South Africa the field service ovens often lost their way, but the soldier found that a large anthill when scooped hollow and an aperture made for draught, answered as well. I have eaten bread made of two parts flour and one of bran, cooked in such ingenious fashion, by the British soldier, which I prefer to the regimental biscuit, as more tasty and digestive. The regimental biscuit, to speak frankly, is often a tooth-destroying, temper-provoking diet, which may be tolerated on active service, but should only form the emergency diet at manoeuvre times. I have not tasted the biscuit of the First Army Corps, but am told it is vastly superior to that with which South African campaigners are familiar.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Sunday, 7 December 2014

A French Tank Company at Dunkirk
Topic: The Field of Battle

A French Tank Company at Dunkirk

The Miracle of Dunkirk, Walter Lord, 1982

"I am counting on you to save everything that can be saved—and, above all, our honor!" [General Maxime] Weygand telegraphed [Admiral Jean] Abrial. "[General J.G.M.] Blanchard's troops, if doomed, must disappear with honor!" the General told Major Fauvelle. Weygand pictured an especially honorable role for the high command when the end finally came. Rather than retreat from Paris, the government should behave like the Senators of ancient Rome, who had awaited the barbarians sitting in their curule chairs.

This sort of talk, though possibly consoling at the top level, did not inspire the poilus in the field. They had had enough of antiquated guns, horse-drawn transport, wretched communications, inadequate armor, invisible air support, and fumbling leaders. Vast numbers of French soldiers were sitting around in ditches, resting and smoking, when the 58th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, passed by on May 28. As one of them explained to a French-speaking Tommy, the enemy was everywhere and there was no hope of getting through; so they were just going to sit down and wait for the Boches to come.

Yet there were always exceptions. A French tank company, separated from its regiment, joined the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers at Gorre and proved to be a magnificent addition. The crews bristled with discarded British, French, and German weapons and were literally festooned with clanking bottles of wine. They fought with tremendous élan, roaring with laughter and pausing to shake hands with one another after every good shot. When the Fusiliers were finally ordered to pull back, the tank company decided to stay and fight on. "Bon chance!" they called after the departing Fusiliers, and then went back to work.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Gun Carriage for Final Trip
Topic: Tradition

The gun carriage used in the funeral procession of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's), on 28 October, 2014, in Hamilton, Ontario.

A Gun Carriage for Final Trip

Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph; 21 March 1967
By Patrick Nicholson

Many Ottawans lining the streets at the funeral of the late Governor General Vanier—and no doubt many more television viewers were intrigued by the transportation of the coffin.

Why, they wondered, was it not driven in the usual glass-walled Cadillac hearse?

Why was it drawn on an artillery carriage by men of the Royal Canadian Navy?

This is a tradition at state funerals. Many will remember the impressive phalanx of naval bluejackets which was so prominent at the funeral procession of Churchill.

But it is not old, as traditions go, dating only from the funeral of Queen Victoria on February 2, 1902.

Like many of the trappings of tradition prone navies, its English origin has been adopted by other countries; just as many navies copy the British sailor's uniform in adding three white stripes around the collar, commemorating the three great victories of history's most famous sailor, Nelson.

Bluejackets drawing the gun carriage in the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill.

Great White Queen

Queen Victoria died at her favourite home, Osborne House in the Isle of Wight, in the 82nd year of her life and the 64th year of her reign.

He body was brought by train to Windsor for the funeral service in that historic castle; from that point I will quote an eye-witness account, from the Times newspaper of London, of Feb. 4, 1901:

"After the Queen's remains had been transferred from the royal train and placed upon the gun carriage, the procession began to move up to the mournful roll of the muffled drums. Chopin's 'Marche Funebre' by the band, the funeral tolling of the Castle bells, and the salute fired by the 'Eagle' battery of the Royal Horse Artillery.

"At this moment an unfortunate incident marred, for a time, the progress of the cortege. The artillery horse, which for some reason had become rather restless, had only moved a few paces when one of them reared and plunged in an exceeding dangerous manner in front of the gun carriage, behind which the King, the German Emperor, and the Duke of Connaught were walking.

"All attempts to pacify the animal were altogether unavailing, and at last, as the procession was being seriously delayed, the entire team was removed and their places were taken by a large number of Bluejackets who formed the Naval guard of honour.

"With their ever ready handiness, they turned the traces and chains of the harness into draw ropes, fitted them to the gun carriage, and themselves drew it with its precious burden from the station to the chapel.

"The King later sent a message to the Naval Brigade, conveying his thanks for the timely aid which they had rendered and for the seamanlike manner in which they had carried out their unexpected duty."

Bluejackets drawing the gun carriage in the state funeral of King Edward VII.

A Tradition is Born

Still in the charming leisurely prose of that day, the Times commented editorially:

"Even at the awkward contretemps at Windsor, when the artillery horses refused to move and were quickly replaced by Bluejackets, is scarcely to be regretted, since it served to show once more the resourcefulness, the utility and the ubiquity of the Navy."

Ever since then at state funerals in England—and in some other countries—naval bluejackets have been accorded the honoured role of hauling from front, and restraining from the rear, the gun carriage bearing the coffin.

The officers in command of Queen Victoria's last naval guard of honour, who masterminded that improvised human team, were Lieut. A. Boyle of HMS Excellent, Sub-Lieut. Percy Noble of the Royal Naval College, and Midshipman Stanley Holbrook, of HMS Majestic.

Boyle, a son of the Earl of Shannon, rose to be Admiral and died in 1949. Stanley Holbrook also ended a distinguished career in the Royal Navy at the rank of Admiral, and now lives in retirement in England.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST

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