The Minute Book
Monday, 9 November 2015

Topic: CEF


Trench Warfare; A Manual for Officers and Men,, J.S. Smith, Second Lieutenant with the British Expeditionary Force, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1917.

When fire trenches are to be occupied for any length of time it is necessary to revet them. By that I mean the walls, and especially front walls, have to be faced or strengthened by sand bags, boards, corrugated iron or other material that is needed. This work to be of any use at all must have solid foundations and be thorough from top to bottom. Careless revetment work is of no use and a source of endless labor and trouble. All such work should be supervised by officers or N. C. O.'s who have a thorough understanding of such things, and they will be amply repaid if they take an active part in the work with their own hands. There are several forms of revetment, according to the materials available and the conditions of the walls to be revetted, but the usual materials are the sandbags, corrugated iron, stakes, boards, wire netting, etc., and these can be used either separately or in a combination. All these materials are generally kept in engineer dumps, some little way behind the firing line. Requisitions are made during the day by the officer commanding the sector of trench which requires revetting, and at night the men are detailed in carrying parties to go down to the engineer dumps and carry these things up for work the next day.


Sandbags are usually available in large quantities, but it is well to remember that generally only half the number indented for reach the indentor. The rest gengo around the men's feet and legs to keep them warm at night, and very often are used as a sort of mattress in the dugouts. This should not be allowed as it creates a tremendous wastage. The sandbags should only be about three-quarters filled, thus allowing for the choke or neck end, after tied, being turned under the back when laid in position. This also gives something to catch hold of when laying and brings the weight to something manageable, about sixty pounds.

A bag three-quarters filled measures approximately 20" x 10" x 5". Laid sand bags are called headers, when laid with bottom of the bag facing the center of the trench, and ptretchers, if laid with the side facing the trench as per sketch. The neck end should always be tucked well in the bag in the case of the stretcher; the side seam, which is a weak spot in the sand bag, should be kept from exposure, that is, should be turned from the center of the trench.

When the front wall of a trench is to be revetted and only sandbags are available, the wall should first be cut to a slope of from 10 to 15 degrees from the perpendicular, and the loose soil obtained, if dry, placed in the sandbags. When there is an unrevetted fire platform, this should be also cut away and put, if dry, in the sand bags. A bed should then be dug about 6 inches into the solid bottom of the trench (disregarding the soft mud which for foundation purposes is of no use) and sloping down into the parapet at right angles to the slope of the front wall. Into this bed place a row of headers. On this row place a double row of stretchers. Joints must always be the same manner as brick-laying that is, care taken that the joint where the ends of the stretchers meet does not come immediately over the joint between the headers and the lower row. Sand bags should now be beaten down flat, generally with a wooden mallet provided for this purpose; then alternate rows of headers and stretchers laid; each layer being flattened out with the mallet until the top of the parapet is reached. The top layer should always come out as headers.

Twenty-five headers or twelve stretchers, or sixteen mixed, is the average required for revetting every superficial yard of trench.

The slope of a front trench wall, even when from 10 to 15 degrees from perpendicular, is apt gradually to assume the perpendicular, and then fall in, owing to the sinking of the trench bottom or the actual thrust of the earth in front. This can, however, be checked by using 6' to 8' stakes driven well into the front wall foundation, and at the same angle as the front wall. Then, wiring the head of these stakes to what is known as an anchor-stake driven about 10' into the ground in front of the trench.

Sandbars come in bales of 250, which are again divided into bundles of 50 each. On a carrying party it is an average rule that each man carry 100 sand bags.

Corrugated Iron

Generally, when lengths of corrugated iron and plenty of floor boards and stakes are available, this material is used for revetting the lower half of a trench wall, as it removes a great many difficulties, such as looking over substantial foundations for sandbag revetments. It makes it unnecessary to fill sandbags, etc., thus saving a great amount of time and labor. In revetting with corrugated iron and stakes or hurdles, cut the slope or wall from 10 to 15 degrees from the perpendicular, putting the soil in the sandbags and leaving it in some handy place for any future use. Then, drive 6' to 8' stakes well into the trench foundation and approximately 4' apart, thus giving adequate protection to each piece of corrugated, having the stakes at an angle of 15 degrees at least, from the perpendicular, and 6" or 8" away from the trench wall. Then, slide the corrugated, hurdles, or boards on their sides down behind the stakes, overlapping slightly the ends ,and ramming them well down into the mud or soil in the bottom, and filling in the space behind with soil.

The bottom third or half of the front wall is thus substantially, easily and quickly revetted, and the upper half or remainder is generally revetted with the sandbags, a bed being dug so that the first layer of headers is about half its depth below the top of the corrugated. If stakes shorter than 6' or 8' have been used in the revetting, half should be cut off to where the sandbag revetting commences and wired to anchor stakes, driven into the parapet end of the bed, and not wired over the top of the parapet, as it tends to gradually pull them upwards. Then cover this wiring with your first layer of headers. "When hurdles or floorboards are used instead of corrugated iron, empty sandbags or similar material must be hung behind them to prevent the soil crumbling through and thus

weakening the foundation of the sandbag revetments. Corrugated should not be used for revetting the front wall higher than 2', which is the width of one sheet, as the supply is generally limited and can be put to more valuable use as dealt with later. Corrugated iron comes in bundles of about 24 sheets to the bundle, averaging 6' by 3'. Two sheets is the average load for any one man in a carrying party.

A front wall constructed in the manner shown, if prompt and immediate attention always be given to repair if damage is done, will give very little bother. It is the usual custom to construct your fire platform after this revetting work has been done.

A trench should be dug no deeper than will afford protection to the firer, a deeper passageway necessitating a fire platform, a subsequent work, and by first revetting the whole front wall from bottom to top then adding the fire platform, each gets the benefit of the foundation of the other. Until this fire platform is constructed, emergency methods may be used and improvised in a moment with ammunition boxes, loose sandbags and the various other junk which accumulates in a trench.

Fire Platforms

Now that the front wall has been revetted, either with corrugated or sandbags, the construction of the fire platform should be at once started. To start this, short stakes should be driven well into the trench bottom about 36" from the front wall and parallel to the slope of the front wall, averaging from 2' to 3' apart and generally as substantial as the large revetment stakes, although this is not of absolute necessity.

When brushwood is procurable, it should be used as a foundation, putting it in after the short stakes are driven and ramming it down behind them. This gives you as nearly as possible a dry and compact foundation for your first row of headers. Then this may be covered with another lot of brushwood, and that again by a row of headers, and from then the layer should be alternate headers and stretchers. Sand bags do not offer a good platform after a heavy rain, as they become wet and slippery and the material quickly rots, then they break open and the top of your fire platform is gone. To avoid this, it is necessary to use whatever material may be at hand in the covering of the top layer.

One good way of providing this top covering when the material is procurable, is a wire netting used in a double thickness. It should be placed behind and up against the stakes before the foundation is laid. Then when the fire platform is built to its proper height, bend the wire from the top of the fire platform and fasten it down on the sides by whatever means are handy. Using this double wire netting makes it possible to use brick and all sorts of general trash in the construction of the fire platform and gives a very good dry footing. When doing that the face of your platform should be either corrugated sheets or boards.

Very often what are known as sentry-boards, or small floor boards about 36" square and with additional cross pieces underneath, giving them a height of about a foot, thus raising them well out of the mud, are used, and are very handy before a fire platform is made, and in some cases have to be used for small men after the fire platform is made.

Joseph Shuter Smith

Joseph Shuter Smith was an American author born in Philadelphia in 1893. He spent his childhood in Alaska during the Gold Rush and spent his years before the Great War as a lumberjack, miner, surveyor and cowboy. In 1914, continuing his adventurous streak, he went to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, declaring his birthplace to be Port Hope, Ontario (with next of kin in Oakland, California). Smith enlisted with the 29th Canadian Infantry Battalion at Vancouver. He served in France and Belgium as a soldier in the CEF and, after being commissioned in August, 1916, as an officer of the British Army with The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment). He resigned his Imperial commission after a year to return to the US and enlist in the American Army. Joseph Smith also wrote the memoir: Over There and Back in Three Uniforms; Being the Experiences of an American Boy in the Canadian, British and American Armies at the Front and through No Man's Land.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Tercentenary Marchpast
Topic: Canadian Militia

The Tercentenary Marchpast

The Canadian General Sir William Otter, Desmond Morton, 1974

[Tercentenary celebration of the founding of Quebec take place on the Plains of Abraham.]

By the time Otter reached the plains the early morning mists were being burned off by the sun, the last troops were in place and the stands were packed. Colonel Lessard trotted up to hand over the parade state: 12,422 men, 2,134 horses, 26 guns, with an additional 2,400 sailors and marines from the visiting warships. At 10.00 a.m., the royal party arrived; the bearded Prince in a general's uniform, Lord Roberts in the full dress of a field marshal. Next came the inspection, with Otter leading the party down the long ranks of troops. To his delight he picked out the medical orderlies, standing idly behind the ranks: despite the heat, that meant that few, if any, of his men had collapsed. At the reviewing stand the Prince of Wales dismounted to present Laurier with a cheque for $450,000, the amount so far collected for the battlefield memorial. Now the march-past could begin.

It took an hour and a half for the long line of sailors, marines, gunners, cavalrymen and infantry to pass the reviewing stand. The crowd burst into special applause for the sailors, the little unit of Royal Military College cadets, the Mounted Police and the newest permanent force unit, Lord Strathcona's Horse. Twice Lord Roberts trotted out to lead troops past the Prince of Wales - first the artillery, then Otter's old regiment, the Queen's Own. He was colonel- in-chief of both. Gradually, as the lines passed before him, Otter could relax. There would be no mishap, no humiliating confusion. He could spare a thought for the rural battalions, marvelling at their transformation during his militia years. At the end of the column came the Royal Canadian Regiment. To the Prince, puzzled that regular troops should march in the junior position, Otter explained: "I wanted the tail to be equal to the head."

When the parade had passed, two batteries of permanent force artillery, the newly redesignated Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, formed up at one end of the field. At a command, whips cracked and the two batteries suddenly raced across the field, harness jingling, limbers and guns leaping over the uneven ground. At the far end, the teams twisted and, in a cloud of dust, came hurtling back. The crowd leaped to its feet, shouting itself hoarse with excitement. The review was over. Otter urged his horse forward, riding out to meet his troops. As he moved toward the huge mass of scarlet, rifle green and navy blue, the significance of the parade state figures struck him: he commanded more men than the armies of Wolfe and Montcalm combined.'

The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Saturday, 7 November 2015

Topic: Military Theory


The Lonely Leader; Monty, 1944-1945, Alistaire Horne, 1994

In Britain, Monty's own training programme was reaching a new pitch of intensity, but what substitute could there be for the actual battlefield, with all its brutality, surprises and lessons? He became the first British commander to develop close tactical support with the air force, something which the Germans had already raised to a high state of perfection by 1940. In close conjunction with Brooke, he saw to it that each of the new British armoured divisions contained at least one lorry-borne infantry brigade—as had the Germans when they crossed the Meuse in 1940. He studied successful Soviet techniques of carrying infantry into the attack on the backs of tanks. (Meanwhile, in Russia, the Germans were now bringing up their infantry close behind the Panzers in cross-country armoured troop-carriers.) He developed the lessons he had gained in the First World War, the need for flexibility in regrouping—what later came to be closely linked with the key Monty formula of 'balance'—and the need to operate, on the offensive, by means of one or more concen-trated attacks on relatively narrow fronts, instead of mass efforts against a wide front. 'Concentration—control—simplicity' was the secret formula he dinned into his officers. Above all, he was crystallizing his philosophy of leadership. The leader, as he developed the theme in his memoirs, has to see his objective clearly and let everyone else know what he wants; he must begin with a very firm 'grip' on his military machine; he must never bring his subordinates back to confer with him, he must go forward (a view that would cause much conflict with the Americans from Normandy onwards); he himself must live in tranquillity, removed from all the exhaustion imposed by detail; he must be able to exercise 'direct and personal' command, to which end would follow his famous system, like his hero Wellington's, of fast-moving young liaison officers.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Friday, 6 November 2015

Developing the Soldierly Spirit
Topic: Drill and Training

Developing the Soldierly Spirit

Infantry Training (4–Company Organization), London, 1914

The objects in view in developing a soldierly spirit are to help the soldier:—

  • to bear fatigue, privation, and danger cheerfully;
  • to imbue him with a sense of honour;
  • to give him confidence in his superiors and comrades;
  • to increase his powers of initiative, of self-confidence, and of self-restraint;
  • to train him to obey orders, or
  • to act in the absence of orders for the advantage of his regiment under all conditions;
  • to produce such a high degree of courage and disregard of self, that in the stress of battle he will use his brains and his weapons coolly and to the best advantage is to impress upon him that, so long as he is physically capable of fighting, surrender to the enemy is a disgraceful act; and finally,
  • to teach him how to act in combination with his comrades in order to defeat the enemy.

As soon as the recruit joins he should be brought under influences which will tend to produce and increase such a spirit, and it is the duty of all officers and non-commissioned officers to assist in the attainment of this object by their conversation and example.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Thursday, 5 November 2015

Officers and Study (1850s)
Topic: Officers

It was not enough to read these works, the author said; the officer should make extracts and comments.

Officers and Study (1850s)

Gallant Gentlemen; a portrait of the British Officer 1600-1956, E.S. Turner, 1956

Early in the 1850s an anonymous military tutor wrote a book, The Pattern Military Officer, designed to help officer candidates to pass their entrance examination. Among the requirements of the examiners, he said, was that the candidate should be able to translate any passage in Livy's History of Rome (Books 21-25 inclusive), and any portion of the Aeneid (Books 1 to 3), with parsing and prosody. Non-classical scholars were to translate a given passage in French or German. All candidates had to know the names of the European capitals, and be able to trace in the presence of the examiners a front fortification according to Vauban's First System, and the profile of a rampart and a parapet.

This military tutor recommended an officer to equip himself with:—

[and] various works on military fortification and strategy and a technological dictionary.

It was not enough to read these works, the author said; the officer should make extracts and comments.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Constructing Wolseley Hall
Topic: Wolseley Barracks

Constructing Wolseley Hall

Wolseley Hall, located in London, Ontario, was the first construction project funded by a Canadian Government in support of the needs of the Dominion's new Permanent Force (now known as the Regular Force). Where all previously existing units of the Permanent Force occupied refitted buildings taken over after the departure of British Army units, the establishment of a new company of the Infantry School Corps in London required new accommodation.

The new infantry barracks was located on Carling Heights, a property acquired from John Carling in a trade with the city for the downtown Victoria Park property that had been the original garrison location. Wolseley Hall was located on the edge of town in 1886, and has since been enveloped by the city's expansion over the past century. The military property was formally titled "Wolseley Barracks" in 1894, after Viscount Lord Wolseley. Originally bounded by Elizabeth, Oxford, and Sterling streets, and by the railway right of way on the south boundary, the property saw a series of building programs over the decades to meet Canada's military needs for the garrison. Retitled Canadian Forces base London and Area Support Unit London, the official Canadian Armed Forces name of the property is again "Wolseley Barracks."

From the Government's Orders-in-Council that can be accessed through the Library and Archives Canada website, we can find the following approval for the original tendering of construction:

Infantry School, London, Ontario – Minister of Public Works recommends accepting tender of Hook and Toll at $76,430 for building (9 April 1886).

On a memorandum dated 9th April 1886, the Minister of Public Works, representing that tenders were invited by public notice for the erection of an Infantry School Building at London, Ont:— the tenders to state separate prices for building the exterior walls of which would be a brick and a half thick according to the plans and specifications, and for one with exterior walls two bricks in thickness with two inch space between—and that in answer to such notice, nineteen tenders have been received, ranging as follows:—

For a building with exterior walls 1 ½ bricks thick, from $73,333 to $133,500 and, for a building with exterior walls 2 bricks thick, from $76,430 to $138,100.

The Minister further represents that the lowest tender in the latter case is that of Messrs Joseph Hook and Peter Toll, of London, who have deposited the required security.

The Minister recommends that authority be granted to accept the tender of Messrs Hook and Toll.

The Committee advise that the requisite authority be granted accordingly."

This memorandum was signed by A. Campbell, and counter-signed with approval by "Lansdowne," The Governor-General, on 13 April, 1886.

But the construction of Wolseley Hall, as with many Government contracts, was not to be completed within the originally allocated budget.

Infantry School London – Minister of Public Works recommends Special Warrant to cover over expenditure (10 January 1887):

"On a memorandum dated 10th January 1887, from the Minister of Public Works representing that Parliament at its last session voted for the fiscal year 1886-87 the sum of $30,000 towards the infantry school in course of erection at London, Ontario, and that the unexpended balance, viz: $16,733.36 of the vote for 1885-86 was carried over for expenditure in 1886-87 and that, thus, the amount rendered available for the present fiscal year, was $46,733.36.

The Minister further represents that the work was proceeded with by the Contractors more expeditiously than was expected, and that a total expenditure of $50,704.35 has been incurred and that over-expenditure has therefore been made to the extent of $3,970.99, or say, $4000.00.

The Minister recommends on the report of his Chief Architect that the further sum of $10,000 is now required to carry on the work, pending a further vote by Parliament, and $4,000 to cover the above mentioned over expenditure, as the necessity is urgent and the Minister of Finance having reported that there is no Parliamentary appropriation from which the same can be defrayed that a Special Warrant of His Excellency the Governor General be issued for the sum of Fourteen thousand dollars ($14,000) a like amount to be placed in the Supplementary estimates to be laid before Parliament at its next session.

The Committee submit the above recommendation for your Excellency's approval."

This request for an advance of further funds to complete Wolseley Hall was signed by Hector-Louis Langevin, and counter-signed for approval by the Governor-General on 12 January 1887.

Wolseley Hall would take a further year to complete construction, opening to house "D" Company of the Infantry School Corps in 1888.

The Infantry School Corps continues to exists today, having evolved to become The Royal Canadian Regiment. Wolseley Hall remains the home of the 4th Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (a unit of the Canadian Army's Reserve Force), the Regimental Museum of The Royal Canadian Regiment, and other Canadian Armed Forces units and elements at Wolseley Barracks.

Wolseley Hall was designated a National Historic Site in 1963.

The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Compensation; circa 1880
Topic: Canadian Militia

Compensation; circa 1880

From the Orders-in-Council documents archived on line by Library and Archives Canada, we find this memorandum on the payment of compensation in regards to the death of a soldier following a training accident. (17 May 1880)

Various online calculators place the value of $300 in 1880 at about $7000 in 2015. (1) (2) (3)

$300 in 1880 was, however, 600 days (1 yr, 7 mos, 3 wks) pay at a soldier's rate of 50 cents per day.

"On a report dated 17th May 1880 from the Honorable the Minister of Militia and Defence, stating that Trumpeter Harry Leslie, late of "B" Battery, while employed at mortar practice at St. Helen's Island on the 23rd July 1875 (sic), was accidentally wounded in the leg by a fragment of a shell, that in consequence of this wound, his leg had to be amputated and that he died subsequently from the effects of the injury thus received in the discharge of his duty.

"The Minister, therefore, recommends that the compensation to which Trumpeter Leslie would have been entitled, had he lived, be now granted to his mother who depended on him for support and that a sum of three hundred dollars ($300) be paid her in full of all claims against the Government in this case.

"The Committee submit the above recommendation for Your Excellency's approval."

Signed by the Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, the memorandum was approved and counter-signed by the Governor-General, the Marquess of Lorne.

elipsis graphic

Accident Notice

Montreal Daily Witness; 31 July 1875

"A soldier by the name of Harry Leslie, while engaged at shell practice yesterday afternoon, received a severe injury on the knee from the explosion of one of the shells, a fragment of which bounded from a stone, inflicting the wound. He was conveyed to the Montreal General Hospital."

elipsis graphic

Obituary Notice

Montreal Daily Witness; 28 December 1875

"Leslie—[Died 27 December 1875] At the Montreal General Hospital from a wound received at mortar practice on St. Helen's Island, July 30th. Trumpeter Harry Leslie, B Battery, Canadian Artillery, aged 23 years and 10 months."

Harry Leslie is buried in Montreal's Mount Royal Cemetery.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 3 November 2015 12:04 AM EST
Monday, 2 November 2015

Rations at the Beginning of the 19th Century
Topic: Army Rations

Rations at the Beginning of the 19th Century

Inside the Regiment; The Officers and Men of the 30th Regiment During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Carole Divall, 2011

Not only was the soldier clothed by the army; he could also rely on being fed by the army, except under the most severe campaigning conditions or when the commissariat failed. These two difficulties came together during the final days of the retreat from Burgos when the supplies took the wrong route. No wonder men of the third and fourth divisions resorted to shooting pigs while others scrambled for acorns as their only hope of sustenance. Nor was this an isolated incident. The commissary attached to the third division during the Waterloo campaign also failed in his duty. As a result, on Wellington's order, 'Mr Deputy Assistant Commissary General Spencer [was] removed from the Commissariat for quitting the 3d Division to which he was attached, without leave during the important operations recently carrying on.'

The official daily ration was one and a half pounds of bread, a pound of meat (half a pound if it was pork), a quarter of a pint of pease, an ounce of butter or cheese, and an ounce of rice. Since not all of these were always available, considerable variations in this restricted diet are recorded. In addition, some battalions encouraged officers to supply their men with vegetables. Bread and meat were the most predictable items, but although the quantity remained the same the quality varied greatly. There were many horror stories of adulterated food, particularly bread. As for meat, a pound might be more bone than flesh.

Inspecting generals in the two-battalion period often commented approvingly on the quality of the meat supplied. In November 1813, while the second battalion was stationed in Jersey, it was reported that 'The meat and bread are furnished by contract, of a good quality', while sixth months later, in Flanders, the men's messing is well attended to, & the meat and bread issued is generally good.' In Vaumorel's inspection at Cannanore, we read that 'The men's messing [is] strictly attended to, and good as the supplies on the Malabar Coast will possibly admit of.'

On campaign, the meat was likely to be on the hoof until shortly before it found its way into the men's camp kettles, or alternatively it might be salted. As in so many aspects of military life which related to the comfort of the soldier, the French organised things rather better for their conscript army, so it is no wonder that the chance to eat what the French had left behind in the course of a hurried departure was eagerly accepted. This was the good fortune of the 2/30th along with the 2/94th, when they crossed the river into Sabugal in 1811, and broke into the recently vacated castle.

The daily drink allowance was five pints of small beer, which on campaign would be converted into whatever happened to be the local drink. The Portuguese wondered at the British soldiers' capacity for drinking the rough red wine which they themselves were reluctant to touch; while in India the native arrack was the cause of much indiscipline. There is evidence to suggest that some soldiers would willingly have starved themselves in order to have more money for drink, but for the system of messing which put men into groups who cooked and shared the food in rotation. This made it impossible for the individual soldier to forgo his food Furthermore, the officer of the day, as part of his duties, was required to inspect kettles at the hour appointed for cooking, while supervising messing arrangements was one of the general duties of all company officers.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 10 October 2015 7:08 PM EDT
Sunday, 1 November 2015

The Militia Way of Life; Training (1980s)
Topic: Canadian Militia

The Militia Way of Life; Training (1980s)

Canada's Militia; A Heritage at Risk, T.C. Willey, 1987 (Originally published under the title "A Heritage at Risk: The Canadian Militia as a Social Institution")

…it led me to wonder about the effectiveness of an artillery battery commander after a few days of this kind of life because I had always been taught that an officer should have more important things to do than look after himself.

On a Friday evening in May, the armory at Calgary, Alberta, was the center of a mighty thunderstorm, and the men and women of the Militia district were arriving after their day's work to load up for an exercise at the Suffield training area some two hundred miles away. The elements of an infantry battalion and an artillery battery were to defend a position against a live enemy provided by the armored regiment. The infantry was actually an under-strength company of about fifty, and the battery had about thirteen officers and other ranks for a total strength of about thirty, also, it was without any of its guns. The armored enemy were, like all their kind in 1980, borne in jeeps and numbered about thirty. The proceedings were timed to begin in the exercise area at midnight, but by this time only a few vehicles had arrived, and news came that the storm had delayed the main body's departure, so hurried plans were made to provide sleeping cover for the troops overnight, and the exercise was postponed until Saturday morning. By 0800 no breakfast rations had arrived, so there was a wait until the troops were fed, and it was nearing midday on Saturday before a cheerful group of officers was assembled for orders from the district commander, whose duties as a provincial court judge ended late the previous afternoon. He had spent the night with the rest, sleeping on the floor of a vehicle shed, but seemed none the worse for it, he described an invasion by "Fantasians" (who seemed to have connections with the USSR) that his troops would try to delay from positions to be dug into the bare hills five or six miles out in the plain.

And so about eight hours after the exercise had been planned to begin, the troops set off in bright sunshine for the plain. I accompanied my battery of six nonexistent guns to its first position where each was sited with proper care but in an unfortunate line with most of the vehicles, such that they would have been an attractive target for hostile aircraft. But no one seemed to worry about this because there was no "air situation" on this exercise, something that I found rather surprising. Despite the absence of guns, everyone took their jobs seriously, including the sentries who were posted over one hundred meters from the position ' to look out for infiltrating enemy.

It was late afternoon and things were happening very slowly; there was time to heat up the canned food, and just as it was ready a note of warlike realism was struck-an order to withdraw to new positions that were sought after we passed through the infantry who were digging slit trenches with fervor to await an expected assault during the night. I joined them with the battery commander, who was driving his own jeep and working his own radio set; for the last four hours of daylight, he had been planning fire support with the infantry while I walked round the troops noting their mood. With faces blacked and plenty of mud on their persons, they seemed to be enjoying the situation and were in what inspecting officers since time immemorial have called "good heart." Their CO, a lieutenant colonel who was normally a business executive, was taking the whole affair as real despite the handful of troops to defend a front of about four hundred meters, and I was reminded of the scene in so many other Militia situations across Canada where there is a senior officer handling a command that would usually be the lot of either a subaltern or, at most, a captain. But, as he said, "That's all I've got, and that has to be it."

I left them in their trenches with my battery commander, an environmental scientist in civilian life, and walked back about a mile to the new gun position that like its predecessor, awaited air attack and annihilation with equanimity because it was again pointed out that there is no air situation this time." More tinned food came and then the rain, which fell in torrents from dusk onward and a gale-force wind to boot. Because nothing was happening, I sought shelter in the back of a truck while the troops huddled in a tent that looked, and was, precarious. Much had been organized by a brisk and good-looking young woman sergeant, who, with the others, was much concerned for the comfort of the professor;' whose vulnerability to the storm was apparently taken to be great. So I was given the back of the truck despite my protests that I could sleep underneath; "what, and be crushed if the truck sinks in the mud" was the sage advice with which I did not argue. About midnight or later I heard my battery commander arriving, and I saw a solitary figure looking round in the rain for somewhere to put his bedroll. I wondered about the hot drink, food, and place to sleep with which I was provided by my team of driver and batman when I was in a like situation many years before. Again, I was reminded of a frequent Militia scene: the officers at all regimental levels doing for themselves just as their soldiers had to and so extolling the virtues of living as a democratic Army. As before, it led me to wonder about the effectiveness of an artillery battery commander after a few days of this kind of life because I had always been taught that an officer should have more important things to do than look after himself.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 31 October 2015

Airmen; RCAF, 1940
Topic: RCAF


The Air Force Guide (Chap. III. Sec. 25), by "Group Captain," Toronto, 1940

1.     Airmen should be distinguished from civilians by their smartness, cleanliness and sobriety, by their honesty and respect for authority, and by their cheerful readiness to carry on under difficulty. In short, their conduct at all times should be such as will honour the Force to which they have the honour to belong.

2.     Every airman is bound to render assistance to the civil or military police when called upon to do so, and will remain with them until he is told that he is no longer required.

3.     An airman is not permitted to take part in any political demonstration, nor to join in any procession, whatever its object. He will at all times avoid quarrels or disputes with civi1ians.

4.     An airman is responsible for keeping his arms, equipment, clothing and necessaries at all times in serviceable condition; he will not lend, make away with, alter or deface any article or portion of them without the permission of the Officer Commanding his unit, and he will be required to replace, at his own expense, any article which has become unserviceable or incorrect by his own action or neglect.

5.     Airmen will not waste or misuse their food. The habit of its careful use acquired in peace will be of utmost value in war.

6.     Airmen will sit down to all meals in clean fatigue dress without caps.

7.     When passing a funeral an airman will salute the body.

8.     While an airman is not permitted, in any way, to question an order which he receives, and has no choice at the time but to obey, he has the fullest and freest right of appeal to his Squadron Commander, and through him to his Commanding Officer, whenever he considers that he has suffered injustice, or has other ground for complaint. No Warrant or Non-Commissioned Officer is permitted, on any consideration, to impede an airman in the exercise of this right. An airman is not subject to punishment on the ground of his complaint being frivolous nor on anyother ground except that of willful misstatement. The subject of any complaint made by an airman must, however, relate solely to himself; he is not permitted to act as the leader or spokesman of others.


The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 30 October 2015

Topic: CEF


Trench Warfare; A Manual for Officers and Men,, J.S. Smith, Second Lieutenant with the British Expeditionary Force, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1917.

It is only under very exceptional circumstances that under-cutting a trench wall is allowed, and then the shelter should be cut in the rear wall only. These shelters must be carefully supervised and watched by the officer, as men are very often careless, with the result that the shelters are dug in a hurry and poorly. Then it rains, the shelter falls in, and the men are no more, It should be high enough for a man to sit up straight, and long enough for him to lie down in, and deep enough for two men to lie side by side. It should be raised at least a foot above the floor level in the trench to prevent water from the trench floor coming in. A shelter smaller than these dimensions is useless. It has a demoralizing effect, destroying all activity, mental and physical. These shelters can only be properly made by cutting into the rear trench wall the necessary depth and length and right to the top. Then, with any material which is convenient, such as corrugated iron, brush wood, old rubber sheets, revet the sides and back. A corrugated iron roof is supported on posts at a depth of about a foot to a foot and a half below the normal level of the ground. Then, when possible, cover this with rubber sheets. If not possible to procure rubber sheets, simply cover with dirt excavated from shelter, taking care that it does not rise higher than your parados.

A fire-trench, however, is not a proper place for shelters, and they are generally better as a weather protection than a shell-proof shelter. Even this should not be favored too much, as it tends to cause obstruction, delay and inconvenience in the passing of troops. The real dugouts for the accommodation of men holding a line are generally behind the fire-trenches in an immediate support line, or as in the case of T-bays, in the control trench and communication trenches leading to and from them. These are large dug-outs, having a depth of 30 and 40 feet, and in some cases capable of holding 100 to 250 men, generally having from 5 to 10 exits and entrances. Here the men stay during bombardments and are generally safe from any caliber shell which may light on top, unless a half dozen should light in the same particular spot.

This work is generally of a very skilled and technical kind. Plans, drawings and labor are supervised by the engineers, expert tunnelers being used in constructing work, although the infantry supplies working parties to dispose of the dirt, etc., resulting from these excavations and to carry the materials and tools needed and required in the construction.

The design and general scheme of a small dugout which can be made by the infantry under the supervision of an officer, without the aid of an engineer, are here given.

The dugout should be approximately 6 feet from floor to roof and about 8 feet wide, with an approximate length of 12 feet, thus allowing men to lie down and yet leave room for passage through. The width depends upon the number you intend to have occupy it. Each man requires 18". Depth to be dug below ground depends entirely to what extent you may raise the roof upon the ground without making an unduly exposed hump which will at once tell the enemy a dugout is there. The thickness of the roof should be approximately 6 feet, constructed with sideposts, cross beams, corrugated iron, water proof oilcloth, sandbags and soil. Sandbag revetments should be used in the strengthening of side posts. When possible, although hardly ever so, walls should be lined with waterproof oilcloth and entrances so placed that they get as much sun as possible.

Great care and attention must be given to these dugouts, and even though taking a little longer than seems necessary, care must be taken to see that they are substantially constructed, otherwise they are in a constant source of danger of cave-ins during heavy shelling and bad weather. Not more than 10 men should occupy one of these dugouts. Then, if accidents happen, your casualties are not so great.

The roof of these dugouts should be prepared in a manner tending to withstand as high shell shock as possible, and for this purpose the following table would be of some use, any part of which, or a combination of all, will give some idea of what is required.

Resistance of Roof Materials

(a)     Shrapnel bullets—Stout planks suitably supported and covered with corrugated iron and 12" of earth or 3" of shingle.

(b)     Ordinary guns of 3" caliber—Strong timber supporting 4 ft. of earth with a top layer of heavy stones or broken bricks to cause early shell burst.

(c)     Field howitzers (of less than 6" caliber)—12" logs, supporting 8 ft. of earth with top layer of heavy stones or broken brick and lightly covered over with some earth.

(d)     "Jack Johnsons"—20 ft. of earth or 10 ft. of cement concrete, reinforced with steel and covered over with a covering of heavy stone or broken brick.

It is very often the case that there is a line of trenches with very few dugouts. Those that exist are mainly occupied by first aid stations with a medical officer in charge, and officers' headquarters. When such is the case, very narrow, deep trenches, known as retirement trenches, are dug roughly from 20 to 50 yards behind the firing line, so that every one, except those on sentry duty, may retire there during the heavy shelling. It is very obvious that excellent communication must be kept up between trench and the firing line.

Joseph Shuter Smith

Joseph Shuter Smith was an American author born in Philadelphia in 1893. He spent his childhood in Alaska during the Gold Rush and spent his years before the Great War as a lumberjack, miner, surveyor and cowboy. In 1914, continuing his adventurous streak, he went to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, declaring his birthplace to be Port Hope, Ontario (with next of kin in Oakland, California). Smith enlisted with the 29th Canadian Infantry Battalion at Vancouver. He served in France and Belgium as a soldier in the CEF and, after being commissioned in August, 1916, as an officer of the British Army with The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment). He resigned his Imperial commission after a year to return to the US and enlist in the American Army. Joseph Smith also wrote the memoir: Over There and Back in Three Uniforms; Being the Experiences of an American Boy in the Canadian, British and American Armies at the Front and through No Man's Land.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 29 October 2015

Marching Like Majors
Topic: Humour

Marching Like Majors

Military News, The Daily Mail and Empire, Toronto, Ontario, 25 September 1897

In a certain New York regiment that was disbanded not many years ago were two field officers—the lieutenant-colonel and major—who, while they really thought a great deal of each other, never let an opportunity pass to give each other a sly dig. And, as under Upton's tactics, each field officer posted the guides or markers in successive formations, our two friends invariably insisted upon posting the other's guides, which naturally led to a great many hot disputes after the drill was over. While the posting of guides has no bearing on the point of the story it is simply cited to show the weak points of two otherwise excellent officers.

One evening at dress parade, while the regiment was in State camp, at the conclusion of the ceremony, and while the 1st sergeants were marching their respective companies off in the old echelon order, and the officers were, as usual, grouped in rear of the colonel, a lieutenant remarked to his captain:—"See, Co. H., coming up? They march like majors."

The major overhead this remark, and, turning to the lieutenant-colonel, who stood near-by, said:—"You hear that, colonel? Majors are the standard by which everything good is measured. You never hear anyone say they march like lieutenant-colonels; it is always like majors."

"My dear major," said the lieutenant-colonel "if a man is drunk, you never hear anyone say that he is drunk as a lieutenant-colonel. He is always drunk as a major."

It is needless to say the major subsided.

The Frontenac Times

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Military Estimates 1921
Topic: Canadian Army

The Military Estimates 1921

Debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada, Vol. CXLVIII, 1921

Dramatis personæ

Charles Gavan Power, MC, PC
Liberal, Quebec South

Major General William Antrobus Griesbach, CB, CMG, DSO
Unionist, Edmonton West

John Wesley Edwards, PC
Minister, Department of Health and Minister of Immigration and Colonization
Unionist, Frontenac

Fred Langton Davis
Unionist, Neepawa

Permanent Force, $6,255,000

Mr. Power: Before this item carries I should like to have obtained considerable information from the minister, but the time before six o'clock is too short. To bring the matter to a head, I move for the reduction of this Estimate by the sum of $2,000,000. In support of this reduction I argue as follows: We are asking for this large amount of $6,255,000 to maintain a Permanent Force, that is, a force of men who could all the year round be in uniform and be trained for warlike purposes. The force amounts in all to 3,800 men. The amount required to pay them at $1.75 per day—in contraindication to the $1.10 which the private soldier was paid during the war—would be $2,249,000.

Mr. Griesbach: What about the officers?

Mr. Power: I am coming to those in a moment. To board those soldiers would require something like $1,000,000, so that we would have to set apart about $3,500,000 for their pay and board. Now I come to the officers. We would have over $2,000,000 left to pay the officers. We have already paid nineteen generals and twenty-five or thirty colonels $265,000, and we are told that their duty consists in looking after this force. I fail to see why we should be called upon to pay an extra $2,000,000 to them. But, lest I be accused of preaching as a demagogue, I will give a further reason. Our Permanent Force of 3,800 men represents, roughly, one man for every mile of boundary line which divides us from our neighbours to the south. The Minister of Militia the other evening stated that he had cut down his Estimates to the lowest possible figure consistent with safety. When I asked him what danger he anticipated, he was unable to tell me. I am forced to conclude that the only danger he sees is the danger of aggression from our neighbour to the south. If he thinks 3,800 men are sufficient to defend us from that quarter, and soldier in the House will tell him that one man per mile is not sufficient. If this force is for training purposes—and I presume this is its principal purpose—I submit that we do not need to train soldiers at the present moment, for we have 400,000 of the best soldiers in the world that only two years ago returned from fighting in the greatest of all wars. They have learned how to fight on the bitterest of all fields, and they have become efficient enough to earn encomiums from the nations of the world. I do not say that as time goes on and these men disappear we will not have to replace them, and that we will not have to go in for further military training, but I submit that at the present moment, when we have no enemy either near or far to face, when, even if we had, we have a stronger and better disciplined and more efficient fighting organization in our returned men than we have ever in our history, when this organization can be called together in a matter of a few weeks to face any foe,—there is no necessity to incur this heavy military expenditure.

Mr. Edwards: Why does my honorable friend limit his cut to two million? Why does he not move that the whole item be eliminated?

Mr. Power: I limited the reduction to two millions because it was supposed to be necessary to have the skeleton on an army in case of any sudden uprising.

Mr. Edwards: My honorable friend is arguing that there is no such necessity.

Mr. Power: I argue that for the present there is no great necessity; is my honorable friend will back me up, of course, I will move to cut out the whole thing. If I cannot get his consent to that I would ask him to go with me a littler way in that direction.

Mr. Edwards: I feel very highly flattered to think that my honorable friend's judgment on military matters should be so influenced.

Mr. Power: My judgment in all matters in connection with parliamentary affairs is influenced a great deal by the way my honorable friend expresses himself and the way he votes. Ever since I came into this House I have followed his speeches and his views with considerable attention and have governed myself accordingly. For a number of years I have been endeavouring to obtain better treatment for the widowed mothers of soldiers. I am told that approximately $2,000,000 a year would well look after this class of our people who suffered through the war. I prefer that this $2,000,000 should be spent in this way rather than to train people to begin another war. My view is that before we embark on any further warlike or belligerent undertakings we should pay our debts to those who suffered as a result of the last war. Let is see that the widows and orphans of those who laid down their lives obtain something which shall prevent from having to scrape in order to earn a living. If honorable gentlemen opposite di not wish to spend this money, through pensions and re-establishment, for the benefit of widows and orphans, it could be devoted to the relief of the distress caused by unemployment and to look after the returned soldiers who so gallantly fought in the great war. If we did this we would alleviate in some degree the unrest and the bitter feeling which prevails among the returned men who since coming back to Canada have felt that promises were made to them during the war were made only to be broken. I move, Mr. Chairman, that this item be reduced by $2,000,000.

Mr. Guthrie: This item is reduced by a quarter of a million from the amount voted last year. It provides now for 4,000 rank and file and 412 officers, at an average of $1,350 each. My honorable friend's calculation is very wide of the mark. He has taken the basis of the pay of a private soldier only as a first-year man. He has allowed nothing for non-commissioned officers, nothing for the 950 horses we have to maintain, nothing for thirty or forty other items which he has not mentioned. We have already cut this item to the bone. In fact, unless there are some desertions during the summer, we may be just a little short. But in the hot weather there are always a certain number of desertions, and allowing for these the item will suffice, I trust, for the present fiscal year.

Mr. Davis: Where and in what numbers are the men of the Permanent Force stationed?

Mr. Guthrie: The following is a list of the military districts with the number of men at each:

  • No. 1, London, 261;
  • No. 2, Toronto, 580;
  • No. 3, Kingston, 435;
  • No. 4, Montreal, 321;
  • No. 5, Quebec 463;
  • No. 6, Halifax, 664;
  • No. 7, St. John, 82;
  • No. 10, Winnipeg, 512;
  • No. 11, Victoria, 409;
  • No. 12, Regina, 63;
  • No. 13, Calgary, 210.

Amendment (Mr. Power) negatived; yeas, 37, nays, 60.

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Hughes, The RCR, and Bermuda
Topic: The RCR

Hughes, The RCR, and Bermuda

Debates of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada, Vol;. CXX, 1915

The following is a statement by Major General Sam Hughes in the House of Commons on 25 March, 1915:—

"I have been charged with being unfriendly to the permanent corps. What I have done is see that the permanent corps get no favour over the militia corps. We are all the active militia of Canada. But when the war broke out it was my desire that the Royal Canadian Regiment should not go to the front as a unit but that some of the non-commissioned officers and certain of the officers of this corps should be distributed among the other regiments in order to give them the benefit of their training, because they are simply instructional corps. However, about this time the British Government—there is no harm in saying it—requested that we should send the Royal Canadian Regiment to Bermuda and release the Lincolnshire regiment then garrisoning Bermuda. We got the order, we recruited the regiment up to full strength by the addition of 400 or 500 men, and in four days that regiment was sailing for Bermuda, a feat of which my officers are very proud. They are there yet. If the British Government want them at the front all they have to do is ask them to go to the front and I am sure the Government of Canada would be only too pleased to accede to the request. From time to time and personally against the judgment of the regularly trained officers of the department I have been endeavouring to pick out some of these good fellows from that regiment and send them with other regiments; but the officers of that department think that the regiment should be kept intact as a body and that if they go to the front they should go as the Royal Canadian Regiment."

elipsis graphic

This was given by Hughes in reply to a question as to why Canada, after having spent so much maintaining a Permanent Force infantry regiment, should send them off to Bermuda at the outset of the war instead of to the front. Hughes' reply admits to not only his original intent to break up The Royal Canadian Regiment within the First Contingent, but following attempts to drain off the experienced non-commissioned officers and men for his own purposes. Also implied is his readiness to leave the Royal Canadian Regiment in Bermuda until such time as the British Government "asks them to go to the front," at which time Canada might agree to the request. Hughes may be claiming that the perceived "unfriendliness" toward the Permanent Force was simply his attempt at "fairness," but by his own admission he made efforts to prevent The Royal Canadian Regiment from being employed as a fighting unit. In the end, his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, and The Royal Canadian Regiment reached France in November, 1915, as part of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade in the 3rd Canadian Division.

The Royal Canadian Regiment in the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 26 October 2015

Officers; Responsibility (RCAF, 1940)
Topic: Officers

Officers; Responsibility

The Air Force Guide (Chap. IV. Sec. 28.), by "Group Captain," Toronto, 1940

Responsibility.—The late Field Marshal Lord Wolseley said: "An inefficient officer is a swindle upon the public."

i.     An officer is responsible at all times for the maintenance of good order and the rules and discipline of the service. K.R. (Air) 44.

Good discipline is the outward sign of a well-trained unit. Nothing is so indicative of a poor unit as careless saluting. All ranks should realize that the salute when given, is a tribute to the King's Commission and its smart acknowledgment a mark of mutual esteem and goodwill. Furthermore, it is a breach of regulation to fail to salute when required to by the King's Regulations and Orders. K.R. (Air) 1783-1793.

ii.     Junior officers when in uniform must be most meticulous in saluting officers of Field rank (Squadron Commander or above) and of acknowledging with a proper full salute compliments paid to them by other ranks. K.R. (Air) 1793.

iii.     Officers will salute those officers of the Royal Navy and the Army, when in uniform, who would be saluted by individuals of corresponding ranks in their own service. K.R. (Air) 1789.

iv.     When in civilian clothes, a junior officer meeting a field officer will raise his hat and will acknowledge in the same way any compliments paid him by other ranks.

v.     When in uniform, an officer never raises his head-dress. This is an unpardonable error.

vi.     It is important for officers to gain the confidence and respect of their men. This, for the most part, is a matter of psychology. It can best be achieved by paying particular attention to their comfort and welfare, by studying their individual characters and treating them accordingly, and by being scrupulously fair in dispensing reward and punishment. Air-men do not respect the indolent soft-hearted officer who makes light of discipline; indecision and inconsistency will never command their confidence.

vii.     If an officer sees that his airmen are well clothed, well fed, well housed, kept busy during working hours and able to enjoy suitable amusements when off parade, he has gone a lone way to discharging his responsibility in this regard.

viii.     A non-commissioned officer should never be reproved within hearing of his juniors.

ix.     Officers may, on occasion, accept the formal hospitality of the Serjeant's Mess, but under no circumstances should individual visits be paid to drink with their non-commissioned officers.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 25 October 2015

"Circus Day"
Topic: Discipline

"Circus Day"

Military News, The Daily Mail and Empire, Toronto, Ontario, 25 September 1897
(From the London Daily Mail)

A good many strange things have been done in the name of discipline; but for sheer eccentricity a usage that has just been introduced at Foston Barracks, the headquarters of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, Portsmouth Division, would be very hard to beat.

A week or so back some privates of the corps saluted an officer whom they met in the street in what he deemed to be a slovenly fashion. He reported the matter, with the result that a few days later a number of non-commissioned officers were stationed on the road outside the barracks, and each of these the men had to salute as they passed. This, however, did not satisfy the adjutant, who has substituted for it what the men have not inaptly dubbed "a circus day." This comes every Friday, the day on which the corps is paid. The men go to the pay-office in companies, and it is after they have got their money that the circus begins. After leaving the pay-office each man of a company—the old hands are trotted around as well as the recruits—has to walk around the barrack square, which is lined with sergeants, each of whom the men have to salute.

Every man has to carry an article of clothing on his arm, and each time that he salutes this said article has to be shifted from one arm to the other. In the middle of the barracks square stands the adjutant—or "the ringmaster," as the men describe him—who narrowly watches each man. Should anyone fail to salute in a manner satisfactory to the adjutant, the delinquent has to trot round a second time. And should he not acquit himself to the adjutant’s liking on the second round he is called into the centre of the square and given a special lesson by the "ringmaster" himself in the whole art and mystery of saluting.

"Circus day" has now been established for the past three weeks, and at first the novelty of the sight—it is an amusing one enough except to the poor "jollies"—attracted large numbers of spectators. Last Friday, however, the colonel-commandant gave orders that the public should be shut out, and the "circus" went on in strict privacy within the barrack square. The introduction of this extraordinary and unprecedented saluting parade into the ordinary routine as created much dissatisfaction in all ranks.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 24 October 2015

In the Trenches
Topic: CEF

In the Trenches

Trench Warfare; A Manual for Officers and Men, J.S. Smith, Second Lieutenant with the British Expeditionary Force, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1917.

On relieving the fire trenches, the men should make no noise, and rifles must be carried so that they do not show over the parapet. This is necessary even if enemy's trenches are at a distance, as there is always the possibility of a listening or observation post being quite near.

Each man should pair off with one of the party occupying the trench and find out from him any points which may be useful.

A commander should consult the officer or N.C.O. in charge of the outgoing party and obtain the fullest information possible in connection with the position. Particular points on which information should be obtained from the outgoing officer are generally:

(a)     behavior of enemy during period preceding relief and any point in their requiring special information, such as enemy may have cut wire as though preparing line to attack;

(b)     machine gun implacement may be suspected at some particular point;

(c)     anything ascertained by patrols about ground between firing lines, thus avoiding unnecessary reconnoissance

(d)     any standing arrangement for patrols at night, including point at which wire can best be passed, ground to be patrolled, or place where they can lie under cover;

(e)     any parts of trench from which it is not safe to fire. Such positions are apt to occur in winding trenches, and are not always recognizable in the dark;

(f)     special features of trench, recent improvements, work not completed, dangerous points (on which enemy machine guns are trained at night), useful loopholes for observation;

(g)     places from which wood and water can be safely obtained;

(h)     amount of ammunition, number of picks, shovels and empty sandbags in that section of the line.

Information on these points cannot always be given by word of mouth. Written notes and plans should, therefore, be handed over to a platoon commander taking over for the first time.

In the meantime the incoming party should fix bayonets and all go temporarily on sentry at posts taken over. Occasional shots should be fired, so that the enemy's suspicions may not be roused. The outgoing party then starts back, and when clear, the relieving party should be numbered off and sentries posted and dugouts allotted. When practicable sentries should be taken from the dugout closest to his post.

By day the number of sentries varies, butshould not be less than one in six. The platoon sergeant is responsible for changing sentries, who are generally not on duty more than one hour at a time, unless under exceptional circumstances. When the maximum amount of labor must be obtained from the battalion holding the line, sentry duty is of any length that fits in with working arrangements. Every man must see that he has a good clear position for all directions. Section commanders must satisfy themselves that men have done this and reported such. When these arrangements are completed, word must be quietly passed down for men not on sentry to stand clear, and they are all not in that position again until the "Stand to" hours, generally the hour nearest dusk and the hour before dawn.

After dark, unless the moon is bright, rifles should be kept in a firing position on the parapet, and all men not on duty should keep rifles with bayonets fixed while in the trench.


Continuous survey of the enemy's lines through disguised steel loopholes should be made when the trenches are being held for any lengthy period, and such loopholes must always be sideways. Sites may be chosen by day, and made and disguised by night. Two steel loopholes about 3 yards apart enable a man with leveled rifle to wait by one while another with field glasses watches for target through the other. An observer watching persistently through glasses in complete security should make himself so familiar with the look of the opposite trenches as to enable him to observe any alteration in the enemy's wire entanglements, or notice immediately if a new sap has been run out from the enemy trenches under cover of night. He should watch points suspected of being machine gun implacements, and especially at night when the flashes can be detected. Observers should be told what marks, etc., to look for on men exposing themselves, and any result of these observations at once reported to the officer or N.C.O.


A platoon commander should make frequent examination of trenches; at least once daily, go around with platoon sergeant and section commanders and decide on the necessary work to be done. Section commanders are responsible for carrying it out.

Before handing over a trench, a platoon commander should make a rigorous inspection to see that it is as clean as possible and that latrines are left in a satisfactory state. This includes the removal of old tins, paper, scraps of food, etc., which should be buried or burned, if possible. Empty cartridges should also always be kept cleared out, as they get imbedded in trench floors and hinder subsequent digging.

Joseph Shuter Smith

Joseph Shuter Smith was an American author born in Philadelphia in 1893. He spent his childhood in Alaska during the Gold Rush and spent his years before the Great War as a lumberjack, miner, surveyor and cowboy. In 1914, continuing his adventurous streak, he went to Canada and enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, declaring his birthplace to be Port Hope, Ontario (with next of kin in Oakland, California). Smith enlisted with the 29th Canadian Infantry Battalion at Vancouver. He served in France and Belgium as a soldier in the CEF and, after being commissioned in August, 1916, as an officer of the British Army with The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment). He resigned his Imperial commission after a year to return to the US and enlist in the American Army. Joseph Smith also wrote the memoir: Over There and Back in Three Uniforms; Being the Experiences of an American Boy in the Canadian, British and American Armies at the Front and through No Man's Land.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 23 October 2015

Checking the State of the Rations
Topic: Humour

Checking the State of the Rations

Military News, The Daily Mail and Empire, Toronto, Ontario, 18 September 1897

The following story, related by Sir Evelyn Wood, in the English Illustrated, is thought to be quite too delicious:—

"I have said," remarks the distinguished writer, "that soldiers are much better behaved than they were when I entered the service. They are certainly more intelligent, with the increase of education, but nevertheless they are still sufficiently drilled into automation-like procedure and rigid obedience as occasionally to produce a comical situation. Four years ago, when in command of the Aldershot Division, I was riding past a regimental cook-house. I had been taking considerable interest in the preparation of the men's rations, and, seeing a soldier coming out of a cook-house with his mess-tin and what appeared to be very thin soup a few minutes before one o'clock, when the dinner bugle had only just sounded, I ordered the man to halt, and another man to bring me a spoon from the cook-house. 'Hand me up that tin,' said I, and the man obeyed and stood motionless while I tasted the liquid. Getting rid of it as rapidly as possible, I said, 'It appears to me to be nothing but dirty water,' when the man answered, with the most stolid gravity, 'Please, sir, that's what it is; I am washing the tin out.'"

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 22 October 2015

Load Bearing Equipment Tips, Vietnam, 1970
Topic: Drill and Training

Load Bearing Equipment Tips

Combat Recon Manual, Republic of Vietnam; 1970
Prepared by Project (B-52) Delta, H.Q. NhaTrang
Detachment B-52; 5th Special Forces Group (Abn), 1st Special Forces

1.     Be sure that all snaps and buckles are taped. Do not use paper tape.

2.     Place triangular bandages (in original containers) in the ammo pouches. This makes it easier to remove magazines, and increases the first-aid capability of your unit.

3.     Cut the front corners of ammo pouches 1/2"-3/4" to make it easier to remove magazines during the rainy season. Also have 2 magazines with pull-tabs in each pouch. If they are available, use canteen covers to carry magazines rather than ammo pouches. They hold more magazines, are easier to open and you won't need so many pouches hanging from your web gear.

4.     Tie a string or lanyard between M-79 and web belt so you won't lose it when firing the M16.

5.     Keep your URC-10 secured to your harness during use. If lost with the beeper on, it will negate oil other signals on that frequency until the battery runs down.

6.     Always carry some type of knife on patrol.

7.     Snap links should be secured around the shoulder harness. NOT on the cloth loops.

8.     For survival, each individual should carry. in a first aid pouch on the harness one tube of bouillon cubes, one tube of salt tablets and one bottle of water purification tablets. One bullion tube in one canteen of water, when dissolved will give energy for one or two days.

9.     All team members should carry a mixture of fragmentation, CS and WP grenades on their belts for the following reasons:

a.     Fragmentation grenades are good for inflicting casualties.

b.     CS grenades are ideal for stopping or slowing down enemy troops pursuing your team. In addition they will stop dogs from pursuing you in wet weather when CS powder will dissipate due to wetness.

c.     WP grenades have a great psychological effect against enemy troops and can be used for the same purpose as CS Grenades. The use of CS and WP at the some time will more than double their effectiveness.

10.     Smoke grenades should be carried in or on the pack and not on the web gear or harness You don't fight with smoke grenades and if you need one, 99 times out of 100, you will have time to get it from your pack.

11.     Fold paper tape through the rings of grenades and tape the ring to the body of the grenade. The paper tape will tear for fast use, where plastic or cloth tape will not. Also it keeps the ring open for your finger, stops noise and prevents snagging.

12.     12. Camouflage grenades using black or OD spray paint.

13.     Do not bend the pins on the grenades flat. The rings are too hard to pull when needed.

14.     Make continuous daily checks on all grenades when on patrol, to ensure that the primer is not coming unscrewed.

15.     Each team should carry one thermite grenade for destruction of equipment, either friendly or enemy.

16.     Do not carry grenades on the upper portion of your harness because the enemy will shoot at them trying to inflict several casualties with one shot.

17.     Sew a long slim pocket on the side of your rucksack to accommodate the long antenna.

18.     Ensure that the snap link on your rucksack is snapped through the loop in the upper portion of your rucksack's carrying straps so that you won't lose it during extraction if you have to snap it on a ladder or McGuire Rig.

19.     Insect repellent leaks and spills easily, therefore, isolate it from your other equipment in the rucksack. Also squeeze air from repellent container and screw on cap firmly.

20.     An indigenous poncho and / or a ground sheet along with a jungle sweater and a rain jacket are sufficient for sleeping.

21.     A claymore bag, sewn onto the top flop of the rucksack is extremely useful to carry binoculars, extra handsets, camera or URC-10, prepared or any other special equipment. This gives easy access to those items while on patrol or when you have to ditch the rucksack.

22.     Keep smoke grenades on rucksack between pockets.

23.     Always use the water from canteens in or on your rucksack before using water in the canteens on your belt. This will ensure a supply of water should you lose your rucksack.

24.     Test straps on the rucksack before packing for each patrol. Always carry some parachute cord or repair strap on patrol.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 21 October 2015

"Tommy Atkins"
Topic: British Army

"Tommy Atkins"

The best and strongest argument against "Tommy Atkins" is that, for some reason, from Commander-in-Chief to private, nobody likes the name.

Military News, The Daily Mail and Empire, Toronto, Ontario, 25 September 1897
(From the Broad Arrow)

Many people share Lord Wolseley's opinion that it is a piece of impertinence to call the private soldier "Tommy Atkins." It is a mistake to suppose that it is equally applied to the non-commissioned officer, rather it is a distinguishing mark between the two. Yet that opinion is far from universal, for when the term is used it is rarely, if ever, in an offensive sense. It runs through Barrack Room Ballads and in this month's issue of the United Service Magazine five different writers on military subjects employ the alleged opprobrious appellation, viz., a military critic, a civilian, an old colonel of the Sutlej days, and two army chaplains. It cannot therefore be supposed for one instant that the five are guilty of intentional insult. In what then does the offence consist? We have in the sister service the "Jack Tar," shortened to "Jack" for daily use, and the song says, "They all love Jack." The corresponding name for the soldier—taking Thomas as the starting point—would be "Tom Pipe-clay," but there is no rule in this manner of nicknames. They crop up like mushrooms without ever having been sown, although "Tommy" is clearly the outcome of the Thomas Atkins of officialdom, the invention of the War Office itself. The public made it "Tommy," not "Tom"; it is conceivable they might have made the "John" of the navy into "Jacky," but "Jack," being more euphonious, was adopted. If we have "Blue Jackets" we should also have "Red Coats" and "Blue Coats," but we have not got beyond "Tommies." At the same time there is nothing sacred about the name; apparently it is out of fashion and opposed to the conspicuous refinement of the fast-vanishing days of the nineteenth century, and therefore the sooner it is dropped the better. But who can say what will follow? Not a reversion, it is to be hoped, to "sodger," which was current before the more familiar and friendly "Tommy" came into general use. Once upon a time it used to be "Gentlemen of the First Life Guards, draw your swords," Are we coming to that form of command once more? Perhaps the phonetic " ‘Tshun" may be replaced by "Soldiers of the First Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders, Ross-shire Buffs, the Duke of Albany's, have the kindness to come to attention." The best and strongest argument against "Tommy Atkins" is that, for some reason, from Commander-in-Chief to private, nobody likes the name. It is only popular outside the service; whilst in the navy "Jack" is popular throughout, afloat and ashore, with the poet and the writer of prose, and with the public generally. Once there is a suspicion that "tommy" is an intentionally uncomplimentary mode of referring to our soldiers, soldiers, at all events, should drop it.

[In a brief piece on sailors' nicknames for naval things, in the same issue of this paper, it is noted that: "Jack Tar" is a creation of the landsman, and is never used in the naval service.]

elipsis graphic

Military News, The Daily Mail and Empire, Toronto, Ontario, 25 September 1897

Military Editor, Mail and Empire:

Sir,— In your column today you reproduce an article from the Broad Arrow advising all, particularly soldiers, to drop the name "Tommy Atkins," as applied to British infantry men. If the origin of the name was as it is given by a writer in the Navy and Army Illustrated of September 3rd in an article on "Zeal in the Army," then it is a name to be proud of. The following extract may interest your readers:—

"In 1857, when the Sepoys at Lucknow mutinied, some Europeans fled to the Residency, pursued by the rebels. On their way they encountered a private of the 32nd (now 1st Batt., Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry), on sentry duty at an outpost, and told him to fly. He stoutly refused to quit his post until properly relieved. Before that time he was numbered among those who fell on that memorable day. That gallant man's name was Thomas Atkins. All through the terrible mutiny if at any time a man especially distinguished himself by any deed of bravery his comrades used to call him "a regular Tommy Atkins,"

and it was thus the name of the hero was handed down to posterity.

Yours, etc., Veteran

Peterborough, Sept. 18.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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