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The Minute Book
Saturday, 30 May 2015
Militia Is Reorganized (1936)
Topic: Canadian Militia

Non-Permanent Active Militia Is Reorganized

1936

The Evening Citizen, Ottawa; 15 December 1936

Reorganization of Canada's non-permanent active militia has been completed, and as it emerges from the crucible the new form of the Dominion's citizen soldiers is greatly dwarfed in respect of units but sturdily consistent as far as personnel are concerned.

Last night Hon. Ian Mackenzie, minister of national defence, released the whole plan involving the reorganization of the non-permanent active forces. These contemplate restriction of units but are compensated by compactness in efficiency. They also elevate the militia from the prospective to the actual.

In brief, the militia is cut down with respect to paper units. Regiments which previously existed in the militia list only on paper entirely disappear. Those which persevered strongly in the piping times of peace remain, some of them amalgamated with others, it is true, but still with enough preserved in their new name to identify them with their former lustre.

The last thing to complete the reorganization was the finding of a name for the amalgamated Royal Grenadiers of Toronto and the Toronto Regiment.

A compromise was established in re-naming the new unit "The Royal Regiment of Toronto Grenadiers." This was an 11th hour adjustment which the minister made.

System is Drastic

So far as units are concerned, the Mackenzie system is drastic, and has been in process of organization for a year. Reorganization of the non-permanent active forces was the one big problem which confronted the minister when he assumed office last year, and since then the entire department has been working to effect the adjustments now announced by Mr. Mackenzie.

The new militia is reduced from 36 cavalry regiments to 20, of which four are armored car regiments.

The 135 infantry regiments are whittled to 91. These are made up of 59 rifle battalions, 20 machine gun battalions and six tank battalions.

Artillery is increased by 52 new units. Field artillery batteries wil henceforth number 110, and increase of 41; medium batteries are increased from 25 to 31. The heavy batteries remain as at present, two, while the coast brigades are unaltered at two. However, anti-aircraft units are increased from one, plus two sections, to six, plus two sections, an increase of five.

Minister's Statement

In his statement announcing the reorganization, the minister said:

"In effecting reorganization of the non-permanent active militia the following principles were followed:

"1.     Reduction of the establishment to dimensions consistent with what could be mobilized and maintained, having regard to population and financial ability.

"2.     Adoption of forms of organization appropriate to modern mechanized equipment.

"3.     Distribution of units (as to strength and character of service) in proportion to density of population and the dominant occupational characteristics in the various areas.

"4.     Desirability of limiting to a minimum the disturbance of existing units; efficient units surplus to future requirements being permitted to convert to other and necessary types.

"5.     Preservation in new and amalgamated units of the battle honors, traditions, and, part at least, of the names of former units.

"6.     Full consultation with the military districts and local militia officers."

According to Districts

On the last point the minister explained headquarters had allotted to each military district the number and types of various arms and services appropriate to that district. Responsibility for detailed proposals as to the best utilizations of the approved organization within the district devolved upon the district officer commanding.

Results were attained by consultations for the district officer commanding with the officers of the units affected. Final decisions were approved by headquarters. In almost every case it was found possible to arrive at results by agreements, he added.

"In only one or two instances, where agreement could not be attained, was it considered necessary to make a decision at National Defence Headquarters," said the minister, "I am confident, however, that the decisions reached will now be loyally accepted and carried out in a spirit of good will.

Reorganization Steps

The statement contained an account of the following steps leading up to the reorganizations and an analysis of the changes effected:

Immediately after the war, establishment of the Canadian militia was set at 11 divisions and four cavalry divisions.

In 1931 an international disarmament conference was summoned to meet at Geneva on Feb. 8, 1932. Canada, faced with the necessity of filing data at this conference, notified the secretariat that in future her land forces would be limited to six divisions, one cavalry division and certain fortress and ancillary troops.

Although this decision was made by the government in 1931, no instructions to put it into effect were issued up to the time when the present minister too office on Oct, 23, 1935.

On Dec. 4, 1935, a report was laid before the minister, containing a suggested scheme for reorganization. The minister thereupon gave instructions to proceed.

A Few Units Disbanded

The reorganization is now completed. A few inactive units have been disbanded. Thirty-six cavalry regiments have been reduced to 16 cavalry regiments and four armoured car regiments.

A total of 135 infantry and machine gun battalions have been reduced to 59 rifle battalions, 26 machine gun battalions, and six tank battalion.

By conversion of cavalry and infantry units, the Royal Canadian Artillery has been increased by 41 field batteries, six medium batteries, and five anti-aircraft batteries.

Some new batteries have not yet been organized. These will be set up only as conditions in the districts require them.

Authority has been given for establishment of the Royal Canadian Engineers to 26 additional companies.

R.C.C. of Signals

On complete reorganization the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals consists of one cavalry signals, six divisional signals (two of which are distributed among several districts), two corps signals and several smaller types of units.

On reorganization each divisional army service corps is to consist of one ammunition company, one petrol company, one supply column (maintenance companies are no longer required).

In the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps 13 surplus units, most of them inactive, have been disbanded. Officers are being reposted to remaining units.

The following other branches of the services have been reorganized. The Royal Canadian Army Ordnance Corps, the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, and the Canadian Postal Corps.

Canadian Army Battle Honours


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 29 May 2015
Common Requirements; Second Lieutenant (1941)
Topic: Officers

Common Requirements; Second Lieutenant

Canadian Army Training Pamphlet No. 8; How to Qualify, 1941

Part I – Common to All Arms
For Rank of 2nd Lieutenant (R.F.)

Organization

In general.—

  • Characteristics of combatant arms and their weapons.
  • Functions of administrative services.
  • Organization and system of command in the Canadian Army in Canada.
  • Organization of the following units of a division—Artillery—Engineers—Signals—Recce. battalion—M.G. battalion.

In particular.—

  • Organization of an infantry battalion.
  • Functions of divisional R.C.A.S.C., Light Aid Detachments R.C.O.C., Field Ambulance.

Map Reading

Definitions, conventional signs, map references and co-ordinates. Con­struction of simple scales. Methods of indicating relief. Slopes. Inter­visibility. Use of compass and protractor. Setting a map. Enlarge­ments. Preparation for night marching.

Field Engineering

Construction of weapon pits and developing these as part of a defended post; construction of wire obstacles and road blocks; use of natural cover; organization of working parties and division of responsibility for work.

Care of Men

Maintenance of morale and esprit de corps, maintenance of health; provision of clothing, arms and equipment and maintenaince of these at local headquarters and in camp. Subject matter of Infantry Section Leading, Ch. II.

Training

Sources of reference—Army Training Pamphlets, memos, manuals. Preparation of lectures on subjects common to all arms.

Administration

  • Duties of orderly officers and N. C. O.'s.
  • Water supply and sanitation.

Military Law

Nature and purpose of military law-legal position of officers and soldiers. The Militia Act. Arrest and military custody. Redress of grievances.

Drill

Squad drill, Arms drill, Platoon drill as given in M.T.P. No. 18, Secs. 2, 3, 6 and 7.

Use of Arms, Tactics, etc.

A thorough knowledge of the contents of "Infantry Section Leading" chapters IV to XI (inclusive) and chapter XIV.

elipsis graphic

The foregoing describes the common requirements for qualification to be appointed as a Second Lieutenant. In addition to these, more in depth knowledge or applicable technical knowledge was required depending on the branch of the service the officer was joining.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 28 May 2015
Lord Wolseley on Cavalry
Topic: Tradition

Lord Wolseley on Cavalry

The Montreal Gazette, 20 Auguest 1892

Lord Wolseley, writing in the March number of the United Service Magazine says:

"This is not the place to discuss the advisability or the possibility of making our splendid cavalry learn to be as efficient as foot soldiers as they are now as cavalry. I, for one, don't believe in the military Jack-of-all-arms, and I feel the result would be a failure. The man would have the efficiency of neither arm. We persuade our foot soldiers that they are more than a match for the finest men on the finest horses, and we teach our cavalry that if they will only ride home no infantry can stand against them. But what is to be the faith we are to instil into this hybrid soldier? He will have no confidence in himself on foot or on horseback, and the soldier without implicit faith in his own arm is a poor creature. I strongly recommend that those who wish to pursue this subject to read Modern Cavalry by my old friend and comrade, Col. G.T. Denison."

Lord Wolseley, also in the same magazine, says:

"In all epochs the Horse have naturally thought themselves superior to the Foot. A name has often much to do with the fighting of soldiers; and if a man is proud of the official designation given to his arm of the service, no one but an idiot who had to get hard work out of the arm would have any other, no matter how technically wrong such a title might be. You cannot make the cavalry soldier or the mounted soldier, whatever may be his functions in war, think too highly if himself. His training teaches him that he belongs, as it were, to the aristocracy of the army, and places him in a position far above that of what the Indian Service terms the "Peidal Wallah." This feeling was given full vent to in a cavalry song of the period, when Forrest, Fitzhugh, Lee, Morgan, Sheridan, Stewart, and other leaders of mounted troops were justly the popular heroes of the day. I can only remember the refrain, which ran thus:—

"If you want to smell hell, just jine the Cavalry—jine the Cavalry!"

elipsis graphic

Jine the Cavalry

Chorus:

If you want to have a good time, jine the cavalry!
Jine the cavalry! Jine the cavalry!
If you want to catch the Devil, if you want to have fun,
If you want to smell Hell, jine the cavalry!

Verses:

We're the boys who went around McClellian,
Went around McClellian, went around McClellian!
We're the boys who went around McClellian,
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!

We're the boys who crossed the Potomicum,
Crossed the Potomicum, crossed the Potomicum!
We're the boys who crossed the Potomicum,
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!

Then we went into Pennsylvania,
Into Pennsylvania, into Pennsylvania!
Then we went into Pennsylvania,
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!

The big fat Dutch gals hand around the breadium,
Hand around the breadium, hand around the breadium!
The big fat Dutch gals hand around the breadium,
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!

Ol' Joe Hooker, won't you come out of The Wilderness?
Come out of The Wilderness, come out of The Wilderness?
Ol' Joe Hooker, won't you come out of The Wilderness?
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 27 May 2015
Digging a Trench Under Fire
Topic: CEF

Digging a Trench Under Fire is Regular Task for Tommy Atkins

The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington, 20 March 1916
(Augustus Muir in the London Daily Mail.)

It is with the first clink of pick and shovel that the real danger begins. As soon as the Boches realize that out in front something is doing they get busy, and 10 rounds rapid become too frequent for health. Digging—feverish digging—is the order of the night.

It was the brigade major who began it. I remember the morning distinctly. He came round one the traverse with a periscope in his hand, a staff captain at his heels, and made an exhaustive survey of the ground in front.

"Bad field of fire," he muttered, "The Boches must be 400 yards away just here; but there's ground in front we can't see—dead ground. Bad field of fire altogether."

"Rotten," agreed the staff captain, "The hollow could hide a couple of companies of the Boches in case of an attack. Now if we put an advance trench out there——"

"Just what I was going to say," said the brigade major. "Just what I've brought you here to see. We'll mention it to the brigadier this afternoon."

In the afternoon the brigadier came down the trench.

"Ex–actly," said the brigadier, in his neat, precise accents, "Ex–actly." He turned to the C.O. of our battalion. "What do you think of it, colonel?"

"Quite agree," said the colonel.

Few Words Set Machinery Going

And that was all that was said; thus ran a few short sentences set a vast machinery at work: The little neat brigadier's "Ex–actly!" was like pressing the button which controlled an immense restrained activity.

Satisfied, the group of officers moved down the trench, leaving behind them the disturbing knowledge that something was about to happen.

That evening we got our orders, and by the morning Tommy knew what the making of an advance trench meant.

A "covering party" is picked. They are put under command of an outstanding N.C.O.—a man who has been tried in the fire of achievement and has been found reliant. Their duties are hazardous and vital. On them devolves the strain of providing a protective screen between the Boches and our working party, which is about to go out. They must lie in the open, watching, waiting, alert, untiring, should they chance to run into a little patrol their work must be short, sharp and to the point. There can be no dallying when it's one's own skin—or that of Fritz. And they must use the bayonet only; for to fire would be but to disclose their locality to a dozen enemy machine guns waiting to belch forth lead.

Ticklish Job of the Patrol

When the hour appointed draw near, these picked men get ready. They stand waiting, cigarette in mouth, for their orders to move. There are the crisp thudding of a maxim down the line, and occasional quick crackle of rifle fire, and the angry roar of bursting shrapnel in the distance. "Patrol ready, Corporal?" The corporal signifies assent; cigarettes are pout out; bayonets are fixed; equipments buckled, and with a last "Cheer-ho!" the covering party clamber over the parapet of the trench and are gone.

Ten or fifteen minutes later a dark figure crawls back, appears for a swift moment against the night sky, and drops with a spatter of mud in the trench. It is the officer. He reports to the company captain that he has "placed" the patrol; that all is ready for the working party. The external order to "Carry on" is given. The next moment a long string of men scramble from the cloggy depths of the trench and follow their officer into the land of unexplored mysteries; the Dead Country; that grey desolation, fraught with unimagined horrors, where the dead are lying; that Long Road which runs from the splashing sea near Dunkirk on the east—for all the world like a vast, grim, black ribbon flung carelessly across Europe.

Function of the Sandbags

Every man bears a sandbag' they are the essence of the whole business. Without them the earlier stages in the making of an advance trench could no more be accomplished than could the completion. The company captain confers with a subaltern; crouching in the open, he gives whispered counsel. "Start here with the trench and make for the outline of that tree; I'll get Kennedy to work toward you with his platoon. You can touch in with each other."

"Right," says the subaltern as his company captain glides out of earshot. "Now then, first man, hand me your sandbag." The subaltern selects his spot and places the sandbag on it. "Hand your bags along the line—pass back the order," Ad so the sandbags travel along the human chain, which stretches back to the firing line and beyond it to a clay pit, where a pack of perspiring Tommies are groveling in the earth and filling the little squat squares of stitched canvas as if their lives depended on their energy. But neither the sweating fellows who fill them nor the subaltern, who lays therm amid the zipping bullets have time to ponder the unique romance residing in these little greyt sandbags, fashioned perchance by some woman's hands in the tranquil firelight of a quiet hearth. Some day—iuf the war spares him—some poet will sing the deathless lyric of sandbags and other mundane things of trench life, but the time is not yet.

Moving toward his left, the subaltern plots out the future trench with its traverses and cover. He needs the eye of a cat for the job, because where the ground is unsuitable the trench must avoid it, and swerve backwards or forward. Half-an-hour's work and his colleague heaves in sight. "I'll touch in with you now," says the subaltern; they place the last few sandbags, and the long line, laid unerringly in the darkness, meets ion the center. The advance trench is happed out.

When the Real Danger Begins

It is with the first clink of pick and shovel that the real danger begins. As soon as the Boches realize that out in front something is doing they get busy, and 10 rounds rapid become too frequent for health. Digging—feverish digging—is the order of the night. Your arms are aching, you head is splitting, you want to lie down and rest forever; but, urged by the knowledge that they must occupy the trench in three days, the men settle down to it with braced sinews. A flare goes up in the night, making a lurid green scar in the sky and falling 20 yards away. Picks and shovels are dropped and Platoon Fifteen lies hugging the wet earth, barely daring to twitch an eyelid. As soon as the flare burns out they are at it again like clustering bees. With "Stand to!" an hour before dawn comes the order to retire. The men file back, thanking their stars that they even have a trench to come home to—after all there is no place like home. Picks and shovels are stored. The officer creeps out and recalls the patrol.

Death Takes Its Toll

Dawn comes, and with it repose and respite, till night relentlessly drags them forth again to face the machine guns that have been paid during the day on the fresh sandbags. Casualties? These are but little incidents in the great adventure. Two nights pass and often a quick cry has told someone's mates that he is passing from them! Casualties? The subaltern puts a black stroke against each man in his platoon roll, but would fain hold back his hand from adding up the number.

As dawn breaks on the third day the subaltern inspects his work. The advance trench is finished; there are a firing-step, loopholes, cover and a communications trench has been cut out. But will it do? Will the brigadier be satisfied? In the forenoon the brigadier himself comes 'round. "An excellent field of fire," he says. "How many men have you lost?"

Such is the epic of the advance trench.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 26 May 2015
Canadian Athletes Enlist 1940
Topic: Canadian Army

Many Canadian Athletes Enlisted in Non-Permanent Militia Units

Survey Shows Practically All National Hockey League Players in This Country Have Signs for Home Defence. Football Stars Also Taking Training.

Ottawa Citizen, 7 August 1940 By Dick Sheridan, Canadian Press Staff Writer

Coast to Coast: Hockey in Canada to the Second World War

John Chi-Kit Wong (Editor), 2009

"The government quickly passed the National Resources Mobilization Act (NRMA) in June 1940, providing for national registration of all Canadians … The immediate intent of the Act was to provide for national registration and a training period (initially thirty days) for men who were eligible for call-up, to be administered by a newly formed Department of National War Service (DNWS). Since it was announced that voluntary militia enlistment would end on 15 August 1940, thousands volunteered in August to avoid the stigma of being conscripted and lebelled as unwilling to fight for their country.

"In response to the NMRA, NHL managers actively encouraged their players to sign up with Non-Permanent Active Militia (NPAM) units." (p. 89)

Toronto, Aug. 6.—In two's and three's and even teams, Canada's athletes are flocking to the recruiting depots throughout the country to enlist in the Non-Permanent Active Militia units before the Aug. 15 deadline. And leading the parade is the country's most valuable athletic asset—her hockey players.

A survey conducted by The Canadian Press today disclosed that practically all of the National Hockey League players in this country have signed up for home defence. Crowding them are nationally-known football players from such squads as Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Canadian champions, Toronto Balmy Beach, Toronto Argonauts and Sarnia Imperials.

Manager Conny Smythe of Toronto Maple Leafs announced today the majority of his players had enlisted in the Toronto Scottish and will go into active training almost immediately. Players from other N.H.L. teams residing in Toronto joined the Scottish also.

Frank Boucher Enlisted

Canadiens' players living in Montreal are slated to enlist with the 17th Duke of York Royal Canadian Hussars while the Scots Fusiliers have enrolled Boston and new York Rangers players living in Kitchener.

The famous Kraut line of Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer and Porky Dumart of the Boston team is with the Fusiliers. Jack Shewchuk, Boston defenceman, is with the Dufferin and Haldimand Rifles.

Frank Boucher, Ranger coach, join the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards at Ottawa, and was accompanied by a number of other players living in the Capital. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles unit has players from Ranger, Toronto Leafs, Boston and Chicago Black Hawks in its ranks.

Ted Reeve Among Group

Syd Reynolds, Cec Fotheringham, Bert Haigh and George Shield, current or former Balmy Beach players, are members of the Toronto Scottish, along with Floyd Muirhead, sponsor of the club. Ted Reeve, sports columnist and a member of the Balmy Beach championship team a decade ago, is with the Scottish.

Alex Hayes and Hugh (Bummer) Stirling help give Sarnia Imperials representation in the N.P.A.M. Hayes, a great quarterback, is with the Essex Scottish. Stirling, the brilliant backfielder, enlisted with the 55th Battery, London.

Joe Miller, Toronto Argonaut, and Eddie Thompson, Balmy Beach, are both in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Entire Team Training

Calgary Stampeders, Allan Cup finalists last year, is the only hockey team known to have enlisted as a unit. Stampeders joined the Calgary (Tank) Regiment and are expected to be known as the "Tankers" this coming season.

Athletes enlisting in the N.P.A.M. are able in most instances to arrange their period of training in camp so that it does not interfere with the playing of their respective games. This applies particularly to the N.H.L. players.

Many other athletes are with Canadian Active Service Force units and a number of these are already in England. These include Ross (Sandy) Somerville, former amateur golf champion, and Johnny Loaring, Windsor hurdler.

elipsis graphic

More Ottawans Enlist

Orville Burke, star Rider quarterback, has enlisted in the Governor General's Foot Guards, it was learned last night. Two other local athletes—Jack Wilkinson, former Ottawa Senator hockey star, and Rick Perley of the Rough Riders—joined the First Field Brigade Royal Canadian Artillery on Monday night. Several other athletes of the Capital were already in this brigade.

Canadian Army Battle Honours


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 25 May 2015
The Cavalry School Sports (1892)
Topic: Canadian Militia

Although not quite matching the period of the following article, this image shows the Royal Canadian Dragoons Musical ride at the Canadian National Exhibition ca. 1920 (NLA)

The Cavalry School Sports

Military Men and Matters
The Montreal Gazette, 5 March 1892

The Cavalry school sports last week were a complete success in every respect, and it is really surprising that they were not patronized. On Montreal it would have been hard to find room for the spectators , while here [Quebec], although the reserved seats sold for only 50 cents, there was a very slim attendance, and it is doubtful whether the receipts covered the expenditure. It was a spectacle such as cannot be witnessed elsewhere in Canada. To those who have never witnessed cavalry sports a brief description of some of the principal events may prove of interest. Plaiting the maypole is familiar enough to those who have attended the skating carnivals in Montreal, and by substituting for skaters soldiers in gay hussar uniforms and mounted on spirited horses, one can form a fair idea of the brilliance of the spectacle. After plaiting and unplaiting at the walk the band struck up "The Keel Row" and the movement was again gone through at the trot and a third time at the gallop to the tune of "Bonnie Dundee." It was remarkable how the horses kept time to the music. The gallop was not altogether a success for some of the horses, excited by the lights, the music and the strange surroundings, became unmanageable towards the close and it had to be cut short.

The wrestling on horseback showed how much it takes to unseat a good rider. Half a dozen men from the cavalry were matched against an equal number from the mounted division of the Battery. They discarded headdress and tunics and rode into the ring bareheaded and wearing tight-fitted blouses. No saddles were used. The squads were drawn up at opposite ends of the hall and when word was given they rode slowly at each other. When the lines had almost met one of the troopers (an old Montreal boy) dashed at the man opposite him, passed his arm round his waist and threw him to the ground. This left him free to go to the assistance of one of his comrades who was hard beset by a stalwart artilleryman, and between the two they hoisted him out of his seat and threw him. Then a trooper bit the dust, and immediately afterwards he was followed by a batteryman. This left five of the cavalry to three of the artillery.

To the right hand of the Lieutenant Governor's box an artilleryman was making a gallant fight against two cavalrymen. He backed his horse, pushed it forward and twisted it from side to side, now breaking away from his assailants and now tackling one or the other, as he saw an opportunity, but before he could dismount either of them the other was upon him. He fought his way across the hall and part way back, when a cheer was heard from the upper part of the hall, and a batteryman was seen to go over his horse;'s shoulder, dragging a trooper with him. This left four to two, and although there was no chance now of his being relieved of one of his opponents the batteryman fought on, surrounded now by three troopers. Finally one of them seized him by the collar, and a second coming up on his other side caught him by the leg, and between the two he was thrown to the ground. His horse then jumped over him and tore away to the other end of the hall, where it was captured. The last remaining artilleryman, seeing himself opposed by four troopers, lost heart and was easily thrown without doing any further damage.

The sword combats on horseback were most exciting. The men wore wooden masks, something like a diver's helmet, and thick leather jackets and were armed with single sticks. The vanquished men retired and the victors were matched against each other until in a final tie there was a private and a sergeant. The private was mounted on a very nervous horse, which could not be brought up to face his opponent, and up to the present he had only won by his skill in the handling of his weapon. His last opponent took advantage of the nervousness of his horse, and by making sudden starts and feint's the trooper's horse backed him up against a fence. Here a lively scrimmage occurred and the sergeant scored the first point, but the private scored the next two and won amid the wildest cheering.

In the combats of sword versus bayonet the superiority of the latter weapon was invariably demonstrated. The weapons used were blunt swords and spring bayonets like the daggers used upon the stage, and have a button on the end of them. When they strike a man the bayonet, instead of penetrating, run back up the rifle. The first combat was between two artillerymen, both dismounted. The swordsman made one point by closing with hos opponent as soon as he parried the bayonet thrust and, seizing the bayonet with his left hand, brought down his sword on the other's head. In attempting to repeat this performance the swordsman came to grief, for his opponent dropped the bayonet and relied altogether on his wrestling abilities. The swordsman endeavored to stab his opponent in the shoulder and back, but was so tightly clinched that he could not use his weapon to advantage. The two men fell and rolled over and over in the scuffle, each trying to disarm the other. Finally the swordsman let his weapon go and, throwing of his opponent, snatched up the bayonet and had it at the other's breast before he could recover. The point was, however, awarded to the bayonet, which won. Then the two men exchanged weapons, but with the same result. Bayonet won again.

Then the bayonet was pitted against a trooper on horseback armed with a sword. It is well known that in such a combat the man on foot has a great advantage, but how great that advantage is can only be appreciated by a test like this. The trooper charged down on the dismounted man, but as soon as the horse cam within reach of the bayonet he recoiled, and it was all the trooper could do to pull him aside in time to avoid a thrust. Several time he tried to gallop past men near enough to strike the foot soldier, but the latter always jumped right in front of the horse or, if not in time to do that, he jumped back out of reach of the sword. Finally they came to close quarters and after several cuts and thrusts the bayonet scored. In the second bout the trooper parried a thrust and brought down his sword with a will upon the artilleryman's helmet, but in the next round the latter scored again ans was declared the winner.

The musical ride would be hard to describe. The troopers were armed with steel shod lances with fluttering pennants and went through all kinds of movements that seemed designed as much to test the horsemanship of the men as to please the eye of the spectator. Some of the movements were exceedingly intricate and with horses as spirited as those of the Cavalry school any but thorough horsemen would inevitably have lost their heads. It is much to the credit of the men, therefore, that not a single mistake was made. After an exhibition of lance drill the troops formed up at the opposite end of the hall and with a wild yell charged down to within a few feet from the Governor's box, when they halted as suddenly as if the horses and men had been turned to stone. It gave one a good idea of what he would feel if he had to face a cavalry charge. Many of those in the front seats started up in alarm and would have fled had there been time, but the whole thing was over like a flash.

His Honor, the Lieutenant Governor, accompanied by a large party, attended every night and on each occasion everyone in the hall rose and uncovered when he arrived and departed. The object of the entertainment was to raise funds for the purchase of the spring bayonets, lances, helmets, etc., without which our soldiers could not get the practical training that European soldiers got. These articles are not provided by the Government and Col. Turnbull ordered them from England at a cost of $500, guaranteeing the payment out of his own pocket. Several hundred dollars were also spent by the committee in fitting up the drill hall with platform and fences, decorating it with flags, etc., and providing prizes. If there should be any surplus it will be divided equally among the men. The training the men have gone through in preparation for these sports have done them more good than six months of ordinary drill. The attendance of Lieutenant Governor Angers and suite in a private box was much appreciated by all, and, after a most successful entertainment he graciously consented to present the prizes, which amounted to about $150, to the winners, who paraded in front of the grand stand. It is also pleasing to note that owing to the excellent arrangements and special training of both men and horses not a single accident happened during the three evenings, and a general desire has been expressed throughout the community that another representation may, at some future date, be forthcoming when our military friends may be certain to have full houses.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 24 May 2015
Trenches of the Western Front
Topic: CEF

The Trenches of the Western Front

Trench Life; Canada's Part in the Present War; Empire Day, May 23rd, Ontario Department of Education, 1918

We never knew till now how muddy mud is,
We never knew how muddy mud could be.

– Trench Song

Trenches are like the suburbs in a great city. You are faintly conscious that people live in the next street, but you never see them. Your neighbours are as self-contained and silent as yourself. Sometimes their look-outs or machine-guns become loquacious; then you, too, grow conversational; and the whole line talks freely to the Germans two hundred yards away. It is only when your "stunt" in the front line is temporarily over, and you are marched back to billets, that you are able to cultivate your neighbour's exclusive society.

The front line or "fire" trench as it is called, is the nearest trench to the enemy. In front of the fire trench is a barbed wire entanglement. This barrier is slightly lower than the parapet of the trench, and is about ten feet in front of it; thus allowing sentries in the trenches to observe and fire over top of the wire. It is constructed by driving stakes firmly into the ground and twining the barbed wire about them in an intricate and criss-cross a manner as possible, so that it is a physical impossibility for soldiers to get through, unless the entanglement is first blown up by shell fire or cut with wire-cutters. This barrier is about twenty feet from front to rear, and extends in a practically unbroken line along both sides of the west front. German use iron stakes; the Allies, wood. Many a soldier, crawling about in the darkness, engaged in patrol work or bombing raids, owes his life to this; for, if he feels an iron post, he knows he is near a German trench, and withdraws as unobtrusively as possible.

The fire trench is from six to eight feet deep, and is divided into "fire bays," the fire bay being the distance, about thirty feet, between "two traverses." The traverse is a barricade in the trench reinforced with sandbags and "revetted" with branches of trees or poultry netting, to keep the earth from slipping in wet weather. The traverse is to prevent enfilading fire. It a trench were to be built straightaway in a direct line, the Germans could sweep hundreds of yards of it with machine-gun fire. Again, if a shell should burst in a straight trench, it would wound or kill many men on its right and left. In a traversed trench, a shell can do damage only in the fire bay in which it lands; and Tommy is an expert at making a quick exit around the traverse on such an occasion.

The front wall of the trench is called the "parapet," the rear wall is called the "parados." The top of the front wall is reinforced with two to four layers of sandbags, covered with earth. Cleverly disguised loopholes for observation and sniping purposes are constructed in the parapet. Saps, or small narrow trenches, cleverly disguised, run under the barbed wire out into No Man's Land, and are known as "listening posts" or "bombing saps."

At the bottom of the front wall of the fire bay is constructed a heavy wooden platform about two feet wide and two and a half feet high, strongly reinforced underneath by sandbags. This platform is called the fire step and, by standing on it at night, soldiers can look over the top of the parapet, listening and observing for undue activities on the part of the Germans in No Man's Land. During an attack, the men can stand on the fire step and rest their rifles or mount machine-guns on the top of the parapet, and thus cover the advancing enemy.

Dugouts and bomb stores with shell-proof covers are built into the wall of the trench—generally into the parados behind a traverse, so as to protect the entrance from shell fragments or enfilade fire.

Running back from the fire trench are the communication trenches. These are about three feet wide, and are built in zig-zag formation, to prevent their being raked by enemy fire. They are generally "one-way streets," that is, one trench is used for the entrance, another for the departure of troops. At intervals are built recesses, into which stretcher-bearers, ration-carriers, or others, may step, while troops movements are in progress.

In the rear of the front line, there suns a support trench, with barbed wire and fire steps like the front line. Here are kept various stores, such as food, ammunition, bombs, etc. From it reinforcements can be quickly supplied to the front line, and it forms a fort if the troops are forced out of the fire trench. Immediately in the rear of these trenches is generally a ruined village, where reserves are quartered in bomb-proof cellars, dug deep below the shattered houses.

At a varying distance behind the trenches is usually to be found a road, with steep banks on each side, into which the communications trenches lead. In the banks are "elephant dugouts," twenty to forty feet deep. These are supported by steel girders, and each can comfortably accommodate from thirty to fifty men. They are often well-furnished and electrically lighted. Many German dugouts had carpet or linoleum on the floors, papered walls, easy chairs, pianos (looted, of course), and other indications that the occupants had come to stay. Reserve troops, dressing stations, and battalion headquarters occupy elephant dugouts. All communication trenches, dugouts, and roads are named, and while Tommy's nomenclature may disregard geography, it is rich in imagination. Hyde Park Row, Whitechapel, Hindenburg Alley, Yonge Street, Rosedale, may all be in the same sector. "My Little Gray Home in the West" is next-door to the Ritz-Carlton; a little farther along are "Vermin Villa," "Rat's Retreat," and "The Suicide Club." One wag hung on a dugout entrance this sign: "To let. All modern inconveniences, including gas and water."

Away behind the front are located the rest billets. "Rest" is in most respects a misnomer, because troops in billets have to drill, repair roads, dig trenches, act as carrying-in parties, and withal keep spotlessly clean and fit. This is essential, because the least slackening means inefficiency and mischief.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 23 May 2015
Subject: Are these in your lexicon?
Topic: Humour

Subject: Are these in your lexicon?

"Let me tell you about the benefits of being on a staff..." "This should be a short conversation." LtCol to Lt Col (EUCOM)

(From the internet)

  • "The 'L' in CENTCOM stands for leadership..."
  • "At this Command, we have written in large, black letters: DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) on the back of our security badges." Maj (CENTCOM)
  • "'Leaning forward' is really just the first phase of 'falling on your face.'" Marine Col (MARFOREUR)
  • "I am so far down the food chain that I've got plankton bites on my butt."
  • "None of us is as dumb as all of us." Excerpted from a brief (EUCOM)
  • "We're from the nuke shop, sir. We're the crazy aunt in the closet that nobody likes to talk about ..." Lt Col (EUCOM) in briefings
  • "Things are looking up for us here. In fact, Papua-New Guinea is thinking of offering two platoons: one of Infantry (headhunters) and one of engineers (hut builders). They want to eat any Iraqis they kill. We've got no issues with that, but State is being anal about it." LTC (JS) on OIF coalition-building
  • "The chance of success in these talks is the same as the number of "R's" in "fat chance..."" GS-15 (SHAPE)
  • "His knowledge on that topic is only power point deep..." MAJ (JS)
  • "Ya know, in this Command, if the world were supposed to end tomorrow, it would still happen behind schedule." CWO4 (EUCOM)
  • "We are condemned men who are chained and will row in place until we rot." LtCol (CENTCOM) on life at his Command
  • "If we wait until the last minute to do it, it'll only take a minute." MAJ (EUCOM)
  • "The only reason that anything ever gets done is because there are pockets of competence in every command. The key is to find them...and then exploit the hell out of 'em." CDR (CENTCOM)
  • "I may be slow, but I do poor work..." MAJ (USAREUR)
  • "Cynicism is the smoke that rises from the ashes of burned out dreams." Maj (CENTCOM) on the daily thrashings delivered to AOs at his Command
  • "Working with Hungary is like watching a bad comedy set on auto repeat..." LCDR (EUCOM)
  • "I finally figured out that when a Turkish officer tells you, "It's no problem," he means, for him." Maj (EUCOM)
  • "Never in the history of the US Armed Forces have so many done so much for so few..." MAJ (Task Force Warrior) on the "success" of the Free Iraqi Forces (FIF) Training Program, where 1100 Army troops trained 77 Iraqi exiles at the cost of, ...well, ...way too much...
  • "Our days are spent trying to get some poor, unsuspecting third world country to pony up to spending a year in a sweltering desert, full of pissed off Arabs who would rather shave the back of their legs with a cheese grater than submit to foreign occupation by a country for whom they have nothing but contempt." LTC (JS) on the joys of coalition building
  • "I guess the next thing they'll ask for is 300 US citizens with Hungarian last names to send to Iraq..." MAJ (JS) on the often-frustrating process of building the Iraqi coalition for Phase IV
  • "Between us girls, would it help to clarify the issue if you knew that Hungary is land-locked?" CDR to MAJ (EUCOM) on why a deployment from Hungary is likely to proceed by air vice sea
  • "So, what do you wanna do?"..."I dunno, what do YOU wanna do?"..."I dunno, what do YOU wanna do?," etc. COL (DIA) describing the way Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Strategy) develops and implements their strategies
  • "I'll be right back. I have to go pound my nuts flat..." Lt Col (EUCOM) after being assigned a difficult tasker
  • "I guess this is the wrong power cord for the computer, huh?" LtCol (EUCOM) after the smoke cleared from plugging his 110V computer into a 220V outlet.
  • "OK, this is too stupid for words." LTC (JS)
  • "When you get right up to the line that you're not supposed to cross, the only person in front of you will be me!" CDR (CENTCOM) on his view of the value of being politically correct in today's military
  • "There's nothing wrong with crossing that line a little bit, it's jumping over it buck naked that will probably get you in trouble..." Lt Col (EUCOM) responding to the above
  • "Never pet a burning dog." LTC (Tennessee National Guard)
  • "Ah, the joys of Paris: a unique chance to swill warm wine and be mesmerized by the dank ambrosia of unkempt armpits..." LCDR (NAVEUR)
  • "We are now past the good idea cutoff point..." MAJ (JS) on the fact that somebody always tries to "fine tune" a COA with more "good ideas"
  • "Nobody ever said you had to be smart to make 0-6." Col (EUCOM)
  • "I haven't complied with a darn thing and nothing bad has happened to me yet."
  • "Whatever happened to good old-fashioned military leadership? Just task the first two people you see."
  • "Accuracy and attention to detail take a certain amount of time."
  • "I seem to be rapidly approaching the apex of my mediocre career." MAJ (JS)
  • "Much work remains to be done before we can announce our total failure to make any progress."
  • "It's not a lot of work unless you have to do it." LTC (EUCOM)
  • "Creating smoking holes (with bombs) gives our lives meaning and enhances our manliness." LTC (EUCOM) at a CT conference
  • "Eventually, we have to 'make nice' with the French, although, since I'm new in my job, I have every expectation that I'll be contradicted." DOS rep at a Counter Terrorism Conference
  • "You can get drunk enough to do most anything, but you have to realize going in that there are some things that, once you sober up and realize what you have done, will lead you to either grab a 12-gauge or stay drunk for the rest of your life."
  • "Once you accept that a dog is a dog, you can't get upset when it barks." Lt Col (USSOCOM), excerpts
  • "That guy just won't take 'yes' for an answer." MAJ (EUCOM)
  • "Let's just call Lessons Learned what they really are: institutionalized scab picking."
  • "I can describe what it feels like being a Staff Officer in two words: distilled pain." CDR (NAVEUR)
  • "When all else fails, simply revel in the absurdity of it all." LCDR (CENTCOM)
  • "Never attribute to malice that which can be ascribed to sheer stupidity." LTC (CENTCOM)
  • "I hear so much about Ft. Bragg. Where is it?" "It's in the western part of southeastern North Carolina." LCDR and CPT (EUCOM)
  • "I've become the master of nodding my head and acting like I give a sh_t, and then instantly forgetting what the hell a person was saying the moment they walk away." Flag-level Executive A$$istant
  • "Mark my words, this internet thing is gonna catch on someday." LTC (EUCOM)
  • "You're not a loser. You're just not my kind of winner..." GS-14 (OSD)
  • "He who strives for the minimum rarely attains it." GS-12 (DOS)
  • "If I'd had more time, I'da written a shorter brief..." Maj (EUCOM)
  • "I work at EUCOM. I know bullsh_t when I see it." LTC (EUCOM) in a game of office poker
  • "You only know as much as you don't know." GO (EUCOM)
  • "I'm just livin' the dream..." EUCOM staffer response to the question, "How's it going?" or, "What are you doing?"
  • "I'm just ranting...I have nothing useful to say." LTC (EUCOM)
  • "Why would an enemy want to bomb this place and end all the confusion?" GS-14 (EUCOM)
  • "Other than the fact that there's no beer, an early curfew and women that wear face coverings for a very good reason, Kabul is really a wonderful place to visit." LTC (CENTCOM)
  • "It was seen, ...visually." LTC (EUCOM) during a Reconnaissance briefing
  • "Let me tell you about the benefits of being on a staff..." "This should be a short conversation." LtCol to Lt Col (EUCOM)
  • "Hello gentlemen. Are we in today or are you just ignoring my request?" GS-15 (DSCA) in an email to EUCOM staffers
  • "After seeing the way this place works, I bet that Mickey Mouse wears a EUCOM watch." Maj (EUCOM)
  • "Your Key Issues are so 2003..." CPT (CJTF-180) in January 2004
  • "USCENTCOM commanders announced today that they intend to maintain their presence in Qatar "until the sun runs out of hydrogen," thus committing the US to the longest duration deployment in human history.
  • When asked how they planned to maintain the presence in Qatar for a projected length of 4 to 5 billion years, planners said "we're working on a plan for that. We don't have one yet, but not having a plan or an intelligent reason to do something has never been much of an impediment for us in the past; we don't foresee it being a big show stopper for us in the future either."
  • Among the options that were being discussed was an innovative program to "interbreed" the deployed personnel. "We are going to actively encourage the military members in Qatar to intermarry and raise children that will replace them in the future. Sure, it may be a little hard on some of our female service members, since there currently are about 8 men for every woman over there, but we expect that to be OBE as the sex ratios will even out in a generation or two.
  • In any case the key to the plan is to make these assignments not only permanent, but inheritable and hereditary. For example, if you currently work the JOC weather desk, so will your children, and their children, and their children, ad infinitum. We like to think of it as job security." CPT (CJTF-180)
  • "That's FUBIJAR." COL (CENTCOM), Fu--ed Up, But I'm Just a Reservist...
  • "I keep myself confused on purpose, just in case I am captured and fall into enemy hands!" GO/FO (CENTCOM)
  • "Does anybody around here remember if I did anything this year?" LTC (EUCOM) preparing his Officer Evaluation Report support form
  • "I'd be happy to classify this document for you. Could you tell me its classification?" GS11 (EUCOM) in an email from the Foreign Disclosure office
  • "Nothing is too good for you guys...and that's exactly what you're gonna get..." LTC (EUCOM) describing the way Army policy is formulated
  • "The only thing that sucks worse than being me is being you..." LTC (EUCOM)
  • "I have to know what I don't know..." Col (CENTCOM) during a shift changeover briefing
  • "No. Now I'm simply confused at a higher level..." Foreign GO/FO when asked if he had any questions following a transformation brief at JFCOM
  • "I'm planning on taking the weekend off...notionally..." LT (EUCOM) midway through a huge, simulated command exercise
  • "I've heard of 'buzzwords' before but I have never experienced a 'buzz sentence' or a 'buzz paragraph' until today." Maj (EUCOM) after listening to a JFCOM trainer/mentor
  • "We've got to start collaborating between the collaboration systems."
  • "Our plan for the Olympics is to take all the ops and put it in the special room we have developed for ops." GO/FO (EUCOM)
  • "Did you hear that NPR is canning Bob Edwards?" "Why? Did they catch him standing up for the National Anthem or something??" COL to CDR (EUCOM)
  • "Not to be uncooperative, but we're just being uncooperative." CDR (EUCOM) in an email response to a request for information
  • "He cloaked himself in an impenetrable veneer of terminology." Lt Col JFCOM describing the Jiffiecom alpha male
  • "Transformation has long been the buzzword for those that are dispossessed, dispirited and disillusioned..." Chaplain (EUCOM), allegedly.
  • "There are more disconnects on this issue than CENTCOM has staff officers." GO/FO (EUCOM)

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2015 12:46 AM EDT
Friday, 22 May 2015
Quartermaster Sergeant Forgot Discipline

When This Quartermaster Sergeant Forgot Discipline

Carried a Wounded Comrade in From the Trenches to the Dressing Station Behind the Firing Line After Being Badly Wounded Himself

The Toronto World, 7 April 1916

The quartermaster-sergeant marched along the communication trench and entered the firing line, says The London Chronicle.

Massive of build, immaculate in appearance, the big handsome man created among the mud-caked Tommies something in the nature of a sensation. They turned and regarded him with looks of awesome wonder as he stalked past them. It is seldom that the battalion quartermaster-sergeant finds himself in the firing line. Each night he escorts the rations or the limbers to the end of the communication trench, and there he dumps them. It is not part of his duty to take them into the front trenches. And a battalion quartermaster-sergeant always does, but never exceeds, his duty.

If the best furnished and most paragraphed musical comedy actress had suddenly appeared among the men of the Tophole Battalion that evening, she would have created less surprise than did the arrival of Q.M.-S. Cochrane (which, be it noted, lest somewhere in the army there be a Q.M.-S. Cochrane, is not the name of the man I describe).

He stalked past a score of men and then stopped in front of a sergeant. He addressed the sergeant—to say he spoke to him would convey only half the truth.

"Sergt. Taylor," he said. And his voice was the voice of a Guards-instructor on parade, "Sergt. Taylor, tell Company Quartermaster-Sergt. Tomkins that I desire to see him at once."

"You'll find Tomkins in the dug-out at the end of the traverse, Quarters," said Sergt. Taylor in a friendly way. "And, by God, I'm surprised to see you here, old man."

The quartermaster-sergeant seemed dumbfounded at this reply. His face, normally brick red in tint, flushed to a violent purple. He swelled visibly. From being the height which the regulations permit in the phrase "every man must look his own height," he seemed to shoot up a couple of inches beyond his size. He glared at Sergt. Taylor, and after choking for a moment or two, shouted:

"You will obey orders, Sergt. Taylor, and take my message to Company Quartermaster-Sergeant Tomkins. And don't forget you are on parade now. When you speak to me stand at attention and call me 'sir.' I object to your familiarities, Sergt. Taylor. Never call me Quarters again. Obey my orders at once—or I'll place you under arrest."

Be it understood that a battalion quartermaster-sergeant is now a warrant officer of the second class, and entitled to be called "sir." Such nice distinctions are useful perhaps at Chelsea, but seldom enforced in the trenches. But for twenty years Quartermaster-Sergeant Cochrane had been in His Majesty's Guards, and between the date of his leaving the Guards and rejoining the army for the war he had, perhaps in an office, been subject to the rulings of men such as Tomkins and Taylor.

The sergeant moved off to obey the big man's order. The mud-stained soldiers on "sentry-go" continued their sharp look-out. They winked at each other and felt that the big ex-Guardsman undoubtedly had "the wind up"—the "wind up" meaning that he was afraid. But he stood there in the trench erect and calm and very purple of face. The shells were pretty busy and rifle-fire was incessant. There was no safety. An smaller men than the quartermaster-sergeant preferred to stoop, or even to sit behind the low parapet of sandbags. He, however, stood erect and apparently tranquil until Tomkins appeared.

"Company Quartermaster-Sergeant Tomkins," he began (a company quartermaster-sergeant is merely a non-commissioned man), "you have sent in an indent which is a disgrace, and you must amened it. If you don't know how to make out an indent you should not hold the position you do. See here, man. You apply for 24 mess tins, and here 13 knives."

"Well, that's what I want," explained Tomkins.

"Then apply for them properly, or not a knife or a mess tin do you get."

"I'm sorry sir—but how have I blundered."

"You ought to know. You ought to have learned before you were promoted. Write your indent properly. Put it: 'Tins, mess, 24, and Knives, clasp, 13.' then I can understand. But this sheet is a disgrace. See to it at once." And the quartermaster-sergeant thrust the offending paper into the hands of the amazed company quartermaster-sergeant, turned correctly to the right-about, and stalked back from the firing line, thru the communications trench towards his limbers.

When he was out of sight many of the sentries laughed, "The old man has got the wind up all right," said Taylor to Tomkins. And the language of the said Tomkins was not such as can properly appear here.

Two doctors and several orderlies were at work in the dressing station behind the lines. Much business was in hand, and many men were being bandaged and made comfortable and sent away in motor ambulances. The dressing station had once been a brewery and the smell of stale beer mingled with the more powerful stench of iodine. A dressing station just behind the lines is not always a pleasant place to see, and badly wounded men are sometimes less than gentle in their language.

The door opened and Cochrane entered. In appearance he was less immaculate than he had been a couple of hours before in the firing line. His great coat was splashed with mud, and he carried on his back something which first appeared to be a very dirty yellow sack. This he carefully lifted to the floor, and behold, it was a man—sorely wounded.

"Doctor," said Cochrane, "I happened upon this wee laddie in the trench, so I brought him along. If you'll see to him and tell me how he fares I'll be obliged.

The doctor took the wounded man, and for twenty minutes they tended him. They cleaned him up a bit, and bound his wounds, the quartermaster-sergeant meanwhile standing by, and watching.

"It's not very serious," said one of the medical officers at last. "He'll pull thru all right."

The quartermaster-sergeant stood stiffly at attention. "then, sir," he said, and his voice was still the commanding parade-ground voice of an instructor of Guards; "then, sir, if the wee laddie is comfortable I'll trouble you to attend to me."

"To you—why what's the matter with you?"

"In the fore-arm, left, gun shot wound, one; on the shoulder, left, wound; probably gun shot also … and …"

But before he could finish the big man grievously forgot his discipline. He fainted.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 21 May 2015
Seeing Trenches as Soldiers See Them
Topic: CEF

At Home in a Ditch

Seeing Trenches as Soldiers See Them

Boston Evening Transcript, 9 February 1915
(From the Manchester Transcript)

I wonder how many people have a mental image of the trenches which is at all like the real thing. I have seen photographs of men standing in a trench behind a covering line of mangel wurzels, or was it beet-root?—which are true enough, but hardly characteristic. No doubt many people imagine the trenches to be a regular and formidable series of earthworks which turn a whole valley into a sort of fortress. They have heard of all sorts of elaborations which get mentioned in letters, not because they are characteristic, but just because they are peculiar. As a matter of fact, the surprising thing about the trenches is that, like everything else in this war, they make so little difference to the normal appearance of the landscape until you get quite close to them. If an invisible wayfarer could walk past them during the day he might very easily get through without noticing anything peculiar unless an artillery bombardment happened to be going on. Rifle fire and attacks are nearly all at dawn or dusk or night. He would have to be invisible, for any visible wayfarer near the trenches by day would, of course, be snipes. A few do make their way to and fro—orderlies with messages mostly, who creep along ditches and dash across exposed intervals. But the traffic is by night. Every evening a little party of men and mules goes to a point as near as it dare to the battalion and takes shelter behind a house or a wall, where it is met by one or two men of each company to take the daily rations back to the trenches.

elipsis graphic

Every evening, too, the stretcher-bearers make their way into the trenches and remove the men who have been wounded during the day. And every evening all these men are "sniped" at by the enemy as they go about their work. As you approach the trenches in the dusk the lack of anything abnormal to the whole aspect of things is, of course, even more deceptive than by day. And knowing as one does that once is within a few yards of two lines of men which extend from the sea coast to Switzerland, the blank appearance of everything is tinglingly suggestive. You are walking along an ordinary country road. You have just passed the house where the medical officer and his assistants have taken up their quarters and whence they pass on the wounded by motors to the field ambulance. A couple of days ago he had a house farther up the road, but he was shelled out of it. You pass other houses—you are walking crouched in the ditch by this time. By day you would notice that many of these houses have holes in them and that there are patches of tiles wanting in the roof; but by the evening light they look quite normal, except that the windows are lit up in none of them. Cattle and fowls wander about over the fields, and across the road. They look quite normal too, though in daylight you would see that the cows have not been milked, and the fowls are starving. By daylight, too, you might notice here and there in a field a cow that has been struck down by a shell and killed or another—poor beast—that had been merely wounded. It was to put such a one out of its pain that an officer of ours crept out of his trench the other morning and was killed as he crawled back. A little farther still you may at last come upon the trenches themselves at a point where they chance to touch the road. The reserve trenches these will probably be , and they have perhaps just been lined by a battalion that has marched out to be in support during the night in expectation of an attack and will march back before sunrise in the morning. They are, maybe, an Indian cavalry regiment which has never yet had a chance of fighting on horseback and can contribute only in this way to the defence.

elipsis graphic

From your ditch by the roadside will probably be a communications trench to the first of these reserve trenches, and from here, if the entrenchments have been in existence for some time, you will find yourself at the beginning of a whole rabbit warren. From here you may be able to get to every point, not only in the reserve trenches, but the fire trenches, too, without ever putting your head above the ground. Walking in slush (here and there modified by straw or bricks thrown down), rubbing clay onto your shoulders from either wall of the narrow passage, you may pass along a whole series of reserve trenches, which seem to be deserted unless you lift up one of the pieces of canvas fixed against the wall and see a silent Indian cavalryman curled up in his little niche. It will be for many reasons a very tortuous walk before you arrive at the fire trenches, or at the colonel's little "dug-out." First of all, because the communications trenches are planned in every sort of zigzag and curl and twist, to be as little as possible end-on to the enemy, and so enfiladed. The colonel's headquarters, for instance, is entered from the back, and approached by a trench which twists around behind it. Moreover, the line of the fire trenches is broken at intervals by traverses—also to protect against possible enfilading—and connected by little semi-circular trenches which skirt around the solid interval of earth. But the way will be tortuous for other reasons. The whole line of the two armies is tortuous beyond the suspicious of any reader who sees it twist a little along the frontier, but suppose it will be straight enough for half a mile. Losses here and gains there are partly a cause of this, but much more is the fact that the whole series of trenches is developed from a skilful use of natural conditions. Sometimes the trench is merely a ditch which has been deepened. At other times the adaptation of a pit or a hollow makes it ten feet deep, and the men have to climb up on ledge to fire out of it. Here and there the connecting trench becomes a tunnel, by having been roofed in. At other places a convenient bush or hedge affords cover which has enabled quite a little cavern to be dug under its protection.

elipsis graphic

Though the hardship is severe enough the men manage to make themselves more comfortable than might be supposed. They have charcoal braziers which help to keep them warm, and there is even talk—serious talk—of installing electric light. The adjutant has made quite a little office of his "dug-out" and pins up notes and orders and telegrams onto the clay wall in front of him. When the trenches have been in existence long enough there is communication everywhere, though it is often difficult to squeeze by, and as for sleep—well, you can take a little of that as soon as the shelling starts, for you know he will not attack till that is over. The only thing that you can hardly anywhere do is to stand up. If you try it, "ping" almost at once, and you are lucky if you only get your face spluttered with mud. And just out there—sometimes only fifty yards away—they are taking the same precautions about all of us, and peeping with the same curiosity. And between the lines is fifty yards of ordinary field where no one dare venture by day, and only at imminent danger by night, in that fifty yards is now lying one of our officers, killed in last night's attack. Tonight we hope to get him back, but today we can but peep at him. His hand is hanging down, and on his wrists is his watch. It is still going, and from where we are we can see the time.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 20 May 2015
The Ranger Handbook; Leadership

LEADERSHIP

Ranger Handbook, Ranger Training Brigade, United States Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia, February 2011

Leadership, the most essential element of combat power, gives purpose, direction, and motivation in combat. The leader balances and maximizes maneuver, firepower, and protection against the enemy. This chapter discusses how he does this by exploring the principles of leadership (Be, Know, Do); the duties, responsibilities, and actions of an effective leader; and the leader's assumption of command.

BE, KNOW, DO—THE PRINCIPLES OF LEADERSHIP

BE

  • Technically and tactically proficient
  • Able to accomplish to standard all tasks required for the wartime mission.
  • Courageous, committed, and candid.
  • A leader with integrity.

KNOW

  • The four major factors of leadership and how they affect each other are–
    • Led
    • Leader
    • Situation
    • Communications
  • Yourself, and the strengths and weaknesses in your character, knowledge, and skills. Seek continual self-improvement, that is, develop your strengths and work to overcome your weaknesses.
  • Your Rangers, and look out for their well being by training them for the rigors of combat, taking care of their physical and safety needs, and disciplining and rewarding them.

DO

  • Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions; exercise initiative; demonstrate resourcefulness; and take advantage of opportunities on the battlefield that will lead to you to victory; accept fair criticism, and take corrective actions for your mistakes.
  • Assess situations rapidly, make sound and timely decisions, gather essential information, announce decisions in time for Rangers to react, and consider the short- and long-term effects of your decision.
  • Set the example by serving as a role model for your Rangers. Set high but attainable standards; be willing do what you require of your Rangers; and share dangers and hardships with them.
  • Keep your subordinates informed to help them make decisions and execute plans within your intent, encourage initiative, improve teamwork, and enhance morale.
  • Develop a sense of responsibility in subordinates by teaching, challenging, and developing them. Delegate to show you trust them. This makes them want more responsibility.
  • Ensure the Rangers understand the task; supervise them, and ensure they accomplish it. Rangers need to know what you expect, when and what you want them to do, and to what standard.
  • Build the team by training and cross-training your Rangers until they are confident in their technical and tactical abilities.
  • Develop a team spirit that motivates them to go willingly and confidently into combat.
  • Know your unit's capabilities and limitations, and employ them accordingly.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 19 May 2015
Physical Training; Vehicle Manhandling
Topic: Drill and Training

Physical Training; Vehicle Manhandling

These images, contrary to looking like methods of recovery and cross-country mobility, are taken from the publication Basic and Battle Physical Training, Part III, Syllabus of Battle Physical Training and Battle Physical Efficiency Tests (1946). The diagrams show recommended physical training exercises using available vehicles and equipment to develop both strength training and teamwork.

An interesting option for physical training once troops tire of the obstancle course and of throwing logs and medicine balls around. Vehicle manhandling exercises would also have developed both minds and bodies for those times when the manhandling of a vehicle or gun just might be needed to get it into or out of a battle position.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 18 May 2015
Personal Honour in Regency Society
Topic: Officers

Personal Honour in Regency Society

An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England, Venetia Murray, 1998

The mores of Regency society may have changed as fast as the fashions, but in one respect, at least, they remained steadfast. The code of honour was as rigid as ever. To the modern mind the idea that a man could be ostracized for life because he once cheated at cards seems unnecessarily harsh: but then so does the concept of fighting a duel over a difference of opinion about politics. In 1809 Castlereagh and Canning disagreed so violently over the management of a military campaign (the Walcheren expedition) that the only resolution seemed to be to fight it out. These two senior cabinet ministers, therefore, went off to Wimbledon Common at dawn, along with their equally distinguished seconds, and shot at each other with pistols. Fortunately neither was killed, though Canning was wounded. Both, understandably, resigned from the government. Even the Duke of Wellington, England's national hero, was involved in a political duel, with Lord Winchilsea, over the question of Catholic Emancipation: the participants met and exchanged shots, but the Duke missed and Lord Winchilsea 'deloped' (fired wide). And that was twenty years later, when the practice of duelling was said to be on the decline. When Lord Charles Lennox felt he had been slighted in the matter of his military promotion he actually challenged his commanding officer, HRH the Duke of York, to a duel. In the event nothing came of it because the Duke was persuaded that his royal status made it impossible for him to accept the challenge and duly refused to fight. For more ordinary men, however, it was impossible to refuse without loss of honour, as in the case of General Thornton, who was forced to resign his commission simply because he declined to fight a duel. There had been a row at a party, between the general and Theodore Hook, the novelist and editor of John Bull in the course of which the latter insulted the former. According to the received notions of honour at the time, the general should have immediately issued a challenge, and when he failed to do so his fellow officers set up a full-scale inquiry into the affair, found him guilty of cowardice, and demanded his resignation.

elipsis graphic

The Rogue notes:

The quoted text states that no duel took place between the Duke of York and Charles Lennox. The Duke's wikipedia page, however, states the following:

On 26 May 1789 he took part in a duel with Colonel Charles Lennox, who had insulted him; Lennox missed and Prince Frederick refused to return fire.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 17 May 2015
What Officer Must Know Before Selected (1915)
Topic: CEF


Officers of the 207th Ottawa and Carleton Battlion, CEF,
Pridham Photo, Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada

What Officer Must Know Before Selected

List of Subjects Canadians Must Know before Selected For Service in Field

Quebec Telegraph, 8 December 1915

The following War Office circular is promulgated for general information in Canada, giving a list of subjects which a young officer must know, or have some knowledge of, before he can be selected for service in the field. Of course, no officer should be selected as fit for service in the field unless he is physically fit and of an age to make it likely that he will be able to bear the strain of war.

Discipline

  • Must have attained a high school standard of discipline.
  • Must have attained sufficient self-confidence to command his platoon.

Drill

  • Must know squad drill, extended order drill, platoon commander's duties in company drill, bayonet fighting drill.
  • Must have obtained sufficient self-confidence to drill a squad, drill a platoon, explain on parade simple movements to a squad.

Musketry

  • Must know and be able to explain to a platoon the service rifle, the musketry exercises, the care of arms, the reporting of messages, the judging of distance.
  • Should have a knowledge of the theory of rifle fire, the supply of ammunition in the field, range duties.
  • Must pass a severe test in the control and direction of fire, the indication of targets, the instruction of a recruit.
  • Must be able to carry out test laid down in Musketry Regulations.

Tactics and Field Warfare

  • Every officer should be able to handle a platoon in the field.
  • Must be able to tell off and post sentries. Arrange posts and reliefs.
  • Must know the duties of a commander of an outpost company, a picquuet commander, a sentry and sentry groups, a patrol.
  • Should have a knowledge of a company in attack and defence, protection at rest and on the move, telling off an advance guard, telling off a flank guard, telling off an outpost company, composition of a brigade, battery, squadron and battalion.
  • Must have a thorough knowledge of march discipline, use of cover, control of men in extended order and in night operations.
  • Must be able to write a field message.
  • Should have thorough training in writing clear and concise reports of happenings in his vicinty.

Topography

  • Must have a good knowledge of map reading, drawing plan of his and adjoining trench, the construction of a range card, use of compass.

Trench Warfare

  • Must have a knowledge of handling of commonest bombs and explosives; telling off a working party and allotting a task; loopholing and revetting; common types of trenches and dugouts; entanglements; obstacles; the relief and handling over of a platoon in the trenches by day and night; construction, repair, holding and capture of trenches.
  • Must have a knowledge of duties of a leader of a grenade party; methods of training and employment of grenadiers.

Billeting

  • Must have a general knowledge of arrangements for billeting; how a platoon is fed in billets, sanitary arrangements; orders for sentries in billets; alarm posts.

Machine Guns

  • If possible, have a knowledge of how to fire a machine gun in case of emergency; how to disable a gun without explosives.

Interior Economy and Military Law

  1. Powers on an O.C. company.
  2. Forfeiture of pay.
  3. Fines for drunkenness.
  4. How to make a summary of evidence.
  5. Definitions and differences between various crimes that may come before an O.C. company, before taken to C.O.
  6. Powers of an officers when on detachment.
  7. Procedure when a man reports sick; asks for an advance of pay; asks for extension of leave; asks for pass at unauthorized time (i.e., when the O.C. company is away.)
  8. Duties of the orderly officer, orderly sergeant, N.C.O.'s of his platoon.
  9. How a soldier is paid:—at home; on active service. How to make out a requisition for cash; quittance rolls.
  10. Regimental orders, part I, and part 2, as far as affects the pay of the men of the company.
  11. Procedure when a man requires new kit:— (a) A free issue; (b) on payment.
    Where the payments appear in the company pay list.
  12. What to do in case of a military disturbance outside barracks.
  13. When he is on leave; how to deal with men asking for passes and advance of pay.
  14. Compliments to be paid to senior officers:— (a) when in command of men; (b) when off duty.
  15. Restrictions of an officer on the sick list and how to report sick.
  16. How to write an official letter, and the proper channels for it to pass through.
  17. What to do when on sick leave.
  18. How to keep a trench store book and the procedure on handing out any stores or handing over completely.
  19. How to take over a platoon from another officer.
  20. Procedure when a soldier is brought up on crime.

Physical Drill

  • Must have sufficient knowledge to take his platoon for physical drill parades in billets; taking his platoon for bayonet exercises.

Signalling

  • Must have slight knowledge of field telephones, and how to mend a broken line; the form of telephone message used in the service. How to read, take down and write down a verbal message.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 16 May 2015
Feeding Soldiers on the Firing Line
Topic: Army Rations

Feeding Soldiers on the Firing Line

I heard an officer just back from a week's riot in London, where he had lived at the Savoy and Romano's, exclaim with undoubted sincerity, as his batman set the familiar trench dish before him once more: "Good old bully beef! It tastes like real food after the fussy stuff back in civilization.

Britton B. Cooke, in The Toronto Globe
Fort Frances Times, 27 January, 1916

Anyone returning from the front finds innumerable questions leaping at him from the lips of his friends who have not been there. Soldiers still in training in Canada want to know such things as whether the Sam Brown or the Web equipment is used at the front. Civilians who follow the war summaries closely want to be told just how many men there are behind our lines, and how the wire entanglements are laid out, and what is wrong or isn't wrong with the Ross rifle. Youngsters want to know what a shell looks like when it is bursting under one's nose, or some question equally difficult to answer, and young women inquire as to the whereabouts of "A" Regiment or "B" Regiment, or such-and-such an artillery brigade. But older women, when all the others have fired their questions and been disappointed in their answers, have just one question to ask. They wait, as a rule, until no-one else seems to be within ear-shot, and then ask: "Have you enough to eat? Have they plenty to eat? What should one send them to eat? What sort of horrid plum pudding will they give my Tom, do you suppose? — Oh, dear me, are you sure they're not hungry? Or if they want anything to eat — between meals? Or if they should get hungry in the night—or—?"

Men Are Well Fed

If all questions sprang from such deep, kindly affection and if they could all be answered as happily as these, the war itself would soon be over. The men at the front are so well fed that their families will have to improve the standard of living when they come home—most of them at all events. They may be wet very often—though conditions this winter are much better than last winter—and they may miss the dire operation of carving the turkey at home and satisfying the hysterical appetites of small persons with round eyes close down near the table cloth, but the army in France and Flanders uses the same calendar as the people at home do, and attached the same importance to the 25th of December as others. In London when I left in October there were hundreds of women in the indirect employ of the War Office commissariat making special puddings for Christmas in the trenches. This same Christmas dawn that sets the birds chattering under the eaves of Canadian houses and sets the hardy songsters of northern France fluttering out from under the thatches on French and Belgium straw stacks behind our lines saw military cooks, like domestic cooks, making special preparations for the day.

A Top-Hole Day

"Christmas!" exclaimed one of those always merry young subalterns that occur every here and there among the men, something like the almonds in the cake. "Why, last Christmas was just about as jolly a Christmas as I ever had. We had a top-hole day." He was English, of course. "And except that—well, one didn't have one's folks with one—except fopr that it was a bully sort of a day. We were in a pretty bad country just then, not nearly so good as this, and the roofs of the dug-outs leaked because we hadn't got onto the corrugated iron stunts for a roof. But we had a feast, and some games—and potted at a few Boches in between whiles.

You never can believe all these subalterns tell you, especially if they have only got one "pip" instead of two on their cuffs. For the difference between one "pip" and two is more than just the difference between a first and second lieutenant. It is the difference between responsible and irresponsible authority. In this case, however, the truth was not deeply disguised. There may be homesickness buried under nonsense, but at least there is a meal of meals on the day when nobody is supposed to lack happiness.

Getting Food to the Front

The getting of the food to the men on the firing line is the only real difficulty of this branch of the service. Last night if one had been in some high place looking down over the line of battle one might have seen little parties being formed at regular intervals along the line of trenches. Each party, lined up first with its back to the rear wall of the trench, numbered in subdued tones, and then marched off under the command of a non-commissioned officer or a subaltern toward the rear. One might, in one's imagination at all events, have seen those hundreds of little parties stealing back through hundreds of long, tortuous communications trenches, emerging finally from behind a bit of cover—a hedge or a low hill or ruined building—on the road leading back toward brigade headquarters. Shells dropped in this vicinity occasionally, because the enemy probably knows it is a very important part of our line of supply; rifle bullets go whinging by every now and then, or a machine gun from the German side is spraying the vicinity. Here the ration party connects with the detail that has brought the food supply from the local depot. With quick movements the load is taken up by the front line party, and they drop back into the trench with beef and pork, bread and potatoes, salt, and all the odds and ends of provisions. As one party returns so hundred all along the front have been returning. Some have had a casualty or two. Some even more than that. But the food gets back ultimately, and is parcelled out, platoon by platoon, bay by bay. There will be no cooking done now at night, but bye-and-bye, when the light begins to show over the German parapet across the way and the sentries stand down for the day, you may imagine you see countless small spirals of smoke curling up from the trenches and the jewel-like glow of countless small fires perched precariously in home-made braziers at various points along the trench wall. Over each fire hangs a smoke-blackened, crescent-shaped saucepan (the mess tin), and in the quiet glow of the brazier you may make out the face of the man who is tending it. He probably has a long spoon or a jack-knife or a real fork wherewith he gravely stirs the contents of the tin. The smoke from the brazier licks up around the sides of the saucepan occasionally and takes a sort of taste of the contents, leaving its flavor therein. But what is a bit of smoke in a trench stew? If you are not careful the spoon or other weapon with which you stir the mess may become a bit gummy and encrusted with the deposits of many stirrings, but the flavor, even then, is excellent. I heard an officer just back from a week's riot in London, where he had lived at the Savoy and Romano's, exclaim with undoubted sincerity, as his batman set the familiar trench dish before him once more: "Good old bully beef! It tastes like real food after the fussy stuff back in civilization. I pretty nearly asked for it on the steamer train coming from Victoria Station."

Daytime is Resting Time

Except when an advance is being prepared, or is expected from the other side of No Man's Land, daytime is the resting time of the men, or if they have had enough sleep, it affords then unlimited scope for the practice of mending, shaving, cleaning one's rifle, or cooking. From Stand-down at dawn till Stand-to at dusk there is always somebody cooking something in the trenches. It is not only a pastime, but it is a subject for infinite research work. In one trench I heard of a man, a six-footer with a beard, who in other days used to do plumbing in Toronto, who had become so immersed, not to say buried, in the mysteries of cookery that his dishes, albeit limited in number, were in great demand. He had learned to make a sort of chop suey seasoned with a strange herb discovered in what used to be Anton's (Antoine's) farm.

That concerns the feeding of the men in the trenches. They are their own cooks for only a limited number of days while living in the front line. When, however, they get their relief and are sent back first to the reserve line and then go to the billets, they are served by real cooks from real kitchens and have a chance to wash the grime off their hands if they want to. Also there is more water to drink than in the front line, where there is a drinking supply fairly convenient and under cover. But the problem of feeding the biggest family in the world, except the Russian Czar's family of fighting men, is not solved merelkyu by the ration parties and the stew-tenders either in the trenches or in billets.

Some Sunday in London take a twenty-four bus down Oxford street past the Bank and down Commercial road to, say, the East India Docks. While all the rest of London is warming itself at its grate fires or sipping tea, down here a beef boat from Uruguay or the Argentine is working her way into the still waters of the dock, through the narrow gate that cuts off the open River Thames, with its constant rise and fall, from the docks proper. There are already seven other ships in the dock, not counting insignificant little trawlers and wind-jammers. These seven black-painted liners are all unloading food: wheat, cheese and butter from Canada; mutton from New Zealand; canned eggs from China; pork from the Netherlands. Watch the newcomer as she is warped round a nasty cement corner of the entrance channel into the basin and then towards her berth. In a few minutes her hatches, like those of the other seven, are broached. The stevedores swarm into her holds and the donkey engines start whining and grumbling under the gravely moving derrick arms. Presently, what was an empty dock-section is heaped high with the cargo and a string of "goods vans" is toting it away. Follow it to a Government cold-storage place. Thence it emerges presently in wooden cases and is teamed to another dock, where sundry small steam trawlers lie waiting for errands to do. Their errand is now to take that beef, with probably a couple of military automobiles and a few thousand rounds of eighteen pounder shells, across the Channel to France. Watch the trawler as she quits her dock and gets out into the Thames, down past the old wooden wall of England, where she lies in the river, past the lightship at the Noro and the rows upon rows of nets and mines, and nets again, till she is in the open Channel. See what that is that circles her and her sister ships, protecting them against submarines. See them arrive at a French port that looks exactly like Quebec from the upriver side, and see the cargo land on French soil.

That load of bully beef is all but lost sight of in a great mound of stuff on the wharf. It lies there for many hours till finally a gang of workers clears it away and it resumes its journey by rail to a certain inland point. Here the long motor transports pick it up along with other goods, and it is distributed between several divisional depots. Its motor journey may last two days. When German Taubes appear overhead the convoy keep sunder the shade of the trees at the side of the road as much as possible. At night the long caravans lie hidden under avenues of trees if possible, and by day go on, closer and closer to the front. Occasionally, when an enemy airman has been able to spy the convoy and give the range, the convoy is shelled. It may lose some of its bully beef. There may be casualties, but the service has to be kept up across areas where the enemy has concentrated fire enough to daunt less courageous men. Yet in the midst of dangers the routine is still preserved. The officer in charge of the column collects written acknowledgements of the receipt of so much bully beef, so much pork, so much flour, and so on, from each depot. These in turn keep similar records.

In the stock of the commissariat there are not many dainties. Marmalade is about the best of them in ordinary times. But even that rule is abated as it gets toward Christmas. It is safe to say that there was probably more plum pudding in the British trenches in France this year than in all of Canada put together. And if in the list of extras which the military post brought the men there was nothing for certain men without friends of family back home, they would find themselves made partners in the things the more fortunate men received. For that is another point about the trenches; one man's wealth is for the moment every man's wealth. A ten-pound plum cake received by one man would probably yeild him just one fair-sized slice. The rest would be distributed in less than ten minutes.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Friday, 15 May 2015
The Citadel Condemned
Topic: Halifax

The Citadel Condemned

Historic Fort of Halifax to be Abandoned

Daily Mail and Empire, Toronto, 5 May 1899

Halifax, May 4.—The citadel overlooking this city, which has heretofore been considered the strongest fortification in North America, has been condemned. The fort was supposed to be impregnable, but it has seen its last days of usefulness in the capacity of a basis of defence in case of war.

Already the guns have been dumped, and hereafter the place will be little less than a resort for sightseeing tourists. The citadel is 253 feet above the level of the sea, and overlooks the city. It is nearly a mile in circumference. It was constructed at an enormous cost by the British Government, Maroons having been brought to this country to assist in the work. The mortality among these men, however, was so great that the British Government was compelled to send them to the River Niger.

The citadel has several subterranean passages, which are unknown to outsiders. It has been decided by the authorities to use the place in the future for barrack purposes, and one of the regiments now in Wellington barracks will be quartered there.

The dismantling of the fortress will not weaken the Halifax fortification to any appreciable extent, as York Redoubt, which commands the entrance to the harbour, is considered impregnable. It is built of the solid rock, and is mounted with a heavy battery.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Thursday, 14 May 2015
The Three Musketeers
Topic: The RCR

South African War Anecdotes

The Three Musketeers

Canadian Army Journal, Vol 16, No 4, Fall 1962
Contributed by Dr. A.S. McCormick

It is June 1900, and the First Provisional Battalion is in Kroonstad, Orange Free State. It is composed of men who have been left behind because of illness or wounds. Eventually the battalion will catch up with the main body and the men will rejoin their regiments. No. 5 Company is composed of 17 members of The Royal Canadian Regiment under Corporal A.S. McCormick, 25 Gordon Highlanders under Corporal Buggins, and 40 Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. It is an easy life: no drill, no duties - just be available for any call. Food is a tiresome repetition of the same old thing. So Lance-Corporal MacDonald of Halifax, N.S., Pte. Woodliffe of London, Ontario, and I decide to do something about it. At 10 p.m. with everyone else in bed, we set out on our expedition. We cross the dam over the Valch River and go to a supply depot on the far side of the town. We stop far enough from the depot not to be seen by the sentries. Woodliffe scouts around to see the layout. Then when the two sentries have met, turned about, and started back along the beat, he darts in and grabs a box and hurries to join McDonald and me. In the dark we make out the label "biscuits" - hardtack, the last thing anyone would select for a change of diet. "Blasted old biscuits," exclaims Woodliffe and he makes another raid. This time he brings a box with 12 two-pound tins of Bruce's Army and Navy rations a lovely stew. Now my Corporal's stripes do their part. The two men shoulder the boxes and I march them through the streets as a fatigue party. We pass two or three men in whose hearing I angrily say: "This is a fine time to send out a fatigue party!" We stop to rest. Through the darkness looms a figure with slow and measured tread. Looks like a police man, confound it. If it be a military policeman, he is about to see three men make a new world record for the mile. My heart is in my throat and if I cough, I am likely to spit it out. But we wait, the figure approaches, peers into each face and moves on. It is a Kaffir policeman. We breathe again. We continue the march. In camp, we open the boxes and divide the loot. A Gordon sticks his head out of his blanket tent, we beckon to him and when he approaches, hand him a tin. "J—-," he says and goes back to his tent. Happy over a brave deed carried out in the manner worthy of the best traditions of The Royal Canadian Regiment, we sleep like innocent babes. And as long as the food lasts we live happily. But in the long history of The RCR, no men were ever so frightened as we three when that policeman approached. Had our thievery been discovered, it would have been just too bad for the Three Musketeers.

The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Lingo of No Man's Land
Topic: CEF

Lingo of No Man's Land

The Lewiston Daily Sunday, 13 May 1918
Copyright 1918 by British Canadian Recruiting Mission

Counter Battery Duel

A counter battery duel occurs when a battery on one side is answered by a battery on the other side. Two methods of "return" are used:

  1. When an enemy battery shells one of our batteries, if the enemy position is successfully located, we may answer shell for shell in an effort to silence if.
  2. 2. The usual method, however, is for the battery which is the target of enemy shells to keep quiet, but get into communications with several heavy artillery batteries, which will direct a fierce return fire from big guns until the enemy is silenced.

High Explosive Shell

A high explosive shell contains no bullets. It does not explode until it hits the ground but on explosion, the bursts into fragments which are thrown in all directions.

Bombadier

The lowest non-commissioned officer attached to an artillery battery. He wears one stripe on his arms and his rank is equivalent to a lance corporal in the infantry.

Ammunition Column

An ammunition column is a train of transports or wagons drawn by horses or mules, engaged in carrying munitions from the railroads to the munitions dumps and from the dumps to the batteries.

Dud Shells

A dud shell is a dead one, that is, one does not explode after being fired. Removing these unexploded shells is one of the dangers of reclaiming the waste land over which the armies have been fighting.

Knife Rest

A wire entanglement made in sections behind the line and carried forward at night to be set up in No Man's Land. This method is easier and quicker construction than out on No Man's Land exposed to enemy fire.

Concertina Wire

Coils of wire like a concertina are one of the methods of wire entanglement. These coils are linked together to form an obstacle more difficult for the Germans to get through than the ordinary tangled wire protection.

Patrol Parties

These are groups of from three to 20 men usually accompanied by an officer, sent out into No Man's Land at night with some definite object in view, either to report on enemy movements in the trenches, conditions of the barb-wire entanglements or locations of breaks through which attacking infantry may go. Small parties usually go out on this work and move by stealth, creeping and crawling from shell-hole to shell-hole to keep out of sight of the enemy when a rocket or "star-shell" makes No man's Land as bright as day. Large patrols armed with machine guns are sometimes sent out to attack and capture an enemy patrol and secure information from the prisoners.

Star Shell or Very Light

Is a rocket fired from a pistol. It bursts in the air with fireworks display bright enough to illumine No Man's Land and reveal enemy scouts. Colored shells are used for signals. The Very bright SOS rocket is called by the soldiers "Save Our Souls." A scout in No Man's Land upright in the glare of an exploding rocket is often entirely safe if he stands perfectly still.

Sniper

A sharp-shooter, located in some place of advantage like an old tree or ruined tower, close enough to the enemy lines for him to be able to pick off any man caught above the parapet. The contour of the ground and the constant shall-fire makes many places where the trench walls are low or have been partly blown away, and any soldier who forgets to duck his head in passing such a spot, is a fair target for the sniper.

Over–the–Tapes

Rehearsing the plan of attack behind the lines, so as to avoid misunderstandings and delays in action is called "Over–the–tapes." From aerial photographs, a map of white tape is laid out in some field behind the lines, showing the relation and direction of enemy trenches from our own and the distance between the various points. Each soldiers learns exactly how far and in what direction from his own post, is the part of the enemy trench which he is to reach and capture.

Wiring Party

Wiring parties are sent out at night to repair damage in the barb-wire entanglements, or to put up new entanglements in front of the trenches. The work is always done at night, in order to avoid the danger of enemy fire.

Pushing Up the Daisies

This expression means a man has been killed and buried.

M & V

Meat and vegetables, or in army official language, rations.

Bully Beef

The soldier's name for the canned corn beef, which is a principal part of his diet.

Iron Rations

The special 24-hour emergency allowances of bully beef and hard tack or ship's biscuits which the soldiers receive before going into the trenches.

Billet

When the soldiers come out of the trenches for rest, they are housed with French families in the neighborhood, or given sleeping quarters in barns or outhouses [i.e., outbuildings]. These are their billets.

Estaminet

The French word adopted by the British soldiers, meaning "drinking house" or saloon, where they can buy beer, French wines and similar drinks.

Rum Jar

Not a drinking vessel, but a term for the German home-made trench mortar. It looks like a piece of stove pipe on a wooden base, it is filled with all kinds of metal bits, and is fitted with a time fuse.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Tuesday, 12 May 2015
The Mess Account Discrepancy
Topic: Officers

Infantrymen of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment advancing through Motta, Italy, 2 October 1943. Photographer: Lieut. Jack H. Smith MIKAN Number: 3525793

The Mess Account Discrepancy

And No Birds Sang, Farley Mowat, 1979

In the circumstances, it was inevitable that we would begin to feel a festering contempt for the pompous paper-pushers of our behind-the-lines bureaucracy, whose only discernible reason for existence seemed to be to make our lives a trial.

One such was a pasty-faced, pot-bellied major from some arcane financial section who appeared every time we withdrew into reserve, but never came near when we were within artillery range of the enemy. He pursued us with dogged tenacity through Sicily and Italy for six months, demanding that we rectify a discrepancy in the officers' mess accounts amounting to the horrendous sum of three pounds, nine shillings and six pence. He would not accept my explanation (I was mess secretary during much of this period) that my predecessor had been blown to bits together with the account books and the mess funds themselves when a landmine went off beneath his truck.

"That just won't do—won't do at all," the major huffed.

"He should have been blown up by a two-ton bomb instead?" I asked innocently.

The major glared angrily. "There should have been copies of the mess accounts kept in a safe place. The missing monies must be accounted for or you will be held personally answerable to the auditor-general!"

He demanded that I institute a full-scale Court of Inquiry to trace the missing funds. What I actually did was lead him a merry chase for months, until I got so sick of his face that I collected the equivalent of the missing sum in captured German marks and sent it off to him. In due course I received his official receipt, properly stamped and signed, in quintuplicate.

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 11 May 2015
Canadian Army Develops New Baseplate For Mortar
Topic: Mortars

Canadian Army Develops New Baseplate For Mortar

Canadian Army Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1, Jan 1955
A News Report By The Directorate Of Public Relations (National Defence)

The Canadian Army has solved a problem which has baffled military researchers for years. Army Headquarters said it has developed a lighter, more durable and cheaper medium mortar baseplate which has passed all tests with flying colors. It is now available for issue to infantry units. The new, 25-pound, circular baseplate is made of high-grade aluminum alloy and can be produced for $65, about 50 per cent. cheaper than the steel plate now in use. Production has been carried out by the Aluminum Company of Canada, Limited, at its Kingston, Ont. plant. The baseplate is adaptable for use with both the U.S.-built 81-millimetre mortar and the British-built three inch weapon. Extensive tests resulted in excellent reports on the new baseplate. Research has gone on since 1949 when the Directorate of Armament Development was first assigned the job. The aluminum plate has been tested on every type of surface – mud, sand, turf, solid concrete, rubble, frozen river beds and thick lake ice, as well as off concrete with the centre unsupported. In all these tests the hammer forged disc withstood the 45,000 pounds-per-square-inch pressure exerted on it each time the mortar was fired. The plate has been subjected to temperatures as low as 50 degrees below zero and hundreds of rounds fired from the mortar. Super charges were used to boost the pressure thrust considerably but the plate showed no signs of cracking or breaking. Biggest drawbacks of the steel baseplate were its cumbersome weight (40 pounds) and its tendency to crack or break after rough or prolonged usage. Seeking to overcome these drawbacks, the Army took its problem to the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys. This department put its experts to work on the problem. Before long they had met the rugged standards required by the Army for this new and unique design of mortar baseplate. Research into the use of a still lighter metal, magnesium, is continuing at the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys.

elipsis graphic

To many readers, this baseplate will be most recognizeable as that used with the following weapons:

The Senior Subaltern


Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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