The First World War
An RCR Officer's Diary 1914-1918

JANUARY, FEBRUARY, MARCH 1918

JANUARY 1918

The battalion began the year in ordinary trench routine in the Lens Sector in frost and snow, which lasted until the middle of the month when, owing to the thaw, all trenches collapsed in their customary manner.

The enemy during this period wore white suits for raiding and patrolling which camouflaged then against the snow.

A system of granting leave to Canada to married men who had been overseas since the beginning of the war was commenced, twelve other ranks were sent from the battalion.

On 16th [Jan] the battalion was relieved by P.P.C.L.I. and returned via Lievin to hutments at Souchez by Light Railway, thence two days later to Bois des Alleux, celebrating Christmas by music, games, and a dinner at Le Pendu Camp on 20th [Jan].

Here they carried out working parties. A night air raid was made on the camp on 28th [Jan] but no casualties were caused.

FEBRUARY 1918

Lts Crosby [and] A.A. Atkinson joined at Le Pendu, and Majs du Domaine, C.L. Wood, Capt Griffith and Lt Sutherland returned.

Lts Naylor and Munro proceeded to R.F.C. and Lt Hopkins to the War Office.

Sgt W.H. Deo was promoted Lieut.

General Farmer made an inspection of a new pattern field oven designed by Capt Phillips, the Quartermaster, and expressed himself favourably on it.

A system of granting leave to Canada to married men who had been overseas since the beginning of the war was commenced, twelve other ranks were sent from the battalion.

On 3rd [Feb] a memorial service was held for those who had perished in the explosion at Halifax on Dec 7th. The battalion subscribed towards the Relief Fund.

On 21st Feb 46th Cdn Bn relieved the battalion, it moved to Suburban Camp, Villers au Bois, which it took over from 29th Cdn Bn.

On 23rd [Feb] the battalion supplied a Guard at H.Q. 3 Cdn Div for the Commander-in-Chief F.M. Sir Douglas Haig who, on inspecting them, said; "They were well turned out."

Maj A.E. Willoughby was awarded the M.C. and C.S.M. Wyatt the D.C.M. In the New Year's Honours.

MARCH 1918

On 1st [Mar] the battalion marched via L Pendu and Mt St Eloy to Cellars Camp, Neuville Vitasse, leaving "A" and "B" Cos. to work under the Engineers. While here lectures were given on economy, the urgent need of which affected every conceivable thing, and as a matter of training the system of salvage and care was invaluable.

Lectures on tank tactics were given. Tanks being of such recent introduction their methods underwent constant change due to improvement in machines and experience in action.

Major Bouchard was appointed Town Major of Lieres.

Owing to the call on the manpower of the nation it was decided to break up 5th Cdn Div which had been training in England and was due to come to France at any time.

The British Divisions had been reduced by taking away one battalion from each brigade. The Canadian Corps, however, did not change its organization, but drew on 5th Div to make up its wastage. Under this scheme a draft of 300 from 185th Bn N.S. Highlanders were sent to the battalion of which 100 arrived at this time. In October the 26th Cdn Res Bn which had fed the Regiment and 25th Nova Scotia Rifles was absorbed into the 17th Res Bn. The 17th Res Bn from then undertook to feed the Regiment, 25th N.S. Rifles and 85th N.S. Highlanders. Under the Military Service Act the Regiment had been grouped with Nova Scotia for its recruits.

Owing to Russia having withdrawn from the war all Recruits of Russian origin were taken away from combatant units. Many excellent N.C.O's and men were consequently lost to the battalion and other units, and in many cases very much against the will of the men concerned.

On 6th [Mar] the battalion moved into the right subsection near Avion relieving 43rd Bn (Cameron Highlanders).

This was the beginning of a long trench tour which lasted very nearly three months. This tour, although not marked by any particular action, was one of constant strain and latterly of great anxiety. The time of year was bad and unhealthy, rain, mud and cold with all its satellites.

The enemy indulged in much Heavy Trench Mortar work which under the most favourable conditions is the most moral breaking thing imaginable. A new method of using gas was introduced; projectors, a form of Trench Mortar firing a huge container of gas, these had the same effect as cloud gas but being projected at 800 yards range the enemy were not dependent on a favourable wind.

Trench raids were also carried out by both sides.

At the end of the month the last and heaviest German attack commenced a little south of the Corps Area.

Although this attack did not actually reach the sector occupied by the Corps yet renewed activity was shown by the Germans along the whole front and feints with an effort of pinning fresh troops to the ground were carried out.

It was during this period that Lieut Gen Sir Arthur Currie, Commanding the Canadian Corps, issued his world famous message. The Corps, however, was not called upon to stem the onslaught but kept for the more glorious task of driving him back to his own country.

It was at this time also that the married rank and file who had been away from their families in Canada for a long time and had not had any leave were allowed to return to Canada on compassionate leave, the first batch of 12 left in the middle of the month.

During the period of anxiety, or in the case of other units, every available man was put into the line. Those away on courses of instruction were recalled, the Band and Drums and even employed men were formed into a special platoon belonging to the Headquarters Company.

Up to the end of March 154 officers and 3263 other ranks had served with the battalion in France. Of these 20 officers and 621 other ranks had lost their lives and 65 officers and 1769 other ranks had been wounded.

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