IN February, 1915, when the 1st Division was moving up to take its place in the battle-line in Flanders, preparations were under way for a substantial reinforcing base in England. The nucleus of this base, under the command of Colonel W. R. W. James, an Imperial army officer of long service and a former governor of St. Helena, was at Tidworth, on the borders of Salisbury Plain, where there was a permanent barrack of considerable size, occupied in part by Imperial troops and in part by the 6th, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 17th Reserve Battalions of Canada. The barrack had the disadvantage, however, of inaccessibility_ There were no facilities to permit of the men visiting towns of any appreciable size, and the surrounding villages within a radius of six or eight miles offered little or no attractions that could compensate for the tedious walk there and back. To travel to London by train meant loss of much precious time from a leave of absence of only two or three days, and the prospect of remaining in such an isolated spot for an indefinite period was not exactly a pleasant one.
In April, however, much to the delight of all concerned, orders were received to move to Shorncliffe, there to join the 23rd, 30th, and 32nd Battalions, and by this concentration to form the Canadian Training Division. The 1st Division, due to the hard conditions of trench warfare, had lost much of its strength, and just previous to this move a call came to England for reinforcements, and the drafts sent to the Canadian force in France had reduced the strength of the depot by practically every fit and available man. When the move was carried out the 6th Fort Garry Horse proceeded to Canterbury Cavalry Barracks, and the balance of the troops, a few hundreds, to Shorncliffe Barracks.
And now a word about Shorncliffe Camp. It was in an ideal location on Sir John Moore’s Plain, on a plateau overlooking the sea, and consisted of brick buildings of comparatively modern construction. It composed five unit lines known as Ross, Somerset, Napier, Moore, and Risborough Barracks, and was undoubtedly one of the finest permanent barracks in England. A mile to the east, on the opposite side of the valley, was the beautiful seaside resort of Folkestone, a town of considerable size and importance. To the west, about three miles distant, lay Hythe, familiar for its school of musketry and extensive ranges. Joining Folkestone, and extending almost as far along the shores as Hythe were Sandgate and Seabrook, in some places only the width of a single street, and frequently littered with shingle when a stormy sea dashed through the breakwaters and lapped the doorsteps of the dwellings huddled under the cliff. In prominent locations along the coast at this point were ancient martello towers, erected originally as a means of coast defence and now used by the troops as storehouses and observation posts. Stretching from Hythe practically to Hastings was the Hythe Canal, built many years ago when England was alarmed by threat of a French invasion.
On the landward side of the camp proper Cheriton and Shorncliffe villages formed a continuation of Folkestone. A peculiarity of these villages, which applies also to Sandgate, Seabrook, and Hythe, was that there was no visible indication where one village ended and the other began. Even the inhabitants were unable to state definitely what the boundaries were, or at least few agreed on any fixed points.
Behind Cheriton and Shorncliffe there is a high ridge of land, a continuation of the white chalk cliffs of Dover. The dominating feature in this ridge is a huge conical hill which has the appearance of having been partially hollowed out. This hill is known as Caesar’s Camp and is supposed to be the site of the first Roman camp in England.
Needless to say, the change to such surroundings was most welcome to the remnant of the original 1st Contingent after their unpleasant experiences on Salisbury Plain and their isolation at Tidworth. This beautiful country, well served with railways and bus lines, besides offering all the attractions so long denied, was, in addition, of considerable historic interest. The harbour and castle of Dover, only a few miles away, were accessible, provided special passes were secured and the demands of the civilians and military authorities for admission to a garrison town satisfactorily met. All roads to Dover were barricaded and under military guard, and not only was each arrival carefully scrutinized before admission, but each departing traveller likewise was subjected to the most careful examination before being permitted to proceed on his way. Folkestone itself, in addition to the harbour works, has many points of unusual interest; one, which might be mentioned in passing, being a carefully tended monument in the cemetery, marking the resting-place of German sailors who had perished in a naval accident during manoeuvres. Sandgate even boasted a castle where Queen Elizabeth spent a night ; and only a few miles away was the castle where the assassins of Thomas à Becket rested after crossing the Channel, before proceeding to Canterbury on their murderous mission.
On a clear, bright day the view from Sir John Moore’s Plain was magnificent. The coast-line from Dover to the end of Romney Marshes ; the Channel swarming with numerous large and small craft plying between English and French seaports and guarded by aggressive-looking destroyers in their midst and graceful airships overhead; and, faintly visible in the distance, the outline of the French coast, comprised a picture which is indelibly impressed on the minds of many thousands of Canadians who viewed it.
The barracks themselves were occupied by the Training Division. Headquarters buildings were in Moore Barrack, and consisted mainly of two well-appointed office buildings, one being allotted to Canadian Head-quarters and one to Command Headquarters. The headquarters of the Shorncliffe Area or Command was known as ” Command Headquarters ” and was ordinarily the only channel of communication through Southern Command to the War Office, from this area. Upon the advent of the Canadian forces, however, the actual command of the troops did not devolve upon Command Headquarters, and the Canadian Headquarters maintained a much larger headquarters establishment, the function of Command Headquarters being the administration of the area and the command of such Imperial troops as may have been stationed there from time to time. The personnel of Command Head-quarters was composed entirely of Imperial officers appointed by the War Office. Any Army Orders or War Office Regulations affecting the civilian population were, of course, promulgated. and carried into effect by Command Headquarters. The principal officers of this Staff were the General Officer Commanding and the Garrison Adjutant.
Brigadier-General J. C. MacDougall commanded the Canadian Training Division. The organization and establishment of Headquarters Canadian Training Division was very similar to that of a regular Service Division with the exception that although the Administrative Staff was composed of Canadian officers the personnel of the General Staff included several Imperial officers in special appointments to plan and supervise the training.
In April, 1915, units earmarked for the 2nd Canadian Division commenced to arrive. Accommodation in the barracks was not available, although some of the earlier arrivals were temporarily allocated until tenting arrangements were made. The majority, however, occupied one or other of the hutted camps, the position of which it will be necessary briefly to outline.
From the south-west corner of the barrack area a road led west for approximately a mile, skirting the front of the camps known as St. Martin’s Plain. Then clipping into a valley and curving through a hamlet, it emerged another mile west and entered East Sandling Camp. Bisecting this camp, it continued on another two miles to West Sandling Camp on the left, and still another mile to Westenhanger Race Course and Otter-pool Camps on the right and left respectively. To follow the road further, it passed through Ashford, Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, and Chiselhurst, and eventually entered London.
The huts occupied as headquarters were at the very commencement of the road on St. Martin’s Plain; and Otterpool, the farthest camp away, was approximately six miles. The camps of Otterpool and Westenhanger were visited by a Zeppelin while occupied by the 5th, 6th, and 7th Artillery Brigades of the 2nd Division. It was later on in the year, after the division had removed from the area with the exception of these three units. ” Lights Out ” had just been sounded when the humming of the Zeppelin engines announced its approach. Almost at once, and before it could be realized that a raid was intended, five bombs were dropped in rapid succession, exploding with terrific force in an oblique line across the camp of Otterpool. The first landed in a hedge bordering the field, the second struck the guard tent squarely, the third fell in the men’s lines, and the fourth in the horse lines, the fifth striking a temporary road and exploding without damage. The Zeppelin then crossed the road and straightening its course parallel to Westenhanger Camp dropped five more bombs. Luckily the exact position of the lines was fifty yards to the left, and this error in judgment on the part of the navigator of the Zeppelin undoubtedly saved many lives, for the bombs exploded harmlessly in the race-track enclosure. At Otterpool, however, there were considerable casualties among men and horses. It was presumed at the time of the raid that the Zeppelin in making its way towards London had drifted too far south and was returning to its base when the camp was sighted, although the position of the two camps in relation to one another seemed to be fairly accurately known.
Two other camps besides those above mentioned were necessary and were located at Caesar’s Camp, already referred to, one on the crest of the hill and the other at its base. By the 25th of May almost all the units of the 2nd Division had arrived in England and had been allotted accommodation. On that date the first Divisional Orders issued by Major-General Sam Steele appeared.
The appointment of General Steele as General Officer Commanding the Division was most favourably received in Canada, as he was one of the most widely known of all Canadian officers. After serving as an ensign with the 35th Militia Regiment from 1866, he joined the Red River Expedition in 1870 and served in the ranks at Fort Garry. He then joined the Royal Canadian Artillery, and in the Rebellion of 1885 served as a major in the Alberta Field Force, commanding a detachment known as ” Steele’s Scouts,” and was responsible for the decisive rout of Big Bear’s forces in a region familiar to the Indians but until then wholly unknown to the white man. In 1898 he was ordered to the Alaskan frontier to prevent American miners from establishing claims in Canada during the Klondyke gold rush. The following year he received promotion to lieutenant-colonel and was also chosen as the military representative of the Federal Government in the Yukon. At the outbreak of the South African War he recruited ” Lord Strathcona’s Horse,” and in South Africa took part in the fighting in Natal and about Pretoria. He was mentioned in despatches, and received the Queen’s Medal, four clasps. He commanded a division of the South African Constabulary under Kitchener from 1900 until 1906, when, upon his return to Canada, he was appointed G. O. C. Military District No. 10.
The division was fortunate in being able to train under most ideal weather conditions and amidst such agreeable surroundings. Musketry was the primary essential in the syllabus of training. The huge musketry ranges in connection with the Hythe School of Musketry were within comparatively easy reach of any of the camps. They were continually in use and occupied to capacity at all times. In order that the Training Division might be in a position to meet all demands from overseas for reinforcements and in view of the fact that no man could proceed overseas who had not completed his musketry course satisfactorily, it was necessary to give the Training Division units priority over other units in the occupation of the ranges. The musketry officers of the General Staff were able, how ever, by anticipating requirements and carefully map-ping out and allotting accommodations to ensure that all units had completed in sufficient time to permit of refresher courses where required. To relieve the pressure on the accommodation at Hythe, several of the 2nd Division units proceeded to Lydd, several miles down the coast, where camps were pitched, and the troops bivouacked at the Lydd ranges until completion of their musketry courses.
Route marching and entrenching formed an important part of the syllabus, which was of course prepared in accordance with the experience of almost a year of actual fighting transmitted through the general staffs of the Imperial and Canadian forces in the field as a basis. An interesting feature of the training at Shorncliffe in connection with entrenching was the construction of trenches for actual purposes of defence, in case of an invasion from the Channel, along the whole shore line at varying distances from the water. In concealed positions in the sand and on the hills from Folkestone Harbour to the Hythe Canal, regular trenches were constructed furnishing, in addition to the training in construction, a line of defence guarding the coast opposite the town and camp. Entrenching was of course carried on in proximity to the camps on the sides of the hills and wherever it was possible to do so. Bombing practice was also an important feature in the training, under strict regulations to ensure the maximum of safety in handling explosives of such a dangerous character.
The artillery units handicapped by being the latest units to arrive and by the fact that they were under strength for some months and without complete equipment were trained in all subjects but actual firing while stationed with the division. Target practice and the use of live ammunition took place on the ranges at Salisbury Plain, as the Kentish countryside did not admit of the segregation of an area of sufficient dimensions to ensure safety.
Divisional manoeuvres and reviews marked the progress made. In July Sir Robert Borden inspected the troops; and in August Mr. Bonar Law and Sir Sam Hughes stood at the saluting base as the troops marched past in a driving rain, just as conscious of their impressive appearance as if they themselves were the spectators.
Finally, on the 2nd of September, the review of His Majesty the King, accompanied by Lord Kitchener, heralded the departure of the 2nd Division for the front. The King’s address to the troops on that occasion was in terms of which every Canadian may be justly proud. The reference to the glorious 1st Division called forth from every man a resolution that the 2nd Division should soon be spoken of with equal pride and reverence, and when the time came they would acquit themselves like true soldiers. The address, as promulgated in a special order of the day, follows :
” Officers, Non-commissioned Officers and Men of the 2nd Canadian Division : Six months ago I inspected the 1st Canadian Division before their departure for the front. The heroism that they have since shown on the field of battle has won for them undying fame. You are now leaving to join them, and I am glad to have the opportunity of seeing you to-day, for it has convinced me that the same spirit which animated them inspires you also. The past weeks at Shorncliffe have been for you a period of severe and rigorous training; and your appearance at this inspection testifies to the thoroughness and devotion to duty with which your work has been performed. You are going to meet hard-ships and dangers, but the steadiness and discipline which have marked your bearing on parade to-day will carry you through all difficulties. History will never forget your loyalty and the readiness with which you rallied to the aid of your Mother Country in the hour of danger. My thoughts will always be with you. May God bless you and bring you victory.”
Before the division proceeded a change in command was made necessary. General Steele was appointed to the Shorncliffe Command, mentioned previously as being an Imperial Command administering the area, and Major-General R. E. W. Turner, V. C., assumed command of the division.
In General Turner, who had commanded the 3rd Infantry Brigade since its organization, the 2nd Division had a soldier at its head of whom it might be justly proud. Though of modest and sympathetic personality, he was so thorough in his methods and so familiar with the duties of each man in all branches of the Service that he shamed the shirker to a sense of his responsibility and won the admiration and affection of every man who had the privilege and honour of serving under his leadership.
Three days after the King’s review, a few units of the division departed for France, crossing from Southampton to Havre; and ten days later, September 13th and 14th, the balance of the division, minus three brigades of artillery the 5th, 6th, and 7th embarked at Folkestone for Boulogne.
The organization of the 2nd Division follows :
General Officer CommandingMajor-Gen. R. E. W. Turner, V. C., D. S. O.
4th Infantry BrigadeCommander, Brig.-Gen. Lord Brooke.
18th Battalion, Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. E. S. Wigle.
19th Battalion, Officer Commanding, Lt-Col. J. I. McLaren.
20th Battalion, Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. J. A. W. Allan.
21st Battalion, Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. W. St. Pierre Hughes.
5th Infantry Brigade Commander, Brig.-Gen. D. Watson.
22nd Battalion, Officer Commanding, Colonel F. M. Gaudet.
24th Battalion, Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. J. A. Gunn.
25th Battalion, Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. G. A. Le Cain.
26th Battalion, Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. J. L. McAvity.
6th Infantry Brigade Commander, Brig.-Gen. H. D. B. Ketchen.
27th Battalion, Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. I. R. Snider.
206 GUARDING THE CHANNEL PORTS
28th Battalion, Officer Commanding, Colonel J. F. L. Embury.
29th Battalion, Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. H. S. Tobin.
31st Battalion, Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. A. B. Bell.
Divisional Artillery Commander, Brig.-Gen. E. W. B. Morrison.
Divisional Engineers Commander, Lt.-Col. H. T. Hughes.
Divisional Train Commander, Lt.-Col. A. E. Massey. Divisional Cyclist Company Commander, Lt.-Col. G. T. Denison.
A. D. M. S. Commander, Colonel J. T. Fotheringham, G. M. C.
No. 4 Field Ambulance Commander, Lt.-Col. W. Webster.
No. 5 Field Ambulance Commander, Lt.-Col. G. D. Farmer.
No. 6 Field Ambulance Commander, Lt.-Col. R. P. Campbell.
The units retained in England to be absorbed by the Training Division were the 36th, 39th, 43rd, and 48th Battalions.
The Training Division had now assumed consider-able proportions and were performing a dual function, training reinforcements for France and distributing, absorbing and retaining casualties discharged from hospitals and convalescent homes.
So unwieldy did the units become frequently having a paper strength of a thousand more than were present in the lines it became necessary to establish a clearing depot for the casualties in order to relieve the training units for more urgent duty.
A Casualty Depot and Command Depot were, there-fore, instituted ; the former acting as a clearing-house to board the men for discharge or retraining; and the latter to receive such men as were certified by a medical board as fit for duty in a Command Depot, where by systematic exercise, extra diet, and recreation they might be enabled to return to the training units for full duty.
While this organization was in progress many additional units had arrived in England from Canada, and the Shorncliffe Area was no longer able to accommodate them all. Bramshott Camp in Surrey was, therefore, secured; and following that, Witley and Borden in the Aldershot Area and Shoreham near Brighton were taken over. Eventually Crowborough, as a machine-gun base, and Bexhill, as an officers’ training camp, came into existence, while the railway troops located at Langmoor, the cyclists near London, the forestry corps in various areas from the North of Scotland to the South of England, and one stray unit of artillery near the East Coast, north of the Thames.
Headquarters Canadian Training Division became, on opening up of Bramshott Camp, Headquarters Canadian, and Bramshott became a Training Division, as did also several of the other areas.
During the time of training, units were earmarked for the proposed 3rd Division, and various attempts were made to segregate such units in one camp. In consequence many units moved two and three times from one camp to another, until the decision was arrived at that the formation of the 3rd Division should take place in France.
A brigade of Canadian Mounted Rifles, part of the force commanded by Brigadier-General Seely, and the units which had been acting in the capacity of corps troops, had all proceeded to France from training camps in England as complete units and been merged temporarily into one or other of these formations until authority for the organization of the 3rd Division had been received ; and early in January two brigades were formed and denominated the 7th and 8th Brigades of the 3rd Division. On the 23rd of February following the 9th Brigade came into being; however, not before the 3rd Division as a division had been actively engaged with the enemy.
The units comprising the 3rd Division were :
General Officer Commanding Major-General M. S. Mercer.
7th Infantry Brigade Commander, Brig.-Gen. A. C. MacDonell.
P. P. C. L. I. Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. H. C. Buller.
R. C. R. Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. C. H. Hill, D. S. 0.
42nd Battalion Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. G. S. Cantlie.
49th Battalion Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. W. A. Griesbach.
8th Infantry Brigade Commander, Brig.-Gen. V. A. S. Williams.
1st C. M. R.’s Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. A. E. Shaw.
2nd C. M. R.’s Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. J. C. L. Bott.
4th C. M. R.’s Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. S. F. Smith.
5th C. M. R.’s — Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. G. H. Baker.
9th Infantry Brigade Commander, Brig.-Gen. F. W. Hill, D. S. 0.
43rd Battalion Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. R. McD. Thomson.
52nd Battalion Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. A. W. Hay.
58th Battalion Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. H. A. Genet.
60th Battalion Officer Commanding, Lt.-Col. F. A. de Gascoigne.
Three divisions in the field, adequate reinforcing bases in England, casualty, railway troops, and forestry corps units numbering over thirty, and the possibility of a 4th Division looming ahead, necessitated a Canadian Headquarters in England modelled on War Office lines. Headquarters Canadian at Shorncliffe became again Headquarters Canadian Training Division, and in London Headquarters Overseas Military Forces of Canada came into being with Major-General Turner, V. C., as General Officer Commanding, Brigadier-General P. E. Thacker as Adjutant-General, and Brigadier-General A. D. McRae as Quartermaster-General.
One of the most important undertakings was the organization of the reserve units in accordance with the Territorial system of reinforcement. This was successfully accomplished in November, 1916, although it was some time after that before actual segregation was possible, owing to the necessity of breaking up and replacing certain units in France in order that the different provinces of the Dominion might be rep-resented according to enlistment and population.
Some districts with smaller enlistment were rep-resented in the field by more units than other districts with large enlistment to their credit. This was worked out on a basis which compared the total force it was intended to maintain with the total enlistment by districts in Canada, and representation by units in France was thus decided. Each unit in the field was then linked up with its corresponding reserve unit in England and district in Canada, ensuring that a man enlisting in Western Ontario would go through a Western Ontario reserve unit to a Western Ontario service unit.