L. McLeod Gould.

From B.C. to Baisieux : being the narrative of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion online

. (page 1 of 30)
Online LibraryL. McLeod GouldFrom B.C. to Baisieux : being the narrative of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion → online text (page 1 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


tiv'a«»>sy?.->:r'Wii:j.<



^B 742 bl3






cffelG25^





LIEUT. -COL. J. W. WARDEN, C.B.E., U.S.O.



FROM B. C. TO BAISIEUX



BEING THE NARRATIVE HISTORY
OF THE



102nd Canadian Infantry

Battalion



BY



L. McLeod Gould, M.S.M. Croix de Guerre



»\



(B.A. Cantab)



Late Sergeant, Headquarters Staffs 102ncl Canadian Infantry Battalioi



To the memory of those brave members of the 1 02nd, Canadian Infantry

Battalion who laid down their lives for ihe Cause of Liberty and

Justice this book '* reverently dedicated



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



kj i L , fj



1919

THOS. R. CUSACK PRESSES
VICTORIA, B. C.



By L. McLEOD GOULD.

Inspired by the Runners of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion.
(Reprinted from "Canada in Khaki," 1917.)

When soldiers are ready to drop with fatigue,
And only an Adjutant's brain can intrigue
A vital despatch to his C.O.'s colleague,
Who are the boys who can still stay a league?

The Runners.

When wires are broken and pigeons won't fly,
When shrapnel and bullets are raining on high,
When hell's on the earth and earth's in the sky,
Who are the boys who will get through or die?

The Runners. '

Then here's to all soldiers of every degree,
Be they horsemen, or gunners, or stout infantry,
But specially to those who appeal most to me,
Who tackle their work with a semblance of glee,

The Runners.



AUTHORS PREFACE




N THE following pages no attempt has been made to
deal with the strategy or tactics involved in the many
actions in which the 102nd Battalion took part. I have
endeavoured throughout to keep within the limits of my
title and to write a Narrative History only, tracing the
course of the Battalion from its earliest stages in British
Columbia to its last action at Baisieux, and affording, as it were, sign-
posts on the route, marking by-paths of reminiscence down which each
man, according to his length of service, can wander at his will.

I have written this book from the point of view of my own rank;
in Canadra and for seven months in Flanders I was a Private; after
that period I attained the dignity of a Sergeant. The opinions freely
expressed in the subsequent pages are, in consequence, those of an Other
Rank, and, though entirely personal, reflect, I confidently believe, the
opinions of the large majority of Other Ranks. I have tried to avoid
casting personal reflections, but I have not hesitated to indulge in
criticism of the system where such criticism seems well founded.
Above all, I have studiously refrained from that fulsome adulation of
men in authority which so often detracts from the value of an other-
wise admirable publication.

As Regimental Diarist during the whole of the period from
August 12th, 1916, to the day of Demobilization, T am in a position to
guarantee the accuracy of all dates and places mentioned, and trust
that the correctness of tlie record will compensate my readers for all
that they will find lacking in interest and literary style.

I fear that the Nominal Roll at the end of this volume will be
found to contain many errors and some omissions, but it represents an
honest endeavour to supply a complete Roll containing all the essential
information at my disposal. T shall at all times be pleased to furnish
any information in my power to those making enquiries of a detailed
and personal nature. As T am in possession of duplicates of most of
the Battalion Records T am probably better equipped than any other
person to answer questions of such a character. T shall also be very
glad to receive any corrections with respect to casualties or addresses
which may lead to subsequent editions being more perfect.

In conclusion, I wish to acknowledge the courtesy of the Editors
of The Vancouver Daily Province and The Vancouver Daily World in
according me permission to reproduce in part articles which appeared
in their columns during the progress of the war, and to all those
members of the Battalion who, by their sympathy and advice, have
contributed largely towards the production of this volume, I extend
my sincere thanks.

L. McLEOD GOULD.

P.O. Box 721, Victoria, B.C., October 1st, 1919.



iVi2039iO



The 5©iig ©f the ^pit

(Sung to the tune of ''John Brozvn's Body")

#

We're" Warden's weary warriors, a'drilling on the sand;
And paying out a buck a day to help the bloomin' band.
But what they do with all the cash, we don't quite understand.

As we go marching on.

The Colonel forms us up in line and hands us lots of bull :
''You are the finest bunch of men that trigger e'er did pull."
On beef and beans and bread and jam we keep our bellies full.

As we go marching on.

Tlie sand gets in our blankets, and the wind blows chill and drear.
If life was dull at Comox, it's a damned sight duller here,
You have to go a mile or so to get a glass of beer,

As we go marching on.

Chorus :

We are Warden's weary warriors.
We are Warden's weary warriors.
We are Warden's weary warriors,

The gallant One-O-Two. *





CHAPTER I.

Early Experiences in Canada — The Spit, Comox, B.C. —
The First of Many Moves.

HE official date for the mobilization of the 102nd
Canadian Infantry Battalion, whose adventures in
Canada, England, France and Belgium during the
days of The Great War it is the object of this book
t(j chronicle, is given as November 3rd, 1915, on
which date authority was issued to Lieut. -Colonel
John Weightman Warden, formerly of St. John's, N.B., but then of
Vancouver, B.C., to raise a battalion for service overseas, this
battalion to be raised in Northern British Columbia and to be
styled the 102nd (Comox-Atlin) Overseas Battalion. A newspaper
story, which may or may not have some foundation in fact, states
that the inauguration "of the unit was the outcome of a wager laid
between Mr. H. Clements, M.P. for Comox-Atlin, and one of his
colleagues in the Federal House, the latter having jestingly chal-
lenged him to produce a unit from his barren constituency. If
there be any truth in the yarn it certainly affords an exccPlent
example of the adage that from small beginnings great things
do grow.

The officer to whom this commission was entrusted was a
veteran of experience. A native of New Brunswick, he had
enlisted in the Canadian Contingent at the time of the Great
Boer War, exchanging later into the South African Constabulary
and serving continuously in South Africa thereafter until March,
1906, when he returned to Canada. On his. arrival he felt the
call of the West and migrated to Vancouver where he engaged
in the business of general broker and real estate dealer, satisfying
his military propensities by first enlisting in the 6th (D.C.O.R)
Regiment and later, in May, 1911, taking out a commission in
the same unit. Lt.-Col. Warden claims to be the first man in
British Columbia, if not the first in the Dominion, to volunteer
for service in the war just concluded, as he submitted his name
to the Volunteer List on the very day on which Austria declared
war on Serbia. However that may be, he crossed over with
the First Contingent and as a captain in the 7th Battalion was




u
w

o

o
u



m

w

o
o
a



seriously wounded at Ypres on April 24th, 1915. He was invalided
to England and on his discharge from hospital, during con-
valescence, came back to Canada on furlough. It was whilst he
was in Canada on this furlough that he was granted the com-
mission of Lieutenant-Colonel and given the authority to raise
the new battalion.

Having due regard to the tj^pe of men from amongst whom
the new recruits were to be sought, no better choice of a
Commanding Officer could have been made. There was plenty
of material available, but it lay underneath the hard exterior of
the average British Columbia fisherman, miner and logger. A
polished officer of the old school would have made no headway
in his recruiting campaigns, but "Honest John'' Warden appealed
immensely to these men; he had done plenty of "roughing it"
himself in his life; he had served as a private; he had been to the
front and been wounded, and, above all, there was absolutely no
"swank" about him. To the very end of his career with the 102nd
Battalion the original members of the battalion always referred
to him in terms of genuine affection.

Immediately on receipt of his commission Colonel Warden
set out on the first of many recruiting journeys throughout the
length and breadth of the Province and opened up recruiting
stations at central points. The most important of these was in
Vancouver where Lieut. R. G. H. Brydon was placed in charge;
Lieut. J. F. Brandt undertook similar duties at Prince Rupert,
Lieut. J. C. Halsey at Prince George, Lieut. F. Lister at Cran-
brook. Lieut. J. H. Grant at Nelson, and Sergt. A. A. F. Calland
at Vernon.

As soon as this preliminary work had been accomplished
whereby recruiting could be commenced without loss of time, it
became necessary to decide on a suitable location for Battalion
Headquarters and for a mobilization camp. In view of the fact
that the Battalion to be raised was to be known as the Comox-
Atlin Battalion it was felt that mobilization and training should be
carried out within the precincts of that constituency, and after
much deliberation it was decided to form the camp on Goose
Spit, Comox. As this was the first home of the 102nd it is but
fitting here to give a somewhat detailed description of this camp.

Comox is a small sea-port lying some 150 miles North from
Victoria on the East coast of Vancouver Island. It is a port of
considerable importance, lying as it does close to the coal fields
of Cumberland and possessing an excellent harbour. It is a
regular port of call for steamers plying from Vancouver and
Nanaimo; moreover, it is 'but three miles distant from Courtenay,
the northern railhead of the E. & N. Railway. On the east the
harbour is protected by a mushroom-shaped tongue of land con-
nected with the coast by a narrow neck of sand; this is Goose
Spit. In the days when the Imperial Navy used Esquimalt as a



10

Pacific base this Spit had been used as a range and traces of
such use were still in evidence at the time when the 102nd settled
down for training. But much had to be done before this took
place, and, as will be seen later, great hardships had to be endured
by the first-comers before the camp was in readiness to receive
the bulk of the battalion.

Battalion Headquarters were established in Victoria where
close connection could be maintained with Headquarters, M. D.
No. XL, which were situated at Work Point, and offices were
opened on the ground floor of the Union Bank Building, View
Street. The officer who had the responsibility of conducting the
early work of the battalion at Headquarters was Major L. M.
Hagar, an officer. of great experience in military routine work, and
within two or three days he had enrolled a complete clerical staff
headed by Sgt. J. L. Lloyd as Orderly Room Sergeant, under
whom were Ptes. J. C. Howden, H. Hudson, L. McL. Gould, J. L.
Campbell and F. E. W. Smith. During these early days Major
Hagar lacted as Colonel Warden's personal ridpresentative in
Victoria. He was soon joined by Capt. H. B. Scharschmidt whom
Colonel Warden had selected as his Adjutant. Capt. Scharschmidt
had already seen service in Flanders, having proceeded overseas
with the 7th Battalion and taken part in the bloody fray of the
2nd Battle of Ypres, where he was badly gassed. His restor-
ation to health found him keenly eager to go back to France and
he welcomed the opportunity afforded him by his old comrade in
arms. Prior to the outbreak of the war he had had five years'
experience as a commissioned officer of the 6th (D.C.O.R.) Regi-
ment in Vancouver. A third officer to report for duty at Battalion
Headquarters was Lieut. R. D. Forrester, whose previous training
had been carried out in the C. A. S. C. at Vancouver. Lieut. For-
rester undertook the duties of Assistant Adjutant. A few weeks
after the opening of these Headquarters Major C. B. Worsnop
reported to take over the duties of Second-in-Command, though
he was not of^cially gazetted as such until the unit left for England.
Headquarters establishment was further augmented by the appoint-
ment of Lieut. T. P. O'Kelly, an experienced ex-transportation
official of the Hudson's Bay Co., as Transport Officer, and W. H.
Long of the Vancouver Police Force, an ex-Hussar with a long
Indian Service record, as Regimental Sergeant-Major.

In the meantime both the Battalion Pay Department and the
Quartermaster's Department had been organized and established
in Victoria. Capt. J. A. Kirkpatrick, of Prince Rupert, had
received the appointment of Paymaster and chosen as his Sergeant
W. F. Beak, who hailed from the same city. With Ptes. J. Wilson
and W. Paterson the Pay Office was complete and carried on work
in the same office as the Battalion Orderly Room. Capt. F.
Stead, late of the C. A. S. C. in Vancouver, was Quartermaster
and he brought as his Quartermaster-Sergeant G. S. Hutchings



n

who nad already seen active service in South Africa and had
transferred to the 102nd Bn. from the C A. S. C. Ptes. O. L.
McDoiigal, G. S. Clarke and W. W. Bechtel completed the
Quartermaster's establishment and the stores were opened on
Bastion Street.

So much for the organization of Headquarters in Victoria,
where routine work was carried on until the second week in
March. In addition to the registering of all recruits whose papers
were forwarded from the recruiting stations mentioned above, an
active recruiting campaign was maintained in Victoria itself and
Sgt. G. B. Thompson, who also acted as Provost-Sergeant, did
yeoman service in meeting all boats and conducting likely candi-
dates first to Headquarters and then to the office of Capt. A. E.
]McMicking, who acted as Battalion Medical Officer in the city.

Meanwhile recruiting was going on merrily throughout the
Province. In the majority of cases where men were enlisted in the
vicinity of any of the interior recruiting stations they took
advantage of the clause in the Act and remained billeted in their
own homes on a subsistence allowance, reporting daily to their
local headquarters for drill and preliminary training. Others were
billeted in local quarters; but where this practice did not prevail
the men were forwarded direct to the mobilization camp. For
those who shared this fate the winter of 1915-16 will always have
many bitter memories. Frankly, conditions at Comox and
Courtenay were deplorable. The men were told in all good faith
to take nothing with them; that clothing, blankets and almost
all the luxuries of home would be waiting for them on arrival; the
half-hearted suggestion of a moving-picture proprietor that he
might open up a show in camp in the future was exaggerated
until the recruit believed that he would find the white lights of
Broadway twinkling on the Spit. And when the men arrived by
ones and twos, or in parties, they found — nothing, not even clothes.
There was a "hold-up" somewhere and it was a long and tedious
job to pry loose the fingers that were holding so fast to the
supplies, and all the time, throughout the bitterest winter that had
been known for years on Vancouver Island, the newly recruited
men, who had deliberately left behind them warm clothing, were
starved with cold. The fact was, so many battalions were recruit-
ing at one and the same time that as fast as supplies reached the
centres of population they were seized for the men on the spot,
and the poor fellows in isolated Comox had to share the fate of
all those who are out of sight. At least, that is the most charitable
explanation. No blame attaches to the Quartermaster's Depart-
ment of the unit; Capt. Stead made frantic efforts to supply
deficiencies, but he could not create what was not there and
supplies continued to go forward in exasperatingly small quantities.

However, clothing or no clothing, the nucleus of a battalion
carried on at Comox and Courtenay. Miajor G. Rothnie, of



1:2

Kamloops, who had served in the Canadian Contingent during the
Boer War and had also seen service with the First Contingent
in Flanders, whence he had returned wounded in the foot, was in
command, and with him was associated Capt. A. T. Johnston,
another South African veteran. Sgt. Harold Brown acted as local
orderly room sergeant and assisting him were Ptes. F. Field and
F. du Jardin. These five comprised what might be called Advanced
Headquarters. At first lack of accommodation in Comox made
it necessary to divide the men into two companies, one being
stationed in Courtenay and the other in Comox, but this arrange-
ment was found to be unsatisfactory and as soon as possible the
Spit itself was made habitable and the larger portion of the men
were housed under canvas, the balance being quartered in the
Hotel Port Augusta, Comox, which was requisitioned as a sort
of receiving station.

It is not easy to describe the hardships which these pioneers
of the Spit camp had to undergo. A reference has already been
made to the severity of the weather; the snowfall was phenomenal
and on more than one occasion the men were called out of their
beds to clear the roof before the weight of snow brought it down
on their heads. Moreover, before the Spit could be used, it was
necessary to lay a water pipe from a spring on the mainland across
the shallow bay formed by the curve of the peninsula. To do
this the men had to work up to their thighs in water, and that in
December and January. Buildings had to be erected for mess-
halls and recreation rooms; a bath-house had to be constructed,
kitchens made and all the other appurtenances of a military camp.
The first building erected for a mess-hall collapsed, partly owing to
snow but more largely because the small body of Engineers on
the spot who were responsible for its design were more competent
in theory than in practice. Colonel Warden pleaded that his
recruits, who were all practical, out-door men, be allowed to go
ahead and make a camp for themselves, but Red Tape ruled that
if the Government supplied the material, it should also supply the
brains; unfortunately the Government was only in a position to
supply heads. In addition to this kind of work the troops at Comox
rendered enormous benefits to the people of the district in helping
them to clear away the snow which in every locality was proving
a very real menace to safety.

And so the winter passed. That it passed without any fatality
from disease occurring was no credit to responsible authority;
it was merely a striking evidence of the physical fitness and calibre
of the men. That it ^passed without any outwand sign of discon-
tent was a tribute to the patriotism of the rank and file and the
tact and sympathy of the officers on the spot. That Colonel
Warden could frequently visit these men and receive a hearty
welcome was in itself sufficient proof that they never blamed him
for their straits, but realized that he was doing all he could to



13

overcome the apathy which was reacting with such severity upon
the early members of the unit.

With the coming of spring conditions improved. Early in
March Headquarters moved up from Victoria and after a brief
sojourn in Port Augusta were established in a large marquee on
the Spit itself. The men from Vancouver, Nelson and Vernon had
already arrived. Soon after, the men from Prince Rupert and
Prince George marched in under the leadership of Lieut. J. F.
Brandt; so numerous was this party that it was formed into a
company by itself and No. 2 Co. later known as "B" Co., was the
rallying point for all the hardy men from that district. A notable
incident took place on the occasion of the arrival of the Prince
Rupert men. Capt. J. S. Matthews happened to be the senior
officer on the Spit when they marched in and he welcomed them
by calling for cheers in the following words: "North British
Columbians, three cheers for the men from Prince Rupert." That
was the first occasion on which the battalion had been styled
"North British Columbians" and from that date onwards the title
has held, being adopted in place of the words "Comox-Atlin."
Thereafter the battalion was known as the 102nd (North British
Columbians) Overseas Battalion, and the title obtained on the
battalion crest. Still a little later and Lieut. F, Lister appeared
at the head of his Cranbrook men. A volume could be written on
the difficulties with which this officer, destined to be our second
Colonel and to lead the battalion home again, had 'had to contend;
suffice it to say that only by an admirable exhibition of tact and
firmness had he been enabled to keep for the 102nd Battalion those
men whom he had personally enlisted and whom local jealousies
had tried to wean from the battalion of their first choice.

Training now began in earnest. With the severity of winter
passed, it would have been hard to find a healthier spot for the
location of a training camp. Practically surrounded by the sea,
swept by the four winds of heaven, with a dry sandy soil, the Spit
proved up on all that its advocates had had to say for it. During
the whole of our three months' sojourn there as a battalion there
was but one fatal casualty, and that was due to a stroke of apoplexy
for which the climate could not be blamed. There was an
epidemic of measles, but it carried with it no harmful after-effects.
With that exception, the Battalion Medical Officer, Capt, N. M.
McNeil of Prince Rupert, had nothing more serious to contend
with than occasional colds and inevitable cuts and bruises. As
the spring wore on to summer first-class bathing was obtainable
off the end of the Spit, and there was ample room for all kinds
of outdoor games. But life was dull on the Spit: there's no
denying it. We had no rifles, except for a dozen or so Ross rifles
which were periodically exhibited on wet days by some enthusiastic
sergeant with confidence in his vocal chords and his ability in the
art of demonstration. The only training we could undergo was



14

drill in one of its four forms, section, platoon, company and
battalion — and the greatest of these is platoon — and route march-
ing. There was no recreation except what we could make for
ourselves. The people of Comox and Courtenay, though they
must have benefited enormously from the presence of a battalion
in their midst, failed to take advantage of the opportunities
afforded to men of enterprise and offered nothing in the way of
evening entertainment. Time hung heavily after the day's work
was done, and even the proverbial mischief which Satan is popu-
larly credited with having on tap for idle hands seldom materialized.
A walk to Comox after supper, a drink at "The Lome," another at
"The Elk,'' perhaps more, not likely less, and then home by our
own little launch "The Joan," and the evening's amusements were
exhausted, save for cards and prayer-meetings, which usually
went on simultaneously in the big mess-hall.

Throughout the three months which the battalion as a
mobilized whole put in on the Spit Colonel Warden was seldom
with us for more than two or three nights at a time. He was
indefatigable in his journeyings up and down the Province,
addressing meetings, stimulating recruiting and interviewing
officials on behalf of the unit, but his frequent visits to Comox
were a never-ending source of joy to the men assembled there.
No matter where he had been he always returned with a telegram
which he had received just before reaching camp. He would have
the battalion formed up on parade and after calling it to "Attention"
he would invariably start by saying, "I have just received a tele-
gram" and then would follow an optimistic message which tended
to prove infallibly that within an incredibly short time we should
be in France. These telegrams became the subject of ribald
jests, and after parade the regular slogan was "Come on, boys,
whip round for another ten cents apiece; it's time we got some
more hay for the Colonel's bull." But we loved those cheering
messages all the same, no matter whence they materialized, and
when all is said and done the Colonel did actually get the battalion
over to France within five months from mobilization, which was
"some record."

With the end of May it became obvious that a move of some
kind in the near future was imperative. The water supply was
beginning to fail and the oldest inhabitants warned us that with
the advent of an average summer we could no longer depend
on our mainland spring. Seeing that on this spring we relied
entirely for both drinking and washing water and that there was



Online LibraryL. McLeod GouldFrom B.C. to Baisieux : being the narrative of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion → online text (page 1 of 30)