Problems with boots in 1914

Thursday, December 3, 1914

In Camp, West Down South, Salisbury Plains

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Company in attack training in morning.  Night march.”  [1]

03 Dec 14THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: “London, Dec. 1 – A special correspondent of The Times who has been at Salisbury says it is an unfortunate fact that boots do not seem to have been a strong point in the equipment of the Canadian troops.  “One hears hard things said of the Canadian contractors who furnished boots to the Field Force; it is perhaps as well that the troops did not have to go at once to the front with the footwear in which they came over.  Nor is it the only detail,” as an innocent visitor gathers, “in which politics, the universal scapegoat, prevented the gathering and dispatch of the force from being altogether ideal; but whatever shortcomings of equipment or organization there may have been, all are being rapidly remedied, and the fact that it gives it time to remedy them makes the officers, at least, acquiesce more willingly in the period of enforced waiting.

“It has to be remembered that very few of the officers are professional soldiers; most of them cheerfully admit they are at least as much in need of the training which they are now getting as the men.  On the other hand the whole force is extremely high in the level of individual intelligence, so that the men learn quickly, and all ranks are conspicuously keen.

A previous knowledge of soldiering, says the correspondent, is not in every case an unmixed blessing.  Some of the very best men in the force are men who have already seen service in the British army.  Many of them are splendid; others, however, only make their experience and superior knowledge an excuse for putting on airs and doing as little work as possible.  In the first two or three weeks also there was more than a normal amount of breaking the rules and drinking, and this, to the credit of Canada it should be said, was chiefly on the part if not of old soldiers at least of men born in the British Isles, who had only been in the Dominion for a few months.

They found the temptation of being back home, where British beer was cheap again, too much for them.  Drafts of undesirables have been promptly returned to Canada, and the force now is well-behaved, sober and immensely earnest in its work; in this connection too much can hardly be said in praise of the Y.M.C.A. tents.”   [3]

03 Dec 14_B “Ottawa, December 2. _ The Department of Militia is preparing to supply a new consignment of boots for the Canadian troops.  The new shoes will be of a heavier and more serviceable type than that issued to the troops at Valcartier, which does not appear to have withstood the rainy weather and muddy roads at Salisbury.  It will be modelled on the English boot, and orders for its manufacture will be placed upon strict specifications immediately.  The new boot, while more serviceable than that at first supplied, will cost no more.

While the shoes first supplied are not standing the hard usage at Salisbury as they should, the troops are undergoing no hardship, as a full second supply has been provided.  The fault with the first consignment appears to be that they were manufactured in a hurry, and the leather in some cases was not given time to “cure” properly.

It is proposed that every man on the Canadian expeditionary force will be provided with boots manufactured on the new specification before the force is ready to leave for the front.

The order will likely be distributed among a number of firms.  It is stated that there is no scarcity of leather in the Dominion.”   [5]

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, Dec 3, 1914.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa,
[2]   “Fault Found With Boots Supplied To First Contingent,” The Montreal Daily Mail, Montreal, Quebec, Wednesday, December 2, 1914 pg. 2, col. 2.
[3]   Ibid.
[4]  “Canadian Troops Are To Be Supplied With Better Boots,” The Montreal Daily Mail, Thursday, December 3, 1914, pg.2, col. 2.
[5]  Ibid


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