Tuesday, April 6, 1915

In rest billets northern outskirts of Estaires

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Received orders for move to Cassel” [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: “Toronto, April 6. – In a letter to a friend, Col. J. A. Currie, M.P., commander of the 48th Highlanders, complains that the bayonets supplied to the Canadian troops are very much inferior to those used by the British, French and Germans.

‘Ours are too short and thick,’ he says.  ‘My regiment has now been three weeks in the trenches, fighting night and day under a heavy rifle and gun fire.  We have been very fortunate, as only one man was killed, but many were wounded.’

Col. Currie tells of his narrow escape when a forty-pound German shell landed within 150 feet of him, and says that they expect to be moved from the positions to break through the German line, as they are regarded as a strong and husky regiment.”    [2]

Note:  The 15th Bn. 48th Highlanders of Canada were brigaded with 16th Bn. Canadian Scottish, the 14th Bn. Royal Montreal Regiment, and the 13th Bn. Royal Highlanders of Canada in the 3rd Brigade of the First Canadian Division.

Food-Carrying Canine Revealed Marksman in Pit Using Maxim Silencer
Private Whitby Writes of Montreal Artillery Destroying German Observation Post First Shot
Jam Tins As Grenades

“How a German sniper enjoyed a brief immunity from death or capture by using a Maxim ‘silencer,’ and how the betrayal of his whereabouts in a little pit between the contending forces was innocently effected by his little dog, which had been in the habit of taking him food, is described in a letter by Mr. C.D.B. Whitby, of The Montreal Gazette business staff, now Private Whitby with the Royal Montreal Regiment at present somewhere in Flanders.

‘The ways of the German snipers are also very devious,’ writes Private Whitby.  ‘One, for instance, gave this regiment in particular a lot of trouble.  He had wormed his way out into the open, dug a rifle pit in ‘the no man’s land’ between the opposing trenches and, with a rifle fitted with a Maxim silencer, sniped merrily at relief and working parties.  Food was brought to him by a white and tan dog.  It was the dog that led to his undoing.  Now the orders are to shoot any of the canine species seen around the firing line.  Sniper hunting has been rather a pastime with the R.M.R., a reward offered by the colonel for each of the pests brought in dead or alive helps to stimulate interest.’

After mentioning how the R.M.R. kept the Germans in their trenches so that it was possible for the Canadians to walk about at the back of the trenches with impunity, Private Whitby goes on to say:

‘The German ammunition seems, in many cases, to be defective.  Many projectiles thrown at our trenches fail to explode, shrapnel shells have been found to contain common marbles instead of bullets.  In the ordinary course of events, heavy artillery is not directed at the trenches, being used to destroy opposing batteries or buildings likely to harbour troops.  Every day one hears ‘Jack Johnsons’ passing overhead.  They are audible a long way off, ‘lumbering’ along through the air nearly describes it.  Given a vivid imagination one could almost see them.  Several burst a hundred yards behind us yesterday, wrecking a small village.  The impact was terrific; the ground trembled under foot.  As each missile exploded, immense quantities of black smoke, earth and debris rose in the air.  Where a few minutes previously was a house, there remained only a jagged rent in the ground.  Small shells and shrapnel, on the other hand, rush along with a shrill whine, much like the indignant yelp of a dog that had been trodden upon.  Aeroplanes from both sides pass over our trenches continually.

‘The German ‘Taubes’ are readily distinguishable by their peculiar wing formation and the black Maltese Cross painted on the planes.  The Allies aircraft use two concentric circles as identification badges.  The birdmen do little bomb dropping, locating batteries, range giving and reconnoitring is their chief occupation.  The British gunners are past masters in the art of concealment.  When not in action, it is possible to walk right up to a whole battery without having the slightest idea that it is there.  Sod covered embankments, transplanted trees, hedges etc., screen the big guns from the view of hostile aircraft most effectively; it is very seldom the Germans put a British gun out of action.

Hit Chimney First Shot –

The Montreal Heavy Battery covered itself with glory the other day, an English gunner told me, with open admiration. A very slender and very distant factory chimney had been used by the Germans as an artillery observation post for some considerable time.  The British had taken a few shots at it daily for three weeks or more without success.  Up came the gentlemen from Montreal and demolished the chimney with their very first shot.  It may have been luck, but – ”    [3]

[To be continued tomorrow]

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, April 6, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa,
[2]   “Canadian Bayonets Too Short in Warfare,”  The Montreal Daily Mail, Montreal, Quebec, Friday, April 7, 1915, pg. 3, col. 6.
[3]   “Dog Betrayed German Sniper,” The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, Tuesday, April 6, 1915, pg. 4, col. 3.

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