Canadian soldiers get the right to vote amid rumours of impending gas attacks

Friday, April 9, 1915

Billets, Cassel

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “All ranks resting.  Small reinforcing draft, about 25 arrived. Fairly good quality.” [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: In 1915 in discussions in the House of Commons, it was proposed to give Canadian soldiers on service the right to vote in Federal elections.

09 April 15_A“(Special Leased Wire) Ottawa, April 9 – Hon. C. J. Doherty in the Commons yesterday, explained how it was proposed to take a vote of the Canadian soldiers on service. Every soldier 21 years of age would be entitled to vote either in the district wherein he had resided for 30 days prior to enlistment, or in any other district where he had the right to vote. The ballots and necessary papers would be sent to commanding officers in Canada and Bermuda and the High Commissioner’s office in London. The latter would forward the ballots to the overseas units. After the soldiers had voted, with the necessary affidavits of qualification, the ballots would be returned to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery and by him forwarded to the electoral districts designated on the envelopes where they would be counted in the presence of both candidates.”[3]

Members Think Those at Front Should Get Franchise

“(Special Leased Wire) Ottawa, April 9 – The bill for the enfranchisement of soldiers was considered in committee before the House today. Colonel H. McLean wanted all soldiers to vote even if under 21 and the Premier proposed consideration. W.F. Knowles made a plea for votes for the nurses and the Minister of Justice promised to consider this. Other suggestions from various parts of the House were that minors engaged in manufacture of war material and men on merchant vessels sailing in the war areas should have votes and that the franchise be extended to all civilian absentee voters.”[4]

09 April 15_B“(Special Cable to The Gazette) London, April 8. The following account of events at the British front by the ‘official eye-witness,’ writing under the date of April 6th, was issued by the Press Bureau tonight:

‘Last Sunday our guns scored several hits on the house which shelters the German Headquarters. Afterward we could see the wounded being carried from the house. On that day a bomb was dropped on Armentieres. During the day the enemy’s guns opened fire on a section of our trenches lying to the left of the centre, and Friday our trench mortars were kept busy with good effect in the neighborhood of Ploegsteert Wood.

We blew up a length of the enemy’s trench facing Guinchy on Saturday. The gallery had been driven forward and the charges fired in the early morning. The extent of the loss in lives is unknown, but pieces of timber, steel loopholes, and plates were hurled about 100 yards into the air and the trench was utterly destroyed, leaving a sniper’s post in the field exposed.

As a sequel to this operation the Germans bombarded our defences around Guinchy very heavily, sometimes pouring over one thousand shells of various calibres at a time. There was also considerable sniping on Saturday, and we shelled hostile working parties with success. On Sunday the Germans in the front line tried to lure our men into exposing themselves by hoisting flags and putting up their hands.

It is reported here that the Germans in the Argonne have pumped blazing oil and pitch on the French forces on several occasions. According to the statements of some of our prisoners, they are preparing a yet more novel reception for the front ranks of our line. They propose to asphyxiate our men, it is said, by means of poisonous gas which is stored under pressure in steel cylinders. Being of a heavy nature, this gas will spread along the ground and cannot be quickly dissipated. Near Neuve Chapelle the Germans have posted a notice which says ‘Von Hindenberg is coming. Welcome to our brother; 500,000 men welcome their brother.’”[6]

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, April 9, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, 
[2]    “Canadian Soldiers To Vote by Mail,” The Quebec Daily Telegraph, Quebec, Quebec, Friday, April 9, 1915, pg. 1, col. 5.
[3]   Ibid
[4] “Even Want Canadian Nurses To Have Vote,”The Quebec Daily Telegraph, Quebec, Quebec, Friday, April 9,1915, pg.1,col. 4.
[5]   “Germans resort to Poisonous Gas,” The Gazette, Montreal, Friday, April 9, 1915, pg. 1, col. 2.
[6]   Ibid

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