Grand Fleet Escorts Gathering

02 Oct 14

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY, 02 October 1914 – “Protection of the Canadian Contingent during its passage to England had been planned by the Admiralty originally for a convoy estimated to be fourteen transports, and when this number was more than doubled the provision of additional escort strength caused a delay in sailing from Gaspé.  The visible escort was the Royal Navy’s 12th Cruiser Squadron of four light cruisers commanded by Rear-Admiral R.E. Wemyss, all of them nineteen or more years old; and on 2 October Colonel Hughes, who had come to Gaspé to see the Contingent on its way, wired the Prime Minister, “Escort altogether inadequate, should increase strength.”  This concern was relayed to the Admiralty by the Governor General, who was promptly reminded of an assurance given to the Minister of Militia two weeks earlier that the four cruisers would be reinforced en route by two battleships (H.M.S. Glory and Majestic), and that the whole of the Grand Fleet would cover the escort “from all attack by any large force of the enemy.”  Besides having the Grand Fleet block off intervention … the Admiralty had given orders for the 26,000 ton battle cruiser Princess Royal (launched in 1911) to join the convoy in mid-Atlantic.  … nothing of this was known to the Canadian Government.  Concerned at the publication in the Canadian press and the cabling “in clear” of details of the convoy and the force it carried, the Admiralty exercised the most rigid security about the intended employment of H.M.S. Princess Royal, keeping the matter secret from even Admiral Wemyss.”  [2]

Also on this day it was announced from London: – “Major-General E.A. Alderson, C.B. has been given command of the Canadian Contingent on its arrival here.  Major-General Alderson, who is well known to several Canadians, is spoken of as one of the most popular officers in this country. He is fifty-five years of age, and has seen active service in Egypt, at Tel-el-Kebir and Kassassin, and with the Nile Expedition, as well as in South Africa, where he commanded mounted infantry.  Among his literary works may be mentioned “With the Mounted Infantry and the Mashonaland Field Force.”  [3]


[1] Dodds, Brig. Gen. W. O. H., C.M.G., D.S.O. (J.A.Millar) Photographs Relating to the Great War, 1914-1918.; Special Collections, University of Victoria Libraries;
[2] Col. G.W.L. Nicholson, CD., Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919, Duhamel, Queens Printer, Ottawa, 1962, pp. 30-31; quoting W.S. Churchill, The World Crisis, 1911-1918, vol 1, pg.258.
[3] “Alderson For Canadians,” The Globe (1844-1936), Toronto, Ontario, October 3, 1914, pg. 3, col. 3.


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