Great Reception for RMR from French Peasants in 1915

Tuesday, March 2, 1915

In billets, Armentières  

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Left Armentieres at 4 p.m. to march to Bac St. Maur where battalion was billeted for the night.”    [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: “Canadian Associated Cables), London, Feb 28.  On Monday week last we cabled that a certain brigade of the Canadian force had been moved towards the trenches on the previous Saturday (fortnight yesterday), and that Capt. Harry Coghill of Stratford, Ont., was in hospital owing to exposure.

Since then the Canadians have been doing duty for forty-eight hours in the trenches, and relieved by others of the contingent.

At the present time the only reliable news here is that one wounded man has been admitted into the hospital in France, and another man was returned to England, but it is not known yet whether he is sick or wounded.

The greater part of the Canadian forces were a long time in France before they came within hearing of hostilities.  The artillery, mechanical transport, divisional supply column, ammunition park, and Army Service Corps stayed at the base, along with the field ambulance and army medical units, during this time.

A Great Reception: The waiting men were delighted with the reception accorded them by the poor people of the district, with whose possessions war had played sad havoc. Presents of fruit and wine were made to them.  Canadians, in all cases, insisted on paying for these gifts, but the peasants were most unwilling to receive any acknowledgement, although one of the prettiest incidents was the manner in which little children surrounded Canadian soldiers, pleading “Souvenir, souvenir.”  In response many of those appealed to plucked off their maple leaf badges and handed them to importunate ones.

Many of the men are quartered in barns, and others in farm buildings, all very comfortable.  Food is ample since their arrival in France, although rations were rough enough during the time of crossing.  It was in the early part of this week that those men who have already been under fire arrived on the scene of hostilities.  Canada’s Army Service Corps is busy just now taking sandbags and other defensive materials from the bases up to the firing zone.  This work is as hazardous as any undertaken  by men actually in the trenches, as German artillery searches particularly for transport columns, and even when travelling is done at night searchlights of the enemy are most effective.”   [i]

[1]    War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, March 2, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa,

[2]   “Canadian Contingent Greeted By French – Soldiers Get Great Reception from Peasants – Many Presents for Tommies”, The Globe (1844-1936), Toronto, Ontario, Monday, March 1, 1915, pg. 5, col. 5

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