Tuesday, February 16, 1915

On board train proceeding to front

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Left St. Nazaire at 7 a.m. for railroad.  Passed through several large towns on way.  No. 4 Company (French-Canadian) sang old French songs during halts, which greatly astonished the inhabitants.” [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: Unloading which had continued throughout the night was completed about dawn.  “Then at 6 a.m. the Battalion paraded alongside the ship, and marched a short distance to St. Nazaire Railway Station, entraining in box cars (the famous 40 hommes, 8 chevaux) at this point, and leaving for railhead shortly thereafter.  One passenger coach, attached to the train was reserved for the use of officers.”   [2]

LEAVING ST. NAZAIRE: “Just before marching away we were each issued a goatskin coat to be worn in the trenches and a large pair of leather mittens. These mittens were fastened together with a cord to hang them around our necks. Then we were given more ammunition (the cartridges that Gamble and myself had given away were never missed), which we carried over our shoulders in bandoliers. How we all began to kick then! “Do they think we are all a lot of pack mules? Haven’t we got enough to carry as it is?” Such remarks could be heard everywhere. On leaving England our equipment had weighed more than eighty pounds. With the extra things, it now weighed nearly ninety.

One of the greatest hardships with which I had to contend while on service was the carrying of my equipment. As I have said, I am not a big fellow, yet each man has to carry the same load, whether he be big or little, so that in the next few months I cursed the fate many times that made it necessary for a soldier to carry so much equipment while on service. The active service equipment of the British soldier consists of the following: Rifle, bayonet, two hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition, entrenching-tool, great-coat, blanket, water-proof sheet, helmet, gas-mask, water-bottle, haversack (containing toilet requisites and spare rations), extra clothing and boots and a few other minor things too numerous to mention.

As we marched through the streets of St. Nazaire on our way to the railroad depot we were cheered and applauded in a vociferous manner by the people who were crowding to see and welcome us. We had thrown our goatskin coats over our shoulders and looked quaint with the white fur showing over the khaki. Therefore, in reply to the cheering of the people we answered with a series of noises resembling goats, such as “baa,” “baa!” This seemed to amuse the French people a great deal and they thought that our morale was wonderful since we could be so cheerful and march away to the Front in such great spirits.”   [3]

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, Feb16, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089694.jpg
[2]   R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette, Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pg.26.
[3]   Sergeant Arthur Gibbons, Toronto Regiment, 1st C.E.F. Returned Prisoner of War, Toronto, “A Guest Of The Kaiser - The Plain Story of a Lucky Soldier,”   J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. 1919, pg. 27.  https://archive.org/stream/guestofkaiserpla00gibbiala/guestofkaiserpla00gibbiala_djvu.txt

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