Life Onboard Ship Sure Beats Valcartier!

03 Oct 14

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY, 03 October 1914 – “On the afternoon of October 3rd the transports steamed from Gaspé Basin and formed up in three parallel columns, about a mile and three quarters of water being maintained between columns and each ship occupying a position approximately a half-mile behind the one in front.  All dispositions were effected under the supervision of Rear-Admiral R.E. Wemyss, C.M.G., M.V.O., who commanded a squadron, including at one time or another His Majesty’s Ships Charybdis, Diana, Lancaster, Eclipse, Glory, Majestic and Talbot.  With this escort the troops feared no attack, though the speed of the convoy, governed by the slowest vessel, was little above 10 knots.” [2]

The Globe’s correspondent writing after the S.S. Tunisian left Quebec City with Toronto units wrote – “The Queen’s Own Rifles, the 10th Royal Grenadiers, the Governor-General’s Body Guard, and the 3rd Field Ambulance, all of Toronto, otherwise known as the 3rd Battalion, 1,400 strong, filled the liner-troopship Tunisian, when she set sail from Quebec recently.  The old soldiers told the new ones that conditions were far finer than any they had ever come in touch with.  The soldiers nearly all had berths in staterooms, but some wooden bunks had to be constructed to accommodate an overflow.

The soldiers eat in the big dining room in four companies, and the bill of fare is very different from the Valcartier camp ones, and uniformed waiters wait on the soldiers.  Hot water, and even a hot bath, is available to some of the soldiers.

The soldiers are all drilled thoroughly every day, but the command is not so rigid, and exercises are more in vogue; a mile walk is compulsory to every soldier every day.  In the evening rank and file mingle, promenading, chatting, smoking until 9 o’clock, when “lights out” sounds.  The soldiers get ten hours sleep on board as reveille does not sound until 7 in the morning.”  [3]  *

* Note: This news report was an example of the glaring lack of security over the departure of the Contingent.


[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] R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette, Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pg 13.
 [3] “Life On Shipboard For Toronto Troops – Third Battalion Enjoying Comfortable Quarters on Board Tunisian,” The Globe (1844-1936), Toronto, Ontario, Saturday, October 3, 1914, pg. 5, col. 4.

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