27 Sept 1914THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY, 27 September 1914 – “Valcartier September 27.  In motor equipment the Canadian overseas expeditionary force will make a fine display, the contingent having an ample supply of motor units of various kinds, including mechanical transport, motor drawn guns, armoured cars with machine guns, motor ambulances, touring cars for the staff officers, and a motor machine shop protected by armour plate.  The latter is a very complete shop, containing a full supply of tools and a lathe.  There are six motor ambulances, each being marked with the familiar Geneva cross.  These ambulances will carry four patients in a reclining position and ten in sitting positions.  Altogether there are more than a hundred motors intended for the use of the force.

Each machine is the latest model of its type, and special efforts have been made to secure cars with good engines and chassis.  A considerable number of motors have been used in camp for the staff and for mechanical transport, but the majority of these cars will be left here for future transport services.”  [2]

While press reports of the time, such as that above, painted a rather ‘rosy’ picture of the state of the Canadian Contingent’s motor transport, it all seems rather naïve to today’s reader.  In fact the purchasing of vehicles for the Contingent created real maintenance headaches for the force.

“Provision of vehicles for the force required extensive purchasing, for only a comparatively few horse-drawn vehicles were available from Militia sources.  The Minister of Militia appointed special purchasing agents, giving them honorary commissions, so that “if I found any sharp work going on… I could put them through Court Martial.”  To obtain sufficient horse transport meant buying farm wagons (455 heavy and 398 light) of eight different makes, a diversity of pattern which was later to bring serious maintenance problems. A similar difficulty was to arise with the mechanical transport which the War Office had asked should accompany the contingent to England, for which no detailed specifications appear to have been provided. The Minister’s special agent had to depend on five separate makes of motor truck to meet the requirement of 133 vehicles for the 1st Division’s Supply Column and Ammunition Park (infantry units used horse transport only). Complete transport (including eight armoured cars) for the Automobile Machine Gun Brigade was bought in the United States on behalf of the donors by the commanding officer, Major R. Brutinel, a former French Army officer.”  [3]


[1]  “Canadian Troops to Have Efficient Motor Transport,” The Montreal Daily Mail, Montreal, Monday, September 28, 1914, pg. 3, col. 4.
[2]  Ibid.
[3]  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,  pg.26.


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