Value of Rum Ration Explained

Monday, July 19, 1915

Reserve Billets – Grande Munque Ferme

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Supplied day and night working parties.” [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: The Battalion history elaborates:  “On being relieved in the front line, Nos. 1 and 4 Companies of the Royal Montreal Regiment took over a defended locality in Ploegsteert Wood from a battalion of the Berkshire Regiment and Nos. 2 and 3 Companies proceeded to reserve billets in La Grande Munque Farm.   Working parties occupied much of the time on July 19th…” [2]

La Grande Munque Farm, Ploegsteert, 1915
La Grande Munque Farm, Ploegsteert, 1915

“What the press agent would describe as ‘extra special feature attractions’ were enjoyed by the big audiences which yesterday attended the performances of ‘Zira,’ given by the Orpheum Players for the benefit of the Soldiers Wives League, in the form of interesting and stirring addresses, that at the afternoon performance being given by Major Paul Hanson,* invalided home on account of wounds received in the Battle of St. Julien, while the speaker in the evening was Major J. V. O’Donohoe, of the 60th Battalion.

Major Paul HansonMajor Hanson plain, matter-of-fact recital of the routine experiences of the Canadian boys in the trenches, his hints as to what the soldiers needed and did not need, and his quiet but forcible appeal for recruits were fully as absorbing and as effective as if he had employed all the arts of the flowery but too often insincere orator. His audience grew enthusiastic as he described the unfailing spirits of the soldiers under the most depressing and desperate circumstances, even the most unpleasant experiences were shown to have a humorous side, and little first-hand details were given which brought the grim struggle very close to every hearer. Major Hanson mentioned some of the small comforts which were most appreciated by the soldiers, such as letters, soap, a towel, tooth powder, cakes, biscuits, baseballs and football bladders. ‘Don’t send cholera belts,’ he said, ‘I have seen hundreds of them ditched.’ Major Hanson acknowledged the troops’ debt of gratitude to The Gazette Tobacco Fund. ‘When a man has to sit crouched for hours in a trench with his rifle between his knees, and nothing to do but wait, don’t you think a pipe or a cigarette is a comfort to him?’ he asked. He also told of the tiny ration of rum which is served out to every man just at the dark hour before the dawn in winter, and after a night spent either in stinging cold, damp fog, or chilling rain. He had found that even men of the strongest temperance principles were glad to get this stimulant, regarding it rightly as a necessary medicine. ‘So I hope that none of you good ladies will seek to interfere in this instance with something which you know nothing about.’ said Major Hanson, a sentiment which was heartily applauded all over the theatre. In conclusion, he struck a deeper note when he said that he had seen things which he would not dare mention, but which if made known would send every true man of military age and qualification to the front to protect the honour of womanhood and the rights of humanity.”

* Major Paul Renard Hanson, of the 14th Battalion.

19 July 15_CAND KITCHENS TOO… “Toronto, July 18. That the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary forces will be equipped with machine guns in such large numbers as to be proportionately superior in numbers to the British troops, and that the order has been placed, was announced tonight by Senator The Hon. James A. Lougheed, acting Minister of Militia. Accompanied by Adjutant-General Hodgins and staff, Hon. Mr. Lougheed arrived in Toronto tonight from Niagara Camp. Mr. Lougheed added that these guns would be rushed to the front upon completion.

“It was announced by Hon. Mr. Lougheed that in addition to the increased number of machine guns the government will supply an immense quantity of camp kitchens to the troops. Orders for these have been placed and the kitchens are being rushed to the various battalions as rapidly as possible.”

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, July 19, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa
[2]   R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pg. 65.
[4]   “Glimpses Given of War’s Conduct,” The Gazette, Montreal, Tuesday, July 20, 1915, pg. 9, col. 4.
[5]    Ibid
[6]    “Machine Guns For Canadian Forces,” The Quebec Chronicle, Quebec City, Monday, July 19, 1915 pg 2 col. 3.
[7]   Ibid

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