What Soldiers Needed in 1914

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY, 27 October 1914 – From the 14th BATTALION (RMR) WAR DIARY:

Tuesday, October 27, 1914

Camp Salisbury Plain, West Down South

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Rain.  Training under difficulties on account of bad weather.”  [1]

27 Oct 14On this day, The Montreal Daily Mail carried this article, presumably copied from an English newspaper of the time.  Although it tells of the needs of British soldiers at the front, in many ways it foretells of the needs of Canadian troops once they reach the front lines.

“Writing of the needs of the troops an English worker after enumerating several things which the “boys” themselves mentioned, says, “Socks are needed.  They wear through so quickly on the march, and our brave fellows suffer terribly with their feet.  They like to soap their socks but they can’t get hold of a bit of soap, so please, with every pair of socks send a cake of soap and a packet of boracic powder for dusting.  They don’t use Vaseline, they tell me, for it softens the feet, but they like to have Vaseline to ease chaffing in other parts.  Sleeping helmets, mufflers and body-belts, as many as ever you can send they ask for; the nights are bitterly cold, and the service sweater, and top-coat, too, are often left behind in hurried obedience to an order to march.  ‘In the morning we are like men with an ague,’ they say.

Don’t send playing cards. ‘No time for them at the front,’ is the unanimous answer.  ‘Any time we can snatch we want for sleep – our biggest average is two hours.  You could sleep on your head pretty nearly when it’s nothing but fighting and marching, marching and fighting.’

Shirts are badly wanted.  What they are supplied with they often lose in sudden moves and emergencies.  If plenty of these comforts are sent to the military base the men can get renewals as they pass through any base, their own or that of another division. One man told me of a shirt he had on from August 4th till September 5th, while he toiled ceaselessly each day. ‘If I’d had another,’ he said, ‘I could have washed it when we did sight water, which wasn’t too often!’

Peppermints they like, but not so much as chocolates. Chocolates are the troops’ favourite, said one…“These requests from the fighting boys themselves are very helpful.”  [3]

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, Oct. 25, 1914.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089670.jpg

[2]  “Some of the Things That Soldiers Need,” The Montreal Daily Mail, Tuesday, October 27, 1914, pg. 6, col. 5.

[3]   Ibid.


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