Brigade Routine in 1915

Saturday, July 3, 1915

Billets – La Crêche

The Battalion War Diarist wrote nothing for this day:  [1]


THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: Speaking of this period of time, Lt.-Col. Hugh M. Urquhart, who commanded the 16th Battalion, Canadian Scottish, while writing of his own battalion, might well have been writing about any battalion in the 3rd Canadian Brigade. “… the days went by as pleasantly. The weather was good. ‘Weather perfect’ – ‘Very hot, we are wearing as little clothes as possible’ – are some of the descriptions given of it. Many functions were held, Battalion concerts, Dominion Day sports, and birthday parties, ‘On the lawn, beneath the trees’. Football and baseball matches were played; and, a landmark in the war, leave to England for ‘other ranks’ was opened – two warrants were issued to the Battalion .

PLOEGSTEERT

PLOEGSTEERT

The anticipation of a prolonged stay in the pleasant Steenwerck neighbourhood was not realized. The Canadians were detailed to hold the Ploegsteert – Hill 63 front, a sector lying some six miles east across the plain, in Flemish Flanders, and the home of a dour class of people not given to the hospitality of their old friends.… Thus began a long spell of over seven months of forward area routine, front line, support, reserve – in varying sequence, never further back than divisional reserve, and ever undergoing the monotony of working party and trench duty. It was a weary round, known throughout the war to all infantrymen, but never for the same lengthy period. In later years brigade and battalions after three, four or a lesser number of months, in or near the battle line were withdrawn into distant rear areas for complete change and training, but in 1915 scarcity of men made it impossible to adopt this wise policy.”[3]

“Fortunately, the Ploegsteert line was ‘a real rest front’ where Germans and Allies maintained an unofficial quasi-truce. Rarely did either side fire artillery or machine guns. But even so a so-called rest front remained deadly for the unwary or merely unlucky. Snipers plied their trade, targeting exposed positions or crossing points in the facing breastworks. Both sides vigorously patrolled No Man’s Land, seeking prisoners or ambushing enemy patrols….

Stalking snipers and roving German patrols in the darkness of No Man’s Land unsettled reinforcements and made even veterans trigger happy. This led to several incidents where men forgot to challenge troops coming through the wire into the trenches from No Man’s Land for the password and shooting first.” [4]

Several unintended casualties resulted.

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, July 3, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089762.jpg
[2]  Google Maps
[3]   Lt.-Col. Hugh M. Urquhart, DSO, MC, ADC, “The History of the 16th Battalion (the Canadian Scottish) Canadian Expeditionary Force in the Great War, 1914-1919”,  Toronto, Macmillan Company of Canada, Limited, 1932.
[4]   Mark Zuehlke, “Brave Battalion, The Remarkable Saga of the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) in the First World War,” Mississauga, Ontario, John Wiley and Sons, Co. Ltd., 2008, pg. 82

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