When I found Farquhar’s attestation papers in the Archives, it was obvious that he signed up for duty somewhere in the Niagara Region. With a search on Google, I found that there was a training camp in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The camp occupied the open field next to Old Fort George. This field is called the Commons and is still existent.
In the archives of the Niagara Historical Society, I found photos and information about the training camp.
This area had been used as a military/cadet summer training camp since the 1800s. It was used for this purpose until Camp Borden was built to replace it after the War. On the edge of the field was a stand of trees called Paradise Grove. Hence, the camp was called “Paradise Camp”.
The name “Paradise Camp”, was one of the first inspirations for me to write a story about Farquhar McLennan. I was struck by the irony of the name. The young men were being trained to become cold, efficient, killers in a place called “Paradise”! Where were they going? The were destined for Hell!
There were two ways for Farquhar to travel from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake. One method was by ferry boat, the “Cayuga” for instance, or by rail. There was a steam locomotive that ran to St. Catharines and then he would have to switch to an electric tram to finish the trip to Niagara. The tram traveled right into Niagara-on-the-Lake by way of King St.
The recruits would disembark at the corner of King and Queen Sts. and then would head over to the Commons to sign up. They would be greeted by an eye-popping sight. Bell tents by the thousands! (I think I slept in one of these vintage bell tents when I was in Scouts)
In the summer of 1915, there were twelve battalions in residence at Paradise Camp, so just over 12000 men. Farquhar was enlisted in the 58th Battalion, Central Ontario Regiment, CEF. His battalion number was 451889. The attestation papers indicate that Farquhar had been in the militia at some point. In fact, he had joined the 48th Highlanders while in Toronto.
There were no proper military uniforms available for the recruits, so they wore the uniforms that you see above. The men nicknamed the straw hats; “cow’s breakfast”. I wonder what impression these uniforms made on the young ladies of Niagara. Of course the officers had full gear!
Proper uniforms didn’t arrive until August.
Hint: one recruit has a tiny red arrow above his head.
The battalions trained here at Niagara until the fall. One contingent from the battalions was sent overseas in August, ahead of schedule. The casualties at the Western Front were taking a toll and reinforcements were badly needed. Farquhar wasn’t among that contingent.
More to come in my next Blog.