Tag: CEF

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Flowers of the Forest – The story behind the story. A young man’s journey to War.

Farquhar Mclennan
My Great-Uncle, Pte. Farquhar McLennan, killed in action, June 13, 1916

Join me, if you will , on a journey in time – a journey back 100 years!

I have designed this website as a media supplement to the novel “Flowers of the Forest”. The novel is a historical/fiction rendition of my Great Uncle, Pte. Farquhar McLennan’s time in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in the Great War. This site gives the reader of the novel, the opportunity to see photos of the vivid characters and amazing places that live in the pages of the novel. The reader will also have access to background information and research that went into writing the story.  The Library and Archives in Ottawa provided a wealth of digital data that are displayed in this site. The project started out as my curiosity but soon became my passion. Read on as I update the site and find out why. Here is a chance to view some compelling  photos and documents. Travel back in time 100 years and feel the vibe!

800px-58_Bn_CEFBattalion Colours of the 58th Battalion, CEF

Light blue rectangle – 9th Brigade

Dark blue triangle- 58th Battalion

Brown background  – 3rd Division

Canadian Expeditionary Force

Badge 58th

Cap Badge, 58th

 

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Paradise

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.

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Tram line on King St., Niagara-on-the-Lake. (courtesy of Niagara Historical Museum Collection)

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)

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Enlisted men’s tents in Paradise Camp. (courtesy of Niagara Historical Museum Collection)

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These tents, I presume are mess tents. (courtesy of Niagara Historical Museum Collection)

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.

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Recruit’s uniforms. (courtesy of Niagara Historical Museum Collection)

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.

58th Niagara

Panoramic view of the 58th Battalion. Can you find Farquhar? Neither could I!

Officers 58th

The officers of the 58th, Lt. Col. Genet OC, in the centre, second row.

58th officers

Officers of the 58th.

Facker B

B Company, 58th Battalion. Farquhar is in this picture and it took me hours to find him.

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.

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Paradise Part 2

OK, pay attention now, so here we are, back to Paradise Camp, in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Some very notable Canadians attended Paradise Camp for officer training before the War. One of them was Vincent Massey, who much later became Governor General of Canada. Another notable was Percival Molson, of beer fame and having a stadium named after him at McGill University. And a third, but not the least was Nobel Prize winner, Fredrick Banting.

In the summer of 1915, when Pte. Farquhar McLennan enlisted, the group of men at Paradise Camp was part of, what was called, the Second Contingent. The men that went overseas at the beginning of the Great War, in the fall of 1914, all expected to be home by Christmas. Nobody foresaw the shape this war would take. Casualties began to mount very quickly and the government realized that more men would need to be recruited. Thus began the Second Contingent.

A battalion consists of roughly 1000 men and officers. In 1915, the camp was attended by the 35th, 36th, 37th, 58th, 74th, 75th, 76th, 81st, 83rd, 84th, 86th Machine-Gun, 92nd, and the Canadian Army Medical Corp (CAMC). There was a total of around 12000 men.

The camp was established with two campuses; one at the Commons and the other one just north of Niagara-on-the-Lake, at Fort Mississauga. The musketry range was on the north campus.

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Fort Mississauga, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Two soldiers, Pte. Bateman and Pte. Scott of the 75th inscribed their names into the soft brick of the entrance to the sally port. Still there for all to see.

Overseas Draft

Overseas draft, August 1915.

The picture above is of the “overseas draft”. It was becoming very apparent that the men at the Front were falling faster than they were being replaced. Therefore in August of 1915, a draft was conducted at Paradise camp and this group of men were sent overseas ahead of time. If you look closely at the picture, the men are wearing some of their field gear.

A typical day of training would consist of waking up at 4:30 AM, dressing, followed by breakfast at the mess tents. Morning drills would start with parade drills, beginning with the smallest units (sections, platoons) and progressing up to the largest units (company and battalion). The afternoons would be taken up with combat skills, such as, hand to hand combat, bayonet, target practice artillery or signaling. Fridays were reserved for the long 12 mile (approx) route marches. There was a choice of two; either to Queenston Heights or to Port Dalhousie. Saturdays were for sports and leisure and Sunday was for Divine Service and Church Parades. Families would come to visit the men on Sundays.

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58th Battalion Football team. Farquhar is seen in the back row, third from the right.

Sports played a very important role in the training and development of troops. It was encouraged for fitness and teamwork. Battalions and Companies participated in many tournaments for prizes and trophies. Great rivalries developed between the battalions. The uniforms that you see in this picture were donated by the YMCA. The “Y” played a huge role in supplying equipment to the men for these activities. This picture, by the way, is the one that I chose to put on the cover of the book, “Flowers of the Forest – The Pride of Our Land”. 

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Cup, Hockey Hall of Fame, Toronto — Great War 100 Reads

In hockey-obsessed Canada, it was inevitable that someone would decide to honour hockey players killed in WW1. The Memorial Cup was first awarded in 1919. It will be presented for the 100th time in May 2018.

via Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Cup, Hockey Hall of Fame, Toronto — Great War 100 Reads

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The Man in Command

The imposing man in the picture above is Lt. Col. Harry Genet, OC of the 58th Battalion, CEF. Born in London, England on Feb, 20, 1864, Harry Genet eventually imigrated to Canada and settled in Brantford, Ontario, where he found work at the Adams Wagon Works as an accountant. Genet also found time to become the Commanding Officer of the 38th Dufferin Peel Rifles.

The Ministry of Militia ordered a battalion to be raised in the central Ontario region in May, 1915. By July, 1151 men had been recruited and were at Paradise Camp, Niagara-on-the-Lake. Lt.Col. Genet took on the mission of recruiting the officers for the battalion.

In the novel, Flowers of the Forest, Lt. Col. Genet and our football prodigy, Pte. Farquhar McLennan, come face to face at Paradise Camp. This is the start of a very complicated relationship that carries over to the Front in Belgium. I don’t want to give away too much here; I’ll let you read about it.

Genet suffered a war injury (sort of) when he was thrown from his horse in High Park, Toronto. He was treated for broken ribs and a separated shoulder. After a spell in Toronto, stationed at the CNE, the 58th moved to England in November, 1915. In Jan., 1916, they moved across the Channel to France. The next stop was the Ypres Salient, in Belgium.

In June, 1916, the Germans mounted an advance that pushed the Canadians out of an area called Sanctuary Wood. It was a bloody, embarrassing loss for the CEF. On June 13, 1916, the Canadians, with the 58th Battalion, attacked the German positions in Sanctuary Wood, pushed them back, and regained their old lines. This was a historic event for Canada. This was the first time a Canadian fighting unit had conducted an offensive mission in the theatre of war.

Only a short time later, Lt. Col. Harry Genet won the DSO (Distinguished Service Award) in a battle at Observatory Ridge. He also received further commendations during his service at the Front. Genet led the 58th at the Battle of the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Lens and Passchendaele. After Passchendaele, Genet left the 58th and the Front.

 

At the anniversary of their mobilization—June 23 1916—only seven officers re-
mained out of forty who sailed from Canada with the unit. The following extract of a letter received from Lieut.-Col. H. A. Genet will speak for itself:
“We certainly have had a very rough time of it.
Our losses have been severe, but the battalion did
splendidly, and we received commendation and
thanks from brigade and corps commanders, also
from army headquarters. The loss of so many of
our gallant fellows weighs heavily on me.”
Shortly afterwards the battalion was ordered to
a rest camp some distance in the rear to receive re-
inforcements, to reorganize and to recuperate.
After a period of rest the battalion, with the whole
Canadian corps, moved to the Somme front, where
added lustre has been won to the proud record made
in the defense of Ypres. Of the officers who went
from Brantford with the 58th Battalion, all, with
one exception, Lieut.Col. Genet, are on the casualty
lists. Major Ballachey, of loving memory, was
killed in action. Major F. Hicks, a splendidly effi-
cient officer, was wounded in the knee. Lieut. J. R.
Cornelius, keen, enthusiastic and thorough, is suffer-
ing from shell shock. He has been recommended
for the Military Cross. Lieut. J. A. Pearce, the sig-
nalling officer, who did his difficult and dangerous
work so well that the Colonel in a letter writes:
“Pearce I have recommended for the Military Cross,
and I have no doubt he will get it,” is home on sick
leave after being wounded. Lieut. W. J. Wallace,
another of the battalion’s capable and highly-
thought-of officers, is lying seriously ill, suffering

from a multiplicity of wounds.

Brantford has great cause to be proud of her
gallant officers and men. One would like to speak
in detail of the courage and heroism evinced by the
men in the ranks, equally as great and worthy of
mention as that of the officers. To one and all we
bear our tribute. “Where duty called or danger”
they never were wanting. They have left an example
worthy of emulation to their comrades who may fol-
low them along the hard, but noble, road to victory and peace.
 The Lt. Col. survived the Great War and returned to Canada to resume his career. He had a son, John Ernest Genet, who also became a Lt. Col. in the First Canadian Divisional Signals in the Second World War.

Harry Genet eventually returned to England and took up residence in Mervstham. His life came to an end on March 17, 1946. We shall remember.

www.doingourbit.ca/profile/harry-genet-dso

 

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His death card.

 

On a completely different note. This post came up on Facebook yesterday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death in action of this soldier.

Lance Corporal Richard Law

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The Great Trek and Good Bye Paradise!

Donald Trump has been yearning for a parade. When he reads this Blog, he will be green with envoy. Enjoy, Donald!

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

Photos from the City of Toronto Archives.

The summer of 1916 was long, hot and hazy. The food was good and the sports were competitive and lively. For the most part, the men enjoyed their time in Paradise. They were certainly aware of what lay down the road.

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

There was one terrible thunderstorm that almost led to tragedy. But, you will have to read about it in the novel, “Flowers of the Forest”.

The amazing football skills of Pte. McLennan were on display for all to see in inter-battalion football matches. Every Saturday was football day on the Commons and no one missed a game. Even the locals came out to watch and the local press from St.Catharines and Niagara Falls covered the matches.

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

Like all things, the summer eventually drew to an end. The nights grew longer and cooler. Word was out that the battalions would be shipped out in the coming Autumn.

By the end of August, the men had their khaki military uniforms. They made a trip across Lake Ontario, by ferry, to the CNE for Labour Day and a parade through the City of Toronto.

 

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

As September blended into October, the nights were becoming cold and creature comforts were being challenged. On October 18, 1915, there was a Grand Review of the troops by the Governor General, HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Around this time, the officers of Military District #2 decided that the men at Paradise Camp should make a 112 KM. march to their winter quarters in Toronto. The march was set up as a tactical  exercise based on a mock war. The troops at Niagara were to make their way through enemy- controlled territory to reinforce their allies in Toronto.

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

The battalions were to depart Paradise Camp, starting on October 25, 1915. They would leave, one battalion on each day for 12 days. All battalions were preceded by  their bands , a screen of about 15 to 20 scouts on watch for enemy, and stretcher bearers brought up the rear. Each man carried a full kit that weighed about 60 lbs.

The first destination was The Lake Street Armoury in St. Catharines, where they would billet for the night.

to be continued

 

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The Great Trek – continued

Well now, where were we? Oh yes, St. Catharines! The 58th spent their first night at the Lake Street Armoury. The people of the city went out of their way to make the Battalions feel comfortable and welcome.

Early the next morning they were up and marching off, on the second leg of the trek. Grimsby was their destination. As they marched into Vineland they were greeted by the “Pie Wagon”. Here, the locals treated them to pies and refreshments. They passed through Beamsville and spent the second night on the beach at Grimsby, Chautauqua Park.

The next day set Hamilton as their new destination. When they entered Fruitland, they were again treated to apples and pies at the side of the road by an adoring public.  The Battalion spent the night at the Armoury in Hamilton.

Military_parade___Super_Portrait

After leaving Hamilton, the troops passed through Burlington, and spent the next night at Bronte. Port Credit was next, where they spent the night at the St. Lawrence Starch Company grounds. The men were able to bathe in the vats at the factory.

John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

The final destination, where all of the units would rendezvous, was High Park, in the west end of Toronto. Once here, the battalions readied themselves for a Grand Recruiting Parade into the city. This was the largest military parade the city had ever seen – 16 miles long.John Boyd Sr. Toronto military training photograph album

The People of Toronto treated the men like heroes, as they lined the streets to glimpse the passing parade. Homes and buildings were decorated all along the route. Whenever the parade stopped, the the cheering crowd would shower the men with gifts of cigarettes, tobacco and “sweet meats”.

Torontoimage

The parade wound through the city to Yonge Street, and then on to the City Hall at Queen and Bay. The final stop for all of the battalions was the Canadian National Exhibition.