By Major C. B. Lindsey, D.S.O.
Excerpted from the 1935 Association Year Book
[Note that this article uses a then common but disrespectful term in reference to Canadian indigenous peoples. While the term has been reproduced with consideration for the accuracy of the historical record, our museum does not condone or accepts its use today.]
“The English Trip” recalls only one expedition to anyone who was there, no matter how many other trips to England he may have made.
It recalls the occasion in 1910 when the Regiment moved off to England and learned a lot of soldiering with the British Army – which experience was to stand them in good stead a few years later when the necessity arose for Canada to take her place in earnest for the Empire.
Here is what happened. Sir Henry Pellatt commanded the Regiment in those days, and he conceived the idea that the attendance of a complete Colonial battalion in England would direct the minds of Canadians, Britishers, other Colonials and possible future aggressors to the fact that the Empire could rely on Canada for something more than talk. Sir Henry then went into his own pocket to finance the scheme, having supreme confidence that his Regiment would acquit itself creditably if given the chance.
All these things happened, but the task called for a lot of work. Six hundred and forty civilians with a good militia background had to be made quickly into a battalion which was to be compared critically with regular battalions of the British Army on the basis of ceremonial, drill, technical knowledge and physical fitness.
After some preliminary training in Toronto, a Provisional Battalion was selected as follows:
Colonel Sir Henry Pellatt in command
Majors – Lieutenant Colonel P. L. Mason, Major R. Rennie, &
Major A. G. Peuchen
Adjutant – Captain James George.
Quartermaster – Major J.0. Thorn
Transport Officer – Captain R.P. Butcher, R.C.R. (attached)
Medical Officers – Captain F. Winnett, Captain P.G. Goldsmith
Chaplain – Honorary Captain Dr. J.P.D. Llwyd
Captain G.M. Higinbotham; a
and W. B. Crowther
Captain W.G. Mitchell; Lieutenants S.W. Scott and W.E. Curry
Captain W.C. Michell; Lieutenants H.G. Muntz and F.R. Medland
Captain G. C. Royce; Lieutenants H.H. Miller and T.W. Forwood
Captain A.E. Kirkpatrick; Lieutenants C.B. Lindsey and B.L. Johnston
Captain R. Pellatt; Lieutenants H.C. Suydam and R. M. Gzowski
Captain S. W. Band; Lieutenants C.V. Massey and R.K. George
Captain W. D. Allan; Lieutenants H.E. Smith and A.R. Lawrence
This Battalion paraded on Aug 13th, when thousands of Torontonians joined with the Lieutenant Governor, the Mayor and many other dignitaries to provide a royal and rousing send-off. Part of the following day was spent with the 65th Regiment in Montreal, after which the Battalion entrained once more for Levis, where it arrived that evening and went into camp.
This was where the real work began. Regular N.C.O. instructors were allotted to each Company, with Captain R. P. Butcher, of the R.C.R., attached to the Regimental staff in charge of training. The latter remained with the Battalion throughout, and to his untiring and sympathetic efforts was very largely due the amazing progress in all branches of the work. The improvement during this week at Levis was recorded in the remarks of Major-General Otter after his inspection.
While the stay at Levis was an exhausting one, many took advantage of the proximity to Quebec to explore its Old World atmosphere and environments and to mingle with the local “Voltigeurs”.
Embarkation at Quebec on the 20th was delayed by an unfortunate cause. The Megantic had been stopped between Montreal and Quebec in order to pick up the best known criminal of the time in the person of Dr. Crippen and his young female companion who had just been apprehended on their flight from England. Public interest had reached such a pitch that the authorities thought it wise to avoid any demonstration which might result from showing the criminals in a crowded place.
The Megantic was the queen of the Canadian Atlantic service in those days, and nothing was spared to make all ranks happy and comfortable. En route, intensive training continued until the last day, when Father Neptune took a hand and brought about a holiday.
Liverpool was reached about noon on the 27th, and after a military reception on the quay came entrainment for Aldershot – arriving in the evening.
Here was experienced a real English welcome, and it was all the more a compliment when one considers that there are more troops moving in and out of Aldershot than any other place in the Empire. An address was presented at the station by civil and military authorities in the presence of detachments representing the whole Garrison as well as several Regimental bands. Flags and bunting bedecked the town from end to end and the streets were thick with both soldiers and civilians. Indeed, at times it was difficult to pass through the crowds, and progress was somewhat further impeded by innumerable trays of beer mugs, which were emptied by the marching troops and then put down on the next waiting tray. It was indeed an impressive welcome and showed in no uncertain fashion the warmth of feeling which the visitors could expect. Nor was the expectation ever disappointed.
At Rushmoor Hill, Stanhope Lines, the Regiment found a fine camp already prepared and once more settled down to hard work, in spite of wet weather which hampered the training seriously. The military atmosphere of Aldershot quickly permeated the Canadian ranks, and the effect was amazing. To rub shoulders with the flower of the British Army showed all ranks what real depot soldiering is, and at the same time gave them a mark to aim at which had never been dreamed of. Opportunity was given the Q.O.R. to attend as a Battalion; ceremonial parades of the Scots Guards, Irish Guards and Royal Fusiliers, and the immediate improvement in the bearing of every Canadian proved that their powers of observation and mimicry were still going strong.
During that period began that alliance with “The Buffs” which has grown so close in the years since. It arose from the fact that both Regiments had the same Regimental March, and immediately gained from the many and thoughtful acts of “The Buffs” throughout the whole visit.
In addition to the heavy training programme, there was a great deal of very pleasant musical entertaining, particularly by the Officers. One recalls with slightly mingled feelings being detailed with two other brother officers at 11 a.m. and entertaining as many as one hundred visitors in a day. Then there were the unforgettable dinners and entertainments in the English messes, as well as the occasion when all the Officers were guests of the G.O.C. [General Officer Commanding], Lieutenant-General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, at Government House. It was an interesting coincidence to find in the General’s smoking room a picture of the charge at Paardeberg, in which the central figure was a bugler. This bugler was then in the Regiment in Toronto. The General had commanded the Brigade which contained the Canadians at Paardeberg.
It was at this time that several Officers fell ill with typhoid fever. They were Captains A. E. Kirkpatrick, James George, Reg. Pellatt, F. Winnett, Lieutenants S.G. Muntz, C.V. Massey, R.K. George, Roy M. Gzowski and Mr. J.J. Riddell, who was Sir Henry’s private secretary. The loss of these Officers just at the time when the main operations were to commence was a sorry blow.
Nevertheless, on September 6th, at the head of the 2nd Division, the Q.O.R. marched out of Aldershot to take its part in the Inter-Divisional manoeuvres. The 6th Infantry Brigade was composed of 1st Battalion Leicesters, 2nd Battalion K.O.Y.L.I., 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, 1st Battalion “The Buffs” (East Kent Regiment), and the Provisional Battalion 2nd Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. These operations lasted for one week on Salisbury Plain and were of immense value instructionally. In the general scheme, the Directing Staff were trying, amongst other things, to demonstrate the utmost mobility of infantry. This meant unusually forced marches, resulting in extreme fatigue. It is worthy of note that there were only three men to fall out during this period and the Army manoeuvres which followed.
At Winchester, Field Marshal H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught inspected the Regiment by command of His Majesty the King, and in his name welcomed the Q.O.R. to England.
On September 13th, the Regiment entrained for London and marched to the Duke of York’s Schools, Chelsea Barracks, where life took on a more playful hue, as there was a week’s holiday ahead. Free invitations to any and every amusement in the land were available to all ranks daily as well as sight-seeing tours, and almost anything one could ask for. Here, again, the entertainment was strenuous but none the less pleasant. Some of the functions were dinners by Sir John French, by King Edward’s Horse and by The Honourable Artillery Company.
The most memorable day was September 16th, which commenced with inspections by the Regiment’s Honorary Colonel, Field Marshal Lord Roberts, and then by Mr. Haldane, Minister for War, and Sir William Nicholson, Chief of the General Staff.
Following these ceremonies began the historic march to the Guildhall, led by the band of the Coldstream Guards. The public turned out in such numbers as to recall the Queen Victoria jubilee celebrations, and gave the Regiment a great ovation. One recollects frequent expressions of surprise on the part of onlookers on discovering the troops were not red Indians. Arriving at the Guildhall, the Officers were received by the Lord Mayor and Corporation of the City of London in the art gallery while the remainder seated themselves at the immense tables. The remarkable feast which followed consisted of seven courses and seven kinds of wine – the same for all ranks – and it is to be noted that there was not a single casualty on the way home.
During this week a detachment consisting of Sir Henry Pellatt, Lieutenant Colonel P.L. Mason, Major R. Rennie, Captain G. Higinbotham and 12 N.C.O.’s and men visited Balmoral Castle, where they were inspected by His Majesty the King, who voiced his pleasure at the Regiment’s visit 10 England. His Majesty dined these Officers after conferring memberships in the Victorian Order upon them and Colour-Sergeant M.D. MacDonald.
The 20th saw a return to hard work, for this day the Regiment bade a sad farewell to London and entrained for Hampshire to join the “Red” force in the Army manoeuvres. Here, again, terrific marching was the main event – and mostly at night. It was exhausting, but the men stuck it bravely, little dreaming that in four years many of them would return to Salisbury Plain to prepare in earnest.
The lessons in strategy and tactics were of great benefit to the Senior Officers, but a far greater value lay in what the rank and file had learned of the tricks of the trade. This knowledge was of immeasurable value in years to come, and has since helped many an old Queen’s Owner to show the way to the uninitiate. Throughout these periods of training and the actual manoeuvres there were a series of amusing incidents to divert attention from fatigue and exhaustion, but there were periods when it was only that intangible and invaluable quality “esprit de corps” that carried the Regiment to its destination with its head up and which caused Thomas Atkins to shout “Well done, Canadians.”
The morning of September 24th was the occasion of an enthusiastic and noisy send-off by most of the British Army in the vicinity as the Regiment entrained for Liverpool. Wholesale trading of badges had left the Queen’s Own with some of pretty well everything but their own. This is the Tommy’s way of showing his approval. His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught came to bid farewell.
Liverpool was left behind that night as the S.S. Canada bore the troops toward Quebec.
The passage was a very rough one, and was further marred by receipt of wireless word of the death of Lieutenant Roy Gzowski of typhoid fever on the 24th. While he was one of the Junior Officers, Lieutenant Gzowski had quickly endeared himself to all ranks on account of his military and athletic ability. He was buried with full military honours at Aldershot.
Quebec was reached on October 2nd and North Toronto station the following evening, where thousands of citizens joined in a civic reception. And so ended the active part of one more well-conceived and well-executed achievement in the linking up of the Empire.
See our main 1910 Trip page.