Monday, April 18, 2005

More accounts of the Atlantic crossing

This is a good opportunity to introduce readers to another blog currently being developed which relates the experiences of a CEF soldier, in the form of letters written to folk back at home. Dear Miss Griffis is published by the Glenbow Museum, and consists of the First World War Letters from Harold McGill to Emma Griffis, whom he later married. The letters are published on a weekly basis.

McGill enlisted with the 31st Battalion, and later served with the 5th Canadian Field Ambulance in France. His letter to Emma written from Shorncliffe in June 1915 gives a brief account of the journey from Montreal, Quebec to Devonport, near Plymouth on the SS Carpathia.
There was scarcely any rough weather on the ocean trip and I never missed a meal. The land lubbers fared better than the old travellers very few of the former being seasick. I never even felt a twinge, but then I was too busy most of the time to indulge in any such frivolities. We never got a glimpse of a submarine although we kept a sharp lookout. There were over 2200 troops aboard and the last part of the journey was run with lights all shut off at nights, or at least with portholes all blanketed. For the last two days we had two machine guns mounted on deck and 100 men on guard with loaded rifles.
These sentiments were shared by Louis Duff of the 28th (North-West) Battalion from Moose Jaw, who wrote the following in letters to his uncle and aunt in Saskatchewan:
29th June 1915, Dibgate Camp, Shorncliffe: Just a line to let you know we arrived O.K. and am well. We had a glorious trip across the water, fine weather and comparatively calm sea. Only a few of the 2000 on board suffered from sea sickness, as for myself, I was really sorry the trip was so short, 10 days from Montreal to Plymouth
In an account of the history of the 117th Battalion (Gilbert's Galloper's : The Rise and Fall of the 117th Eastern Townships Battalion, C.E.F.) Craig Myers provides the following assessment of the feeling among the men on board during the crossing:
Letters home to loved ones share the soldiers' experiences while crossing the Atlantic. Some told of seasickness, cramped conditions, and boredom. However, the general theme of the letters was that the soldiers were happy and felt a certain esprit de corps within the 117th.
Dear Miss Griffis, an ongoing blog publ. by the Glenbow Museum
Gilbert's Galloper's : The Rise and Fall of the 117th Eastern Townships Battalion, C.E.F., by Craig Myers on the Eastern Townships Heritage Web Magazine and the 117th Eastern Townships Overseas Battalion web site
World War I Letters of the Duff & Morrison families of Saskatchewan, on The Canadian Military Heritage Project web site


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