Tuesday, May 10, 2005

10 May 1915 - A move to the sands of Dibgate Camp

On the morning of Monday 10th May, the War Diary records a move of half the Train, including Nos. 7 and 8 Companies, out of the huts and to new accomodation at Dibgate Camp. At the new location, they were accomodated in tents; the camp was in an inferior location, very sandy and dirty, and the water supply was indequate. However, in spite of inclement weather for much of the time, their health was reported to be better than that of the soldiers in huts. Also on this day, Major W.A. Mitchell, originally from No. 8 Company, assumed overall command of both Nos. 7 & 8 Companies.

Brigadier General Alexander Ross, in his narrative included in Chapter Five of Major D.G. Scott-Calder's History of the 28th Battalion (reproduced on Robert Lindsay's excellent 28th North-West Battalion Headquarters web site), was not at all complimentary about the conditions at Dibgate:
Apart from the whole-hearted hospitality of the other Battalions of the 6th Brigade, there was little in the Dibgate Camp Area to make us feel. welcome and, as time went by, the first impressions of this locale did net improve. Fanned by every breeze that blew (and they were many and variable) the sandy soil showed a decided tendency to do everything except that for which it had been destined. It penetrated in large quantities the food, clothing and bedding, to say nothing of eyes, hair and mouths.
Lt. Wilbert H. Gilroy, a dental surgeon with the Canadian Dental Corps, was also billeted with the 6th Brigade at Dibgate in the summer of 1915. He was almost always bright and cheerful in his letters home, but his remarks about the sand indicated his strong displeasure:
The only objection to this place is that when it blows, as it is doing now, the sand is something awful.
Back at West Sandling, the Nos. 5 and 6 Companies were to remain in the huts for another fortnight. Private George Broome (440955, "A" Co., 32nd Battn.) was in the Third Canadian Division, which arrived in England in September 1915 as the Second Division left for France. He wrote the following to his mother in Melfort, Saskatchewan, from Risboro Barracks, Shorncliffe, which was not far from West Sandling, and the accomodation would have been very similar:
29th September 1915: We have had nice weather here till today and its raining cats & dogs. We are fixed up alright though. We are in huts. About 30 men live in each hut and have their beds and tables and chairs and crockery. The food is brought from the cook house and we eat right in our huts. They are pretty big although the name makes one think they are small.
Wilbert H. Gilroy Collection, Correspondence & Photographs, publ. by the Canadian Letters & Images Project
George Albert Charles Broome Collection, Correspondence & Photographs, publ. by the Canadian Letters & Images Project
The History of the 28th (Northwest) Battalion, C.E.F. (October 1914 - June 1919), by Major D.G. Scott-Calder, E.D., originally published 1961 by The Regina Rifle Regiment, republished on the internet by Robert J. Lindsay on 28th (North-West) Battalion HQ © Copyright The Royal Regina Rifles Trust Fund


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