Wednesday, May 11, 2005

11 May 1915 - Parades, drill and inspections

On Tuesday morning, the War Diary records, the Train paraded at Dibgate for Company drill, while those who had been selected to become farriers attended lectures from the Veterinary Officer, Captain W.H. Simon. Presumably the men and officers from the other two companies marched over from West Sandling to take part.

Maj. Gen. James Melville Babington - Courtesy of the NYPL Digital GalleryAt 4 in the afternoon, the Train was inspected by Major-General J.M. Babington, C.B., C.M.G. on Sir John Moores' Plain. An experienced veteran of the Imperial Forces in the South African/Boer War, Babington had commanded the New Zealand Forces, and was regarded as an extremely competent thinking soldier and tactician. The image of Babington at left is from a series of cigarette cards of Boer War celebrities.

The two photos included below were very kindly sourced by Alan & Alison Smith from the Local Studies Library in Folkestone, to whom I am very grateful. Although not particularly clear, the images show troops drilling and exercising in the fields adjacent to Shorncliffe Barracks during the First World War. It is not possible to be certain, but it seems likely that they were Canadian.

Canadian troops drilling on the parade grounds adjacent to the Shorncliffe Barracks, First World War

Canadian troops exercising on the parade grounds adjacent to the Shorncliffe Barracks, First World War
H.C. Singer, in his History of the 31st (Alberta) Battalion, C.E.F. (Calgary, n.p., 1938, p. 22), has written:
Company and battalion drill and manoeuvres, trench digging, and similar work occupies most of the time. Courses of special instruction and bayonet fighting, grenade throwing, machine-gunnery, musketry, signalling and map reading were also inaugurated ...
Donald Fraser, who was at this stage in the 31st Battalion, wrote in The Journal of Private Fraser (ed. Reginald H. Roy, CEF Books, 1998, p. 23):
Friday, September 17, 1915: After a four months' training in Kent, England, where we had a very enjoyable time, first at Dibgate in the vicinity of Shorncliffe, then at Lydd where we had a rush shooting practice and finally at Otterpool where water was very scarce, we were considered fit and skilled in the art of warfare, ready to meet the hated Hun. When I think of it, our training was decidedly amateurish and impractical. It consisted mainly of route marches and alignment movements. Our musketry course amounted to nothing; we had only half an idea about the handling of bombs. We were perfectly ignorant regarding rifle grenades.
History of Thirty-First Battalion, C.E.F., republished in CD-format bvy ArchiveCD Books CanadaHistory of Thirty-First Battalion, C.E.F., from its organization November, 1914, to its demobilization June, 1919, compiled by Major H.C. Singer & written by A.A. Peebles, publ. 1938 privately in Calgary. This is now available as a digital reproduction from Archive CD Books Canada.

The Journal of Private Fraser, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918
The Journal of Private Fraser, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918, ed. by Reginald H. Roy, publ. 1998 by CEF Books


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