Tuesday, May 24, 2005

24 to 29 May - Musketry course at Hythe ranges

During the week starting 24th May, all four companies of the Train attended Musketry courses at the Hythe ranges, commencing with a parade at 7 am on Monday.

The School of Musketry was set up at Hythe in 1853 by the then British Commander-in-Chief, Lord Hardinge, and is still used to this day. A brief history of the Corps formed by Lord Harding at Hythe is given on this British Army web site.

Charles Ross Francis, in his Personal Experiences and Impressions of the Great European War, on "For King and Empire", gave the following account of his first week at the ranges, some five weeks after the 2nd Divisional Train had been there:
Monday, July 3
At 11 am today we marched down to the Hythe ranges to practice shooting. It is the first I had ever shot out of a rifle and I made a fairly good score considering (16 out of 20). We carry full packs and as the road is rather hilly it is quite a strenuous walk especially coming back which is more uphill. The Hythe ranges are supposed to be the best in this world. They are down by the beach so that we shoot towards the ocean. The ground is all shingle (pebbles) and while it is hard to walk on it is very good for wet weather.

Wednesday, July 5
We are continuing with the ranges. I have been coaching every day besides shooting, and while it is not hard work it is rather monotonous and some days very hot as we are now in the blazing sun without any cover. I am burnt as brown as an Indian.

Friday, July 7
We completed our course at the ranges this afternoon. The Battalion as a whole did fairly well but I was not able to keep my own score as I was too busy on the coaching. If possible I may be able to get it and will jot it down afterwards. We shot from ranges from 1 to 600 yards at targets like this,
1 - Bull = 4
2 - Inner = 3
3 - Magpie = 2
4 - Outer =1
For ranges to 1 and 2 hundred the targets are 6'x 6' and for the long distance 8'x8'.
Private Francis trained with the 90th Battalion, also from Winnipeg, which was subsequently broken up on the day that after the musketry course concluded, with the men being absorbed into other battalions.

Ernest Mosley Taylor, who served with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles (C.M.R.) and was killed less than a year later, found the journey from their camp down to the ranges rather strenuous (in letter home which forms part of correspondence in the Taylor-Bury Collection):
8 August 1915
We have been having rather a strenuous time lately, and march down to Hythe every day to start. We start about 7 a.m., our lunch consisting of a jam sandwich and small piece of cheese. Hythe is about seven miles away, and we don't get back till five in the evening. Then I have a wash and clean up and get down to the rooms in time for supper at 7. This means that I have been doing about sixteen miles a day for the last week. I find I keep pretty fit on it though my feet are rather sore with the hard roads, and a rest today is welcome ... We are getting rather tired of having horses to look after. It tires on down so much and there does not seem to be any more prospect of riding them.
This postcard photo shows Canadian soldiers marching through the busy streets of Hythe, presumably on the way to, or on the way back from, the ranges.
Canadians at Hythe. Photo postcard courtesy of Christine Warren's Folkestone & Hythe web pages
A Soldier's Diary - 1916 : My Personal Experiences and Impressions of the Great European War, by Private Charles Ross Francis, published on The Archive, For King and Empire : Canada's Soldiers in the Great War
Correspondence of Ernest Mosley Taylor dated 8 August 1915, in the Taylor-Bury Collection, publ. by the Canadian Letters & Images Project


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