Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Untried Colonials

Here is a list of the battalions recruited later for World War I, which contained substantial numbers of Vancouver men.

November 1914, Lieutenant-Colonel H.S. Tobin and the 29th Bn.

March 1915 the 47th Bn commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel W.N. Winsby.

Lieutenant-Colonel H.B. Hulme and the 62nd Bn went to war in July of 1915.

September 1915, the 72nd Bn and Lieutenant-Colonel J.A. Clark.

The militia was reconstituted after the war. Its regiments were designated "continuing units" of certain of the battalions and they carried their battle honours.

If veteran officers and men of the battalions joined the militia, they naturally gravitated towards to "continuing unit" if possible. That being said, none of the battalions were formed or in any way represented militia units during 1914-18.

An example of this is the 7th Battalion. It continued after the war by the 1st British Columbia Regiment (DCOR), which was formed in 1914 from 250 men of the 6th Regiment (DCOR), 250 from the 11th Irish Fusiliers, 250 from the 87th Fusiliers (Victoria), 150 of the 104th Westminster Fusiliers and 150 of the Rocky Mountain Rangers (Kamloops). Nevertheless, the 7th, 16th, 29th and 72nd Battalions were considered to be particularly Vancouver's
"own" throughout the war. The exploits of the 72nd at the taking of Vimy Ridge were proudly marked up to the credit of Vancouver's "boys".

The progress of World War I is beyond the scope of Vancouver's story but it affected the city. Our boys had a baptism by fire at Second Ypres in which battalions 7th and 16th were blooded.

The Canadians had a quiet introductory tour of duty but that changed when they went  into the line in the critical Ypres salient. Trenches were practically non-existent and the artillery was limited to three shells per day per gun. The infantry's Ross rifles proved difficult to manage because they had ammunition for British Lee-Enfields.

At 5 pm on April 22, 1915, the Germans launched the first gas attack in modern warfare. The French on the right of the Canadians led to the rear, leaving the untried "colonials" the only shield for 50,000 Imperial troops penned in the salient. Their only orders were,

"You must hang on and take care of your left."

And they did. They faced furious German attacks during the night of the 22nd and the 16th battalion took part in the famous counter-attack on Kitchener's Wood. When dawn broke on the 23rd, of the 1100-man battalion, only five officers and 263 other ranks were left but they continued to hold.

I would say that the "colonials" proved themselves.

Thanks to the book Vancouver, From Milltown to Metropolis by Alan Morley for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill