Birth of a Regiment

 

Historical Themes

In addition to the more general histories there are of course a variety of thematic histories of the period that will inform our work. Some of the general works structured around themes give us a glimpse into the more detailed material.  For example, Morton provides an excellent brief section on the changing structure of the infantry battalion and Cook good material on snipers and trench raids.  Nevertheless, it will be essential to consider more focused work like On Infantry by John English[i]  (another former Patricia officer who has taken up Clio’s banner) and Bill Rawling’s Surviving Trench Warfare[ii] paint a clear picture of how the business of the infantry changed for the Patricia’s and to assess to what extent they contributed to those changes.  These are topics that have been dealt with only tangentially be previous Regimental histories and yet for the soldier on the ground the impact was dramatic.  For example, we find increasing numbers of soldiers in our data set being attached to both machine gun and mortar units.  By having a full picture of how such units were used, we can establish that many of these units remained closely affiliated with the battalion and thus did not really leave the regimental group.

Similarly we will need to consider some of the excellent work on social and political history to help us understand how the image of the Patricia’s was created.  Once again, some of the more general work provides useful insight into social themes.  Again, we find in both Morton and Cook offer some excellent material.  For our purposes, two works will be of particular importance.  Militia Myths by James Wood[iii] about the reality and the myth of the Canadian citizen soldier.  We will see through his work that the issue of private funding by officers was not at all unique in the Canadian context.  Indeed, Wood suggests that there is not “a single all-encompassing militia myth but, rather, … a collection of competing and even contrary ideas”.   Our challenge will be to tease our how the story of the Patricia’s was shaped by and in-turn helped to shape some of these underlying myths of the citizen soldier.  Jeffery Keshen and Marc Durflinger also provide some useful material in the modules of War and Society in Post-Confederation Canada.[iv]  In particular, Keshen’s article on the role of newspapers in Ottawa  along with material from Michael Benedict’s collection of material form the archives of McLean’s magazine reveal the public image of the regiment.

Understanding the political context will be equally important in developing our narrative of how the Patricia’s were formed and continued after the war.  Tim Cook’s recent The Madman and the Butcher[v] will provide useful context in how the character of the Canadian Corps as a whole was shaped.  It will also serve to place in perspective the more intimate picture provided by Adamson’s letters and Sandra Gwyn’s work.  Part of the challenge for contemporary readers is the historians like Hodder-Williams were writing for those who would have been comfortable with the idea that being “Canadian” also meant being part of the Empire.  Today’s readers will require some political context to understand the recruiting impact of appointing Francis Farquhar, a British officer, as commanding officer of the original battalion.

[i] John English, A Perspective on Infantry, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1981
[ii] Bill Rawling, Surviving Trench Warfare – Technology and the Canadian Corps 1914-1918 University of Toronto Press, 1992.
[iii] James Wood, Militia Myths, Ideas of the Canadian Citizen Soldier, 1896-1921. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 2010.
[iv] Jeffery Keshen, and Serge Marc Durflinger, War and Society in Post Confederation Canada. Toronto: Nelson Education, 2007.
[v] Tim Cook, The Madman and the Butcher – The Sensational Wars of Sam Hughes and General Arthur Currie. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2010.

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