Birth of a Regiment



(Note that the standard NATO symbols used in these diagrams were not used during the period. Diagrams have been adapted from various sources.)
At the outbreak of war the structure of the infantry battalion was in a state of flux. In Canada, the Royal Canadian Regiment was organized with eight companies, a structure well suited to its role in training the Militia. In Britain, the shift had recently been made to battalions of four companies and this was the model immediately adopted by Lt-Col Francis Farquhar. There were an number of minor practices unique to Guards regiments that were adopted by the Patricia’s. Companies were numbered instead of having letter designations. The Second in Command (referred to as the Senior Major) had broad responsibility for the administrative and logistical support of the Battalion. This included having bodies like the Transport and Medical Sections directly under his control. In other respects, the Patricia’s organization was the same as that adopted by the rest of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

There were several major deficiencies. The battalion initially had only two Vickers Machine Guns. Although this soon increased to four, they were unwieldy weapons that were difficult to move forward in an attack. In addition to suffering an overall deficiency in Artillery support compared to the opposing Germans, the battalion had no immediate support from mortars. Even grenades were in short supply in the early days of 1915. The individual soldier too was ill-equiped. Steel helmets were not available in 1915 at Frezenberg, nor were gas masks. Instructions at the time were for soldiers to breathe through a dampened piece of gauze.

By the end of the war, the battalion had dramatically increased firepower. In addition to an anti-aircraft machine gun section, every platoon now had two Lewis Guns that could accompany troops in the attack. Stokes Mortars provided dedicated indirect fire support under command of the battalion.

  • There was also a dramatic increase in the support available from within the Canadian Corps.

  • The light Stokes Mortars and Vickers Machine Guns in the Division could be massed when needed but were closely affiliated with the brigades. It was typical for infantry units to “second” senior NCOs and officers to these immediate support units. The number of guns and their ability to concentrate fire and work closely with the infantry had also dramatically increased.

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