Birth of a Regiment

 

With the Canadian Corps 1916-1917

Changing Patterns of Recruiting

With the move of the Patricia’s into the Canadian Corps at the end of 1915, the pattern of reinforcement altered radically.  Although the fourth, fifth and sixth University Companies continued to provide troops through the first half of 1916, reinforcements also started to flow through the normal reinforcement chain. The Regiment had been grouped for administrative purposes as part of the Eastern Ontario Regiment which provided the depot for gathering drafts and preparing them for movement overseas. In all, the Patricia’s drew troops from well outside this geographic catchment area.  In the last half of 1916, a large draft from 13th Canadian Mounted Rifles from the Montreal area arrived. In September, a platoon of Japanese Canadians from the Calgary area appeared as a draft from the 52nd Battalion which was at least nominally part of the New Brunswick Regiment.  With the economy now on a war footing the demand for workers in both war industries and agriculture had risen sharply.  So too had wages.  Although recruiting was becoming generally more difficult, the Patricia’s continued to attract recruits from a wide range of sources. Ultimately, soldiers from over 140 infantry battalions would serve in the Patricia’s but those from Ontario clearly dominated.  Excluding the Originals and the University companies a full 62% of Patricia’s enlisted in Ontario compared to only 42% in the overseas component of the CEF as a whole. Similarly, in the Patricia’s, only 20% were from the west compared to 37% in the CEF. If the Regiment ever had a distinctly western flavour, it was well diluted by the end of the war.



We can also see a significant change in the occupation of those arriving.  Nineteen percent were now agricultural workers.  Among the seventy five conscripts who arrived late in the war more than half would be farmers.  Much of this changed pattern of recruitment can be attributed to the underlying change in economic conditions. The surplus pool of single men with high rates of unemployment had been exhausted early in the war. Similarly, the early flood of those with strong ties to Britain that characterized the Originals was now depleted.

Changes in Organization and Equipment

There were also dramatic changes in the equipment and organization of the Patricia’s in first year with the 3rd Division. Perhaps the most significant change that focused on the Regiment was the question of the Ross Rifle. The Patricia’s, of course, arrived in the division carrying the British Lee-Enfield. There had already been many complaints from troops in the line about the Canadian Ross rifle jamming during rapid fire in the dirt of the trenches, but the arrival of the Patricia’s brought the issue to a head.  It was simply impractical to leave a single battalion in the Division equipped with a different rifle than the rest. At the same time, attempting to replace the reliable Lee-Enfield with the troubled Ross would have been met with fierce resistance from this now popular regiment. In early 1916, Agar Adamson wrote to his wife:

“All our Division except ourselves have Ross Rifles. A youth of a staff officer who until six months ago, was a clerk in a dry goods establishment, sends the following chit:

To O.C. P.P.C.L.I,
Please report by noon tomorrow, why your unit should be armed with a different pattern rifle to that supplied to other units of the Division and state the following:
A. Merit of your rifle.
B. Defects of the Ross rifle – if any.
C. How long you have been supplied with your present weapon.
D. Do you use the same ammunition as the Ross. (Every idiot knows it does.)
E. The weight of your rifle.
F. How many rounds of ammunition does it carry.
N.B. This return to be rendered in triplicate, each sheet of paper to be a different colour and numbered SR1, SR2, SR3 respectively.”[i]

In the end, of course, it was the rest of the Corps that changed and not the Patricia’s.

More significant for the Divisionhowever was the dramatic increase in combat power. The experience of Ypres in 1915 and the Somme battles of the fall of 1916 had brought home the need for increased firepower and greater mobility in the infantry battalion. With the adoption of the light Lewis gun, infantry battalions had dramatically increased the number of machine guns available. Now there were two machine guns in each platoon capable of providing suppressing fire during the attack. In addition, the Division now included a machine gun battalion equipped with 92 Vickersmachine guns to provide close support in the attack and to strengthen the defence with arcs of interlocking fire. The Canadian Division was almost 50% larger than a British Division. It included an Engineer Brigade of 3,000 men compared to only 700 in a British Division. The number of guns per thousand infantry had grown from 6.3 in early 1916 to 12 by the end of the war. Steel helmets and gas masks had also been added to the general kit of every soldier.

[i]N.M. Christie ed.,Letters of Agar Adamson 1914-1919,138

Print Friendly, PDF & Email