Tuesday, 30 December 2014


The Patricias spent the last week of the year acclimatizing and digging trenches for the new Hazebrouck defensive line in the water-logged soil of Flanders. 

On December 29th, Hamilton Gault left with Captain Fairbanks-Smith and two NCOs for the British 3rd Division trenches near Kemmel to orient themselves with trench warfare. 

An experienced infantry officer, Captain Fairbanks-Smith enlisted with the PPCLI on August 1st, 1914 but transferred to the Durham Light Infantry in the British Expeditionary Force as a Major on 11 January 1915. 

War Diary entry: 

Tue, Dec 29, 1914 BLARINGHEM, FRANCE

29.12.14 Major (A.H.) Gault, Capt (C.F.) SMITH & 2 N.C.O’s went up to trenches of 3rd Division at KEMMEL. 24 hours in trenches to learn method of reliefs & gain experience: valuable hints and information gained. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


Upon arrival at Arques the men were met by a guide to lead them off into the darkness to Brigade Headquarters near Blaringhem just after midnight on December 24th. They had been told it was about an hour down the road. The guide, however, lost his way and they were forced to backtrack several miles much to the frustration of the exhausted soldiers. 

It was 3:00 a.m after marching aimlessly half the night when they finally arrived. Billets for the next few days were in the village of Blaringhem and its surrounding farms, near where the Hazebrouck defensive line was being contracted. Intervals of deep rumbling sounds heralded the approach of dawn on Christmas day. It was the thundering of the guns. Bully beef was served for Christmas dinner.

A cigarette card placed in cigarette packages issued by John Player & Sons to honour the Regiment. On the back it notes that the PPCLI was "the first Canadian Regiment to join the British Expeditionary Force in France. It has suffer more casualties and seen more fighting than any other Canadian unit".
Thu, Dec 24, 1914 ARQUES, FRANCE

24.XII.14  BLARINGHEM. The guide provided by the R.T.O. confessed after he had gone some miles that he had never been to BLARINGHEM. In consequence it took until 3 a.m. to cover the 7 miles to that village. On arrival at Brigade Headquarters was informed that we were to billet along a stretch of 2 miles, down the road we had come along. The transport pulled off into nearest field & the troops were gradually billeted the last being got in about 6. Fine, cold. 

Fri, Dec 25. 1914 BLARINGHEM, FRANCE

25.XII.14 BLARINGHEM. Spent morning overhauling packing of the transport. Unluckily Christmas comforts not available. Very fine in morning, then misty, cold, frost. 

Christmas day, 1914 was a day to remember. We just had arrived in Belgium and spent the day digging support trenches. On pay parade the same day, we received five francs which most of us spent on vin blanc at two francs per bottle, though some brought champagne at five francs. It must have been when we reached Blaringhem, A.F. Troce #1520 threw his rifle into a pond. Later he retrieved it. This was at Blaringhem. 

W.J. Popey
Letter from the collection of PPCLI Archives

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


On tuesday, December 22nd, 1914 at 1030 hours, another cold and rainy day, the PPCLI marched back into Le Havre to draw ammunition, equipment and rations in anticipation of their move to the front. 

The Regiment then moved to Gare des Marchandises where a 48 truck train, typical French box cars, took them to the front. Once their horses and transport were loaded, only 25 cars remained to accommodate the officers and men. With roughly 40 men in each car, there was little room to move and some soldiers had to stand because there was not enough seating. As one veteran noted, “Some promising friendships were strained by this arrangement.” Despite the physical discomfort the Regiment was in high spirits, happy to be moving up to the front lines at last. Almost twenty four hours later they arrived at their destination arriving at Arques in French Flanders at 2140 hours on December 23rd. They unloaded dragging animals, vehicles and equipment along muddy tracks to get them clear of the train. The work parties performed well, but they didn't finish unloading until after midnight.

War Diary entry:

Tues, Dec 22, 1914 Havre, France

22.XII.14 HAVRE Battalion Route March from 10.30 a.m. to 12.45 p.m. Completed equipment from Ordnance. Ration parties left camp at 4.40 p.m. Remainder of Battalion at 5.40 pm. Reached point 3, GARE DES MARCHANDISES at 7 p.m. Men in tearing spirits. The whole Battalion had to entrain in one train of 48 trucks. Officers 1, Men 24, Horses 10, VEHICLES 13. Very tight fit, some of the men being unable to sit down. Fatigue parties worked very well. Battalion left at schedule time 11.19 p.m. Showery. Appendix II. Orders for railway journey. 

Wed., Dec 23, 1914 Troop Train Havre to St. Omer, France

23.XII.14  On train en route to St. OMER. Reached ABBEVILLE 12.30 p.m. Journey would have been much easier if we had been informed where halts were to be made and for how long. 
Reached St. OMER 8.50 p.m. Received order to proceed to ARQUES and to detrain there. Reached ARQUES at 9.40 p.m. Detrainment completed by 12.30 a.m. (24th). 
The tracks for the vehicles were very bad & greatly retarded both the entrainment and detrainment of the Battalion. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014


Conditions at Morn Hill had been as unpleasant as Salisbury Plain and the weather had quite possibly been worse. It was cold, extremely wet and strong winds frequently lifted tent pegs from the saturated soil  collapsing canvas tents. Constant rain quickly turned unpaved roads and paths into muddy tracks. Soldiers cooked their rations over open fires behind improvised windbreaks. Each soldier received a daily ration comprised of a pound of bread, a pound of meat or bacon and a pound of vegetables. Soldiers had limited access to hot water and bathing facilities, and seldom had the opportunity to dry their clothes and equipment. 

Hamilton Gault spent the weeks at Morn Hill ensuring the Regiment's weapons and stores were ready for war as well as continually pushing for better conditions for the men. Lieutenant-Colonel Farquhar kept the Regiment busy with preparations and training, with special emphasis placed on weapons training. Owing to Farquhar's great negotiating skills, the PPCLI exchanged their Canadian Ross rifles for British Lee Enfields and were ready for immediate deployment. 

On Sunday, December 20th, 1914, after several false starts and numerous changes to the Regiment's notice to move, 27 officers and 956 other ranks marched away from their camp at Morn Hill. Supported by 25 vehicles, 82 horses, 2 motorcycles and 10 bicycles the Regiment departed for the docks at Southampton. The battalion was third in the order of march, following the 2nd Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry. The Regiment arrived in Southampton at 1640 hours and proceeded to Berth 46 to embark on the SS Cardiganshire. The Cardiganshire departed in fine weather for France at 1900 hours, moving into the Solent under a destroyer escort with its lights blacked out.

SS Cardiganshire

Captain Agar Adamson, to his great disappointment, was not with the battalion but was left behind with a small detachment of NCOs to train replacements. Neither were Talbot Papineau or Charlie Stewart who were recovering from a freak incident earlier in the month. On the night of December 3rd, Papineau and Stewart escaped with their lives when their tent went up in flames. Both men suffered severe burns. In a letter to his mother, Papineau explained, "I was sound asleep. Charlie came in about eleven o'clock. He smoked a cigarette and went to sleep. Since he and his side of the tent were more severely burned, it is probable his cigarette or a candle started it."  Although Stewart's burns were considered life threatening in the following days, both officers eventually recovered fully and joined the Regiment in France. 

The voyage across the English Channel was uneventful. SS Cardiganshire arrived at Le Havre at 0500 hours on Monday December 21st 1914 and, after a lengthy delay, docked at 1325 hours. Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry disembarked immediately and became the first Canadian fighting unit to arrive in France during the First World War. The Regiment left the docks at 1500 hours and marched through rain showers to Camp #2 outside of Le Havre, arriving at 1730 hours for an overnight stay. The battalion transport followed later, arriving at 2015 hours.

It was four long, cold, miserable months from their departure in Ottawa on that hot August day to the Regiment's arrival in France. In spite of the uninviting environment at the transit camp in Le Havre,  morale among the men was as high as the day they left home. 

I was in that gallant band of brothers affectionately know as the Pats who set out from Morn Hill Camp, Winchester on that bleak day of December 1914 enroute to Southampton and Le Havre, France. It was one of many unforgettable incidents in the glorious history of the Battalion. 

W. H. Roffey
Letter from the collection of PPCLI Regimental Archives 

Sunday, 23 November 2014


Morn Hill Camp, Winchester, November 1914 - The stormy night when the marquee housing the beer canteen blew down and some of the boys rolled out a barrel of beer during the confusion. Only to see it take charge, roll down the hill gaining momentum every years, and finally to crash through the open ditch latrine much to the discomfort of the Provost Sgt. sitting on the 2 by 4 rail attending to the call of nature.
W. H. Roffey

The Regiment moved to Winchester where we joined the 80th Brigade, 27th Division, which had just landed from India. We were glad to turning our Ross Rifles and get issued with the Short Lee Enfield, which was a wonderful rifle for the type of warfare we were to encounter in Flanders.
H. F. O'Connell
(Letters from the collections of PPCLI Museum and Archives)

War Diary Entries: 

WINCHESTER 16.11.14. Bn moved to WINCHESTER in 3 trains and camped at MORN HILL. 

WINCHESTER 18.11.14. Orders to hold Bn in readiness to entrain at 2 hours notice. 

WINCHESTER 20.11.14. Bn joined 80th Bde Expeditionary Force: other Bns 2nd Bn Shropshire L.I. 3rd & 4th Bns K.R.R.C. & 4th Bn R.B. under Brig. Gen. Hon. C.G. FORTESCUE. C.B.  C.M.G.  D.S.O. 

WINCHESTER 22.11.14. Emergency duty ready to entrain at 41/2 hours notice from 6 pm until 6 pm 23.11.14. 
N.B. Essential that preserved rations, biscuit et should be issued to Battalions on mobilization & held by them ready for a move: none could be issued at WINCHESTER so it was necessary to purchase in order to have one days rations in case of move. 

25.11.14. Battalion inspected by Major Gen D'O SNOW. Commdg 27th Divn. accompanied by Brig Gen HON. C.G. FORTESCUE Commdg 80th Bridgade. 
Bn on Emergency Duty ready to move at 81/2 hours notice. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014


Rather than stay with the other troops who were still learning basic soldiering skills, Farquhar felt his men were fit for service and wanted his Regiment assigned to immediate action. After much lobbying to the British authorities in Whitehall, General Alderson finally agreed and recommended their 'early dispatch to the theatre of war'. The Patricias were detached to the 80th Brigade, 27th Imperial Division, British Army.

War Diary entry: 

Sat, Nov 14, 1914, Bustard Camp, Salisbury Plain, England
14.11.14. Orders received from Bn to move to WINCHESTER

Sun, Nov 15, 1914, Bustard Camp, Salisbury Plain, England
15.11.14. Advanced party under Lieutenants (F.) FITZGERALD and (M.S.) DE BAY moved to WINCHESTER

"On November 15 the P.P.C.L.I.'s received orders to pack all blankets in bundles of ten, and all kits, and  make ready to leave for Winchester, twelve miles from Southampton. Southampton is a city of about 120,000 inhabitants and is on the southeast coast of England. As the Pats were leaving Bustard  Camp, the 1st Brigade of the Canadian Army lined the route of our march for perhaps five miles in the direction of Amesbury. As the battalion approached each of their brother battalions gave three rousing, rhythmic, army cheers. The circling hills echoed and reechoed with this enthusiastic farewell as " Pat’s Pets" marched by with their usual "swank" and cockiness. Little did they realize that they were listening to the last Canadian cheers that most of them would ever hear."

Quoted from the book, "Mopping Up", written by Lieutenant Jack Monroe PPCLI

Monday, 10 November 2014


Two weeks after Mabel's arrival in England she arranged a visit to see Agar at Bustard Camp. After a harrowing days' drive in a hired car with Porter she arrived at Agar's tent to find he wasn't there. 

Salisbury Plain,
Thursday, 10th November 1914
My dear Mabel,
I wired you today and have engaged a room in a cottage in Salisbury. We take our meals in an old 14th Century pub where Mrs. bell is laid up. I wired to bring a chain for one hind wheel which can be put on if you find the car will not get over the downs – all cars carry one.
Thine Agar.
Directions: On reaching Bustard Village ask for Princess Patricia’s Regiment, north of the village ½ mile over the down, the going is a bit poached, but every car makes it, so don’t get out till you get to my tent or you will get lost.
My dear Mabel,
The C.O. sent for me this morning, he had just received an order from Head Quarters that the Senior Captain of this Regiment had to be left behind as a base officer, taking over 100 men left and waiting for 500 extra men from Canada. He was very nice about it and said he regretted it very much. I offered to drop my rank and go as a subaltern or do anything rather than remain behind and go to Bustard. He has now gone to see the General and try to persuade him to allow one of the other Captains to take my place. You can only have a small idea what this means to me and I am wretched. McKinery has also put in an official report that the C.O. can’t get along without me and adding that (at my request) I am no good at detail. I wired you not to come. I should be too unhappy, so please don’t. I will wire you if there is any lucky change.

Agar did finally appear after having been detained on the shooting range and was able to join Mabel at the Old George Hotel in Salisbury by 11 pm. That had given Mabel enough time to look around and see that Agar had not been exaggerating in his description of the camp. She found the conditions completely appalling. 

"There is simply no place for the meant to get dry. They route-march through the pouring rain, and come back to leaky tents, twelve to fifteen men in each....The cooking is done out in the open, with a blanket hung up on the windward side of the stove. The men have no messy nets, a big black pot of food is deposited in front of each ten, out of which they dig their respective portions....(The horses) are most miserable, tethered in the awful wind and rain with no protection whatsoever. They are said to be dying at the rate of thirty a day."

Thursday, 6 November 2014



War Diary entry: 5.11.14 to 13.11.14 Bn at Field Training, musketry, digging trenches, route-marching etc. 

"Route marches, parades. Inspections, and all the " stuff " that the veteran in the  game dislikes so thoroughly were fully engaged In here. A fortnight of tramping over this ground transformed it and the camp to a veritable morass of mud and water. The daily rains started in enthusiastically to help, so that soon the quagmire was up to the knees… The rain continued steadily. There was scarcely a day without its showers. The downpours interrupted parades and route marches, and the soldiers’ clothing was wet most of the time. In fact, it was seldom dry, there being no fire by which to dry it. The Canadians found the  much heralded " ideal” climate of " the tight little isle " the wettest, dankest sponge in the shape of weather they had ever experienced. And the Canucks were  more than ever surprised to find that the English houses were about as cold as the outside weather."

Quoted from the book, "Mopping Up", written by Lieutenant Jack Monroe PPCLI

Tuesday, 4 November 2014


The first entry in Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry War Diaries was on Wednesday November 4th, 1914 while the unit was stationed at Bustard Camp, Salisbury Plain, England:

Bustard Camp Salisbury Plain 4.11.14 Inspection of Battalion with rest of Canadian Contingent by HM The King accompanied by HM The Queen, Lord Roberts, Lord Kitchener.

During the ceremonial parade of November 4th, Hamilton Gault formally handed the Regiment to the King who, with Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener, then inspected them. The King told Farquhar, 'This is the finest battalion I have ever inspected', and likely he was genuinely impressed. The Patricia's had been garnering this same reaction from the many British visitors who'd come through the camp to visit with family members over the weeks. Rather than the expected ragtag bunch of civilians awkwardly learning how to soldier, the Patricia's were disciplined and mature men. Together they wore a combined total of 771 decorations and medals.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


Having missed the opportunity to assist with humanitarian aid during the Boer War Mabel Adamson was not going to be left behind for this one. As this had been a completely impulsive decision, Mabel did not arrive with a plan but with a zest for adventure. At forty five years of age, like so many women of her day, the war gave her a new purpose - and one that had never been so fulfilling.

Mabel and Anthony arrived in Liverpool on October 27th, 1914 to a very different England. The first change she encountered was that strict immigration restrictions had been put into effect. "It is very difficult getting into England now," she wrote to her mother. "All the passengers were assembled in the saloon and no one is allowed off until they are cross-questioned as to their nationality, business, etc, and all foreigners have to have passports." Gone were the days of easy travel as this emergency measure would never be repealed.
Mabel Cawthra Adamson c.  1910

Mabel would have to adjust to the new paper money being issued by the banks as well. During the financial panic that followed the declaration of war, gold sovereigns, which had been the hallmark of the British Empire, were recalled by the banks under the Currency and Bank Note Act of 1914 for fear of money hoarding. The Currency and Bank Note Act gave His Majesty's Treasury the power to issue one pound and ten shilling bank notes as legal tender which would increase the availability of money by printing it.

The city of London was changed too with patriotic flags hung on every post, recruiting posters in every window, excited newsboys selling local and foreign papers and Red Cross collection boxes everywhere. At night a blackout was imposed on the city, with shop windows covered in dark paper, street lamps turned off and only red lanterns hung to guide traffic. One large search light scanned continuously at the entrance to Hyde Park giving an eery glow to the fog.

In spite of signs everywhere that war was raging not so far away, Londoners themselves seemed to be disconnected from the horrors and almost appeared to be enjoying the spirit of pageantry in the city. "We danced every night," one socialite of the time remembered years later. "It was only when someone you knew well or with whom you were in love was killed, that you minded really dreadfully."

A columnist wrote,"It requires some effort to realize that London is almost within hearing distance of the great battle of the Aisne. Business proceeds very much as usual...the shops are crowded with busy, animated but very matter-of-fact shoppers...one has to wait for a table in a popular cafe...the only real reminder is the sign 'Quiet for the Wounded' that swings outside Charing Cross Hospital." 

Although in time, the wounded in their bright blue convalescent uniforms and women wearing mourning black would start to dominate the cityscape, in these early days the only people that seemed to be affected by the war were the thousands of displaced Belgian refugees flooding into England. By mid-October, more than a hundred thousand had crossed the channel.

Mabel Adamson was determined to make a difference with the war effort and the Belgian refugees became her new focus. As an initial gesture, she had brought with her trunk loads of old clothes collected from all her friends and acquaintances in Toronto. She had no intention of leisurely passing the time away between Agar's visits on leave like so many of the other women and eagerly got right to work. 

Friday, 24 October 2014


When he had arrived at Plymouth, Agar Adamson was finally able to mail the letters he'd been writing to Mabel on the journey overseas. Rather than find a letter waiting for him in return though, he received a cable with astonishing news. He would see Mabel in person long before his letters would actually reach her. The cable announced that their son Rodney was in boarding school in St. Catherine's, Ontario and Mabel and Anthony were in New York ready to board the 'Mauretania' for a cross-Atlantic voyage to England.

Bustard Camp, Salisbury Plains.
24 October 1914.

My dear Mabel,

I can not make out from your cable whether it is you alone or your mother and the children who are coming from Canada. I wired you from Plymouth "What are you coming over about" have received no answer. By your last letter the 9th of Oct. you say Mrs. Cawthra is leaving at the end of this month.

We are scattered all over Salisbury Plains under canvas. Weather wet and cold, troops cheerful under most trying conditions. Most of the Canadian contingent will be here (by order) till middle of January. We were warned two days ago to be ready to leave in 10 days. I was in ton last week for a night looking after Mess affairs. We are pretty hard worked, but some leave is coming to us before we go. I have all your letters, some written to Levis.

If you really want me to go and see you in London, telegraph or write to me and I will try and manage leave, the more notice you give me the better, as all officers have to take their turns so as not to, too much interfere with ordinary regimental training.

I am fit and well,

Agar Adamson.

Sunday, 19 October 2014


As was reported in 'The Times', when the Royal George anchored off Plymouth their arrival was met with the fanfare of bands playing and crowds shouting, 'Hip-Hip-Hurrah!' and singing the anthem 'Tipperary'

Sung with great enthusiasm, 'It's A Long Way To Tipperary' was one of the most popular songs with soldiers on their way to the Western Front in the summer of 1914. It was written by Jack Judge and Harry Williams in 1912 but Patricias likely heard it for the first time upon their arrival at the Plymouth Dockyard. Now sung with pride in the PPCLI Regimental March Past medley, 'Tipperary' has become synonymous with the legacy of the originals.

Three days after docking, on October 18th, the Regiment moved to Bustard on Salisbury Plain and were encamped with the Canadian Division next to the Old Bustard Inn where Division Headquarters was located. The excitement of arrival and eagerness to get to France began to wane, however, as the days wore on. 

 Lt French holding the Ric-A-Dam-Doo with the armed Colour Party,
Bustard Camp, Salisbury Plain

With no communication from the War Office about their future Gault and Farquhar began to get concerned. Now under the command of the Canadian Contingent it appeared the Patricias would be stuck for at least another three months of training at Bustard Camp before joining the fight in France.

Farquhar was also uncomfortable with the possibility the Regiment's NCO's might be pilfered by other Canadian units. As he did in Quebec, by pulling the Regiment out from under the nose of Sam Hughes at Valcartier, Farquhar again set forth to argue on behalf of the Patricias' independence from the CEF in England. For the next several weeks he relentlessly petitioned General Alderson, the Canadian Division Commander to have the Battalion moved.

The worst problem they encountered at Bustard, though, was the weather. They had arrived in England to a beautiful sunny autumn but within a week the driving rains and high winds set in, launching the worst winter in living memory.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


Agar continues his letter of October 12th to Mabel: 

Wednesday 14th.

We have had two really rough days and blowing like blazes, it is now 3 p.m. and we are within a few miles of Plymouth with orders to anchor in the harbour. I don’t suppose we will land till tomorrow.

Friday 16th.

All the transports have now been anchored in the stream off the Dockyard Plymouth. No shore leave and up to noon today no disembarkation – or any other kind of orders have been received. No communication with shore. Buller’s people are in Plymouth and he can’t even write to them. A Naval Officer who came on board told me we were to have gone to Southampton, but they discovered German submarines waiting for us, so sent us on here. We may yet go there. This is a beautiful harbour and chock full of Naval craft of sorts. When we were coming in past the boys training ships, three old oak ships one in front of the other, with bridges connecting, the boys manned the rigging and gave us a cheer. We have no idea what the War Office is going to do with us and can only stand by all packed ready to disembark or go to sea when the order comes. We have for the last 3 days run out of tobacco and drinks of any kind. The weather is beautiful and Plymouth, looks from behind our prison bars, very inviting. 

11 a.m.

The C.O. has just come aboard from a visit to the Commander in Chief and at 12:30 we are going on shore in tugs for a route march returning to the ship tonight. I will post this on the march in a pillar box, also one to Anthony.

Goodbye old girl. I hope you don’t miss me as much as I miss you at all the times. 
Ever thine,


This selection of photographs is from an unnamed personal album in the PPCLI Archives. Only the one photo of Talbot Papineau and Hamilton Gault has a caption. Click on each photo to enlarge. 

Talbot Papineau (left) and Hamilton Gault (right)
On board the Royal George

Sunday, 12 October 2014


Monday, 12th Oct. 1914.

My dear Mabel, 
After 27 days at Levis Camp we embarked on 27 September sleeping on board and training on shore during the day. By the 30th we sailed from Quebec arriving at Gaspe basin on the 1st October, joining the waiting fleet of 20 ships and on the 3rd, the fleet having grown to 31 transports filled with troops or horses we started off in three lines of 10 ships each with Eclipse, Diana, Charybdis, Glory and Talbot convoying us. These have been added to until now we have six more including the Lion, the largest battle Cruiser afloat. Owing to some of the ships being slow, we have not been able to make nine knots an hour, our best day being 216 miles. Each day we go off seven miles to port and seven miles port of us is one of the Cruisers, in the evening we fall in the rear of the column. The Megantic does the same on the other flank. Everything we passed, we made turn about and join us, except ships flying the American flag. Some Canadian bound passengers must have been annoyed. It is really a wonderful sight to see the fleet, we have no news of any kind and no communications between ships is allowed, except orders from the flag ship. All port holes are darkened during the night. If we do not break away tomorrow and increase our speed we are not due in any port till Thursday which will just make the trip 18 days. One ship with 2,000 troops owing to their running short of food made a dash for England last night. We too are pretty short of certain stores. 


We have had a most wonderful voyage. It has never been half rough, the only real sufferer being Lady Evelyn, it has been quite warm and had one been able to find time, could have sat on deck any day without an overcoat. I have written Anthony a letter which may interest. Will you kindly consider my communications strictly as of a domestic confidential nature as I was much annoyed during the South African war by certain letters of mine appearing in the daily papers and could not have been of any interest to any one not interested in the writer and I object very much to the bright-eyed Canadian idea of wishing for limelight. We have just received a signal from the flag ship to destroy all confidential papers on board. What is behind the order is hard to understand. Two ships full of horses belonging to Canadian troops were ordered last night by the flagship to proceed to France at once. Our Signallers picked this up last night as it was being flashed to these two ships. This looks as if the army wanted horses. It will be very interesting to hear some news when we arrive, as we have been without any for 12 days. It will also be interesting to know where they are going to put us up. The C.O. is certainly trying to get us fit and we never seem to let up, I find he is only 40 years old, quite a child compared to one of his overworked officers. This is really a very nice ship, good public rooms and a wonderful smoking room. It never had a deck taken off, only a Palm Room. I have this from a man who crossed in her before the C.N.R. bought her. Tell Bertie, Captain Ward of ours met him at the Jackam’s house in Hampshire. He is a nice chap who ruined his health in India in the Rifle Brigade and now grows fruit in B.C. Mrs. Gault seems to be a lifelong friend of Mrs. Nesbitt.....

Saturday, 11 October 2014


The men in the Regiment had a very enjoyable trip across the Atlantic with calm seas and blue skies until just the last few days when they endured some rough weather. Agar Adamson, who suffered terribly from sea sickness, was prepared for the worst with a good supply of Mothersill's tablets, the most popular remedy of the day. 

With almost luxury accommodations and nightly entertainment it was a comfortable cruise indeed. Adamson wrote home that he had a private room with "a brass bed, all sorts of electric lights, a writing table, in fact everything but a piano and a clock." 

Meals was served in the elegant dining saloon with the officers being piped in each evening in accordance with mess dinner tradition. After dinner, there was usually a concert or games. In a letter to Mabel, Adamson commented on the excellent rendition of 'The Preacher and the Bear' and a delightful pastime called, 'The War Game' played on a board six feet by twelve, that he described as "very much like toy soldiering."

A vigorous training routine continued on board the ship. To maintain the level of fitness the troops had acquired in the month at Camp Levis, each day began with a half-hour run at seven a.m. followed by breakfast. The days were filled with sports and other activities including courses for all troops in map reading and navigation, bridge building as well as in a system of arm signals called semaphore.

Farquhar issued orders that each of the men must learn to speak french under the instruction of Papineau. He was adamant that any officer going to France must have a basic working knowledge of the language. This came more easily to some than others. Gault managed very well with his french lessons but Adamson struggled. He wrote to his son Anthony, "I am in the booby class and am getting on very badly and it is an awful grind".

All in all life was very pleasant aboard the Royal George. Through various sports, lessons, drills and plenty of good cheer the men strengthened the bonds of brotherhood that had begun two months earlier at Lansdowne Park. Only the occasional dead horse thrown overboard from a crowded animal ship served as memento mori, in latin, remember that you must die.

Thursday, 9 October 2014


Among the officers on board the Royal George were a surprising number of women accompanying their husbands, the most notable of which were Marguerite Gault and Lady Evelyn Farqhuar. 

Agar Adamson made reference to the situation in a letter to Mabel whom he envisioned safe at home tending to her duties and their son. In spite of his apparent disapproval he clearly enjoyed the women's company on the journey to England. 

"While there is no doubt women are a mistake on a troopship, (Mrs. Gault) has been very nice generally, she has just missed being quite pretty, sings a bit, is very much in love with her husband, wears a new dress every night for dinner. Some of them very pretty. Gault is an excellent chap, very quiet and hates to be connected financially with the Regiment and is struggling hard to become a soldier."

Marguerite Stephens Gault c. 1915

Mrs. McKinery is interesting in so far that she is a DeWet and Dutch, full of South African money obtained from mines and feathers, but with a very limited range of conversation. Lady Evelyn full of ability, upper gum and sea sickness, she has the red sister to your blue velvet coat with belt bought from Lady Evelyn Ward. She is reported to be very mean, this I know nothing of, and so far have found her most interesting. She is writing a letter to each man’s wife or mother and trying to make them all different, which is quite a difficult job. Mrs. Colquhoun, nee MacKenzie, cousin of Sir W. MacKenzie and a bride of a month, is full of views for the betterment of mankind and future generation, most of them unworkable in Men’s hands."

Lady Evelyn Farquhar 
painted by Sir John Lavery, 1907

Although it seems very unusual by today's standards, every army wife who could afford it joined their husband's on their journey overseas, many, like Marguerite, intending to work with the Red Cross. By 1917, according to the Canadian Annual Review, "about thirty thousand Canadian wives and sweethearts, accompanied by a good many others whose standing was more questionable, had drifted to England mainly for social reasons". Much to Agar's surprise, Mabel would soon follow, but with far more serious aspirations in mind. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014


Newly painted battleship grey, the Canadian Northern Steamship Royal George sailed down the St Lawrence to join the Canadian Contingent and its escorting warships harboured in the Gaspe Basin on September 30, 1914. There they anchored for two days while the full convoy assembled. 

Agar Adamson wrote to his wife Mabel, "After 27 days at Levis Camp we embarked on 27 September sleeping on board and training on shore during the day. By the 30th we sailed from Quebec arriving at Gaspe basin on the 1st October, joining the waiting fleet of 20 ships and on the 3rd, the fleet having grown to 31 transports filled with troops or horses we started off in three lines of 10 ships each with Eclipse, Diana, Charybdis, Glory and Talbot convoying us. These have been added to until now we have six more including the Lion, the largest battle Cruiser afloat."

There were a total of 36 transports carrying 32,000 men, 105 nursing sisters, and 34 chaplains, Adamson reported to Rodney in a letter accompanied by a neat diagram. "We will all start off at once, four abreast, with four men-of-war conveying us, one in front, one behind, and one on each side", although his optimistic description is in direct contrast to reports of chaos on those final days as the first troopships were being organized to go overseas. 

A sense of excitement and wonder filled the air and each new ship that arrived was met with great cheers from the men aboard the others. Sam Hughes, beaming with pride, scurried between ships in a tugboat conveying best wishes and delivering last minute information. The revenue cutter Canada sailed through the fleet, offering to take letters and post them in Halifax. Hundreds of letters were thrown overboard in response but many were carried off into the wind and left floating behind. Talbot Papineau made several pencil sketches of the ships and the river, and these survive among his papers.

PPCLI on board the Royal George

Saturday, 27 September 2014


After a month of waiting and training at St. Joseph de Levis, an old militia camp on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, the Patricia's received orders for embarkation. Finally the Regiment would set sail for Europe. On September 27th, 1914 they boarded the R.M.S. Royal George.

It was at Camp Levis that Hamilton Gault arranged to produce the first batch of scarlet shoulder badges on which the letters 'PPCLI' were embroidered in white. The shoulder titles were made by the Sisters of Charity, the order of nuns established by Saint Marguerite d' Youville in 1752 and the same order of nuns who had knitted for Wolfe's Highlanders in 1759. Gault was aware the Sisters of Charity cared for the wounded after the Battle of Quebec in 1759. In the rest of North America this order is known as the "Grey Nuns." The original PPCLI shoulder titles were modelled after those worn by the British Army from 1902 to 1908. British infantry regiments were directed to wear curved shoulder titles featuring white letters on a red background on their khaki service dress. These uniforms were withdrawn from service in July 1908. 

PPCLI Originals at Camp Levis, Quebec led by Hamilton Gault

The extra month in training had provided an opportunity to straighten out rusty skills or instill non-existent ones. This included siting and digging trenches, advance and rear guards, outpost duties and practicing attacks both day and night. The men spent a significant amount of time on the ranges testing the Ross Rifle, the Quebec-manufactured sporting rifle that Sam Hughes insisted on issuing to all Canadian troops. The rifle was not popular with PPCLI soldiers, the majority of whom had qualified on the British Lee Enfield rifle during their previous service. Although much has been made of the Ross rifle's tendency to jam, the design of its bolt, and its bayonet occasionally detaching when it fired, the weapon suffered from more serious design shortcomings. It was one pound heavier than the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE) Mark III issued to British soldiers. It was also 15 inches longer, which made the weapon more cumbersome in the confines of a trench system. However, the most significant difference between the two weapons was the magazine. The Ross rifle had a five-round magazine; the SMLE had a ten-round magazine that could be loaded more quickly. 

Ultimately, Farquhar rejected the Ross Rifle before the units' departure for France, the first Canadian unit to do so, choosing instead the standard British Lee Enfield. The rest of the Canadian Expeditionary Force would be burdened with the ineffective rifle until late 1915. "The experience we have had with the Ross," wrote Farquhar in an official memo, "can hardly fail to have shaken the confidence of the men in that rifle." 

Captain Buller and Lt Col Farquhar

The recruiting restrictions placed on Farquhar and Gault meant they weren't able to draw upon the more experienced militia and as such, many of the officers in the original contingent of Patricia's were unlikely choices.

Captain George Bennett, for example, was a former Regina bank clerk and the brother of Conservative Member of Parliament, R.B. Bennett. Selected for service with the PPCLI not due to his military prowess but through his political pull,  he was appointed paymaster.

Captain Charles Stewart, a Nova Scotia bachelor from a prominent family, was another example of an officer selected for his connections to high society rather than for excellence or integrity in past service. Charlie Stewart was known more for his defiant nature and his bold adventurous spirit. His chequered past included expulsion from the Royal Military College for gambling, demotion within ranks of the mounted police for striking a corporal and numerous affairs with women, married and otherwise.

Two of the most unlikely originals, now legendary in Regimental history, are Talbot Papineau and Agar Adamson.

Papineau, an old friend of Gault’s, was the French Canadian great-grandson of Louis-Joseph Papineau, leader of the "patriote" during the Rebellion of 1837. He was the cousin of Henri Bourassa, the arch opponent of French Canadian participation in the War. Papineau, an intellectual, had no military experience whatsoever but had sent a personal telegram to Hamilton Gault asking to join the Regiment, in spite of the very English overtones of the newly formed battalion. Gault accepted his request immediately and Papineau was made a Lieutenant. His Aunt wrote, "Imagine a descendant of Louis-Joseph Papineau the Front. God be praised!"

Agar Adamson was perhaps the most remarkable of the recruits. He was 48 when he enlisted, a decade older than what would normally be consider the oldest of recruits, and blind in one eye. Also born into Canadian aristocracy, Adamson had served with the Lord Strathcona's Horse in the Boer War in 1900 where he discovered a passion for commanding troops in action. The day after war was declared in 1914, Adamson left at once for Ottawa and learned of Gault's plan. The Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry provided a last window of opportunity for an aging Agar Adamson to soldier once again. 

For Papineau, the additional training at Levis was an opportunity to discover how little he knew. "I spend as much time as possible reading my manuals," he wrote to his mother. "The other day I tied my platoon all up and had an awful time getting it straightened out. I seem to get along well with the men but I make a good many mistakes in drill, which is most annoying." 

For Agar Adamson, the month at Levis brought him back to his youth. The officers had all been provided with excellent horses by wealthy admirers and the drills brought out the best in him. 

"We had a great night march a few nights ago," he wrote to his thirteen year old son Rodney. He described in the letter how he had led his company through three miles of thick woods and underbrush, with only a tiny radium-illuminated compass as guide, and emerged triumphantly at dawn precisely at the point where the white flag was posted. "I was quite please with the result", he continued, "because you know that, as your mother says, I can lose my way in the daytime anywhere in Toronto, but it is a different game we are playing just now." He relays, "you can send long messages by moving  your arms in certain directions"  and spoke about a forced march during which he carried "a sword, a greatcoat, a pistol and fifty rounds of ammunition, a blanket, a waterproof sheet, a water bottle, a haversack and a pair of field-glasses" for twenty-seven miles, the last five miles non-stop. There are also stories about the Rugger game with the sergeants, "The next morning I felt as if every bone in my body had been broken," he wrote, "but we won by one goal to a try." 

Adamson took the training seriously and as second-in-command of Company C, earned the respect of his men. He in turn gave them his deep respect. "They are a fine lot," he told Rodney. "They never complain no matter how wet or tired or cold they are, and very often, they are all three."

Pte Thomas Pritchard proudly displaying the Ric-A-Dam-Doo
Camp Levis
, Quebec, September 1914. 

Saturday, 13 September 2014


The Regiment’s first Colonel-in-Chief, Her Royal Highness Princess Patricia of Connaught, was born on March 17th, 1886, St. Patrick’s Day. She was the daughter of the distinguished Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and the grand-daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Princess Patricia’s mother was Princess Louise Marguerite of Prussia. 

In 1911, the Duke of Connaught, Queen Victoria’s third son and favourite child, was appointed Governor General of Canada. He was the first Royal to take this post in Canada. Princess Patricia, a well traveled young woman, accompanied her parents and settled into Rideau Hall in Ottawa. She endeared herself to Canadians with her easy natural style and vivacious personality. She embraced the Canadian way of life and eagerly participated in games and outdoor sports. A talented artist, she was happiest wearing her painting smock with brushes in hand and was captivated by the Canadian landscape. The glamorous and elegant Princess, who had won all hearts by her charm and beauty, graced Canada’s newest Regiment with her name. 

Princess Patricia in the gardens
Princess Patricia at her easel 

Princess Patricia’s greatest passion in life was her artwork and as such she took great pleasure in personally designing the Regimental cap and collar badges bearing the insignia of a single white daisy in honour of Hamilton Gault’s lovely wife, Marguerite. She also designed the original Camp Colour for the Regiment to take overseas. It was hand-sewn by the Princess herself and presented to the Regiment on the 23rd of August, 1914. It was carried by the Regiment into every battle throughout the First World War. On 28 January 1919, it was formally consecrated and became the Regimental Colour.

The original Marguerite Cap Badge

The original RIC-A-DAM-DOO

Throughout the early war years Princess Patricia worked for the Canadian Red Cross and upon her return to England in 1916 she worked at the Maple Leaf Club for Canadian Soldiers in London and at the Canadian Hospital in Orpington. All her efforts were focused on helping wounded Canadian soldiers during the war.  

Rumours of romance had been circulating for years about Princess Patricia and speculation around her ultimate partner in marriage was a favourite topic in Edwardian times. Several foreign princes, including the future Kings of Portugal and Spain and the Grand Duke Michael of Russia had been considered for the match. In the end, though, her choice of husband was not of royal blood, but a commoner, Naval Officer Commander Sir Alexander Ramsey. They had fallen in love when they met in Ottawa several years before the war and discretely courted until the announcement of their marriage. On their wedding day, February 27, 1919, Princess Patricia of Connaught relinquished the style of Royal Highness and the title of Princess of Great Britain and Ireland and assumed the style of “Lady Patricia Ramsey”. Regardless of the loss of her royal title, the couple, along with their one son, were always active members of the extended royal family. She remained in the line of succession and attended all major royal events. 

Official Department of National Defence Portrait 

Princess Patricia held her appointment as Colonel-in-Chief and played an active role in the Regiment until her death. She was succeeded in 1974 by her cousin and goddaughter, the Rt. Hon. Lady Patricia Brabourne, the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, and daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten. The Countess asked that her titles be disregarded and that she be referred to as Lady Patricia in honour of her predecessor. Madame Adrienne Clarkson, a former Governor General of Canada, took over the appointment on March 17th 2007, becoming the first Canadian to hold the appointment and serves currently as the Regiment’s third Colonel in Chief.

The original Colour, designed by Princess Patricia and commonly referred to as the RIC-A-DAM-DOO, is located in The Hall of Honour in the PPCLI Museum in the Military Museums in Calgary with the original wreath of laurel. Historically and symbolically, it represents the heart and spirit of the Regiment. At a farewell parade at Bramshot, England, on the 21st February, 1919 Princess Patricia decorated her Colour with a wreath of Laurel in silver gilt (known as the "Wreath of Immortelles”). A facsimile of the wreath of laurel is now carried on the pike of all three Regimental Colours. 

A collection of Princess Patricia’s still-lifes and landscapes are also housed in the PPCLI Museum and Archives in Calgary.