Hamilton Gault had recovered in time to join the Battalion in mid October just as 80th Brigade marched out of the line and into Morcourt. When the Patricias arrived they found Gault waiting for them with several replacement officers from England, including two of the organizers of the University Companies, George McDonald and Percival Molson and an old friend from Montreal Philip Mackenzie. With Pelly as CO, Gault assumed his appointment of senior major.
Although the men were all very much aware of Gault's troubles at home no one dared discuss it with him. There were differing opinions on the matter as well. Agar Adamson expressed his perspective to Mabel, "I am surprised that Gault's affairs had gone so far, but I always felt confident that something was up, but thought she would cover up her tricks. She had a very bad temper. Gault is very cheery and hard working and shows no sign of secret stress, but he has always been very secretive and self-contained. The Washinton Stevens were always a rotten lot."
A few days later he continued with his judgement of the situation, "Marin, Cornish and I are of the opinion that some one ought to wring Bainsmith's ugly little neck, it is quite evident that Gault is undergoing a heavy strain, and that cheerfulness on his part is an effort and he prefers to be alone, but we keep him going and try to cheer him up."
Talbot Papineau on the other hand felt the whole incident had been overblown. In a reply to his mother, who had been appalled by Marguerite's behaviour, Papineau dismissed the gossip, "You are all wrong about Marguerite Gault. I don't believe a word of the accusation against her. I know all about her innocent little flirtation. It was nothing more. I shall hope to speak to Hamilton about it some day."
|Talbot Mercer Papineau with his dog Bobs in 1915|
Meanwhile, rumours of change within the Division were still circulating but no news was trickling down from the powers that be. There was much speculation with the men as to what their fate would be. Adamson was holding onto hope the Regiment would be allowed to stay with their comrades in the 80th Brigade, "The Canadian question has again come up and there is no doubt they want us, but won't go about it the right way. We are still taking the same old line of argument. We will all be better soldiers by sticking where we are and we are a very happy family in the Division we have always belonged to."
In another letter his aggravation was clear, "I see that Max Aitken is wiring to the Canadian papers that it is the wish of the men of the Regiment to do so, he is annoyed that this change was not made when he suggested it and has been hammering away at it, through his underground channels."
Sir John French, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, worked on the Regiment's behalf to keep the Patricias in the Brigade but other factors were developing that made this impossible. On November 5th, 2015, Adamson wrote to Mabel, "It is pretty well settled that we are out of the old Brigade, but the General may still be able to keep us with the Division. No News."
Adamsons' optimism would soon be stifled, however. The Division would be reorganized and sent to Salonika, Serbia and its brigades would be reduced to a more feasible strength of four battalions each. The news came as a surprise to the men but plans had been evolving for quite some time. In a gesture of great respect for the Regiment, General Headquarters allowed the Patricias the opportunity to decide their own future. They were given the choice to join another British brigade or the new 3rd Canadian Division which would be formed in the next month and organized in the field early in the new year.
Gault and Pelly in consultation with Buller considered the current state of the Regiment carefully in making their decision. PPCLI had a more Canadian culture than it had previously as many of the new recruits from the University Companies were born in Canada. Also, there was significant pressure from the Canadian Military to make the move to the Canadian Corps. Given the difficulties they had faced finding replacements as a Canadian unit in a British Division, their decision was clear. They chose the 3rd Canadian Division.
War Diary Entry:
Mon, Nov 8, 1915 FERRIERES, FRANCE
FERRIERES 8.11.15 Today marks an epoch in the history of the regiment as they have left the 27th Division and gone to FLIXECOURT. the companies fell in at 8:15 a.m. and marched to the battalion parade ground where they formed up in mass to hear the parting words of the Brigadier (Brigadier General SMITH). The divisional band came to play us off and afterwards led us quite a distance as we marched away from the 27th Division of which we had so happily formed a part during the last 10 months. Among the officers and men there was a very marked feeling that this parade meant the loss of old friends with whose viewpoint and traditions they had been in absolute accord.
General Smith, in his farewell said it was a day he had never wished to see. The 80th Brigade had been unique, he said, in having five units to compose it and in having remained unchanged since its inception. Also he considered it unique in having preserved such a perfect harmony between its parts. Although he had not had pleasure of commanding it from the first he had had that honour during the most critical periods of its existence, especially those terrible days - the Second Battle of Ypres - when agains tremendous odds the brigade had stood firm and Princess Patricias' Canadian Light Infantry by their dogged resistance had made a reputation that would never die in the Annals of the British Army. He — this day breaking up a brigade which was unique in that from the first it had five battalions, had suffered no changes in composition, and had preserved such perfect harmony between its parts. He had hoped that some day it would have been his lot to command the same Brigade when it would encounter the enemy under more equal conditions. Then he was confident what the result would have been, and the old Brigade would have given such an account of itself that the memory of those who had fallen so gallantly at Ypres would have been amply avenged. This hope would never now be realized and the regiment was going from him and the 80th Brigade for good. He felt it a very keen loss but he was sure whoever might be their commander, or comrades, and whatever might be the line, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry would be worthy of their past records and the best traditions of the 80th Brigade. He wished them all good fortune and Godspeed whatever their lot might be.
Major Gault in reply thanked General Smith for the way he had spoke of the regiment and on its behalf expressed the appreciation felt. He reminded him of how proud we had all been to form a part of the 80th Brigde and how cordial had been our relations with all since the start. Whatever our lot might be, it would be our most earnest endeavour to live up to the opinions which the General had expressed and to bear with us unimpaired the traditions upon which the 80th Brigade had so nobly stood. He wished on behalf of himself, the officers, non-commissioned officers and men to wish General Smith, the 80th Brigade and the 27th Division the most cordial wishes for all good fortune and to assure him that their memory would always be fresh in our minds. Three cheers were then given for General Smith, the band played " Auld Lang Syne," and the Regiment started on its way. Along the road there were many heartfelt greetings and good luck wishes from men of the 80th Brigade.
It would be very difficult for one who has been with the Regiment for several months back to appreciate the importance of this change. Those who had the honour of sharing in the great days last spring feel a loss almost irreparable, while the sympathetic bond which united all in the 80th Brigade will probably never be replaced be our new associations ever so happy. Tonight the past lies behind in the detached light of history and before us lies a new arena in which the traditions and all the glory that was Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry must again be established and maintained.
"...Hamilton Gault mounted on his chestnut horse on a hill not far from Flixecourt where we were to act as a model training battalion for the 1st Army. It was a very sad occasion. The 80th Brigade were to go to Salonika in the far east. We were the fifth battalion. Besides Ottawa wanted us back with the Canadians, for the supply lines could not service us there. So Hammie Gault chose that picturesque spot on a hill overlooking the expansive valley. The trees were turning to red and gold, blending so beautifully with Hammie on his chestnut charger. There was a gentle breeze that caused a slight rustle among the leaves that autumn day, and as the sun cast it warm rays across this field of sorrow, it seemed to say 'Cheer up, there are better days ahead.' And I doubt if there was a single man in that assembly that did not feel as I did - a parting with comrades so true and so steadfast. Brigadier General Smith bid us farewell, and the band of the 80th brigade played us all the way to Flixecourt..."
Private P. Howard Ferguson
(A member of the first university company since July)
Letter from PPCLI Museum and Archives