The Patricia's spent a relatively quiet winter of 1916 adjusting to their new Canadian comrades and the different culture they now found themselves in. Officially formed on December 22nd, 2015, the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade (3rd Canadian Division), comprised of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, the Royal Canadian Regiment, the Royal Highlanders of Canada and the Loyal Edmonton Regiment.
It was a natural transition and the profound regret the men first felt when leaving the 80th Brigade soon gave way to a sense of belonging with what would become known as the "Fighting Seventh". Nevertheless, the differences between the British and Canadian organizational structures occasionally grated on the men.
Agar Adamson wrote to his wife, Mabel, "We are all very shy of food. I had nothing to eat yesterday for 14 hours, but shrimp paste and today my first meal was at noon. Rations are bound to go wrong sometimes, wagons get ditched in the dark or the roads made impassable from shelling or a General's motor car is given right of way, he being 4 or 5 hours late, all traffic is held up. The Regiment by that time has probably moved on, their turn for the road gone by, another Regiment having the right of way, thus these little difficulties come our way in our disorganized C.E.F."
The Patricia's spent another cold and snowy winter at the southern end of the Ypres Salient, just miles from where they first experienced trench warfare a year prior. Reinforced now by members of the 3rd, 4th and 5th University Companies, however, there were far more new faces than old. The Kemmel sector was quieter in the winter of 2016, attracting only minimal shelling from the German army which allowed the new recruits an opportunity to settle assimilate.
LCol Herbert C. Buller was once again in command of the Regiment having returned from convalescence mid December 1915. Although missing one eye from his injury in May, just prior to the battle of Frezenberg, Buller was "actively engaged, crawling in and out of trenches studying the ground", Adamson reported, "the CO walks as fast as most run".
Adamson reflected further on the move to the Canadian Expeditionary Force, "The Canadian Infantry establishment only allows two Majors to each Regiment. After months as a Major he also loses the difference in pay, Stanley Jones has to remain a Captain til something happens to Gray and me. We always paid our men 10 francs a week, the Canadian order only allows 20 francs a month paid every fortnight. The British Army pay extra to Company Cooks, the Canadians do not allow it. The Canadians insist upon a band remaining intact as a band. The British Army have no bands in the field, but use the men as stretcher bearers. We have to start in and train stretcher bearers which is a very important unit and should work together and be friends. 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.
This communication is being sent to the Army Commander and no doubt the sound man will find himself a Regimental Office very shortly if he does not return to his dry goods.
So you see we have our difficulties in your great Canadian Army, but we are not worrying. I feel if we play the game to the best of our ability and with only our end in view, it is all any of us can do and that we will come out on top in the end."
Although an accurate and effective sniping weapon, the much maligned Ross Rifle, was a disaster for the Canadian infantry. One Canadian officer wrote after the battles at Ypres, "It is nothing short of murder to send men against the enemy with such a weapon". Soldiers commonly picked up Lee Enfields from their fallen British comrades in spite of orders to the contrary. The Patricia's were fortunate not to have been saddled with the Ross, nicknamed "the Canadian Club" for all its defects and they were not about to turn in their Lee Enfields now.
|Prime Minister Robert Borden, undated|
“I was inspired by the astonishing courage with which my fellow countrymen bore their sufferings, inspired also by the warmth of their reception, by their attempt to rise in their beds to greet me. In many cases, it was difficult to restrain my tears when I knew that some boy, brave to the very last, could not recover.”
He returned home with a new resolve and began to change his perspective on how Canadian soldiers were equipped among other concerns. Investigations into the effectiveness of the Ross Rifle led to an eventual switch to the Lee Enfield and, by June of 1916, the Enfield had become standard issue.
In January 1916, Borden wrote a letter to the Canadian High Commissioner to London, Sir George Perley. Upset with a lack of communication from High Command in England and how the British were carrying out the war, Borden began to fervently assert Canada’s interests: “It can hardly be expected that we shall put 400,000 or 500,000 men in the field and willingly accept the position of having no more voice and receiving no more consideration than if we were toy automata.” He felt Canada’s contributions were being taken for granted and demanded more autonomy on the front and ultimately within the British Empire. His persistence in lobbying for independence for the Canadian Corps progressed into lobbying for sovereignty for Canada at the end of the war. Some historians claim Borden's greatest legacy is as father of our independent nation.