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Saturday, September 27, 2014

It's A Long Way to Tipperary

Late September at Valcartier Training Camp, Charley and thousands of his fellow Canadians were preparing to get underway.  Rumours had been running rampant for weeks about when they might leave and where they might be headed.

In Charley's 'last letter from Canada' on Saturday September 19th he wrote: 

"We expect to be on our way across the ocean by the time this reaches you and I sure won’t be sorry cause it is getting kind of monotonous hanging around here. It came out in order that I was officially attached to the 10th Battalion as Hospital Sergeant and that we were leaving about Monday (the 21st).

On the 21st official orders were given that " All men at Camp Valcartier were to proceed to England, regardless of determination of physical fitness."
"The entire routine of the camp was suddenly changed. Maneuvers were cancelled. The ranges were quiet. Instead, thousands of men were taught how to pack and carry their kit. Rifles were collected and packed away and inspections of equipment were held."

This movement of troops across the Atlantic was a massive undertaking and by all accounts, not without some serious confusion and hardship. 

The First Contingent consisted of "1,547 officers, 29070 men, 7679 horses, 70 guns, 110 motor vehicles, 705 horsed vehicles and 82 bicycles."


Only a few among these 30 thousand men  had any military experience and could barely be called soldiers. They were regular folk like you and me from all across Canada who left homes and jobs and families to 'take up arms' in the 'Great War'. 
It was not known then as World War One. 

It was for most looked upon as a grand adventure.  Patriotic propaganda assured them it was for a great cause and they didn't want to miss out; they believed it wouldn't go on for very long.

For many, physical exams were taken and attestation papers were signed on board the vessels that carried the men to their (as yet) unknown destination. 

Charley set sail on the 26th of September with 1,276 other men, and a cargo of Ammunition and 21,109 sacks of flour. Other ships carried horses, coal, heavy guns, medical stores, saddlery and lumber.  

I wonder if my Charley or your ancestor is somewhere in these photos ...
On Sunday the 27th of September Charlie signed the declaration and his attestation papers.  

I, Charles Roy Bailey, do solemnly declare that I am willing to fulfill the engagements by me now made, and I hereby engage and agree to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force, and to be attached to any arm of the service therein, for the term of one year, or during the war now existing between Great Britain and Germany should that war last longer than one year, and for six months after the termination of that war provided His Majesty should so long require my service, or until legally discharged. Signed and dated: September 27th 1914

It will be 21 days before they land at Devonport.  Charley doesn't pen another letter home till the 23rd of October.  It must have been difficult for the folks back home with no letters from their lads.  There would have been a blackout on the movement of the convoy and no news on town bulletin boards or in local papers as to their whereabouts.  

Over the coming weeks I'll share what I know about Charley's family in Canada.  His Mother and Step-dad in Viceroy Saskatchewan and his younger sister V.V. in Brandon Manitoba.

- J.A.Holland 

- 1st Canadian Troop Convoy  
- Looking for a Soldier of the First World War:  Visit Library and Archives Canada 
- Wonderful photographs from

Friday, September 19, 2014

Letter #3 September 19th 1914 from Valcartier

Letter #3 of 88 From Charley Bailey at Valcartier Training Camp, September 19th 1914
to his folks in Viceroy Saskatchewan

Valcartier Camp
Sept 19th 1914

Dear Mother
          Well I guess this will be the last letter from Canada for sometime.  We expect to be on our way across the ocean by the time this reaches you and I sure won’t be sorry cause it is getting kind of monotonous hanging around here.  It came out in order that I was officially attached to the 10th Battalion as Hospital Sergeant and that we were leaving about Monday.  The 10th Battalion consist of Victoria, Vancouver, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and about one hundred Winnipeg men.
          The majority of the 106th Winnipeg Light Infantry men are either being sent back to Winnipeg or do garrison somewhere in Canada.  I happen to one of the picked ones for the ¨10th Battalion overseas contingent.  Both the doctor and I.
The nights here are very cold, but during the days it is fine weather.  They were selling views of Valcartier camp and if I can locate any I will send you some. 
 Is Viceroy a very nice town and are there any young people there and have you a drug store.  If I make any money while I am away I am going to take a store in one of those Sask. towns for a couple of years.  Just got threw with the sick bunch a few minutes ago and had to do it all my self as the doctor was up at Headquarters.  Took about half of a mans toes off that had been run over by a Calvary gun, don’t know if I can keep it from poisoning or not.  Poor fellow he fainted twice but I had a man on his knees and another on his chest so it did not take long.   
This is sure a great experience you don’t stop to pity on a mans feeling here.  If a thing has got to be done, you do it if he dies next minute.  The outfit I am with has had three deaths.  But as soon as they are carried off a person thinks no more about them. 

The doctor will be back in a few minutes and I am going to get his horse and ride up to headquarters to see if I get those Views.  Well Mother I will write you from the other side.  Remembrance to Pa and V-V, all kinds of luck and prosperity.  Hope you and Pa will continue to like Viceroy and that this finds you in good health and spirit.
Good bye and Good Luck


Departure for Europe
The transportation of the army to the port of Quebec began on the wet night of 23/24 September 1914. The weather that night was so bad that the infantry were not expected to make the journey on foot and were brought from Valcartier camp in a long succession of trains. However, columns of field artillery and transport wagons and vehicles crawled the sixteen miles down the valley from Valcartier to Quebec in the rain and the mud. Arriving at daybreak the men were drenched, but morale was high because at last they were off to do the job for which they had volunteered. The whole embarkation of horses, men, guns and wagons was completed in less than three days.

Atlantic Crossing
The fleet of 33 Atlantic liners assembled in Gaspé Basin off the coast of Quebec province for a rendezvous with their Royal Navy warship escorts. On 3 October the transport ships steamed ahead out of Gaspé Bay in three lines led by Royal Navy warships: His Majesty's Ships were Charybdis, Diana, and Eclipse, with the Glory and Suffolk on the flanks, and the Talbot in the rear. Later, the Suffolk's place was taken by the battle-cruiser, Queen Mary.
Making its way up the St. Lawrence seaway the convoy passed through the gateway of Canada, the Gulf of St. Lawrence. As it passed the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland the sealing-ship SS Florizel, with the Newfoundland Regiment aboard, joined the fleet.
As the army set sail for Europe it was the first time that such a large contingent of troops had ever crossed the Atlantic.
Source  History of the First Canadian Division

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Letter #2 Mid SEPT, 1914 from Valcartier

Letter #2 of 88 From Charley Bailey at Valcartier Camp, Mid September 1914
to his Mother and Step-Dad

(no date / no envelope)
Valcartier Camp
106th Regiment
Company F
Dear Mother

Just received your letter a few minutes ago and I am more than pleased to hear such a good report about the Hotel. I expected to hear you say that everything was dirty and that you were sorry you ever left the coast, but I am sure that if you and Pa both like it you will sure make a success of it. Your letter in regards to Aunt Rachie did not surprise me in the least. Ina and Bud are thicker than ever now only they have to meet over at Hessie’s place. You were saying that Hessie seemed kind of distant. Well Mother, she thinks that you don’t like her very much. Ever since that rumour of me getting money from her was around. But as long as you don’t believe it and I am out of rumor distance everything is all right.

There was eight tents, 72 men that were found to be had with lice (1), so the doctor detailed me to fumigate the tents and get rid of them. I lined the men up, made them take their clothing off and burn it. Then I marched every darn one of them straight threw the lines, naked up to the regimental stores and had new clothes issued to them. Some job. All the officers started to laugh when they saw me and a bunch of naked men march up to the store tent. (2)  We will be leaving here soon but don’t know where. But will always be able to write a military Post-card.

So V-V has gone to College, well I will write her just as soon as I get some more paper. When I left Winnipeg I was 152 lbs and two days ago I was 199 so your see how fat I have got. This morning we were all up at 4 o’clock and walked about six miles before breakfast. It sure is great exercise for a fellow like me. They feed us just like when I was out on the survey. 

They said tonight that it may be Ireland that we go for training but so many rumors you can’t believe anything. Well Mother I have to stop. 

Remembrance to Pa and VV when you write. 
Hoping this will find you and Pa in good health and spirit.
Good Night

Two postcard views from Valcartier Training Camp that offer a visual record of what Charley describes in this letter home.

Valcartier - Battalion marching to review

 Valcartier - Dinner Time


(1) "An important problem of the first years of the war was, therefore, how to circumvent these miseries. Now, though we speak of body-lice, doing so we employ a misnomer. Unlike the itch parasite (of scabies), the habitat and breeding-ground of these lice is not the body but the clothing. It is to the clothes they cling, even when they take their two meals a day of their host's blood, and in the clothes and particularly along the seams that they lay their eggs. Strip off the clothing and forthwith the man is free from the pests."  [ Source ]

(2) "Mobilization of the medical services was carried out under the Director General of Medical Services, Colonel G. Carleton Jones. Volunteers concentrated at Toronto and Winnipeg as well as at Valcartier. When all had assembled at Valcartier Camp the British request for Line of Communication units made a general reorganization necessary. Sufficient medical personnel were found in camp to form the required units which, in addition to the three divisional field ambulances, included a casualty clearing station, two stationary hospitals (each of 400 beds), and two general hospitals (1040 beds each). The casualty clearing Station and No. I Stationary Hospital took over from N.P.A.M. (Non Permanent Active Militia) units the operation of the two camp hospitals at Valcartier. Hospital admissions for the whole period until embarkation numbered only 856, for in general the health of the troops was excellent. An order to mobilize nursing sisters was issued on 16 September, and by the end of the month 98 had reported at Quebec, where they were billeted at the Immigration Hospital. Provision of veterinary sections, called for at the last minute by the War Office, was not completed until after the First Contingent had sailed" 
 [ Source ]

Thanks to JG Keller (and James Stoddart) for the two images from Valcartier Training Camp.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Letter #1 SEPT 8,1914 from Valcartier

Once Charley had volunteered in August 1914, he would have had about 10 days before he boarded a troop train for Valcartier Quebec.  Along with thousands of other civilian volunteers who were to become the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force; Charley was pretty certain they'd all be home by Christmas.  

He would have taken leave from his job.  He'd have packed up his apartment ~ most likely storing his possessions with his family who lived in Vancouver. He made a quick trip west to say his goodbyes.

The 1914 'Henderson Directory', lists CR Bailey as resident at Suite A of Prince Rupert Court, an apartment block at 376 Ellice Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba 

Image Courtesy of Christian Cassidy

Prior to enlisting Charley worked at The Clarendon Pharmacy, 305 Portage Avenue. The Pharmacy (in the Clarendon Hotel) was in operation from approximately 1902 1916.

Image Courtesy of Christian Cassidy 

Zooming in at the intersection we can see Charley's place of employment.
Image courtesy of Christian Cassidy

   This photo is circa 1915 so it is exactly as it would have looked in Charley's day.

 Two newspaper ads from Clarendon Pharmacy.
 September 16, 1909, Winnipeg Free Press   
 December 14, 1911, Winnipeg Tribune

One hundred years ago today, September 8th, Charley would have been well ensconced at the training grounds in Quebec, awaiting orders and anxious to depart for Europe.  Thousands of men from all over Canada were arriving daily.  This would be a pretty typical view of the scene whenever a new batch of men detrained at Valcartier.

Valcartier, at least for the early arrivals, was a hastily prepared camp of men and horses, tents, showers, latrines and training grounds.  It must have been looked back upon as a Boy Scout picnic compared to the conditions these men would face in the months and years ahead of them.  There were so many who never returned. 

Charley survived. With all his fingers and all his toes.

He likely began jotting notes home even as his troop train crossed the provinces.  Many of Charley's letters to his mom were forwarded to his sister VV who was just entering college in Brandon.  This is the first of those surviving letters.

(Partial letter / no envelope)
Valcartier Camp
Sept 8th 1914
106th Regiment
Company F

Dear Mother
          You were saying in your letter that I would not be able to write once we leave here.  Well I will be able to write, but it will be on military post cards only so you see I won’t be able to say very much.
          As yet we do not know when or where we are going, there was some talk today about sending us over to India, but nobody really knows.  I got the position of compounder (1)
all right and the position is a pretty good one. I sleep in the officers’ lines with the doctor, we have an orderly or servant to look after the tent and everything is...

  • Compounder (of medicines)
  • My thanks to Christian Cassidy; Winnipeg historian extraordinaire who was kind and generous with his time, photos, newspaper clippings and information.