Dou­bling the ef­fort

Re­cruit­ing con­tin­ues in full force as 1916 gets un­der­way

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FEATURES - Si­mon Lloyd P.E.I. at War Si­mon Lloyd is li­brar­ian re­spon­si­ble for the P.E.I. col­lec­tion at the Univer­sity of Prince Ed­ward Is­land Robert­son Li­brary’s Univer­sity Ar­chives and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions. This is part of a monthly se­ries of look­backs at the First

The first Guardian edi­to­rial of 1916 ob­served, “to­day, as we face an­other new year we are think­ing less of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of an early peace than of the sac­ri­fices that must be made.”

The prophecy of fur­ther sac­ri­fices was im­me­di­ately ful­filled: the very next is­sue of The Guardian, on Jan. 4, car­ried front page news of Prime Min­is­ter Borden’s New Year’s Day an­nounce­ment that the au­tho­rized strength of Canada’s mil­i­tary would be dou­bled, from 250,000 to 500,000 men, a stag­ger­ing com­mit­ment for a coun­try of just 6,000,000 peo­ple.

Though Is­land mil­i­tary re­cruit­ing had con­tin­ued with hardly a pause through Christ­mas­time, Borden’s an­nounce­ment pro­vided a fur­ther spur and seems to have sparked some fresh and cre­ative think­ing in en­list­ment ad­ver­tis­ing. This was es­pe­cially ap­par­ent in a new se­ries of ads for the Is­land’s High­land reg­i­ment, the 105th, be­gan ap­pear­ing in mid-Jan­uary. While the grim hec­tor­ing and so­cial sham­ing that had dom­i­nated pre­vi­ous ad­ver­tis­ing were still present, the over­all tone was markedly more pos­i­tive and prag­matic.

The first ad, ap­pear­ing on Jan. 18, enu­mer­ated such ben­e­fits as: “Op­por­tu­nity to see the best of the world, ... to add to your store of health and strength, ... to do some­thing for the Weaker Ones who have to stay at home, ... to make money and to save money.” On Jan. 26, an­other new ad as­sured re­cruits that they would be “Well taken care of,” and in­cluded a full list­ing of the cloth­ing and equip­ment is­sued to new men.

The spirit of friend­ship was also in­voked in the ads’ up­beat ap­peals: re­cruits were promised that “ev­ery en­deavor” would be made to en­sure that they would eat, sleep, train, and fight along­side their “chums.” A re­lated ini­tia­tive re­ceived ap­prov­ing men­tion in a Jan. 26 edi­to­rial: young men al­ready en­listed in the 105th had been asked to hand in the names of ac­quain­tances who had not yet signed up, and the re­sult­ing list num­bered nearly 1,000 men. The reg­i­ment’s com­mand­ing of­fi­cer had then sent each of those named a “chums’ ap­peal” re­cruit­ing let­ter, with an en­closed en­list­ment form.

An­other of the pos­i­tive in­duce­ments listed in the new 105th ad­ver­tis­ing was, “lots of en­ter­tain­ment and amuse­ments,” and Is­lan­ders and the sol­diers them­selves seemed to be ex­tend­ing con­sid­er­able ef­forts to make th­ese a re­al­ity. The Jan. 13 pa­per, for ex­am­ple, car­ried an an­nounce­ment that Sum­mer­side was es­tab­lish­ing a Khaki Club for the men sta­tioned there, fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of the one re­cently formed in Char­lot­te­town. The same pa­per also noted a new hockey team formed by the 105th men train­ing in the cap­i­tal; by the time this new “Khaki” team trav­elled to Sum­mer­side to play the Crys­tals in late Jan­uary, a spe­cial train car­ry­ing some 500 sol­diers had to be laid on. Other ex­am­ples of com­mu­nity spirit sur­round­ing the 105th in­cluded a Jan. 17 con­cert for sol­diers by the Young Peo­ples’ So­ci­ety of Zion Pres­by­te­rian Church, and The Guardian ar­ti­cle the fol­low­ing day com­mended such, “ad­mirable ef­forts in try­ing to make the life of the sol­diers in Char­lot­te­town a happy one.”

No amount of cheer­ful ef­fort, how­ever, could fully con­ceal the darker re­al­i­ties of life in a vast mod­ern army. A small item buried deep in the Jan. 20 pa­per re­ported the 105th’s first court mar­tial, for a re­cruit who had “acted as a sol­dier should not.” Win­ter ill­ness also stalked train­ing camps, at home and abroad: a De­cem­ber let­ter from a mem­ber of the 2nd Heavy Bat­tery, now train­ing in Eng­land as the No. 98 Siege Bat­tery, was pub­lished on Jan. 19, re­port­ing that half the men were down with the grippe [ flu]. A Jan. 29 front-page item recorded the burial, with full mil­i­tary hon­ours, of an 18year-old Al­ber­ton re­cruit, who had suc­cumbed to pneu­mo­nia and pleurisy while train­ing in Char­lot­te­town.

As for the full hor­rors of the front, cen­sor­ship and edi­to­rial con­trols con­tin­ued to pre­vent much de­tail from reach­ing home, but the Jan. 22 pa­per in­cluded an un­usu­ally can­did ex­cerpt from a let­ter to an “Is­land lady,” con­cern­ing the search for her miss­ing friend, “J”. The sender, re­cip­i­ent and sub­jects of the let­ter were all left uniden­ti­fied, but the writer’s ac­count of an en­counter with wounded Cana­dian sol­diers was nev­er­the­less vivid and chill­ing: “They did not seem will­ing to talk of what they had gone through ... as if they had faced such hor­rors that it had left them al­most frozen, so that they seemed to have no heart or in­ter­est left. They were sorry about J in a me­chan­i­cal sort of way.”

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