A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 94

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THE RALLY OF THE EMPIRE


wearisome and trying. The camps were one great sea of mud. It was an unusually wet winter. The roads had not been made to stand the strain of the heavy military traffic that fell on them, and in places they became almost impassable. The camps were miles away from any villages, and fourteen miles from a town. The soldiers had nothing to do during the long winter nights but crouch in the semi-darkness in their tents, listening to the unceasing rain outside, unless they were able to get into the Y.M.C.A. marquee, which would not hold them all. They had plenty of money, the private soldier receiving about five shillings a day, including allowances, but there were few or no rational ways of spending it.

Lieut.-General E. A. H. Alderson was given command of the contingent shortly after its arrival in England. The king visited the camp on November 4, accompanied by the queen, Lord Kitchener, and Lord Roberts, and was greeted with immense enthusiasm. Lord Roberts paid another visit to the Canadians, and made a speech which was long remembered. "We have arrived at the most critical moment of our history, and you have generously come to help us in our hour of need," he told the assembled soldiers. "I need not urge you to do your best, for know you will, for you will be fighting in the greatest of all causes — the cause of right, of justice, and of liberty."

Those who saw the troops on their arrival at Plymouth, and who saw them again shortly before their departure for France, could not fail to be struck by the difference. They had now experienced four months of the most rigorous military life and discipline. They had lived under surroundings of the greatest hardship, exposed to the worst weather possible, with few comforts and few conveniences, in their isolated camp on Salisbury Plain. They had been tried, hardened, and strengthened. No man of military knowledge who walked through the Canadian camps towards the end of the period of training could doubt but that here were men who, given opportunity, would bring glory to the Dominion and victory to the British arms.

The contingent had been accompanied on the journey to Europe by a special regiment, Princess Patricia's Light Infantry, largely composed of veteran British soldiers. Four hundred and fifty men in its ranks had the right to wear war medals. Its commander was Colonel Farquhar, D.S.O., who went to Canada as military secretary to the duke of Connaught in 1913, and

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