RMR AT TRENCH WORK IN 1915

RMR AT TRENCH WORK IN 1915

Monday, April 12, 1915

Billets, Cassel

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Comdg. Officers of Brigade went night of 12th/13th with C.O.C. Bde. to reconnoitre trenches at St. Julien which the Bde. was to take over from the French. Taken through the trenches by Commandant Clodeau.” [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: “On their return it became known that the brigade would move up to Ypres and take over from the French a section of front in the neighbourhood of Langemarck and St. Julien.”    [2]

Officers, 14th Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Canadian Division Taken in Cassels, Flanders, France, 12/4/15
Officers, 14th Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Canadian Division
Taken in Cassels, Flanders, France, 12/4/15

CANADIANS AT TRENCH WORK
German Snipers One of the Most Annoying Features to the Colonials

“London, April 12. (Toronto Mail and Empire) – After their two weeks rest the Canadians marched back to the trenches, and are now doing their full share of the fighting. Snipers are the chief annoyance. An officer just back says they have steel protected loopholes that automatically close immediately a shot is fired. Their rifles are also equipped with telescopic sights. The same officer states that the Germans are seriously worried over Neuve Chapelle. Nearly every night the Canadians heard the steady tramp of moving troops. Machine guns are turned on them without effect. Several times the Canadian patrols have clashed with the Germans at night in the open. Individual duels resulted, only bayonets and clubbed rifles being used, because the shooting would draw the fire from both trenches. There are few of these fights because the German patrols usually run from the Canadians… Fifty lacrosse sticks have been sent to the front and the Canadians are organizing teams.”[4]

12 April 15_B“Private Hal Brown,* an Ottawa member of the 14th Battalion (Montreal), First Canadian Contingent, formerly of the Free Press editorial staff, sends the following description of his experiences at the battle of Neuve Chapelle.

‘The battle of Neuve Chapelle finished, all seems to be peace and quietness although one never knows what trouble is brewing over there where sausages are plentiful and sauerkraut abounds. Our part in Neuve Chapelle was a very modest one. It began with a deafening fusillade from the artillery behind us, and then we stood up to the breastworks and fired volley after volley at the top of the silent German trenches, three hundred yards away. I doubt whether we did much damage, but I guess we interested the Germans, and prevented them from realizing until too late that the real point of menace was adjacent to us on out right flank.

It was all over by noon of the 10th, and we cheered heartily when the news of the success of the attack was transmitted to us. For the next few days we were kept on the qui vive, expecting that we in turn would advance, but no such move materialized and excitement soon subsided.

SIX KILLED BY SNIPERS: ‘We have had six deaths so far in our company, Sgt. Moore, Charlie Hunt, Moite Lapointe, Coombs and Happy. Moore was a D.C.M., while poor old Charlie Hunt was one of the best heads in the world. All of them were picked off painlessly by snipers.

One good thing about the German sniper seems to be his certainty of aim. His victims drop quietly behind their loopholes and seldom speak again after they are hit. As deaths go, it is an easy and painless ending. Few of the fellows desire any better.

FEEL LIKE VETERANS: We have been in the trenches off and on for many days now, and are beginning to feel like a crowd of veterans. Of course, we still duck when the big shells come over, but that seems to be a natural impulse, and not at all the result of cowardice or fear. The man who did not duck when he heard a brickbat whistling toward him would be considered somewhat of a fool, and it is the same with shells.

SONG FOR SONG: Of course, there is a lighter side to the war. One evening when the guns were quiet we could hear the Germans singing. One fellow with a fine voice sang the Toreador song. Then a chap in our trenches answered with Annie Laurie, and so it went on, song for song, until the stars came out and the trench fires made two glowing lines from horizon to horizon.’”[5]

* Note: Private Hal Hareward Brown, #25694, born Dec 11, 1893 in Ottawa, was a reporter by vocation. He worked for the Montreal Star, Montreal Herald, and Montreal Daily Mail. He was a member of the 1st Regt. Canadian Grenadier Guards, and was transferred to the 14th Bn. on formation of the Royal Montreal Regiment. He served overseas in France, being twice wounded in 1916, but won the Military Medal as a Lance-Corporal for conspicuous bravery. Struck off strength from the 14th Bn. in late 1916 he returned to Canada on furlough due to his injuries. Shortly before his furlough ended he was granted a commission as Lieutenant in the 43rd Regt. (Duke of Cornwall’s Own Rifles) and attached to the 207th Bn., now perpetuated by the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa. A few weeks before the 207th Bn. was to leave for France in June 1917 where it was to be used as a reserve force for many units, Lt. Brown was appointed to the Pension Board in Montreal. Several weeks later while cleaning his revolver in his room in a Montreal boarding house, he accidentally shot himself, and died very shortly after in a Montreal Hospital, at the age of 24 yrs. on May 16, 1917. Apart from his father, John H. Brown in Ottawa, Lt. Brown had one brother wounded at the front, who died in a German hospital, while another brother was then serving with the Royal Flying Corps.

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, April 12, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089714.jpg
[2]    R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette, Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pg. 34.
[3]   Ibid
[4]   “The Canadians At Trench Work,” The Citizen, Ottawa, Ontario, Monday, April 12, 1915, pg. 2, col. 3.
[5]   “Deadly Aim of German Sniper,” The Citizen, Ottawa, Ontario, Monday, April 12, 1915, pg. 1, col. 5.

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