RMR Marching towards the Front in 1915

RMR Marching towards the Front in 1915

Thursday, February 18, 1915


The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Arrived Hazebrouck 6 a.m.  Detrained quickly and in good order. Picked up advance party under Lieut. Frost, and left by road for Flêtre, passing 3rd Bde. H.Q. in “The House of the Spy” in Caestre.  Pavé roads very trying for the men, accustomed to soft English roads, but no stragglers.  Arrived Flêtre about mid-day.  At last halt before reaching Flêtre, H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught rode along the column.  On reaching Flêtre men were billeted in houses in village and surrounding farms.  Battn. H.Q. in Chateau de Wendigen. On the march to Flêtre all ranks (Men) interested in hearing sound of distant artillery for first time.” [1]

18 Feb 15THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: The Battalion history elaborates:  “Two features of the march are mentioned in many diaries and letters dealing with the time.  On the march the Battalion suffered its first experience of the famous pavé roads of France.  The word “suffered” is used advisedly, for the pavé blistered heels and toes to such an extent that many men were limping badly before the Battalion reached its destination.  No complaints were recorded, however, as during the march, a low muttering, rumbling sound drifted back from some point far ahead.  Unmistakeably, it was the thunder of distant guns.  Hearts leaped, and a shiver of excitement ran through the ranks.  Who could complain of a blistered heel when guns were firing but a few miles over the horizon?”   [3]

“Hazebrouck (Dutch: Hazebroek) is a commune in the Nord department in northern France. Hazebrouck in Flanders was a small market town before it became an important railway junction in the 1860s. West Flemish was the usual popular language used in the town until 1880. At that time French was taught at school by mandate of the French government in an effort to “Frenchify” the people of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and to extinguish their Flemish roots. The development of the railways linked Hazebrouck to Lille to Calais and Dunkirk.”   [4]

Flêtre is situated in the Nord (Nord-Pas-de-Calais region) in the north-east of France at 32 km from Lille, the department capital, and is 212 km from Paris.  Bertenacre Military Cemetery, a British military cemetery with casualties from both world wars, is located three kilometers north of Flêtre.

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, Feb 18, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089694.jpg
[2]   https://www.google.ca/maps/@50.7947353,2.5915709,11z
[3]   R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette, Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pg. 27.
[4]   Wikipedia contributors, "Hazebrouck," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hazebrouck&oldid=610083268 (accessed November 5, 2014).

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