Saturday, February 20, 2010

Macleans' Interview With John Babcock

Macleans Magazine did an interesting interview with John (Jack) Babcock in 2007.

Friday, February 19, 2010

John Henry Foster Babcock 1900-2010

John Henry Foster Babcock was the last know survivor of the Canadian Corps. He was born 23 July 1900 to James T. Babcock and Mary Ellan Redmond in Lober Township, Frontenac County, Ontario (birth registration, He died on 18 February, 2010 in Spokane, Washington. He came from a large family with 10 siblings. In the 1901 Canada Census the family is listed as at least two generation Canadian of German extraction. His father died 11 March 1907 in a logging accident (Death Registry,,  and after that the family scattered.

John (Jack) Babcock 835371 joined the Canadian Corps 1 February 1916 in Sydenham, Ontario. It was noticed that he was underage (at that time 19 was the age considered minimum to serve on the front), and he was placed in the “Boys Battalion”. The Great War was over before he turned 19 and could go to the front.

photo: "The Toronto Star, February 18, 2010.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

After The Great War- Controversy

The first controversy was begun by American Brigadier Henry Reilly who argued that the Great War was won by the United States. The second is ongoing and revolves around Sir Douglas Haig and the effectiveness of British officers during the war.

Needless to say, British and Canadian officers viewed Reilly’s views as “moonshine” (Kenneth Radley, We Lead Others Follow: First Canadian Division 1914-1918 p.365). There have been some comparisons between the American performance during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, and the Canadian Corps during the 100 days. It shows the difference between a unit that benefited from training, experience, and the hard fighting of the previous years to a unit that had the numbers but lacked the experience.

Category                                      Meuse-Argonne       100 Days    

Number of troops engaged              650,000              105,000
Duration of operation(days)                 47                      100 
Maximum advance(miles)                    34                       86 
German divisions defeated                   46                       47 
Casualties suffered  for
Every German division                       2,170                    975
Total battle casualties                      100,000                47,830
Prisoners captured                            16,000                31,537
Guns captured                                     468                      623
Machine-guns captured                     2,864                   2,842
Trench mortars captured                     117                      336

There seems to be a re-evaluation on-going around Sir Douglas Haig and the British officer corps. For Canada this re-evaluation seems to center on the fact that in 1915 most of the senior officers(especially the staff officers) were British, and a large percentage of the infantrymen were as well. The English born recruits were largely veterans who had served in English regiments.  They provided the early stiffening that was needed in the First Division through 1915. By all accounts the Canadians were lucky in the officers that they received. Particularly in Sir Julian Byng. He was not a Colonel Blimp in any way.

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Backgound - (part 2)

“To be or not to be”. That is the regimental question?

The term “regiment” is often confusing to the non-military reader when he or she tries to understand the workings of the Canadian Corps. The regiment is a left over from the days of Empire. Before 1915 the militia were organized into regiments. Sir Sam Hughes decided to amalgamate the regiments into numbered Battalions with at first eight, and later it was changed to four battalions to a Division. For Southwestern Ontario, units of a local regiment were fed into the 1st  Battalion, and later other units from the same regiment were fed into the 18th  Battalion. That was true for all other Battalions formed after 1915. To confuse things further later Battalions like the 91st  (St. Thomas & Elgin County) were broken up as re-enforcements to bring existing Battalions up to strength. This just for the infantry. When you start to look at the supporting units (medical, artillery, cavalry, engineers, etc.) , some are designated Regiments, some Battalions.  The Division is the main tactical unit; but the infantry fight as Battalions.

Nevertheless, the regimental spirit remained strong. This along with a strong reaction to Sir Sam’s ways partially explains the reason for the Canadian Army in 1939-1945 returning to the regiment as its tactical unit.

So, if we look at the  1st. Battalion, for example,  recruitment was funneled through the following regiments:
1st Hussars , 7th Regiment (Fusiliers) , 21st Regiment (Essex Fusiliers) , 22nd Regiment (The Oxford Rifles) , 23rd Regiment (The Northern Fusiliers), 24th Kent Regiment, 25th Regiment , 28th Perth Regiment , 29th Regiment (Highland Light Infantry of Canada) , 77th Wentworth Regiment.

Of course, there are some exceptions, just to confuse the newbe  I bet. Over all, from what I can gather there was an effort to keep as many local men in the same Battalion, in order to foster an identity and pride in each Battalion.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Some Background Before We Go Any Farther (part 1)

Before I go any further perhaps I should use the nest couple of blogs to set some background information for those who are not familiar with what I could call ”military speak”. We will start with the abbreviations which you will run into.  When one thinks of the Corps one tends to think of the  “sharp end”  - the infantryman. By 1918 there was more involved than simply pointing the infantryman towards the enemy and yelling charge.

2IC     second in command
A         Administration/Administrative
A & Q    Administration & Quartermaster
AA & QMC  Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General
ACI      Army Council Instruction
ADC   Aide-de-Camp
ADMI   Assistant Director of Military Intelligence
ANZAC    Australia New Zealand Army Corps
APM    Assistant Provost Marshall
ASC   Army Service Corps
BEF   British Expeditionary Force
BGGS  Brigadier-General General Staff
BM   Brigadier Major
BMGO    Brigade Machine-Gun Officer
C-in-C   Commander-in-Chief
CB   Commander of the Bath
CCRC  Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp
CE   Canadian Engineers
CEF   Canadian Expeditionary Force
CFA  Canadian Field Artillery
CGS  Chief of the General Staff
CIGS   Chief of the Imperial General Staff
CMG  Commander of the Order of St. Michael & St. George
CO   Commanding Officer
CRA  Commander Royal Artillery
CRE  Commander Royal Engineers
DA & QMC  Deputy Adjutant  and Quartermaster General
DAAG  Deputy Assistant Adjutant  General
DAC  Divisional Ammunition Column
DMGO  Divisional Machine-Gun Officer
DSO  Distinguished Service Order
FOO  Forward Observation Officer
FSR  Field Service Regulations
G/GS  General Staff
GHQ   General Headquarters
GOC (GOsC)  General Officer(s) Commanding
GOCRA  General Officer Commanding Royal Artillery
GSO1 General Staff Officer (1st grade)
GSO2  General Staff Officer (2nd. grade )
GSO3  General Staff Officer (3rd. Grade)
HE  High Explosive
HQ  Headquarters
IGT  Inspector-General Training
IO  Intelligence Officer
LO Liaison Officer
LOB  Left out of Battle
MC  Military Cross
MGGS  Major-General General Staff
MO  Medical Officer
NCO  Non-Commissioned Officer
NDHQ  National Defense Headquarters
OC   Officer Commanding
OP  Observation Post
OR(s)  Other Rank(s)
p.s.c.  passed staff college
Q/QM  Quartermaster
RAF  Royal Air Force
RCD  Royal Canadian Dragoons
RCHA  Royal Canadian Horse Artillery
RCR  Royal Canadian Regiment
RE  Royal Engineers
RFA  Royal Field Artillery
RFC  Royal Flying Corps
RMC  Royal Military College
RUSI  Royal United States Institute
SAA  Small Arms Ammunition
SD  Staff Duties
TEWT(s)  Tactical  Exercise(s) without Troops
TO  Transport Officer
VC  Victoria Cross

Monday, February 1, 2010

18th. Battalion Wedding


Apparently whirlwind romances happen just before a soldier leaves for the battlefield. “The London Advertiser” has a piece dated November 12, 1914 on a wedding in London, Ontario of Private Sydney Wetherell Bryant to  Elizabeth Drouillard. Both were from Windsor.

    “About 1000 people went to the barracks this morning to see a military wedding, in which the 1,100 soldiers of the Eighteenth Battalion participated, when Re. Arthur Carlisle, chaplain of the battalion, in his fall Episcopal robes, married Miss Elizabeth Drouillard and Private Sydney  Wetherell Bryant, of “D” Company.
      Lieut.-Col. E.S. Wigle and his full provisional staff of officers of the first militia division headquarters, were present at the ceremony. The soldiers were drawn up in an open square on the parade ground just outside the fence around the barrack’s building. This arrangement was largely due to the fact that a moving picture man from Detroit had to have the sun at his back to get a good picture of the affair(I wonder if the film is still around or destroyed?).
(continuing further along)
       The boys of “D” and “C” Companies all of Windsor, under the command of Captain A.B. Lang, left nothing undone to see that Private Sidney Wetherell Randall did not forget the day of his wedding. Hardley had he reached the fence, through which he made his exit with his bride to reach the officers’ mess, when a detail of men showered them with rice.
       The boys also turned over to Captain Laing the sum of $47.42, which was given to the bride as the donation of the fellow soldiers of Private Bryant. Another gift from the battalion contained a check, but the amount of it was not given out.
As quartermaster of the battalion Captain Parkinson took a long blank form over to the bridegroom after the ceremony, and he was compelled to sign his name beneath a line, which read:

                                                                  “Issued, One Bride”

photo: The London Advertiser, November 12, 1914