There is a great deal of information out there on the “sharp end”. That is to say the infantryman in battle. So articles on other aspects of military life tend to catch my eye. As any great general knows supply can be the most difficult part of a campaign. This was one of the things that the Canadian Corps became very good at. This excerpt from the “Dutton Advance. Feb. 1917” caught my eye:
4,000 lbs. fresh meat and bacon
1,200 lbs. beans
1,500 loaves of bread
65 bags of potatoes
1,400 lbs. of sugar
400 lbs of coffee
100 lbs. of tea
300 gallons of milk
500 lbs. of butter
500 lbs. of oatmeal
Some of the staples provided for a battalion en route Camp Borden, Ont., to Halifax, N.S.
“The Grand Trunk commissary car is the largest traveling kitchen ever devised. It is eighty feet long, has a full sized hotel range ten feet in length, steam cooking apparatus, and sixty foot refrigerator space and store room capacity for many tons of provisions. Eight cooks work in it without confusion, while a passageway running the whole length of the car allows the military waiters to pass on their way to and from the coaches. When a battalion entrains the Commissary Department is always the subject of keen interest among the men in khaki. The military cooks are for the time being out of action. The comfort of the men, so far as diet is concerned, depends upon the railway’s crew, in charge of a specially chosen steward. The system of service is explained to the soldiers by the steward at the first meal on the train. The non-commissioned officer in each coach appoints his own waiters. Punctually, as the minute hand of the watch reaches the meal hour the waiters from the first car on the train and the last car walk through to the commissary. The cooks have been preparing for hours and everything is ready and piping hot. Along the great counter is spread the various portions of the meal. It is breakfast time and the morning menu calls for oatmeal porridge, meats, potatoes, bread and butter, jam,, and coffee. Two men take the big trays of meats and potatoes, another the bread, already sliced and buttered, another the porridge, another the coffee and so to the end. As soon as the first two coaches have been supplied two more squads of waiters arrive until all are served. Within fifteen minutes every man on the train is busy with his meal. Serving over twelve hundred men in fifteen minutes without fuss or furore means organization and that is the secret of this railway’s method of handling the problem. The rule is that every man shall be amply supplied and nothing delights the cook more than to see the boys relish some favourite dish so well that that they come back for “more”. Three fine meals a day make happy interludes on the long rail journeys. The appreciation of the officers and men for the service given makes the hard work necessary in carrying out the task a pleasure to the men concerned.”
I would not doubt that many soldiers in the trenches probably looked back at their train trips with some nostalgia.