CHAPTER III

The History of the 28th (Northwest) Battalion, C.E.F. begins with Mobilization

Sources:

The Memoirs of Brigadier General J.F.L. Embury, C.B., C.M.G., V.D.
The Memoirs of Brigadier General Alex. Ross, C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D.
The Canadian Official History
The 28th Bn. War Diary and Part II Orders.


While officially the 28th (Northwest) Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force came into being on November 1, 1914, it was actually born on August 4, 1914. On that date, the whole British Empire, worldwide in scope, was waiting: waiting for the fatal decision as to whether it was to be Peace or War. Those citizens who, in the days of Peace when War was not thought of, had done their utmost to secure some form of Military Training under an inefficient and unsatisfactory system, then and now in vogue in Canada, had to face the problem of their duty with a conflict so imminent. Although for years their efforts had been treated with good-natured amusement by the greater part of the civilian population and their efforts had been designated as those of Tin Soldiers, to them and them alone the Nation could now turn. Generally, the Militiamen (citizen soldiery) faced their duty without doubt or fear. Unit after Unit of the Active Militia, throughout the whole Dominion volunteered for Active Service.

As outlined in the preceding chapters of this narrative, the Infantry Militia Unit at Regina at this time was the 95th Saskatchewan Rifles, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel (afterwards Brigadier General) J.F.L. Embury, C.B. C.M.G. V.D. who had as his second-in-command, Major (later Brigadier General) Alex. Ross, C.M.G. D.S.O. V.D. As subsequent events transpired, these two officers were destined to play a very large part in moulding the destiny of the 28th (Northwest) Battalion and the shaping of its History. Between them, they commanded the Unit during the greater part of its period of service.

The 4th of August, 1914, in Regina was a beautiful day. Major Alex. Ross was playing a round of golf at the Wascana Country Club (still in its location south-east of the City) to while away the hours waiting for the decision - Peace or War. As he was playing along the twelfth fairway, his Commanding Officer drove up and the following conversation took place:

Said Lieutenant Colonel Embury “I guess there is going to be a War - are you going?”

Alex. Ross replied, “Sure'”

“Alright” said the Colonel, “I'll send a wire offering our services. Goodbye”

That was all, but in that little incident much was embodied which afterwards was to become representative of the Spirit of the 28th. No fuss, no waste of words, just an acceptance of Duty as it presented itself, seemingly a part of the daily routine of life.

The opportunity of service did not come immediately, but on October 13, 1914 the call came and Lieutenant Colonel Embury was offered the command at a new unit in the Second Contingent to be raised in Military District No.10, of which the Saskatchewan Area then formed a part. This Unit was to be composed of one Company 'A' from the 96th Lake Superior Regiment of Fort William and Port Arthur, one Company 'B' from the 95th Saskatchewan Rifles of Regina, one Company 'C' from the 60th Rifles of Canada (Moose Jaw) and 'D' Company from the 105th Fusiliers (Saskatoon) and a base company of one hundred men from the 52nd Prince Albert Volunteers. In its first campaign, the old 95th Regiment was to bring back former component parts, just as was the case in the Second World War. In those early days of the War there was no trouble in recruiting. When once the order came, headquarters (or the various Units concerned) were simply overwhelmed with applicants for places. Officers were thus enabled to pick and choose the personnel of their companies, with the result that there was gathered together a body of men which could hardly be surpassed. Practically every trade and occupation was represented. Consisting, as it did, of the picked manhood of Western Canada, it possessed possibilities for development of which full advantage was to be taken at a later date. Not a few Veterans of the Boer War, which had ended in 1901-1902, were available with their practical knowledge and experience to help mould the new Battalion into a well-knit fighting Unit.

The Concentration Order, assembling the various scattered Companies of the newly formed Battalion, designated Winnipeg as the centre where this Concentration was to take place and the date set was November 1, 1914. On October 31, 1914, the various detachments left their respective local headquarters to start on the long journey. For some it was to be their last, for others, after varying vicissitudes, it was to terminate on the banks of the German Rhine. Farewells differed little from thousands of others throughout the Empire - a great deal of sadness for those near and dear, now left behind, combined with the excitement and exhilaration inspired by a patriotic fervour which always sweeps over the nation on the outbreak of War.

The first parade of the new Unit took place on the afternoon of November 1, 1914 on the floor of the famous (or infamous) Old Horse Show Building in Winnipeg. It was a strange sight and an unforgettable experience because very few of the new recruits had ever had anything more than the most rudimentary military training. In the Regina Company, many uniforms of the old dark 'Rifle Green' were noticeable; while members of the Saskatoon Company of the 105th Fusiliers were conspicuous in their tunics of scarlet and blue trousers. Most of the others were in mufti (civilian dress) in every degree of respectability. The contrast between the Battalion of that first day and the well-trained, disciplined and turned-out unit of later days was indeed striking. However, anyone capable off judging men en-masse could tell at a glance that he was viewing a body of men possessing, in a marked degree, the spirit of a Corps which would eventually play a distinguished part in the events of the hectic days that were to come.

The troops of the First Contingent destined to form the First Canadian Division had started to arrive at the Salisbury Plains Military Camp on the 15th of October, 1914 after a three month's sojourn at Valcartier Camp near Quebec City. Those included the First, Second and Third Brigades of lnfantry, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light infantry (P.P.C.L.I.), the Canadian Artillery, Army Medical and Army Services Corps with Engineer Units and Mounted Troops -- approximately four Brigades in strength. Training of the First Contingent continued in the Salisbury Plains Area until the second week in February, 1915 when the First Division, C.E.F. went across the channel to the Port of St. Nazaire. The P.P.C.L.I. and some ancillary troops had previously gone to France in December 1914 for service with the 27th Division of the Imperial Forces. The Western Infantry Units in the 1st Division were as follows: 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th Bns. in the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade under the command of Brigadier General Arthur W. Currie, afterwards the Commanding General of the Canadian Corps.

Chapters
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2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Histories
D.G. Scott-Calder's
The History of the 28th (Northwest) Battalion, C.E.F. (October 1914 - June 1919)
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