Chapter 3 Continued
From the Memoirs of Lieutenant Colonel J.F.L. Embury:
The training of the Battalion was taken up vigorously while our Unit was stationed in Winnipeg. It was gratifying to find, after the late Colonel Birchill's book (Manual of training) was published, that the system of training which we had followed had been almost identical with that which he had advised. The results of this training were evidenced in the soldierly bearing, altertness and general efficiency of all ranks. These characteristics continued to improve up to the time of our departure from Canada and the unit's entry into the Active Theatre of War. Esprit-de-corps was high, an early rule was adopted in the Battalion of discharging any man found drunk, although abstention was not demanded. This was deemed essential at the beginning of organization and training in order that discipline would be better maintained. Fortunately the Regiment, from its inception, was almost entirely free from this vice and although, from time to time, quite a number or enlisted men had to be discharged for breaking this rule, it was always possible to fill their places with excellent, re-inforcements
The Old Horse Show Building in Winnipeg, in which the Battalion was quartered, was quite unsuitable for the purpose. It was not properly floored and the ground was :impregnated with horse manure. It was badly ventilated, drafty and cold when the Unit occupied it late in the fall of 1914. It would be impossible to imagine quarters more unsuitable as the place for getting good results in the training of troops. Representations were made to the proper authorities by the Commanding Officer, pointing out that the place should be properly floored and, in fact, that for the health and welfare of all ranks the Unit should be moved out of the building into more suitable quarters. Suggestions were made that the men should be provided with a suitable building for recreational purposes and a detention house for those not sick enough to be sent to hospital and still well enough to attend some parades. A convalescent home for those coming from hospital was also suggested. At first all of these requests were refused but were finally complied with, but not until, unfortunately, a great deal of unnecessary sickness had occurred. At one time, before improvements were made, over two hundred men were on the sick lists and several deaths occurred, principally from pneumonia. While stationed in Winnipeg, the 28th Battalion suffered from casualties far in excess of the other Units stationed in that City. This was attributed to the unfavorable conditions under which members of the Unit were forced to do their training in its early stages.
At the time when it was occupied by the 28th Bn., the Old Horse Show Building was apparently the only one available. The authorities, in not complying with our requests, were no doubt influenced by this and also the fact that most of the Officers of the Unit were militarily inexperienced and might still have the viewpoint of Civilians in such matters. It was believed that the building should be given a fair and ample trial, under the existing conditions, before any changes were made. When, however, subsequent events proved that the requests of the Officer Commanding were right, steps were taken to remedy the defects. Leaking roofs were repaired, a floor of wooden planks installed and windows properly caulked. Unfortunately the remedies were applied, after most of the damage to the health of the troops had been done.
During this training period, the Battalion was inspected on several occasions, once by His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and several times by Major General Sam Steele. All spoke highly of the splendid progress being made and the high quality of the men. Shortly after we assembled in Winnipeg it was learned that the intention to include the Unit in the 2nd Contingent was to be abandoned. It was felt by Officers and other ranks alike that such a stop would be a breach of faith and an injustice, since all had enlisted explicitly for the purpose of serving in that Contingent. Representations on behalf of the Battalion were made to the authorities through the proper channels and finally the Unit was included as part of the 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade to which Major (later Colonel) H.D.B. Ketchen, C.M.G. was appointed Brigadier General on May 29, 1915. The Battalion underwent Its final official inspection by that Officer early in April 1915, shortly before it was to entrain for a voyage to a seaport and across the Atlantic.
Undergoing preparatory training in Winnipeg at the same time as the 28th Bn. C.E.F. was the 27th Bn. of Winnipeg which had also soon organized as a Second Contingent Expeditionary Unit. On May 13, 1915, the 27th Bn. entrained for overseas. All ranks of the 28th Bn. with misgivings in their hearts, turned out to give their comrades a good send off. A cordial. feeling had developed between the two units during their sojourn in Winnipeg. Friendly rivalry in training and sports had produced a feeling of comradeship which in the very near future was to be of inestimable value to both Battalions.
The spirit of the men of the 28th which was later to become so manifest under more difficult circumstances now asserted itself. This was proved by their conduct at the train and when returning to their barracks believing that they were to be left behind. It was a magnificent display. The attitude of all ranks under the circumstances renewed the confidence of the Officer Commanding and his Senior Officers foretelling the finer qualities and soldierly attributes yet to be shown. There was little grumbling and the situation was viewed philosophically as part of one's daily existence attributable to War.
The 28th (Northwest) Battalion was the last part of the 6th Brigade stationed in Winnipeg to be moved from its quarters in that City to the Front. Soon the long awaited 'Movement' Orders arrived and on May 26, 1915, a large crowd of Winnipeg's citizens gathered at the Station to bid the Unit 'Goodbye'. This was remarkable in view of the fact that our Battalion had all been recruited from points outside of that City. The fact that we were to have as brothers-in-arms Winnipeg's own 27th Battalion may partially have been responsible. However, the soldierly bearing, splendid discipline and gentlemanly conduct of all ranks had made for us a host of Winnipeg friends. During our stay in Winnipeg, we had received the very greatest kindness and consideration from all classes of citizens and especially from various patriotic and civic organizations. Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Nanton, Mrs. Colin Campbell, Mrs. Wright, Club members and churches looked after the entertainment of the men. It is probable that the Battalion became so well known through the interest which was taken in it by the Citizens of Winnipeg owing to the sympathy they had for men who though lodged in such unsuitable quarters, still maintained a cheery outlook and acceptance of their trying conditions. Little did we realize how realistic and true to actual War conditions our training quarters in Winnipeg would prove to be. The huge crowds and their friendly farewell was engraved forever in the minds of the men of the 28th. The 44th Bn. C.E.F., now commanded by Lieutenant Colonel. E.R. Wayland (who had been until a short time before our own Senior Major), paraded his entire unit to the Station to bid farewell to his former comrades. The 44th formed double lines through which the 28th marched. Major Gordon Bishop (also a former member of the 95th Saskachewan Rifles) brought down his 18th Battery, 5th Artillery Brigade to see us off . Also, at the station were members of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians). Major Carruthers, Honorary Colonel of the Highland Cadets of Winnipeg, had his Unit's Pipe Band play the 28th to the Station. To members of the original 95th Saskatchewan Rifles of 1908-1913, this must have brought back nostalgic memories. (See Chapter 1).