Early Training, Embarkation, Disembarkation
The narrative of Brigadier General Alex. Ross,C.M.G. D.S.O. V.D.
The official War Diary of the 28th Battalion
On the horrors of the Battalion's first winter it is not necessary to dilate. All who were there and who survived this ordeal, will recall the noisome quarters - who could ever forget the dismal. atmosphere of each 'Reveille'. In later days, of course, even greater hardships were to be encountered, but these latter were or a nature inevitable in the grim tasks in which the Unit was employed. Conditions in Winnipeg were such, however, that they did not render it inevitable or necessary that troops should be quartered, as were our troops, during that winter of 1914-15. It speaks volumes for the loyalty and character of men, so harassed, that they endured these intolerable conditions without any open manifestations of their distress or displeasure. It seemed at this time to be the impression of the Military authorities, that as the Empire was now at War, it should be understood that part of the essential training of the civilians who had volunteered for service in the armed forces should be such that they would be able to endure all manner of hardships preparatory to the conditions under which they would be compelled to live at the Front. Training was to be made as Spartan-like as possible. These ideas were wrong for the strains and stresses of modern warfare and the hardships which those participating in it would be called upon to bear, rendered it of the utmost necessity that every man going into battle should, not only be in the finest physical condition, but also with the best of heart and mind. If men were forced to live in unsanitary, uncomfortable quarters, while all around them civilians were living in comfort and luxury, it was inevitable that young untried soldiers would be markedly mentally affected by such treatment. It was during this period of early training that everything possible should have been done to lift their morale by amply providing for their daily comforts and welfare.
Not only did the unit suffer from bad quarters, defective messing arrangements and lack of facilities for recreation, but also it suffered from what many military-minded persons (including some of the military authorities) had recognized throughout the years it would suffer from, in the event of War, namely lack of training, competent personnel and training areas. It can be safely stated that not five percent of the men enrolled had ever received any previous training whatever. With one or two exceptions, the officers too, though keen and willing to learn, had received little or no real training nor were facilities, now that they had come together as a Battalion, made available for improving their condition. The old non-commissioned officers of the British Regular Army who had enlisted in the 28th saved the situation to same extent by providing a nucleus of training personnel for the entire Battalion. Fortunately, some of these non-commissioned officers had experienced real fighting in the South African War (1899-1902) and were still young men.
Although handicapped in every way, the training personnel of the 28th set out to prepare the Unit for the great adventure by utilizing what little knowledge was available. By improvising and using methods of trial and error, we added such knowledge wherever possible. All ranks entered whole-heartedly into the work or preparation. Training in Western Canada in midwinter, under the prevailing conditions, was not condusive to the best results. However, on the parade grounds the results of our labours soon became evident, for gradually the untrained mass became a finely moulded unit with splendid 'esprit-de-corps'. No longer were rival groups glorifying in the local pride of Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Fort William and Port Arthur, but all ranks now found satisfaction only in the Unity of the TWENTY-EIGHTH: the preliminary battle had been won.