Chapter IV – Mobilizing


At the beginning of 1915 an overwhelming majority of Canadians of all backgrounds appear to have supported Canada’s participation in a just war which Britain had tried to prevent. Atrocities such as the burning of Louvain demonized the enemy but after the German defeat at the Battle of the Marne, the race to the sea and the successful defense of Ypres in November 1914 the war seemed less urgent. Most people believed France and Britain would take the offensive in the spring of 1915 and expel the Germans from French and Belgian soil. Canada was doing its part, raising a force that would join in the Allied offensive.

The Dominion government reflected this optimistic view. The budget address presented by the Minister of Finance, Thomas White recognized that war expenditures would greatly exceed revenue but proposed to raise additional funds by borrowing in London and New York. An income tax, he told the House of Commons, was not required.[1] The Prime Minister, who was content to leave financial issues to White, was equally willing to allow the Minister of Militia to shape the military effort. Hughes continued to favour a policy of creative chaos, authorizing new battalions that competed with each other for volunteers.

On 10 April 1915, the Prime Minister presented a report on the country’s war effort claiming that the government’s policy of keeping 50,000 men “continuously in training” was being met. He informed the House of Commons that, in addition to the 22,272 men of the second contingent “on their way to England”, there were now 24 “reserve battalions in various stages of development” which could constitute the core of a third contingent. Borden also noted that the Canadian Mounted Rifles now consisted of thirteen regiments of 7,411 officers and men. The CMR had been created in response to pressure from the cavalry colonels and the Governor General the Duke of Connaught. Since there was no apparent role for more cavalry in the trenches of Belgium and France Borden suggested the CMR might join the British forces in Egypt.[2]

Two of the 24 reserve battalions Borden referred to were based in Montreal, the 41st “French Canadian” Battalion associated with the 65th Regiment, and the 42nd, a “Black Watch” Battalion. With the financial support of Arthur Mignault the 41st got off to a good start enlisting close to 500 men in the first three months of 1915 before it was transferred to Quebec City under a new commanding officer, Lieut-Colonel Louis-Henri Archambault. A militia veteran who had served as an inspector of cadets, Archambault proved to be poor leader, unable to impose discipline on his officers or men. The morale of the battalion suffered accordingly with desertion becoming a major problem.[3] The contrast between the experiences of the 41st and 42nd battalions could not have been much greater. The 42nd with ample funds and officers drawn from the city’s Anglo-Celtic elite was able to rely on hundreds of British immigrants to fill the ranks. Fewer Canadian-born joined the 42nd than the 41st and when the battalion sailed for England in June 1915 just 21 percent of those on the nominal role were born in Canada.[4]

Relatively few Canadian-born Montrealers had volunteered during the long winter of 1914-15 though unemployment was “so widespread” that local citizens as well as single men “coming from outside the city to find work” were homeless. The Meurling Refuge, which had opened in 1914 increased its capacity to 675 beds, and was frequently full. The Board of Control appropriated $100,000 to support the various charitable institutions in December and another $50,000 in January 1915 when unemployment was estimated at “around 30,000”. The Saint Vincent de Paul Society, with 75% of the parish’s reporting supported 1,192 families, a total of 10,528 individuals. Apparently $1.10 a day and support from the Patriotic Fund for dependants, averaging $20 a month, was not sufficient inducement to join the army.[5]

It is also likely that physical requirements and medical standards stood in the way of enlistment. The height and chest size requirements together with strict guidelines for dental and vision exams led, according to some estimates, to the rejection of one in every three volunteers.[6]

New Year, Old Feuds


French Canadians may have had other reasons for rejecting calls to enlist in the first months of 1915. The issue of French language rights in the schools of Ontario had been eclipsed by the outbreak of war in Europe and the dramatic battles of 1914 but beginning in December 1914 a new wave of protests began. The renewed focus on the Ontario language question developed in after the Ontario Supreme Court rejected a challenge to Regulation 17. In response, the Association Catholique de la Jeunesse Canadienne (ACJC) organized a mass rally for the wounded of Ontario (Les blessés d’Ontario) on 21 December. Two Franco-Ontarian Senators, Phillipe Landry, a Conservative and Napoléon Belcourt, a Liberal were the main speakers but Archbishop Bruchesi, Henri Bourassa and Liberal Senator, Raoul Dandurand also participated.  Le Nationaliste in promoting the event had called attendance at the Monument Nationale “Une Devoir Patriotique” and a large crowd was in attendance.[7]

Archbishop Bruchesi began the evening with a brief introduction which began with “We are loyal subjects of the British Empire…” and continued with a statement about the “undeniable rights of the French language in Canada.” Belcourt’s lengthy address reviewed the history of the conflict and outlined the ambitious goals that Franco-Ontarians were pursuing. Belcourt wanted much more than the repeal of Regulation 17. The recognition of the right to maintain existing bi-lingual schools and establish new ones wherever the majority of students were French-speaking was crucial to the future of the French language in Ontario, Belcourt insisted. New Ontario, the mining and forestry region in the north, was, he argued, destined to become an area of French Canadian settlement doubling their share of the province’s population. Bi-lingual schools and inspectors as well as a normal school to train bi-lingual teachers were required.[8]  All of the speakers, perhaps in deference to the presence of the Archbishop avoided any reference to the role that Bishop Michael Fallon and other Irish Catholic clergy played in opposing bi-lingual schools with Belcourt blaming les orangistes for the problem. Bourassa, who had just returned from Ottawa where a mob, including a number of men in uniform, had prevented him from speaking could not resist a comparison of Prussian tolerance of French rights in Alsace-Lorraine to the “Prussians” of Ontario.[9] The meeting received considerable coverage in the nationalist press and in Le Canada, but the other dailies, French and English largely ignored the event and the subsequent campaign for “Le Fond Patriotique Franco-Ontarien”.[10]

The confrontation with Ontario was further escalated when Cardinal Bégin added his voice declaring that “If, which God forbid, the trial imposed upon our brethren in Ontario be prolonged, it will be the noble duty of the French and Catholic province of Quebec to assist with all its influence and all its resources those who suffer and struggle until full justice can be rendered them.”[11] The Cardinal’s intervention prompted the Quebec Premier, Lomer Gouin to make a statement in the Legislature calling, “in the name of the whole population of Quebec, English, Scottish and Irish-Canadians as well as French Canadians…” for “justice and generosity” to the minority. Two English-speaking members then moved a motion urging respect for “one of the cardinal principles of British liberty throughout the Empire… regard for the rights and privileges of minorities”.[12]

English-speaking Montrealers were aware of the debate over French language rights in Ontario and generally supported the quest of the Franco-Ontarian minority. The Montreal Star, for all its fervent imperialism and opposition to the nationalist cause insisted that Ontario’s policy was “a mistake in statesmanship, a blow at brotherhood and practical violation of the pact on which this country was established.” The editorial continued with a reminder that the educational clauses of the B.N.A. Act were intended as a bargain between the majorities of Upper and Lower Canada respectively that the minorities representing them in other Provinces should enjoy educational autonomy.[13]

The controversy over Regulation 17 and French language rights is often seen as a catalyst in the development of French Canadian attitudes towards the war and enlistment. The evidence for this is mixed. The mass circulation dailies covered the unfolding conflict in Ontario but a survey of La Presse, La Patrie and Le Canada suggests that the issue received relatively little space in pages crammed with war news, sports, entertainment, advertisements and local events.

Newsy Lalonde

For example newspaper coverage of the 1914-1915 hockey season and the playoffs in March told the story of the struggles of the Montreal Canadiens who won just six of twenty games. The Montreal Wanderers, the English-language team tied for the league lead but lost to the Ottawa Senators in a two game, total goals playoff. The rivalry between the two city teams was great for sports reporting but when the Canadiens broke the language divide hiring the best players available for the 1915-1916 season this too was good for newsstand sales. When George Kennedy, the owner of the club, agreed to a new contract for Newsy Lalonde the Canadiens were on their way from last place to their first Stanley Cup.[14]

At the end of the hockey season attention was focused on other sports including Edouard Fabre’s first place finish in the Boston Marathon. La Presse, described by Le Pays as “notre trombone nationale”, had sponsored Fabre a well-known distance runner and snowshoe racer. La Patrie was equally enthusiastic about an achievement which displayed “the virility of our race”.[15] It is not easy to gauge the importance of such events in the lives of people but we should not assume the war or fate of the Ontario minority loomed larger than the Stanley Cup.

The linguistic divide in Montreal was carried over from politics and hockey to the very different war reporting. The English press was focused on the British Expeditionary Force, while the French papers provided extensive coverage of the French Army with reports from Paris instead of London. Much of this was no doubt due to the costs of translation but it is evident that the editors selected material they believed would appeal to their readers. One common ground was the fate of Belgium and the ongoing story of the resistance offered by Belgian primate Cardinal Mercier. All the dailies published stories about Mercier’s defiance of the German occupation authorities and most reprinted his Christmas letter.[16] The nationaliste press did not ignore Mercier but refused to draw a connection between Belgium and Canada. The major dailies also provided extensive coverage of the man who still drew the support and affection of the large majority of French Canadians – Sir Wilfrid Laurier. To take but one example on 7 August 1915 Laurier was greeted by crowds estimated at 12,000 when he returned to St. Lin, the village north of Montreal where he was born. Laurier’s speech included an endorsement of Canada’s war effort and encouraged enlistment. French Canadians, he argued, had a double duty both to Britain and France.[17]

When the popular press focused on minority language rights it adopted a position similar to the one expressed by the Franco-Ontariens leader Senator Belcourt, who was determined to separate the schools issue from the war. Beginning at the Parc Sohmer meeting to promote enlistment in the 22nd Battalion Belcourt urged enlistment in the “sacred cause of Freedom” and argued that “Our pacifist spirit must not compel us to become doctrinaire Pacifists… Canada, no more than other civilized nations, has no right to remain a silent witness to the terrible and barbaric drama played out on the devastated fields of Belgium and France.”[18] Belcourt continued to argue against “isolationism” throughout the war as did Sir Wilfred Laurier and Rodolphe Lemieux, Laurier’s senior Quebec lieutenant. Lemieux actively supported recruiting at dozens of rallies and his son was one of those who enlisted.[19]

War Economy

By the spring of 1915 economic conditions had begun to improve. The opening of navigation and the resumption of construction were traditional signs of recovery from winter but there were also new war-related orders for the textile, garment and leather industries. One of the most remarkable developments occurred in the east end of the city, where on 1 January the British Admiralty took direct control of the Canadian Vickers Shipyard to begin construction of submarines for the Royal Navy. The Canadian Government was not consulted. This stunning example of British imperial arrogance troubled Ottawa but the shipyard provided hundreds of jobs to both skilled and semi-skilled workers and delivered the first “H-Class” submarines to the Royal Navy in May 1915.[20]

A Vickers build “H” Class Submarine.

Despite employment opportunities at Vickers and a few other firms, large numbers of skilled and semi-skilled workers were still unemployed in the spring of 1915. A British Board of Trade delegation seeking skilled workers for the British munitions industry recorded the names of 500 men “willing to enter into a six month contract to work in British factories and shipyards”.[21] There was no such demand for labourers and organized protests including one in early June that involved “close to 1000 men” led the city to increase the budget for paving streets from $200,000 to $500,000. The Star claimed that this action “was not a moment too soon” as there were “rumours of serious rioting” if work was not available.[22] The Labour Gazette correspondent for Montreal was equally pessimistic reporting that while war orders were beginning to stimulate the economy and machinists were in demand, there was little change in other trades and no sign of a recovery in building construction. Apart from the tunnel under Mount Royal, railway construction was at a standstill and the much heralded orders for munitions-production had not materialised. The Angus Shops were still offered “short term employment” to a limited number of workers.[23]

Towards Total War

The news of the Canadian action at the Battle of Langemarck in the Ypres Salient transformed perceptions of the war for many Canadians including Montrealers but the challenge confronting those who favoured a more energetic commitment to the Allied cause was considerable. Herbert Ames spelled out the problem in a speech to a patriotic rally. “We Canadian born” he declared “take unto ourselves too much credit. We call the first contingent Canadians, we glory in its achievements but save that the battalions are under Canadian officers it is in great part a British army recruited on Canadian soil. From two thirds to three quarters are British-born”.[24] Ames suggested that the supply of British born recruits would soon be exhausted and Canadians would have to step forward. The immediate problem confronting Montreal’s Anglo-Celtic citizens was to find men to fill the ranks of the 60th Battalion allocated to Military Districts 4 in May. Lieut-Colonel Frederick Gascoigne a 49 year old militia veteran and senior official in the Canadian Pacific Railway, who commanded the Victoria Rifles, was charged with raising the 60th as part of the third contingent. Gascoigne drew upon men who were already in the militia for the core of the unit with one company from his own regiment and one each from the Grenadier Guards, Westmount Rifles and Irish Rangers. Gascoigne was able to select officers and NCOs from the four regiments and to raise sufficient funds for recruiting and additional equipment. The CPR connection proved invaluable, particularly after Captain Alfred Shaugnessy, the second son of the President of the CPR, joined the battalion.[25]

The 60th began recruiting in earnest in June 1915 and by early July a “whirlwind week” with meetings in various city parks scheduled for each night and special Sunday services was organized to complete the battalion. City boy scout troops participated carrying banners declaring “If you don’t go, we will have to”.[26] The English-language press offered free publicity including full page adds. When the battalion moved to the Valcartier close to 1500 men were on strength.

After several hundred volunteers were “weeded out” and a reinforcement company sent to England to provide replacements for those lost at Festubert there were still enough men to form a full battalion. There were however relatively few Canadian-born, less than thirty percent of the total.[27] The continuing pre-dominance of British-born recruits was reflected in a recruiting poster created by the battalion with the heading “Kitchener Calls for Men”. The wording suggested that the 60th “Montreal’s Crack Regiment” was to be part of Kitchener’s New Army being raised in Britain. There was no specifically Canadian reference.[28]

News of heavy casualties suffered by the Princess Patricia’s prompted letters, editorials and an energetic campaign to rebuild a battalion which was said to be in “danger of extinction”. One letter to the Star recalled that “Montreal in August last had turned out en masse to bid farewell to the Princess Pats”. It was now time to prove that Montrealers “are as good at fighting as in cheering”. The anonymous writer suggested that a small percentage of the young men “white collared, well dressed, well fed, of athletic appearance” that “fill and adorn Montreal’s 9 A.M. street cars” would save the Patricias from extinction.[29]

Two days later the Star published a graphic account of the Battle of Frezenberg provided to the paper by the uncle of a young Patricia officer.

For eight hours the Germans shelled us… soon the groans of the wounded and dying men rose upon the air. Men lay half-buried, with legs and arms gone, slowly dying… Two hundred and thirty paid the toll that day… our own artillery were apparently out of action for they hardly replied… Saturday dawned and then came the worst day of all… They tore our trenches to pieces.[30]

Percival Molson and other prominent McGill graduates proposed sending the university’s Canadian Officer Training Corps volunteers to replace the Patricias lost in the Ypres Salient. The majority of these were Canadian-born as were the hundreds of others drawn from other university companies who joined the battalion in the months that followed. This extraordinary misuse of university students, most of who would serve as riflemen rather than junior officers was yet another indication of the government’s failure to think through the challenges of mobilization.[31]

The most organized response to the events of April 1915 came from the city’s upper and middle class women who possessed both the wealth and leisure time to undertake voluntary work in support of the war effort. These “elite women”,[32] drawn from both language communities had been engaged in such activities from the outbreak of war but as the editor of the Montreal Standard’s Society page reported

“The pall that was cast over the social world by the appalling casualty list which was published after the Langemarck engagement has lifted only very slightly. No entertainments which could be regarded as strictly social have taken place during the week although each day has been productive of one or more functions… of a charitable or patriotic nature”[33]

The columnist noted that a “large number of country houses have been offered to the government for the use of convalescent soldiers” and activities intended to raise funds for the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild and other organizations were being planned. The Guild was one of the many organizations involved in the knitting and sewing for soldiers as well as women and children, displaced by the German occupation of Northern France and Belgium. The Red Cross and its French-language counterpart, Le Croix Rouge, organized volunteers in Montreal and throughout the province.[34] For English-speaking women the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE),[35] and seemingly every Protestant church in the city were focal points of activity. The St John Ambulance Society concentrated on recruiting and training scores of VADs, young women who volunteers to serve as nursing assistants in hospital and convalescent homes both overseas and in Canada.[36] News of the fate of horses in the Flanders battles inspired a group of Montreal women to establish the first Canadian branch of the Purple Cross Society, an international organization dedicated to animal welfare. They prepared “bandages for horses made of flannel and soft cotton in lengths of five to eight yards each with a double tape sewn in to simplify the task of the soldier or veterinarian trying to staunch a wound”.[37]


The Montreal Branch of the Canadian Patriotic Fund attracted the largest number of committed volunteers with 150 women devoting an average of three half-days a week to various administrative tasks. By the end of 1915 more than 600 other volunteers were working as “visitors” to families receiving assistance.[38] Since a third of those registered with the Fund were French Canadians attracting volunteers who could visit these families was a priority and with the help from the Féderation nationale St Jean Baptiste, seventy-two French speaking volunteers were recruited to carry out “friendly” visits.[39] This army of unpaid labour was directed by Helen Reid, a member of the first class of women to graduate from McGill, who had forged a career as a social worker and public health activist. Reid, co-founder of the Charity Organization Society was a firm believer in the virtues of “friendly visiting” for hospital outpatients and families receiving financial assistance.[40] The system, Reid argued, was the most effective way of preventing fraud as well as offering advice and support to worthy families. To be worthy women who had suddenly become heads of families were required to avoid bad behavior defined in terms of sexual impropriety and alcohol. Reid and her volunteers do not appear to have been greatly concerned about the meagre sums distributed by the Patriotic Fund when counselling or investigating families. A soldier’s wife with two children received a “Separation Allowance” of $20.00 a month from the government in addition to fifty-cents a day of “assigned pay” deducted from their husband’s $1.10 a day. The Fund normally added another $15.00 bringing the total to $50.00 a month.[41]  Since many of the men and women active in the Montreal Branch of the Patriotic Fund had been involved in the 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit they knew that $600 a year in 1915 condemned a typical family to “a mere existence” in “unsanitary quarters, sometimes below street level”.[42] Herbert Ames argued that the absence of the father reduced the amount needed by the family justifying the policy but no evidence of actual costs was presented.[43]

Upper and middle class French Canadian women were mobilized by stressing the importance of assistance to France and Belgium. While the Canadian Red Cross urged women to donate money or to knit and sew on behalf of the soldiers of the British Empire, Montreal’s Croix Rouge, established in September 1914 by the Féderation Nationale, encouraged support for the women and children of France by raising money or joining one of the many sewing circles springing up in the city. By September 1915 the Croix Rouge working in “perfect harmony” with the Red Cross had made 100,000 articles of clothing for soldiers and civilians.[44]

Madame Gleason-Huguenin who served as President of the Croix Rouge (section Canadienne Francaise) was a regular contributor to the Federation’s newspaper La Bonne Parole and as “Madeleine” was the editor of the women’s page of La Patrie.[45] During the summer of 1915 Madeleine began to organize a Canadian version of the popular French movement to encourage women to write to soldiers serving at the front. The Marraines de Guerre (wartime godmothers) began as a patriotic attempt to sustain the morale of the French poilu by writing letters to men who had no family. It was to be a connection between a mother or sister figure but as newspapers became involved romance, “flirting at the front” transformed the movement.[46] Madame Hugenin did her best to prevent her marrianes from flirting, urging French Canadian women to “exercise a moral influence”[47] but as their numbers grew supervision was clearly impossible. Late in 1915 Madeleine extended her program to French Canadian soldiers.


One Montreal community that had kept a low profile during the first year of the war also mobilized during June of 1915. Italians, the third largest minority in the city had followed the political situation at home since the outbreak of war. Italy insisted that membership in the Triple Alliance did not require participation in a war sparked by Austrian aggression and declared neutrality on 2 August 1914. In the months that followed there was much speculation about the prospects of Italy gaining Trieste and other Italian areas within the Austro-Hungarian Empire by war or diplomacy. Would Berlin persuade Vienna to compromise or would London and Paris persuade Rome to open a new front? The British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey won the day negotiating a treaty that promised to meet Italian territorial demands when the war was won. The Italian government also gained a promise that the Vatican would be excluded from any peace conference, a commitment the British and French were only too willing to make.[48] The declaration of war was far from universally popular in Italy but in North America Italians rallied to the cause and hundreds of young men gathered in Montreal where arrangements to send reservists and volunteers to Italy being organized.[49]

Montreal’s mass circulation newspapers naturally endorsed the actions of the Italian government hoping that opening a new front would shorten the war. Their endorsement drew a heated response from Henri Bourassa who attacked the “servility” of the press for supporting an extension of the war which would threaten the Vatican and the policy of neutrality advocated by Pope Benedict.[50] This editorial essay appeared in Le Devoir just as the Italian community was organizing a mass meeting at the Champs de Mars. The principal speaker at the evening rally, the Reverent Liborio Lattoni, a poet and passionate Italian nationalist who was also a Methodist Minister,[51] was later to claim that while he criticized Bourassa he tried to prevent the crowd from demonstrating in front Le Devoir. If so few listened. A chanting mob stoned the building, breaking most of the windows, an event Bourassa described the next day as “Le sac du Devoir”. This editorial added fuel to the fire with its description of a “brutal attack” by a band of “Calabrais et Napoltains” who paradoxically were said to earn better salaries than French Canadians while relying on “our” convents and St Vincent de Paul society to get through the winter. Bourassa claimed the attack demonstrated that French Canadians now had to fear for their freedom of expression in Quebec as they did in the rest of Canada. French Canadians, he insisted, had the right to support the policies of the Vatican against those of Republican Italy.[52] La Croix agreed with Bourassa but predictably saw “Italy’s treason” as a plot by Freemasons.[53]

Bourassa’s confrontation with the Italian community was largely ignored by the other daily newspapers who continued to minimize the significance of a man they regarded as a provocateur. La Presse reported the incident but the newspaper, which Bourassa had been singled out for “servility” devoted considerable space to Italy’s war effort and carried a daily war summary, in Italian, on its front page. La Patrie offered a mild defence of free speech deploring violence but continued to applaud the Italian intervention and the patriotism of the city’s Italian community. The Editor of the Montreal Witness best expressed the views of English-speaking Montreal in an editorial condemning the attack in principle while emphasizing that the proper course of action was to avoid giving Bourassa any prominence as “nothing better suited him.”[54]

In July 1915 the decision to add fourteen new battalions to the CEF was announced. The Militia Department feared that finding the additional men would not be easy. The height requirements for recruits were lowered so that men under 5’3” could enroll. An even more important measure was the creation of the Canadian Dental Corps which permitted men with bad teeth to be treated after enlistment.[55] Vision standards, another major cause of rejections were also modified. The rules requiring a wife’s consent for husbands and a parent’s consent for eighteen year olds were dropped as was the escape clause that permitted men who had attested from changing their mind and leaving the army.[56] The new standards increased the pool of potential recruits especially if men who had previously volunteered and been rejected could be persuaded to volunteer again.[57]

Another measure designed to encourage attestation was a card designed by the Canadian Patriotic Fund to be distributed to potential recruits. The answer to the question “What will my wife receive during my absence? Was $20.00 a month separation allowance (also part of your pay) and if this is not enough to comfortably maintain your family the Canadian Patriotic Fund will further assist your family.” Recruits were also told that if they were to die there would be “an adequate pension, that will enable the family to live comfortably, until the children are old enough to look after themselves.”[58] Both of these statements were to prove to be empty promises but they may have played a role in encouraging enlistment.

The changes may help to explain the rapid recruitment of a new English-language unit, the 73rd Royal Highlanders of Canada.[59] Montreal’s Highland Regiment had already raised two overseas battalions, the 13th and 42nd but when Sam Hughes proposed creating a third “Black Watch” battalion the Regimental seniors quickly agreed. The 73rd Battalion was commanded by Lieut-Colonel Peers Davidson K.C. the son of Sir Charles Peers Davidson, former Chief Justice of the Province of Quebec. With an Imperial Guards veteran as Regimental Sergeant Major, sergeant instructors from the Permanent Force and ample funds to aid enlistment the battalion quickly took shape. By 30 September after less than a month of recruiting eight hundred men had attested. At the end of 1915 the 73rd was at full strength but just 377 of the 1155 men on the Nominal Roll were born in Canada.[60] Trying to train in a rainy autumn at Valcartier made little sense and both the 73rd and 60th returned to Montreal for the winter to reside in rented buildings hastily converted to barracks. Both battalions left for England in March 1916 to be greeted with news that they would be broken up to provide reinforcements. Gascoigne and Davidson fought an energetic and ultimately successful battle to reverse this decision, replacing less influential battalions in the 4th Division order of battle.[61]

French-language battalions could not draw upon the British-born to fill the ranks or to provide experienced sergeant-instructors. They also lacked a reservoir of trained militia officers. This problem was compounded for the 41st when five of the most experienced officers were selected to serve with the 250 man, “Reinforcing Draft” which all battalions forming in Canada were required to send overseas in the summer of 1915.[62] Since the 41st had already provided 100 men to the 22nd Battalion, the new battalion commander, Louis-Henri Archambault had his work cut out for him. Unfortunately Archambault proved to be a specially incompetent and corrupt individual who made little attempt to discipline or train the men who were quartered in the Immigration Sheds at Quebec City.[63] Historian Desmond Morton’s detailed description of “The Short Unhappy Life of the 41st Battalion” suggests that the army’s experience with the 41st, which included two separate murder cases while the unit was training in England, may have been a factor in decisions to reject requests for additional French-language combat battalions. Perhaps, but as Morton himself argues “long before the outbreak of war in 1914 the Canadian militia had become predominantly English-speaking in composition and British in tradition”.[64] This reality better explains the decision to limit French Canadian participation in the first contingent to a single company and then to abolish it, disbursing the men throughout the battalion.[65] Political pressure forced the army to accept the 22nd Battalion but there was no desire to add the 41st or any other French-language battalion, never mind a French Canadian brigade.

The problems facing the 41st Battalion were further complicated when the Militia Department decided, to create a new French Canadian Battalion, with headquarters at Valcartier. Hughes selected Lieut-Colonel Etienne-Theodore Paquet, a Quebec City lawyer from a prominent Conservative family to command the 57th. Paquet had reached the rank of major in the Regiment de Lévis while serving as an Inspector of Cadets.[66] Paquet received permission to recruit throughout the province and promptly established a depot in Montreal under Major Henri-Thomas Scott a man of extraordinary talent and energy. Scott was in charge of physical education for the Montreal’s Catholic School Commission and had organized gymnastic competitions throughout Quebec, taking his best students to Rome, 1908 and 1913, as well as France and Belgium in 1911. The success of his young athletes attracted international attention and made Scott a well-known personality in Montreal. According to his biographer many of those who enlisted were his former students.[67]

The 57th had barely begun to get organized when the order to provide a 250 man reinforcement draft arrived. Those men together with five officers, all with militia experience, left for England in July 1915 leaving the 57th vulnerable when the Camp Valcartier Commandant, recommended the merger of the 41st and 57th. After vigorous protests the 57th was allowed to continue recruiting but only after transferring more than 600 men to the 41st.[68] This allowed the 41st to embark for England with a full complement of officers and men but did nothing to solve the chronic problems caused by the poor leadership of Lieut-Colonel Archambault and some his officers.[69]

According to Major-General Sam Steele, who had to deal with the chaos created by the 41st in England, “at least 17 of the battalion’s officers were unfit” but the men, including a company of Russians who spoke little French or English, simply needed a few more competent junior leaders. Steele noted that after Archambault’s dismissal Major R.C. Bouchard took charge of the training. Bouchard asked for “twelve good NCOs” insisting “it did not matter what language they speak”.[70] Despite signs of improvement the 41st was disbanded in March 1916. Many of the men and a few of the officers would later serve in Belgium and France including 428 who fought with the 22nd.[71]

Scott was determined to rebuild the 57th, seeking recruits in rural Quebec as well as Montreal. One of his projects, a “Festival” at Parc Sohmer to raise money for recruiting and instruments for a band, attracted “thousands” of supporters. The Parc Sohmer rally occurred one night after a group of young men had disturbed a recruiting meeting in Lafontaine Park. This time when the heckling began, Major Scott and some of his comrades confronted them. According to the Gazette “he told them if they wanted trouble it was waiting for them but if they wished to address the crowd they could wait their turn and would be given a chance…but nothing more was heard from them.”

Scott’s real challenge came from Hughes’ decision to authorize another Montreal-based French-language battalion, the 69th, commanded by Adolphe Dansereau, the young veteran of “Langemarck”.[72] A locally famous twenty-four year old might serve to attract recruits but was he a suitable commanding officer? It mattered little to Sam Hughes who was now fully committed to raising as many battalions as he could. Did Hughes believe that these units would, as he frequently promised, stay together overseas in an ever expanding army or was a “confidence trick” designed to produce reinforcements?[73] Either way the initial reaction to the 69th was positive, eclipsing the efforts of the 57th Battalion which sailed to England as a detachment of 419 men.[74]

The 69th was actively supported by both La Presse and La Patrie which provided recruiting facilities and much publicity. Dansereau’s father, an editor at La Presse, also provided modest financial assistance though there was never the kind of money available to English language units. By October the battalion was training at Valcartier. The normal wastage of recruits deemed medically unfit or unlikely to become effective soldiers, together with the constant problem of men absent without leave meant that recruiting continued after the battalion moved to winter quarters in St John, New Brunswick.[75] The 69th was at full strength when it left Canada in April 1916. Once in England the battalion became part of the 40,000 strong “reserve division” commanded by Major-General Steele at Shorncliffe. Steele noted that both the battalion and its commanding officer were exceeding expectations[76] but it was too late to include the 69th in the 4th Division’s Order of Battle. After Courcelette more than 400 men were sent to reinforce the 22nd Battalion and the remainder were merged with the 23rd Reserve Battalion. Dansereau returned to Canada.[77]

The 1st Regiment “The Grenadier Guards of Canada” had already contributed a large number of men to other local battalions but Hughes allowed it to recruit a new unit, to be known as the 87th Canadian Grenadier Guards. Lieut-Colonel Frank Meighen, who commanded the 14th Battalion at Second Ypres, returned from France to lead the 87th and brought two senior warrant officers home with him. There were scores of officer candidates, more than 100 applied for 34 positions. There was no shortage of money or energy for the recruiting campaign with scarlet-dressed drummers from the regimental band joining the recruiting teams, but relatively few Montrealers proved able or willing to join the 87th which sought “Guardsmen” who were at least 5’7” tall. Competition with a new Eastern Townships battalion, the 117th, limited recruits from that area to 219 men so the campaign was extended to Ontario and the west. Fewer than one third of the battalion’s other ranks were from Montreal but for the first time British-born volunteers were in a minority, just over forty percent of the rank and file.[78]

During the summer and fall of 1915 a steady flow of volunteers joined the army which grew beyond its authorized strength of 150,000. Borden agreed to raise the total to 250,000 in late October and Hughes began to plan a further expansion boasting he could raise ten divisions, half a million men.[79]  As the second winter of the war loomed ahead and the new medical standards took full effect 1000 men a day were said to be enlisting.[80] By years’ end 212,690 men were enrolled in the CEF with 120,000 overseas. Enlistment in the fall of 1915 may have been influenced by the public response to the execution of Edith Cavell. Cavell a British nurse who worked as the Matron of a Brussels Hospital joined the Belgium Red Cross on the outbreak of war treating wounded soldiers, but also assisting the escape of some 200 British soldiers into the Netherlands. She was arrested and charged with the crime of violating the rules of war by aiding the enemy. During her two month imprisonment her case was widely publicized in Britain, Canada and the United States. After weeks of solitary confinement without access to a lawyer she and a Belgian colleague Phillipe Bracy were tried, found guilty and executed by firing squad. All popular Montreal newspapers followed the case and expressed outrage at her execution.


The issue was kept alive throughout the early months of 1916 partly because of an interview with the German military governor of Belgium. Baron von Bissing was unrepentant and tone deaf. He told a New York World reporter that he could not understand why the world was so interested in the case as “the Cavell woman” who was guilty of aiding soldiers to escape. “With all the thousands of innocent people who have died in the war why should anyone become hysterical over the death of one guilty woman?” When told that even in Berlin the execution was viewed as a political blunder von Bissing replied, “Sometimes people make mountains out of molehills and sometimes molehills turn out to be mountains.”[81] Revenge for the death of Nurse Cavell became a rallying cry that is said to have influenced men to volunteer in Canada as well as Britain.[82]

The surge of enlistments and broad public support for Canada’s war effort encouraged the Minister of Militia to propose the formation of a fifth and then a sixth Canadian division creating a two corps Canadian Army.[83] He therefore announced that eighty-two new battalions would be authorized and encouraged unit officers to believe that if they recruited to full strength they would serve together on the western front. Since two new divisions could only absorb twenty-four battalions Hughes was encouraging a ruinous competition between units in the same city or region. The Prime Minister, who ought to have known better, endorsed Hughes’ plans and issued a New Years statement pledging that Canada would now seek to enlist 500,000 men.

The decision to raise the authorized strength of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to half a million men caught everyone by surprise. As the Montreal Witness noted that “what has been done in the way of enlistment since the beginning of the war will now have to be duplicated”. This “gigantic task” will require that “between six and seven percent of the total population will be rendering military service”.[84] Borden’s New Year’s statement did not indicate whether he wanted a total of 500,000 volunteers or was establishing the strength of the CEF at half a million men. Borden was still delegating such details to Hughes and neither man seems to have understood what exactly they were proposing.[85] Normal “trench wastage” and sickness required a steady flow of replacements to maintain a 70,000 man Canadian corps without considering the impact of casualties from a major battle. Continuing to create new battalions each with its own cadre of inexperienced officers who would add to the already large number of unemployed officers in England was not the best way of responding to the challenges the Canadians would face in the last six months of 1916.


The plan to add 250,000 men to the CEF led a number of business leaders to demand a more rational system of recruiting to limit the enrollment of skilled workers. Unlike the Derby Scheme, instituted in England in the fall of 1915 to encourage enlistment, Canadian employers were concerned that the flood of volunteers would jeopardize both the farm and factory economies. Before monthly enrollment peaked in March 1916 at 33,900 men[86] fears of labour shortages led the President of the CPR to challenge the government’s approach to recruiting. Shaugnessy’s warning was given at a meeting of the Montreal Board of Trade called at “the request of local military leaders… to learn what further should be done to carry out the present scheme of warfare and improve recruiting”. Board of Trade President H. B. Walker introduced the speakers suggesting that “the time had come to consider how far we can go in this without in some measure depleting our ability to carry on the necessary business of the country and especially the supplying of stores and munitions of war. There must be a point where we cannot send any more men without impairing our position at home.”

Lord Thomas Shaugnessy

Sam Hughes then rose greeted by “applause which speedily broke into cheers”. The Minister of Militia avoided Walker’s question delivering one of his typical recruiting speeches declaring that “with proper presentation” and the co-operation of business men with the Citizen’s Recruiting Association “not 50,000 men but 70,000 “ could be secured from the Montreal region. Introduced as the country’s “first businessman” the CPR President, recently elevated to the peerage as Lord Shaugnessy of Montreal, expressed his admiration for Hughes’ “enthusiastic energy and earnestness”. However Shaugnessy bluntly rejected the notion that Montreal could enroll 70,000 men, ten percent of its population and doubted that raising 500,000 men nationally was “a practicable suggestion.”

We have many duties to perform. First we have our contribution to the Army of the Empire. Then we have our work as manufactures of munitions… Then we have our agricultural work – we must help to feed the British nation – Then there is another thing of little less importance – finance. If we were to raise 500,000 or add 225,000 to our present army, we would be making a draft upon the working population of this country that would be seriously felt…

Shaugnessy argued for an immediate slowdown in recruiting, concentrating on “units approaching completion rather than starting more new battalions every day, a competition that cannot have but bad results.”[87] Hughes dismissed the speech as “piffle” while Borden saw it as a direct attack upon his government already under pressure from an opposition bent on exploiting the “Shell Scandal,”[88] but Shaugnessy knew whereof he spoke. The rapid growth of the munitions industry and war orders for other sectors of the economy meant that the days of large scale unemployment were coming to an end and as Canada’s leading transportation and manufacturing centre Montreal was ahead of the curve. Production of shells, fuses and an array of war-related items was absorbing all available male and female labour.

Assembly department, British Munitions Supply Co. Ltd. Verdun

Beginning in November 1915 the Montreal correspondents of the Labour Gazette reported heavy demands for both men and women in a wide variety of industries. There was “general prosperity” in a steel and large orders for other firms, so much so that in January 1916 Dominion Textiles gave its 7000 employees a five percent wage increase in hope of holding workers who might flee to the munitions plants.[89] May 1916 was described as “one of the best months for Montreal manufacturers and for all classes of labour.”[90] One study of employment patterns estimated that by mid-1916 20,000 men and 10,000 women were employed in the city’s munitions plants while other industries were seeking additional workers,[91] especially after the new Imperial Munitions Board opened its factory in Verdun.[92]

Shaugnessy’s view received a polite hearing but few were convinced and a motion encouraging employers to co-operate with recruiters by supplying lists of eligible employees was proposed. When Leo Doyon, a French Canadian member, sought to amend the motion proposing that “no further action be taken to accelerate Canada’s share in the war” his intervention was met with “hisses and cries of dissent.” The Chair refused to consider the amendment which he declared was “an insult to any man of intelligence”.[93]

The Desloges Sisters

Doyon did not mention the tense situation in Ottawa in the preamble to his amendment but the ongoing struggle between the Desloges sisters and the Ontario government dramatized and personalized the school question as never before. Béatrice and Diane Desloges, lay teachers at the Guignes school, simply ignored the rules imposed by Regulation 17. When, in October 1915, they were removed from the school the young women invited parents to bring their children to improvised classrooms, then in early January 1916, hundreds of women, parents and their friends, surrounded the school and occupied it. Throughout the first months of 1916 the defence of the school and the Desloges sisters were frequently front page news forcing Laurier and the Quebec Liberals to assume leadership of a movement that was uniting French Canadians of all political persuasions.[94]

Laurier encouraged one of his most promising Quebec MPs, Ernest Lapointe,[95] to introduce a resolution which read,

that this House; especially at this time of universal sacrifice and anxiety, when all energies should be concentrated on winning the war, would while fully recognizing the principle of Provincial Rights and the necessity of every child being given a thorough English education, respectfully suggest to the Legislative Assembly (of Ontario) the wisdom of making it clear that the privilege of the children of French parentage of being taught in their mother tongue not be interfered with.

Lapointe and after him Laurier made the case for a compromise that would permit the use of French in Ontario schools. Quoting Egerton Ryerson, the father of public education in Ontario, they endorsed Ryerson’s view that “it is quite proper and lawful for the trustees to allow both languages to be taught in their schools…”[96]Asking for acceptance of the French fact in Ontario without claiming a constitutional right did not satisfy the nationalists but did allow Laurier to take control of the issue in Quebec, providing a “sheet anchor” in his struggle with Bourassa. As he told his former colleague W. S. Fielding “If I were to remain silent under such circumstances I would certainly lose my own self-esteem and respect.”[97] The debate over the Lapointe Resolution illustrated the deep divisions in the country but Laurier was able to retain the support of almost all his Ontario MPs and prepare ground for the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. The Law Lords declared that while Regulation 17 was within the powers of the province, the takeover of the Ottawa Separate School Board was unconstitutional. This apparent compromise together with the Papal Encyclical requiring Canadian Catholics to maintain unity and place religion ahead of language ended the legal battle and diffused the conflict.[98]

The Lapointe Resolution led directly to the Bonne Entente movement initiated in June 1916 by Ontario Liberals who proposed sending a delegation of prominent citizens to Quebec to establish “friendly intercourse and mutual respect.” The delegation arrived in Quebec in October and was well received. A Quebec delegation then travelled to Ontario before differences over national registration and conscription put an end to the movement.[99]

Nineteen Sixteen proved to be one of the most prosperous years in the city’s history. The Dominion government’s decision to finance the war through borrowing mean that inflation was inevitable once the country’s unemployed and underutilized industrial capacity were put to work.[100] This became evident in 1916 as rising prices began to gradually erode wage gains. However for most wage earners full time employment and strong demand for women and children in the work force increased family incomes.[101] The increasing employment of children under fourteen was noted by the provincial government’s Factory Inspectors who seemed powerless to prevent it. Louis Guyon’s 1916 report declared that “child labour remains the same unsolvable problem we have encountered… since 1886”, but the war was adding immeasurably to it.[102] The thousands of fourteen to sixteen year olds in the work force were of course not officially children.

Between the spring of 1916 and May 1917 when the decision to introduce conscription was announced Montrealers seemed to have tuned out the war or at least turned down the volume. News of the fighting at Mont Sorrel, Courcelette and Vimy was reported in most newspapers but stories of heroism, sacrifice and death no longer inspired young men to enlist. Existing discussions of manpower issues fail to recognize that the key question was how to persuade a larger proportion of 19 – 24 year olds to volunteer. Nationally more than 75,000 men turned 19 each year suggesting that there was no shortage of young, single civilians in 1916. Roughly 19,000 of these lived in the Province of Quebec, including 8,000 in Montreal. Some 24,000 Montrealers had come of age since the outbreak of the war joining a similar number of 22 – 24 year olds as prime candidates for military service.[103] While some of these had already enlisted the large majority continued their lives as civilians.

Business as Usual

Apparently full employment in a city where sports, entertainment, alcohol and sensual pleasures were readily available did little to encourage enlistment or focus attention on a distant and seemingly endless conflict. On a typical summer weekend, track meets, baseball games, lacrosse, soccer and horse races captured the attention of young men. Both Parc Sohmer and Dominion Park were in full swing with attractions, concerts and vaudeville acts. King Edward Park reached by boats from the Pie IX pier, added horse races to its summer schedule. Sports rivalry between French and English-speaking Montrealers added spice to contests such as a lacrosse match between the Shamrocks and Nationals which drew 5,000 spectators in July.[104]

Movies were more popular than ever with stars like Charlie Chaplin and Lilian Gish featured in performances across the city. Montreal’s appetite for movie palaces led American theatre chains to invest heavily in the city. Construction of the Theatre St. Denis, at a reported cost of $200,000, was finished in time for a March 1916 opening. With 3000 seats it was the largest and most luxurious theatre in Canada. Owned by the Keith-Albee company the St. Denis was aimed at an east end audience with both signage and subtitles in French. Le Pays described this as an innovation in Montreal theatres. A second American company, United Amusement, opened the 1,100 seat Regent in the same month to attract audiences from the rapidly expanding Plateau area.[105] Movie theatres required music and Montreal pianists and composers played rag time and two step for silent films and the dance halls that were especially popular. The less savory offered “private lessons at all hours” but during the city’s long winters dances were regular features at the Ritz Carlton as well as the downtown dance palaces. Weekly newspapers such as Montreal qui chante and Passe Temps provided news, gossip and above all the sheet music that allowed composers to get their work before the public.[106]

Despite the best efforts of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and Anglo-Protestant temperance advocates prohibition, which was drying out the rest of Canada made little headway in Montreal. One merchant boasted that he had acquired stocks of liquor from Manitoba and Ontario to sell at bargain prices.[107] Alcohol helped to fuel the city’s flourishing night life with hotels, cafés and retail stores competing with blind pigs and brothels for customers at all hours. Housing hundreds, sometimes thousands of soldiers, in improvised barracks helped to insure there were customers for the bars, vaudeville shows and the city’s notorious Red Light District. Civic and religious authorities were deeply divided over what to do with a growing sex industry and rising rates of venereal disease. In the summer of 1916 both Mayor Méderic Martin and the leading English-speaking member of the Board of Control argued for the recognition and regulation of the Red Light District to protect public health. Controller Ross insisted that “the social evil will always exist, the best we can do now is limit the field of action, limit contamination, regulate and inspect”. Le Pays, which supported regulation, criticized opponents for claiming that “segregation does not segregate” while insisting that “prohibition will prohibit”.[108]

Montreal’s tolerance for illegal activities was tested the same month when complaints about a private club operating on St. Hubert Street, “one of the smartest French Canadian residential sections of the city,” forced the police to raid the premises. The club was said to have operated on Notre Dame Street for at least three years before moving up town, where it was placed under surveillance. Two “secret service men” from New York were brought in to mingle with members and gather evidence. On the night of the raid a visitor accidentally tripped a warning bell on the third step, allowing a “dozen or so, young men, all in their teens” to flee before the police arrived. Eight men including the organizer, E. L. Carreau, a well-known proprietor of a religious supplies store, were arrested and charged with “gross indecency”. The Carreau affair became the talk of the town particularly after the men paid $50.00 bail and were set free allowing Carreau to flee to the United States. Most of the French-language newspapers reported the bare bones of the story leaving the juicy details to the Star, Herald and Standard. Le Canard, the satirical weekly, could not resist exploiting the story and kept it alive for some weeks, while Le Pays, in full anti-clerical mode, tied Carreau to the Church.[109]

Battalions Aplenty

Montrealers clearly had other things on their mind when Sam Hughes authorized a number of new battalions to begin recruiting in Montreal. The English-speaking population, which had provided several thousand men in 1915, was first to fill the ranks of the 148th Battalion which was affiliated with McGill University in the hope that students, and recent graduates would come forward. Lieut-Colonel Alan Magee, a McGill graduate and COTC instructor was given command and he drew twenty of his thirty-one officers from the university’s OTC.[110] Otherwise recruiting proved to be a difficult and lengthy task. By late February 1916 less than half the required numbers had enlisted and Magee told an audience gathered at His Majesty’s Theatre that “We have tried to stir up the patriotism of Montreal but it seems as though we must give up because there is nothing left to stir”. Montreal’s recruiting record, Magee insisted, “is simply rotten.”[111] When the battalion left Canada in September 1916 there were 36 officers and 951 other ranks on the embarkation list. Just forty percent of whom were born in Canada and less than half of these were from the city. After drafts of 250 men were sent to reinforce three of Montreal’s front line battalions, the 148th was disbanded and absorbed by the 20th Reserve Battalion. Magee served as a staff officer for the balance of the war.


Four French Canadian battalions also began recruiting early in the new year. The 150th, affiliated with the Carabiniers Mont Royal, was commanded by Lieut-Colonel Hercule Barré who had been wounded at Langemarck and then survived the sinking of the ship returning him to Canada.  Barré had helped save women and children found waiting in their cabins as the Hesperian went down and was lauded as a hero in Montreal.[112] Unfortunately the battalion lacked capable officers and NCOs while Barré himself was said to be “unstable” and unwilling to involve himself in the details of training and the maintenance of discipline.[113] The 150th never came close to full strength and despite “very bad feeling” between the units it was merged with another new battalion, 178th.[114] The 515 men eventually enrolled, provided reinforcements to the 22nd and four English language battalions.[115] Barré protested the decision to send his men to English-language units as they had a “very poor command of English” and will “risk punishment for inadequately carrying out order, the full purport of which they do not understand.”[116] This was not an issue the military was prepared to address.[117]

Olivar Asselin

The history of the 163rd Battalion, known as “poil-aux-pattes” or “Hairy Paws”[118], is intertwined with the story of Olivar Asselin’s personal decision to enlist and to take the lead in raising a battalion for overseas service. Asselin, one of the founders of the nationalist movement, was, up until December 1915, devoting his considerable energies to supporting the cause of the Franco-Ontarian minority. During the fall of 1915 he published a series of articles in Jules Fournier’s newspaper L’Action criticizing the editor of the L’Action Catholique for “seeking to make the French-Canadian bishops popular at London and Rideau Hall” by urging moderation on the Ontario school question and endorsing the war effort.[119] All of this was in tune with Asselin’s anti-clerical views, opposition to the government’s war policy and commitment to French language rights.

Asselin’s nationalist and anti-clerical credentials were beyond dispute but he was also an ardent Francophile who had earlier offered to enlist in the Canadian Army as an interpreter. When Ottawa ignored his request he tried to enlist in the French army.[120] By December 1915 Asselin was determined to go to war and he accepted a commission as a major, second-in-command to the veteran Henri DesRosiers one of the original group of 65th Regiment officers who had served with the 14th Battalion at Ypres. Asselin spoke to a large crowd at the Monument National in January 1916 explaining his decision to enroll. Describing the importance of France “whose defeat would condemn us her children of America to drag out henceforth diminished lives” resonated with many in the audience but phrases such as we “march for British institutions, because by themselves and independently of the half-civilized persons who apply the today in Ontario they are worth fighting force” prompted “shouts and hisses from the gallery”. Asselin responded declaring he felt sorry for young men who could not distinguish between fighting for a great principle and the local issues that had taken possession of their minds.[121]

DesRosiers returned from France to lead the 163rd with Asselin in charge of recruiting. By April 1916 the battalion was close to full strength but after Sam Hughes authorized another battalion, the 206th, to recruit in Montreal and share the Guy Street barracks a crisis atmosphere quickly developed. The commander of the 206th, Tancrède Pagneulo, Conservative politician and militia officer, invited volunteers to join the 206th because it was to be “the last to leave Canada and the first to profit from victory.” When Asselin drew attention to Pagneulo’s recruiting campaign and the poor discipline in the 206th[122]Hughes simply ignored the problems and suggested the 163rd replace the 38th Battalion in Bermuda. Desrosiers and Asselin welcomed the opportunity to get away from Montreal and train the 163rd but when the battalion embarked for Bermuda, in May, 197 men quit the battalion leaving just 663 men on strength.[123] While in Bermuda, the officer commanding the garrison, an aging and infirm Lieut-General, inspected the battalion. His report, sent to the War Office in London described the 163rd as “perfect novices”, untrained and lacking officers or NCOs capable of giving instruction. The language barrier made the situation especially difficult but poor discipline and problems due to the availability of cheap rum played into the situation.[124] The 163rd returned to Canada before sailing to England with 38 officers and 822 other ranks.[125]

Asselin tried to save the 163rd from the fate of other battalions broken up for reinforcements. His letter to the Prime Minister asked for “a draft of 200 to 300 men” to bring the 163rd to full strength, “a favour which I believe our record so far and the fact that only one French Canadian battalion as yet has been allowed to reach the front trenches entitles us too.”[126] Neither Borden or Hughes made any attempt to assist the 163rd which was disbanded soon after arriving in England.

Hughes continued to authorize the formation of new battalions across Canada including Quebec.[127] Few of them would succeed in recruiting to full strength and almost all were disbanded in England with the men joining the reinforcement stream. Inevitably hundreds more unilingual French Canadians were sent to English-language battalions to adjust as best they could. While it is impossible to demonstrate what might have happened if a rational system had been in place in Montreal, it is reasonable to suggest that there were sufficient French-speaking volunteers to establish a second and perhaps third full strength battalion, what was lacking was the will to do this.

The challenges facing recruiters in the summer of 1916 were multiplied when long lists of casualties and graphic accounts of another German onslaught on Canadians defending the Ypres Salient appeared in the newspapers. Casualty reports were headed with the names of officers and men from Montreal in numbers the city had not witnessed since May 1915.[128] Stories about individuals and families in mourning appeared regularly and as always attention was focused on prominent individuals. The death of Major-General Malcolm Mercer, who commanded 3rd Division, and the capture of Brigadier Victor Williams were widely reported as was the loss of Lieut-Colonel Harry Baker, a well known Eastern Townships businessman and Member of Parliament, who was killed when two battalions of the Canadian Mounted Rifles were overrun in Sanctuary Wood.[129] The Princess Patricias shared their fate and many of the casualties were young men from the University Companies sent over to reinforce the battalion in 1916. For McGill University, Sanctuary Wood was the costliest single engagement of the war.[130]

The June battles, collectively known as Mount Sorrel, led to another clash between Canadian and British officers. The Minister of Militia gave an interview to an Ottawa Journal reporter criticizing the decision to hold the apex of the salient and allowed publication of a letter he had written Kitchener in March 1916 before the Canadians took over the sector. Hughes wrote that he had “met a number of Canadian officers” who stated that as “there are no proper trenches or protections, a complete new defensive line will have to be made.” Instead of holding on to a position subject to fire from two or three sides they recommended since “Ypres is no longer fit for habitation” the new line should be straightened taking in Ypres.[131] The Prime Minister shared Hughes’ view of the battle and sent a telegram to Canada’s High Commissioner in London protesting the defence of a “dangerous and useless salient”.[132]

The interview and letter were not the only critical commentaries published in Montreal. The Gazette carried a detailed account written by Lieut-Col J. W. Bridges who had returned to Canada after serving as the senior medical officer in 3rd Division. “The portion of the British front held by 3rd Division” was, he declared, “known as a death trap… spread out like a fan into the German lines…” If the enemy attacked “there was no way out, the retreat being smothered by shell fire while the other guns pound the front trenches.”[133] There were of course articles casting the events in traditional terms with an emphasis on valour and worthy sacrifice but there was no attempt to turn Mount Sorrel into the kind of moral victory that had characterized discourse about Second Ypres. Memorial Church services were noticeably low key compared to 1915. The mood in the city must have contributed to the problems encountered by the new English-language battalions struggling to fill their ranks.


During 1915 the Militia Department authorized the formation of several “Pioneer” battalions, described as units that would “work with engineers in forward areas consolidating positions captured by infantry”.[134]  Fitness standards were lower and the first two units organized in Winnipeg and Guelph recruited to full strength without difficulty. The 5th Battalion, organized in Montreal between March and November 1916, got off to a good start drawing upon men who had previous joined the Canadian Engineer Militia unit established in Verdun near the Grand Trunk Railway Shops. The recruiting posters declared that the 5th was a “special battalion” which would “build bridges, railroads and highways”. Engineering students and artisans were invited to join and promised “you will have money in the bank upon your return.”[135] It proved impossible to find enough volunteers to form a complete battalion but by November there were over 600 men available for embarkation. Most of the volunteers were born in Britain but less than one third gave next of kin addresses in the United Kingdom.[136] The 5th Pioneer Battalion was absorbed by the 5th Divisional Engineers in England.


The 244th Battalion announced as “Kitchener’s Own”, after the death of the iconic British Field Marshal, drowned in the sinking of HMS Hampshire on route to Russia, was to be a third Victoria Rifles battalion, commanded by Lieut-Colonel Frederick Mackenzie McRobie, a well-known Montreal sports figure. There was no difficulty in finding officers from the McGill COTC and the militia but despite a well-financed recruiting campaign across the province just 604 men were enrolled.[137] The 244th left for England in May 1917 to join the reinforcement stream.[138]

The 245th, Canadian Grenadier Guards also competed for English language recruits in the summer of 1916. The Guards persuaded Charles C Ballantyne, the paint millionaire (Sherwin-Williams) to command the battalion which had ample funds, $30,000, for a recruiting campaign. The history of the Grenadier Guards describes the results.

Recruiting efforts were directed chiefly to the Montreal and district, although recruiting parties were also sent to Quebec, Sherbrooke and the Eastern Townships. A committee of prominent business men… was formed to assist recruiting but with the other infantry and specialist units being raised simultaneously in the district great difficulty was experienced in obtaining recruits… Public meetings were an absolute failures… it was becoming abundantly clear that no further substantial response need be expected under the voluntary system.[139]

The Regiment reported  that their officers and NCOs had personally canvased approximately 5000 apparently fit and able men, persuading 1200 of them to be examined by  medical officer. Of these 490 were taken on strength to begin training at the Peel Barracks, the former Montreal High School. When the 245th left for England in April 1917 the unit had lost half its strength with just 259 other ranks available. Many officers were left behind as it was evident the detachment would be used to reinforce the 87th Battalion.[140] Ballantyne returned to Canada and was elected on the Unionist platform in 1917 election serving as Minister of Marine in the new cabinet.[141]

The history of the other Montreal battalion recruited in 1916, the 199th Irish Canadian Rangers, is of special interest as it links the city’s Irish communities with the dramatic events associated with the Easter Rebellion in Dublin and its aftermath. The decision to transform the 55th Militia Regiment into an overseas battalion was sparked by the transfer of a full strength Irish company to the 60th Battalion in the summer of 1915. Lieut-Colonel Trihey proposed that since large numbers of Irish-Canadians were enlisting it was time to organize an overseas battalion made up exclusively of men of Irish descent. Sam Hughes pledged that the Rangers would be sent to the front as a unit under their own leaders and it was on this basis that recruiting began. The first 300 men, the vast majority of whom were members of the 55th, attested in March and April 1916 before news of the Easter Rebellion in Dublin reached Montreal. Of those who listed a religious affiliation 145 were Roman Catholics and 125 Protestants fulfilling the plan to enroll Irishmen regardless of religion. Most were native-born Montrealers but 92 were born in England or Scotland and 18 in Ireland.[142]

MAW-00227    MAW-00042

The Easter Uprising was presented to Montrealers as a German-inspired rebellion with Sir Roger Casement as the prime villain. The Montreal Star’s initial headline “Twelve Killed in Riots Fathered by Germans in Dublin” was followed by stories outlining Casement’s efforts to recruit Irish prisoners of war to join a rebellion and his efforts to provide arms to the rebels.[143] The Standard provided detailed coverage of the uprising emphasizing the German connection, Casement’s links to Irish American Sinn Feiners and John Redmond’s statement urging true Irish Nationalists to support the authorities.[144] The French language popular press told a similar story but Le Devoir, which had long sought to link the nationalist cause in Ireland with French Canadian nationalism, favoured critical articles on British imperial policy in Ireland. Le Nationaliste went further, publishing a cartoon titled “Riel and Casement” suggesting that the execution of Casement for treason was another Riel affair.[145] The leaders of Montreal’s Roman Catholic Irish community were Redmonites and readily adopted his interpretation of the events. They continued to work closely with the city’s Irish Protestants and the influential Irish Protestant Benevolent Society.[146] The battalion’s motto Ouis Separabit (Who Shall Separate Us) and the striking recruiting poster with the words “All in One” superimposed on a map of Ireland accurately reflected the attitude of the community and the 199th “Irish and Canadian” battalion.

Le Nationalite, 6 August 1916

Two previous studies of the 199th, Robin Burns’ 1985 article “The Montreal Irish and the Great War” and Simon Jolivet’s book Le Vert et Le Bleu which presents a chapter on the 199th in the context of his study of French Canadians attitudes towards Ireland are of considerable interest but neither author had access to the Attestation Papers now available online at Library and Archives Canada. Their estimates of the religious and national composition of the 199th need to be revised.[147] The Attestation Papers demonstrate that more than eighty percent of those who enlisted in the 199th had previously served in the 55th Militia Regiment. Despite one of the most elaborate and well-publicized recruiting campaigns ever undertaken in the city less than 200 men, who were not already “Irish Rangers”, attested in 1916. Apparently hundreds of volunteers did come forward but were rejected on medical grounds.[148] The Attestation Papers also reveal that the proportion of Canadian-born was less than fifty percent and that in addition to large numbers of British-born the list includes Americans, Russians, and other Europeans. It is also evident that less than fifty percent of those recording a religious affiliation were Roman Catholics.[149] Irishness was apparently a matter of self-identification.

In November 1916, as the 199th prepared to embark for England, the battalion was inspected by Major-General F. L. Lessard. There was a full complement of officers and 860 men but on the day of the inspection over 300 men were away including 66 absent without leave. Lessard was not pleased, the unit, he reported “is fit for drafts only and will require a lot of work to make them fit for that”. Lieut-Colonel Trihey was described as “an officer of good standing with little or no military experience, he did not impress me as a capable officer nor fitted to command”. The second-in-command, Major F O’Brien was equally inexperienced and though a “hard worker” he was not fitted for promotion. The adjutant, Captain Thomas Shaugnessy was “very energetic with little experience or instruction”. The sergeants and warrant officers all lacked experience but they and the men on parade were strong and healthy. Lessard was also impressed by the potential of the company commanders especially Major Edward Knox-Leet[150], a Dublin-born Montrealer who had gone overseas with the Irish Ranger company of the 60th Battalion.[151]

Normally the British Cabinet and War Office tried to avoid involvement in Canadian military affairs fearful of rousing another quarrel with Sam Hughes but the temptation to use the Rangers as a propaganda tool in Ireland was irresistible. On 30 October 1916 Bonar Law, the Canadian-born, Colonial Secretary wrote to the Governor-General proposing the battalion visit Ireland. The idea was warmly embraced by Hughes, Doherty and the officers of the 199th. When the visit was cancelled bringing “very great disappointment” to the Canadians, the Governor-General, on behalf of the Cabinet, sought to persuade the War Office to make new arrangements and on 5 January 1917 the Colonial Secretary was able to announce the visit would begin in late January.[152]


Both British and Canadian military authorities in England supported the tour of Ireland but they were determined to enforce the policy requiring all formations arriving in England in 1917 to be broken up to join the reinforcement stream. After vigorous protests from Doherty and organizations like the Ancient Order of Hiberians, the 199th was given a reprieve and assigned to 5th Divsion but not before both Harry Trihey and his second-in-command had resigned in protest.[153] Lieut-Colonel G. V. O’Donahoe, one of the 55th Regiment’s originals, who won the Distinguished Service Order commanding the Irish company of the 60th Battalion, replaced Trihey and led the Irish Canadian Rangers on their tour of Ireland.[154] Despite an exceptionally cold and sometimes snowy January the Rangers were welcomed by large crowds in Dublin, Armagh, Belfast, Cork and Limerick. The Tablet’s correspondent in Dublin, reflecting Irish nationalist sentiment welcomed, “these Irish Canadian volunteers who have no part in our controversies or disagreements… There is no Irishman of any party who will not honour them.”[155] John Redmond offered his “enthusiastic support” for the tour declaring that all of Ireland was “proud of these sons of the Irish race” who shared “Ireland’s highest purpose, a speedy and victorious ending to the war.”[156] Redmond’s influence was diminishing rapidly as negotiations over “Home Rule” stalled but the emergence of Sinn Fein as a clear alternative, to Redmond’s Irish Party was not yet evident to Irish Canadians who continued to support Redmond’s policy of moderation and conciliation.[157] The 199th was the last battalion of volunteers to be recruited in Montreal.[158]


[1] Canadian Annual Review 1915 p. 200

[2] Canada, Debates of the House of Commons, 12th Parliament, 5th Session, Vol. 3 (10 April 1915) pp. 2367-2370

[3] Gagnon, p. 151. The problems facing the 41st Battalion in Quebec City are alluded to in the pages of the Quebec Chronicle. See for example, “Amusement was ill-concealed at City Council…” after a request for money from Archambault Quebec Chronicle 10 April 1915 p. 1.

[4] One of the mounted regiments, the 5th CMR was based at Sherbrooke in Quebec’s Eastern Townships and it attracted some officers and NCOs from the city’s Hussar regiments as well as 250 men from Montreal, most of them British-born with military experience. Nominal Role 42nd Battalion.

[5] Labour Gazette, Vol XV, p. 770

[6] Montreal Standard 15 July 1916 p. 22. The Star reported, a September 1916 p. 4, that 50% of volunteers were rejected for vision problems.

[7] Le Nationaliste, 29 November 1914 p.6

[8] Le Canada, 22 Dec 1914, p. 8

[9] Le Canada, 22 Dec 1914, p. 8

[10] Le Nationaliste, 27 Dec 1914, p. 6. The article provided a count of the columns devoted to the meeting in the city’s dailies: Le Devoir, 17, Le Canada, 9, La Presse, 3, La Patrie, 2. The English language dailies provided minimal coverage.

[11] Le Canada, 9 January 1915, p. 7, printed the full text of the letter.

[12] Canadian Annual Review 1915 p. 564-565. A Montreal Star editorial argued that Ontario had “a technical but not a moral right to limit the use of French” Star 13 Jan 1915.

[13] Canadian Annual Review 1915 p. 562

[14] The story is outlined at

[15] Newspaper listed for 20 – 23 April 1915. See also Gilles Janson and Serge Gaudreau, Fabre, Edouard DCB Online

[16] See for example La Patrie, 3 April 1915 p. 10.

[17] The Saint Lin event was widely reported, especially in Le Canada, and La Presse. Both La Patrie and Le Devoir provided detailed coverage on 9 August 1915.

[18] Cited in Patrice A Dutil, “Against Isolationalism, Napoléon Belcourt, French Canada, and La Grande Guerre” in David Mackenzie (ed.) Canada and the First World War (Toronto 2005) p. 116 – 117

[19] René Castonguay, Lemieux, Rodolphe DCB online. Lemieux’s son was killed in action in 1918.

[20] Marc Milner, “The Birth Of The Submarine Service” Legion Magazine March 2005. The Labour Gazette reported that 1,780 men were employed by Canadian Vickers in early 1915. Labour Gazette, Vol XV p. 1150

[21] Montreal Star 4 June 1915, p. 4. The Labour Gazette reported that 80% of the applicants were natives of Great Britain, 10% French Canadians citizens of France. Labour Gazette Vol XVI p. 25.

[22] Montreal Star, 9 June, p. 3.

[23] Labour Gazette, Vol XV p. 259, 1378

[24] Montreal Gazette, 5 May 1915. Ames’ words were featured in Le Nationaliste under the heading “Une Armee Anglaise” 16 May 1915 p. 1.

[25] Reginald Gervais, The Silent Sixtieth 100 Years On: The Story of the 60th Canadian Overseas Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force in the Great War (Victoria: Friesen Press, 2014), p. 21.

[26] Montreal Standard, 10 July 1915 p. 10

[27] Nominal Roll 60th Battalion CEF

[28] Gervais, The Silent Sixtieth, p. 11.

[29] Montreal Star, 3 June 1915 p. 17

[30] Montreal Star, 5 June 1915

[31] Canadian Annual Review p. 313. See the website www.birthofaregiment for different views.

[32] See Elizabeth Kirkland, “Mothering Citizens: Elite Women in Montreal, 1890-1914” (PhD Thesis, McGill University, 2011).

[33] Montreal Standard, 8 May 1915 p. 22

[34] Sarah Glassford, Marching As To War: The Canadian Red Cross Society 1885-1939 (PhD Thesis, York University, 2007). Glassford suggests p. 137 that “the strong patriotic and imperial overtones to its work the Canadian Red Cross Society was not designed to appeal to French Canadians”. The Croix Rouge however with its focus on Belgium and France attracted both rural and urban French Canadian women.

[35] Steve Marti, “For Kin and Country: Scale, Identity and English-Canadian Voluntary Societies, 1914-1918,” Histoire Sociale/Social History 47, no. 94 (2014), pp. 344-345

[36] Linda J. Quiney, “‘Bravely and Loyally They Answered the Call’: St. John Ambulance, the Red Cross, and the Patriotic Service of Canadian Women During the Great War,” History of Intellectual Culture 5, no. 1 (2005).

[37] Montreal Standard, 15 May 1915, p. 10; 22 May 1915, p. 20. See K. B. Haas, “The Purple Cross for Wounded and Sick Army Horses,” Veterinary History 20, no. 2 (1997): 37–39.

[38] Philip H. Morris,  The Canadian Patriotic Fund (Montreal 1920) pp. 245 – 256

[39] Desmond Morton, “Entente Cordiale? La Section Montréalaise Du Fonds Patriotique Canadien, 1914-1923 Le Bénévolat de Guerre à Montréal,” Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique Française 53, no. 2 (1999), p. 231

[40] Obituary “H.R.Y. (Helen) Reid” Montreal Gazette 9 Jan 1941 p. 21

[41] Desmond Morton, Fight or Pay: Soldiers’ Families in the Great War (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004). Appendices, pp. 243-245.

[42] Souvenir Handbook, Child Welfare Exhibit, Montreal 1912 p. 32. Cited in Copp, The Anatomy of Poverty, p. 33.

[43] Morton, Fight or Pay, p. 112

[44] La Bonne Parole, September 1915, p. 2

[45] Aurélien Boivin and Kenneth Landry, “Françoise et Madeleine, Pionnières Du Journalisme Féminin Au Québec,” Voix et Images 4, no. 2 (1978): 233–43.

[46] Jean-Yves Le Naour, Les Marrianes de Guerre “Les Chemains de la memoire” No 181 Review – March 2008 Accessed online at

[47] La Patrie, 15 September 1915 p. 19. I wish to thank Anastasia Pivinicki M.A. who examined the weekly women’s page of La Patrie 1914-1918 and the monthly La Bonne Parole 1914-1918 for me.

[48] C. J. Lowe, “Britain and Italian Intervention, 1914-1915,” The Historical Journal 12, no. 3 (1969): 533–48.

[49] T. B. Ventresco, “Italian Reservists in North America during World War I,” Italian Americana 4, no. 1 (1998), p. 95.

[50] “L’Intervention de L’Italie et al presse de Montréal” Le Devoir, 26 May 1915, p. 1.

[51] Filippo Salvatore, Ancient Memories, Modern Identities: Italian Roots in Contemporary Canadian Authors, trans. Domenico Cusmano (Toronto: Guernica Editions, 1999), pp. 57 – 59.

[52] “Le Sac du Devoir” Le Devoir, 29 May 1915, p. 1

[53] La Croix, 29 May 1915 p. 1

[54] Montreal Witness, 1 June 1915, p. 1.

[55] The officer commanding the Canadian Dental Corps was to claim credit for making 50,000 men “who could not otherwise have gone to the front fit for service” Montreal Star, 16 Sept 1916 p. 4

[56] The Canadian Annual Review 1915 p. 226.

[57] Le Canada, 1 July 1915 p. 1, reported that the accepting of men shorter than 5’3” would make a big difference in Montreal.

[58] Desmond Morton, Fight or Pay, pp. 89 – 90

[59] The battalion set 5’4” as the minimum height but the changes in dental and vision requirements may have been significant.

[60] Nominal Roll 73rd Battalion

[61] Paul P. Hutchison, The 73rd Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada, 1915-1917 (Montreal, 2011), p. 40.

[62] Nominal Roll 41st Battalion

[63] Gagnon, p. 149-150

[64] Desmond Morton, “The Short Unhappy Life of the 41st Battalion CEF,” Queen’s Quarterly 81, no. 1 (1974).

[65] Kenneth Radley, We Lead, Others Follow : First Canadian Division, 1914-1918 (St. Catherines: Vanwell Publishing Ltd., 2006), p. 81.

[66] Gagnon, p. 153. Mobilizing the 57th was authorized on 20 April 1915, recruiting began in May. Nominal Roll 57th Battalion.

[67] Gilles Janson Scott, Henri-Thomas, DCB online

[68] Gagnon, p. 154-155

[69] When the 41st sailed a full company was made up of Russians who had first enlisted in the 57th. Gagnon p. 151

[70] Major-General Sam Steele Diary Entry 22 Dec 1915, 30 Dec 1915. Thank you to Rod Macleod, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta for allowing Montreal at War to quote the diary of Major-General Sam Steele.

[71] Gagnon, p. 148

[72] Le Canada, 23 July 1915 p. 8. Montreal Gazette, 23 July p. 4.

[73] Desmond Morton, A Peculiar Kind of Politics: Canada’s Overseas Ministry in the First World War (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 44.

[74] Nominal Roll 57th Battalion

[75] Gagnon, p. 157-159, reports that Dansereau’s parents lost all their saving supporting their son’s battalion. At the end of the war other debt s contracted by the battalion commander were still on the books. See Also Pierre Vennat, Les “Poilus” Québécois de 1914-1918 (Du Meridien, 1999), pp. 207-220.

[76] Major-General Sam Steele Diary Entry for 29 July 1916

[77] Gagnon, p. 158

[78] The 117th Battalion included 255 French Canadians but the language of command was English as there were 327 Canadian-born and 280 British-born recruits who spoke English as well as 82 others. The 117th was disbanded in England. Men were sent to the 148th and 150th battalions before they were too disbanded. The remaining men were absorbed by the 23rd Reserve Battalion. Nominal Roll 117th Battalion. See also; A. F. Duguid, History of the Canadian Grenadier Guards, 1760-1964 (Montreal: Gazette Printing Company, 1965), pp. 91-

[79] Ronald Haycock, Sam Hughes: The Public Career of a Controversial Canadian, 1885-1916 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1986), p. 266.

[80] Canadian Annual Review 1915, p. 226

[81] Montreal Witness, 4 Jan 1916 p. 5.

[82] Katie Pickles, Transnational Outrage : The Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). For a contemporary account see “English Nurse shot by Germans Despite Appeals for mercy made by American Ambassador” Montreal Witness 26 Oct 1915 p. 20

[83] William Stewart, “Frustrated Belligerence The Unhappy History of the 5th Canadian Division in the First World War,” Canadian Military History 22, no. 2 (2015), p. 32.

[84] Montreal Witness 9 Jan 1914 p. 1

[85] Borden Diary. The entry for 30 December reads “White, Hughes and Reid came and I propounded the proposed force should be increased on 1 January to 500,000. They agreed.”

[86] G.W.L. Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919: Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), p. 546. Hélène Pelletier-Baillargeon, Asselin, Olivar, DCB Online

[87] The quotations are from the Montreal Gazette in March 1916 p. 4. An order-in-council restraining Hughes from creating new units was passed in July 1916. Borden Diary, 9 July 1916.

[88] Haycock, Hughes, p. 209. Borden Diary, 10 March 1916. The Shell Scandal involved the relationship of Hughes with Wesley Allison, a close friend who served as a middleman in arranging contracts for the manufacture of shells. Hopkins CAR 1916 p. 269-270. Haycock, Hughes, Chapter 13.

[89] Labour Gazette, “Montreal Reports” December 1915 – March 1916.

[90] Labour Gazette, “Montreal Reports” June 1915 p. 1271

[91] Enid M. Price, Industrial Occupations of Women (Montreal 1919) Table 1 p. 21

[92] David Carnegie, The History of Munitions Supply in Canada, 1914-1918 (London: Longmans, Green, 1925), p. 136.

[93] All quotations from the Montreal Gazette, 10 March 1916 p. 4.

[94] Le Devoir 5 Jan 1916 p. 1. Bourassa was in Ottawa speaking about “barbarism versus civilization” the night of the action. See “The Capital Builders” 12 March 2017.

[95] John McFarlane, Lapointe, Ernest, DCB Online

[96] The Lapointe Resolution was introduced on 9 May 1916. See

[97] Cited in Roy H. Piovesana, “Laurier and the Liberal Party” (M.A. Thesis, Lakehead University, 1969).

[98] Patrice Dutil, “Against Isolationism: Napoléon Belcourt, French Canada, and ‘La Grande Guerre,’” in Canada and the First World War: Essays in Honour of Robert Craig Brown, ed. David Mackenzie (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), p. 115. See also Pellegrino Stagni, The View from Rome : Archbishop Stagni’s 1915 Reports on the Ontario Bilingual Schools Question, trans. John Zucchi (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002).

[99] Brian Cameron, “The Bonne Entente Movement, 1916-1917: From Cooperation to Conscription,” Journal of Canadian Studies 13, no. 2 (1998). See also Robert Talbot, “Une Reconciliation Insaisissable: Le Movement de La Bonne Entente, 1916-1930,” Mens: Revue d’histoire Intelectuelle et Cultuvelle 3, no. 2 (2003).

[100] J. Deutsch, “War Finance and the Canadian Economy, 1914-20,” Canadian Journal of Economics and Political History 6 (1940), p. 540.

[101] Wage and price indices price report increases in wage rates which kept pace with the cost of living until 1917. Ibid. p. 542. Wage rates are only part of the story of family income.

[102] Quebec, Annual Report of the Quebec Department of Labour 1916, p. 57

[103] Estimates based on Quebec Statistical Year Book, 1919 p. 60

[104] Examples from La Patrie, Saturday edition July-August 1916

[105] Le Pays 4 March 1916 p. 4. La Patrie, 4 March p. 14

[106] Passe Temps is available on the BANQ site. We have not located copies of Montréal qui chante. See also For details on the temperance/prohibition movement in Montreal see Montreal Weekly Witness 2 January 1917 p. 4, and each subsequent issue.

[107] Montreal Standard, 9 January 1917

[108] Le Pays, 26 August 1916 p. 1

[109] This account is from the Montreal Standard, 6 August 1916, p. 1. Le Pays, 19 August p. 4. Le Canard, 20 August 1916 p. 8, 24 September p. 2. See also Débats de Assemblé legislative 4 December 1916.

[110] Nominal Roll 148th Battalion CEF

[111] Matthew K. Barrett, “The Currie Advocate, Lieut-Colonel Alan Magee” Patriots, Crooks and Safety-Firsters Colonels of the Canadian Expeditionary Force

[112] Vennat Les Poilus Quebecois Vol I p. 287-288. La Presse 15 June 1915 p. 1

[113] Gagnon, p. 162

[114] LAC, “150th Battalión Amalgamation” RG 24 Vol 1569 File HQ683-188-3

[115] LAC Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 150th Battalion p. 490

[116] Letter Barré to Kemp (Minister of Overseas Services) 14 February 1918 cited in Patriots, Crooks and Safety-Firsters, Colonels of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

[117] One draft of 98 men from the 150th was sent to the 87th Battalion. Their War Diary notes “A good looking lot apparently well trained.” Duguid, Grenadier Guards, p. 154.

[118] The term Poil-aux-pattes was used by French Canadians to describe men who were bold or daring.

[119] Olivar Asselin, “Les proceeds de l’abbé d’Amours” L’Action, 9 October 1915 p. 1. A week later in a column titled “Pour la liberte de parole” Asselin announced publication in pamphlet form of a series of articles “L’Action Catholique, Les évêques et le guerre.” See also Mason Wade The French Canadians Vol 2. p. 677-678

[120] See Hélène Pelletier-Baillargeon, Olivar Asselin et son temps: Le Militant (Montreal 1966) p. 657 – 658. See also, Hélène Pelletier-Baillargeon, Asselin, Olivar DCB Online

[121] Montreal Gazette, 22 Jan 1916 p. 4.

[122] The 206th began recruiting in February 1916. In September 103 men transferred to the 163rd in Bermuda. Two drafts of 50 men were sent to other French Canadian battalions. J.P. Gagnon, “Canadian Soldiers in Bermuda in World War One” Historie Sociale/Social History Vol XXIII No 45 May 1990 p. 9 – 36

[123] Hélène Pelletier-Baillargeon, Olivar Asselin, Vol II, Le volontaire, p. 26 – 29

[124] Lieut-Gen Sir George Bullock’s report is quoted in Pelletier-Baillargeon, Olivar Asselin Vol II p. 41-43

[125] LAC Guide to the Sources Relating to the Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. 163rd Battalion p. 518. The 163rd reached England 6 December 1916.

[126] Pelletier-Baillargeon, Asselin Vol II, p. 51. Letter Asselin to Borden dated October 13 1916, p. 55 – 56

[127] The other French-language Quebec battalions recruiting in mid-1916 were the 167th (Quebec City) 171st (Valcartier) 189th (Fraserville)

[128] Both the Montreal Gazette and Montreal Star featured regular casualty reports as did La Presse, La Patrie and Le Canada. See for example “Many officers from Montreal Fall in Action” Montreal Gazette, 4 June 1916 p. 4. The Montreal Witness, 13 June 1916 explained to readers that “owing to lack of space the Witness is unable to print the heavy list of casualties.”

[129] A detailed account of the battle appeared in the Montreal Witness, 13 June 1916 p. 6. It began with the sentence “Ypres spells mourning to many Canadian families whose names are household words.”

[130] R. C. Fetherstonhaugh, McGill University at War (Montreal 1947) p. 11

[131] The full text of the letter was published in the Montreal Gazette and other newspapers on 14 June 1916 p. 4

[132] Borden Diary, 6 June 1916

[133] Montreal Gazette, 8 June 1916 p. 4

[134] LAC Guide to Sources Related to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Pioneer Battalions p. 31

[135] Recruiting Poster 5th Pioneer Battalion

[136] Nominal Roll, 5th Pioneer Battalion

[137] LAC Guide to Sources Related to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force p. 665

[138] On 26 August 1916 as recruiting for the 245th Battalion was to begin units recruiting in Montreal needed 2537 additional volunteers, Montreal Standard, 26 August 1916 p. 10

[139] A. F. Duguid, History of the Canadian Grenadier Guards 1760 – 1964 (Montreal 1965) p. 130

[140] Ibid, p. 132.

[141] Kenneth S. Mackenzie “C.C. Ballantyne and the Canadian Government Merchant Marine, 1917-1921” Northern Mariner/Le Marin du Nord No. 1 Jan 1992 p. 1-13

[142] My thanks to Garrison Ma and Mike Kelly for examining the attestation papers of the other ranks who enlisted in the 199th Battalion.

[143] Montreal Star, 25 April 1916 p. 1, 26 April 1916

[144] “Have Huns Been Landing Arms in Ireland…?” “John Redmond Calls on Followers to Come to the Aid of the Military” Standard, 29 April p. 1. The Gazette also emphasized Casement’s role and stressed that the fighting was confined to Dublin as did La Presse and La Patrie.

[145] Simon Jolivet, Le Vert et Le Bleu (Montreal 2011) p. 164, 165. The cartoon from the front page of Le Nationaliste 6 August 1916 is reproduced in Jolivet’s book.

[146] Edgar Andrew Collard, The Irish Way: The History of the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society Montreal 1992 p. 92

[147] See also Robin Burns’ “The Montreal Irish and the Great War” Canadian Catholic Historical Association, Historical Studies 52 (1985) 67-81. Simon Jolivet Le Vert et Le Bleu (Montreal 2011)

[148] Montreal Gazette, 31 July 1916 p. 3.

[149] 199th Battalion Attestation Papers Data Base. We have not been able to locate a Nominal Roll for the 199th.

[150] Inspection Report, 199th Battalion. LAC REG II-B-5 v7. Inspections

[151] Major Knox-Leet was returned to Canada before the 60th Battalion entered battle in France. Personnel File Edward Knox-Leet LAC

[152] LAC Borden Papers, Reel C-4323. Cited in Brendan O’Driscoll, The 199th Irish Canadian Rangers Unpublished Paper LCMSDS Archives 2015

[153] Burns, “Montreal Irish” p. 75

[154] The Tablet 3 Feb 1917 p. 26 

[155] The Tablet 3 Feb 1917 p. 26 

[156] A. M. Drysdale, Canada to Ireland. The Visit of the Duchess of Connaught’s Own Irish Canadian Rangers London 1917 p. 6. 

[157] Finnan, Redmond p. 199. Sinn Fein won a by-election in May 1917 but it was the East Clare by-election of July 1917 won by Eamon de Valera that marked the end of Redmond’s influence.

[158] Duguid, Grenadier Guards, p. 183. O’Donahoe commanded the battalion through the first months of 1917 but when the 199th became the core of a reserve battalion in April he returned to France to lead the 87th. O’Donahoe died of wounds sustained in action during April 1918

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