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246   DAYS OF PREPARATION

of the latest type. Firewood was assembled by hundreds of cords. An electric light plant was constructed with enough wiring and lamps for a small city. All this and more was done in three weeks—the greatest military or civilian accomplishment this continent ever saw.

It need not be imagined that there were no difficulties. Some contractors dawdled, until the work was snatched out of their languid hands and given to others,of a more energetic temperament. Personal quarrels arose between the Minister and some of the higher officers. German spies were at work. There is an unprinted and unverified story of one too bold individual who attempted to poison the water supply and disappeared from the face of the earth in consequence. Every obstacle that could be put in the way was found in due course, but indomitable energy and unsleeping determination rolled them all away. On August 24th, just twenty days after war was declared, troops were coming into camp, and Lieut.-Col. Victor Williams was named Camp Commandant, with Lieut.-Col. William Cowan as Chief Transport Officer.

Two days later there were 19,400 men in camp, and an important discovery was made. All the units were coming in overstrength, and a week later more than 30,000 men had answered the call of King and Country. The original order provided 'for the enlistment and mobilization of only 21,000 men. It was made clear that the plan for twelve infantry battalions was inadequate. The faith of our governors in the patriotism of the country had been too weak. They determined to organize sixteen battalions—thus providing in a measure for the hundreds of supernumerary qualified officers who had come to the camp clamorous for appointments. Even this plan proved insufficient in view of the national ardour. By the beginning of September, the camp population approached 35,000. Of these only fifty-one were on the sick list. Not one was seriously ill. Only three men died in the whole Canadian life of the First Contingent.


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