Previous Index Next

 

260   DAYS OF PREPARATION

enlisted, and the other lines had done proportionately as well. And these men were not only fine fighting material, but as mechanicians and railway-builders were to do magnificent work on the Empire's battlefields.

But the main work of the railways, from a military point of view, from the beginning of the war, was the transportation of troops. Fortunately the Department of Militia and Defence had an organization that could cope with the unusual situation. The Transportation Staff had had little experience in handling large bodies of troops, the greatest being the carrying of the troops to Quebec at the time of the Champlain Tercentenary. But under "the excellent organizing and driving power" of Lieutenant-General Sir Sam Hughes the work was done superbly. Within a week after the formal declaration of war by Great Britain nearly 35,000 men had enlisted in Canada, and within a month over 30,000 were in the tented city of Valcartier. From cities, towns, and villages they had come; battalions from the cities, drafts of a hundred or so from the towns, and drafts of fifty or less from the villages. And as much official attention was required for a draft of fifty as for the movement of a regiment. One experienced embarkation officer remarked: "I would rather entrain a battalion than six drafts of a hundred." As the war lengthened the railway situation was to become critical on account of lack of rolling stock, but the Militia Department never failed; troops, guns, horses, and supplies streamed to the seaports with the same promptness that marked the early days of the Valcartier concentration. But the military authorities could not have done this without the assistance of the railway staffs. Naturally the work of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the greatest organization of its kind in the world, stands out prominently, and an account of it will serve to show what in a lesser degree was done by all the other lines.

When war was declared the British War Office asked the Canadian Government to supervise the purchase and


Previous Index Next