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CHAPTER XVI

FIRST CANADIAN UNIT IN FRANCE

PECULIAR interest centres about the pioneers in any movement. The Canadian regiments at Salisbury Plain were all eager to be first in France, but it was the privilege of one little unit—No. 2 Stationary Hospital—to be the first to cross the English Channel. Canada was thus to begin her war-work in Europe, not on the battlefield but in a hospital; not in the taking of life but in the humane work of restoring the broken warriors to health, enabling them to once more take their places in the fighting ranks or to return to the care of their friends.

In the second week of November, while the mud and rain was making life almost unbearable at Salisbury Plain, orders came that No. 2 Stationary Hospital was to get ready to move immediately to France. There was rejoicing among the hundred-odd men under Lieut.-Colonel A. T. Shillington, and a degree of excusable jealousy in the other units that were to be left behind indefinitely to drill and practise trench-digging, to fight the mud, and to endure the unceasing rain. In a sense the men of this hospital unit were not to be the first Canadians in France. Already fighting both in France and Flanders were many Canadians—business men who had been employed in various parts of Great Britain when war broke out; Oxford students, several of them Rhodes Scholarship men, and many Royal Military College graduates. But these were all attached as individuals to British regiments and had thus lost their identity as Canadians.'

The unit under Lieut.-Colonel Shillington's command, when taken on the strength at Valcartier, consisted of

ISee Appendix I.

299


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