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302   DAYS OF PREPARATION

The harbour presented a busy scene; warships, cattle-boats, and transports were gathered there; but what interested the men of the Canadian hospital unit most was a Belgian hospital-ship, on which, as they steamed by, they could see the doctors and nursing sisters ministering to wounded men. Darkness had fallen before they were able to leave their ship to march to quarters prepared for them in a huge military camp back of the city. As they threaded their way to their camp, the news spread that Canadians had arrived in France. The inhabitants of Le Havre had a vague idea that men from the land of Jacques Cartier and Champlain, of Frontenac and Montcalm, were coming to help them keep back the German invaders. This small unit was evidence that such was the case, and as it advanced the streets became packed with an enthusiastic, cheering crowd. A member of the unit wrote thus about the occasion:

"The first half-mile of our march was uneventful, as there were few people in the streets of the basse ville; but as we passed farther up into the city the sidewalks became crowded with spectators. At first the French mistook us for English soldiers on the march, the sight of whom, while an almost hourly occurrence, was still a matter of keen interest. But as the crowd became larger and larger, and . . . . caught a glimpse of our shoulder badges marked "Canada," the word was passed from mouth to mouth with lightning-like rapidity, and the excitement became intense.

"They broke forth into the wildest cheering and shouted again and again `Les Canadiens!' `Vine le Canada!' until the clamour was deafening, men, women, and children surrounding us in thousands, laughing, singing, and talking, shaking the soldiers by the hand and embracing and even kissing them in the excess of their welcome."'

'Be11, F. McKelvey: The First Canadians in France, pp. 62-63.


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