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FIRST CANADIAN UNIT IN FRANCE 303

 

"God Save the King" and "La Marseillaise" were enthusiastically sung by the crowd and the marching men. The Canadians, with their hearts full of their homeland, broke out into the strains of "The Maple Leaf," sung possibly for the first time on French soil, certainly for the first time by a body of soldiers. The only regrettable thing about the reception was that the Commanding Officer was not present to enjoy it. Other units—regiments, brigades, and divisions—were to cross to France, but none of them was to receive the spontaneous, whole-hearted welcome given to the men of No. 2 Stationary Hospital.

The unit remained in camp at Le Havre for a few days, and then orders came to proceed to Boulogne where Lieut.-Colonel Shillington and the nursing sisters, under Matron Ethel B. Ridley, were awaiting it. When Boulogne was reached the first work of the officers was to locate hospital quarters. The demand, due to the heavy fighting of the past four months, had been so great that every favorable place seemed occupied, and ten days were to pass before a suitable location was found. This was at Le Touquet, by the shore of the North Sea. The building selected was the Golf Hotel, well known to English tourists. It was situated in an ideal spot, twenty-two miles from Boulogne, on the edge of a pine forest. When the advanced party of officers arrived after nightfall to take over the building, they were not at first prepossessed by its appearance. The background of dark trees, the ghostly limestone walls three stories in height, the unused, rusty tramway leading to its gate had a depressing effect. It seemed utterly deserted. But the scene was to be transformed. In answer to their ring, the main door rolled back, electric lights were switched on, and the whole place was flooded with light. It was as though they had entered a magic palace of the Arabian Nights.

The Golf Hotel was owned by an English company and had been fitted up with every comfort and luxury.


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