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CHAPTER XVII

 

THE FIRST DIVISION OFF FOR FRANCE

 

SALISBURY PLAIN had proved a trying ordeal for the men of the First Contingent. Rain and mud, mist and damp cold, had tried their spirits. The eternal round of drill and discipline had made the majority of the soldiers from Canada weary of the war before they had got within sound of the guns. The hard conditions under which they had been living had been the cause of much sickness, and many had succumbed to disease. But this was all to end. On the 8th of February it became known that the Canadians were to be sent immediately across the Channel. The men knew that the order for the Division to sail for France meant greater hardship in the trenches than they had endured in England, and imminent death from bullet, bomb, or bayonet. This they eagerly welcomed; this was what they had journeyed across the Atlantic to face. The news that the Contingent was to proceed "overseas" to take part in the mighty struggle that was being waged against the German hordes and the German war-machine, from the shores of the North Sea to the borders of Switzerland, brought new life to the men. One and all welcomed the order; the only unhappy ones were those who for various causes had to be left behind.

The embarkation of the 1st Canadian Division for transportation to France in the second week of February, 1915, took place at Avonmouth, the seaport of Bristol. Every detail of the move had been previously skilfully planned so as to avoid confusion or delay en route to the point of embarkation. The entire Division of over 20,000 men with the regular complement of horses, guns, wagons, and supplies left Salisbury Plain during

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