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320   DAYS OF PREPARATION

liminary course of musketry instruction with the new arm, but the climatic conditions prevented anything like a proper preparation. At this time every round of ammunition counted, and, as a consequence, many men of the regiment went forward to France with a weapon from which they had never fired a round. In any of the former campaigns in which the British Army had been engaged, this would no doubt have been a very serious matter, but, as things turned out, between the 20th December, 1914, and the 8th of May, 1915—and these dates practically cover the fighting history of the original Princess Patricia's,—actual conditions of warfare rendered expert marksmanship almost a negligible quantity. Many men went through six months of hard fighting without ever having raised the leaf of the back sight of their rifle.

On the 17th of December, 1914, the 27th Division was visited by the King and Queen, and this proved to be the forerunner of the journey to the Front. Preparations immediately followed, and on Sunday, December 20th, the various units of the 27th and 28th Divisions took the road for Southampton—at last really en route for the historic fields of Flanders.

The early twilight of a December evening found the Patricia's once more on board ship—this time on the Cardiganshire,—and after an uneventful trip across the Channel, they landed at Le Havre on Monday forenoon, immediately proceeding to their base camp on the hills to the rear of the town. The weather was still wet, and as the men wore great-coats which covered up all evidence of their nationality as Canadians, the local population had no opportunity of giving a reception to what French folks of the original stock still consider to be cousins—once or twice removed—from across the seas. A night under canvas, then on Tuesday night the regiment entrained for its journey towards the firing line, detraining thirty-six hours later at St. Omer, at that time the Headquarters of Field-Marshal Sir John French.


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