Monday, 5 January 2015


The ringing in of the new year, 1915, heralded the promise of fighting with the constant roaring of guns in the distance. Although there was no relief from the steady rain and bone chilling cold, morale among the men of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was high as they took pride in facing the first hardships of war. 

On New Years Day, the entire 80th Brigade waited and stood at attention for over an hour in miserable weather for a brief inspection by Field Marshal Sir John French, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force. The Commander-in-Chief’s inspection inspired impressive remarks about the Patricias described in a dispatch a few weeks later as “this magnificent set of men”.  In a cable to Prime Minister Borden following their first tour in the trenches, Field Marshal French reported the Patricias, “fully justified the hope that their magnificent appearance inspired." In a letter to the Duke of Connaught he declared, "When I inspected them in the pouring rain I had never seen a more magnificent-looking battalion, Guards or otherwise." The admiration was warranted. Colonel Farquhar had worked hard to instill a sense of duty, discipline and pride in the men as the first representatives of Colonial troops to march forward into the front line. 

By late fall 1914, the British Regular Army had fought the Germans to a standstill in the low hills surrounding the ancient town of Ypres but at a terrible cost. As the Regiment prepared for its initiation to battle in the first week of January 1915, the British army, now greatly understrength, was struggling to hold on to their defensive position in the Ypres Salient. The French army were in an even more desperate state. The British 27th Division was ordered to support and extend the right of the British line south of Ypres. On the 5th of January the Patricias marched north into Belgium.

War Diary Entry


5.1.15 Marched from BLARINGHEM to METEREN via HAZEBROUCH-SYLVESTRECAESTRE and FLETRE. Bn formed the Brigade Advanced Guard. Bn much handicapped from want of boots. 

"(January 5) ...orders were issued to pack all kits for full marching order. All blankets and equipment and quartermasters' stores were piled in the transports and limbers. 

One may imagine the feverish excitement that spread at this prospect of real contact with the enemy. 'Be ready for the firing line'; so read the orders of the day, and everyone was anxious to have that 'whack'.  As rumours had it, (we) were to relieve the French somewhere.

So at 8:30 A.M Canada's foremost battalion was in the road, waiting the order to march. The first day's march covered about fifteen miles. There were but a few short stops, of about ten minutes each. 

It was rather a hard trial on the feet, for the Pats had grown used to turf. The cobblestones seemed uncommonly hard. The boys could scarcely withstand the first day's forced march, and some of them wore the soles of their shoes even with the foot. 

...But the Canucks were game, and brought up the rear of the 80th Brigade with the 'swanky' swing they were famous for. They never dropped a yard in the pace set the K.R.R.'s in front of them. They were more than equal to the stern test!"

Quoted from the book, "Mopping Up", written by Lieutenant Jack Monroe PPCLI

PPCLI Troops at rest