Sunday, 1 March 2015


The attack on the German trench was over in just twenty minutes but the Patricias felt satisfied, casualties notwithstanding, that the enemy had been dealt a significant blow. A surge of Regimental pride swept through the men who were inspired by Hamilton Gault's fearless leadership on the battlefield. 

Even with the full light of the moon, Gault had managed to prowl undetected across no man's land to the rear of the German position, surveying their trench system to bring back valuable information. He was later wounded while carrying one of his fallen soldiers back across open ground under heavy fire but stayed with his men for twenty four hours before reporting to the 87th Field Ambulance. His injury was diagnosed as a 'gunshot wound, right arm, severe.' 

Shorty Colquhoun had not been so lucky. When he returned to the German trenches to gain more intelligence that night he was cornered in one of their communication trenches, captured and taken Prisoner of War. The first Canadian Officer to be detained by the Germans, he stunned his captors with his great height. The Germans interrogating him asked him nervously if he was taller than the other men in his Regiment. He replied casually that his six foot, six inch frame was just an average size for a Canadian soldier. 

This photo of Brigadier General "Shorty" Colquhoun (with veterans of both World Wars at Fort McLeod in 1964) reveals his towering height. 

The results of the raid were moderate with German casualties being similar to the Patricias'. Approximately forty yards of well constructed enemy trench was destroyed but the greatest gain was the spike in the men's morale. On March 1st, however, the vengeful enemy punished the Patricias with heavy fire all through the day. The bombardment was so devastating that some parts of the line had lost as much as seventy five percent of their fortifications. By the end of two days of operations the Regiment had sustained over seventy casualties.

Talbot Papineau had been one of the ninety or so men chosen to participate in the raid. He describes the experience in a letter to his mother. 

"We have made an attack at last and I have led it," begins Papineau in a letter to his mother. "The moon was well down and dawn was coming. The colonel said, 'There are six snipers that will go ahead of you then you will go with your bomber-throwers. Crabbe will be behind you with his me. All right! Lead on!' I was pretty scared! My stomach seemed hollow. I called my men and we fell into line and began creeping forward flat on our bellies. I had a bomb ready in my hand. We lay for a moment exposed and then suddenly we were all up and rushing forward. My legs caught in barbed wire, but I stumbled through somehow. I set my fuse and hurled my bomb ahead of me. From that moment, all hell broke loose. I never thought there could be such noise. I had my revolver out. A German was silhouetted and I saw the flash of his rifle. I dropped on my knees and fired point blank. He disappeared. I said to myself, 'I have shot him.' I fired into the trench at whatever I thought was there. Then my revolver stopped. I lay flat and began to reload. I was against the German parapet. I looked behind me and could see only one man apparently wounded or dead near me. I thought, 'The attack has failed. I am alone. I will never get out.' A machine gun was going and the noise was awful.

Then I saw Crabbe coming. He knelt near me and fired over me with a rifle. I had got a cartridge home by this time and Crabbe and I went over the edge into the trench. It was deep and narrow, beautifully built, dried by a big pump, sides supported by planks, looked like a mine shaft. A german was lying in front of me. I pushed his head down to see if he was dead. He wasn't. I told a man to watch him. Then I began to pull down some of the parapet and sandbags. Three or four men were there too with shovels. The German machine guns were going like mad. It was beginning to grow light. Presently we were told to evacuate the trench. I passed the order, then climbed out and made a run for our own line. Another man and I went over head first. The man that came after me was shot through the lungs. The next man got it in the stomach. They fell on me in the mud. I could not budge. Then over on top of us all came a German! He held up his hands and a couple of our men took him away. Gault was there and he worked pulling the wounded men off each other. One or two men came piling over with fixed bayonets and almost put our eyes out. I was finally pulled out of the mud. It was to quite light. I had to get back to my own trench. I beat it across the open expecting to get it any minute. I was so exhausted I wobbled from side to side in the mud. However, I reached home and dived for cover. I was tired but mostly glad to be back. 

The stretcher bearers were carrying the wounded out past the back of my trench. The last party got halfway, then dropped their stretcher and ran. Gault crawled out to the man with a couple of volunteers and they dragged the stretcher into a ditch and then to a hedge. Gault was shot through the wrist. He will probably get the VC."

Two days later Gault was evacuated to the 11th General Hospital. On March 5th he sailed on the hospital ship St. Andrew to Folkestone where he was admitted to the Queen's Canadian Military Hospital. Two weeks later he was sent on leave to spend time with Marguerite in London. 

Talbot Mercer Papineau with his dog Bobs, 1915
Major Gault, Lieuts. Colquhoun and Papineau
were all decorated for their actions on February 27th/28th, 1915