Soldiering at Fair Ground Camp: London, Ontario; 1914

Then Captain Samuel Monteith Loghrin wrote a letter dated November 8th, 1914 gives some insight into the activities and responsibilities of an officer in the Canadian Army preparing for embarkation to England for further training and preparation before moving to Belgium to active service in the line.

Note the envelope. The post mark indicated the letter was sent in London November 9, 1914 but it is the address that is of interest. At this time one could address an envelope to a community to someone well-known by simply writing their name and the place name of where they lived. In this case, the Honourable Samuel Nelson Monteith was a former member of the Ontario Legislature and a Minister of Agriculture. The graphic on the upper left of the envelope shows the flags of the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium with the phrases “BE OF GOOD CHEER” and the, less legibly, the phrase “Victory Follows the Flag”.

The backside of the envelope has the phrase “Business as usual during alterations to the map of Europe” with the further admonishing statement “USE AND SELL GOODS MADE IN CANADA”.

samlogenvelope1 samenv2The next image shows the note paper used to write the letter.

obj688geo552pg12p17The body of the letter is as follows and each paragraph offers a glimpse into the attitudes, observations, and feelings of a soldier in Canada at that time:

“Written at Fair Ground Camp London, Nov. 8th, 1914

Dear Uncle,

Just a few lines to let you know what has happened to your wayward nephew.  The Stratford Herald had so much in it that I deemed it wise to leave town on Friday night.”

The letter was written on a Sunday. Is this the Sunday following the Friday to which Captain Loghrin refers? It sounds like all the activity and attention being created by the recruitment of the 2nd Contingent at this time created a situation where Captain felt compelled to leave his home town to get to the business of training.

“This soldier business is all right in an armchair before the fire but the real thing is very hard work.  I will give you a sample day.  I reported for duty according to instructions at seven a.m. yesterday at Barracks.  (I) was instructed to take charge of the Stratford Company at the Fairgrounds.  I marched them to the divisional stores and drew clothing and full equipment with the exception of rifles for one hundred and sixteen men.”

Captain Loghrin indicates that there is an attempt to keep soldiers from the same town together in at lease company sized formations and that the recruit soldiers are issued their “kit” at the Fair Ground Camp in London.

“Reported to the paymaster with a full roll of the company and got cheque for a small allowance, $750, just to give the men pocket money till the 1st of the month.  Had to go down town to the Bank of Montreal to cash this cheque before one o’clock.  Then paid 116 men who all have to sign the pay sheet.  After having a meal (I) attended a lecture by Col. Wyle [Wigle] at the barracks.  Got back to the Fair Grounds at eleven o’clock. Does that look like a day’s work?”

Lt. Col. Wigle was the commander of the 18th Battalion at this time. With the influx of new men into the Canadian Army payrolls and other documentation needed to be created in order to pay the soldiers. The $750 works out to $6.46 per man or 38 cents per day per man.

“At half past one went with Major Milligan to meet Stratford Band.  Attended Battalion Parade in the afternoon.  Dismissed at four thirty.  Nothing but soldiering (;) it is in the air, best style of revolver and a thousand other things.  The men are quartered in the buildings (;) each man has a spring cot, straw mattress, pillow slip and three government blankets.  The buildings are all lined with beaver board (and say they know more about putting it on than we did).  Three large furnaces in each building.”

Major Milligan was second in command. There seems to be an allusion to humour in the statement: “The buildings are all lined with beaver board (and say they know more about putting it on than we did).” Does the word ‘they’ refer to beavers and their skill at putting up beaver board, a decidely human made product? Is Captain Loghrin alluding to the fact that the building in which the men are staying are of such a temporary or poor condition that they would have benefited being built by beavers? Is the ‘we’ referred to the soldiers of the 18th Battalion? Where the soldiers commandeered with the duty of preparing the buildings at the Fair Grounds in London for the coming habitation during the late fall of 1914 and the winter if 1914/15?

“There will be an excursion later on from Stratford by special train (;) come up then or some other time if you prefer and see the 18th Battalion on parade.”

Stratford is approximately 60 km from London. With the recruitment of at least 116 soldiers from Stratford it appears that a special train was being organized to let family and friends come and visit the soldiers.

“We are all to be typhoid inoculated tomorrow.  Hope it does not make me sick.  We all have to have three treatments before we leave Canada.  Hope you are all in good health.”

Perhaps the first inoculations for many of the soldiers.

Your nephew

Capt. S. M. Loghrin G Company

18th Battalion, Fair Grounds, London, Ont.”

Source: Letters & Papers Pertaining to the Life and Times of Samuel (Sam) Monteith Loghrin, b. 1876

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