Chaudière-Appalaches Administrative/Tourist Region
Today was a long day. I wish I had access to the train service in 1915 as I may have made better progress. The Canada of today is so different from that of my grandfather’s time when he enlisted in the 18th Battalion in October of 1914.
There was a national rail system. Very efficient serving not only large municipalities but also small town and sidings where goods and people could get on and connect to a system that allowed someone to travel the breadth of Canada and almost all the contiguous United States.
Today. Today there was over six travel delays due to accidents, construction, poor driving, and the simply huge volume of passenger cars. In 1913 there were 50,000 motor vehicles in Canada.[i] I bet more passed me going westbound on the 401 and the 20. Particularly since there are 35,742,412 vehicles registered in Canada in 2019[ii]. The scale of the “progress” is immense, and these drives often have me ponder the differences of that time socially, economically, and politically.
This drive has become very familiar to me. I tend to stop at the same places for gas, rest, victuals and WIFI. But most of my trips (approximately 7) between Cambridge, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia comprises of a “head-start” where I drive at night to avoid traffic at Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City and do not get to see the geography in which I pass. Several trips have been in the late fall, winter, and early spring, which is not ideal of taking in the scenery, though the view of Mont-Sainte Anne ski hill during the day or lit a night across the St. Lawrence is a site to see.
There is a line in a letter penned by an 186th Battalion soldier as he travelled by train along a similar route as the 18th Battalion did. His letter written on 22 March 1917, and he speaks of the farm country of being poor. He may have been speaking of the area just before the area that Saint-Raphaël because the farm region in this vicinity is simply beautiful. The land runs relatively flat from the St. Lawrence to the beginning of low hills with mixed trees. You can see from the image below the organized intensity of the agriculture being practised here. The farms I saw are incredibly neat, tidy, and well organized. There appears to be little wasted land that is not being utilized with some type of crop. Corn, hay, and other crops abound, and the land looks rich and fertile and is well tended by the farmers in the region.
If Private Aikin had seen these farms from his train, he would have been impressed.
The 18th Battalion “Remembrance” does not expand upon their trip in this area saying only, “Our first stop was Montreal where we only remained long enough to change engines. For the next three days we travelled through some sparsely settled country. There was not much scenery as there was a lot of bush on both sides of the track.”
If the farm labourers and farmers could see this land today I think they would be impressed and a little envious.
One likes to think of the train with the soldiers aboard. Some veterans of the Boer War. Stoic and a bit more certain of what active combat service would be like. The younger, untested men, members of the Canadian Militia or having served with a regiment of the Imperial Army or a Territorial unit. A bit more experience but no combat exposure. And then the raw recruits. Barely trained in Canada. Good for parade drill but probably have not shot over 100 rounds of target practice, dug a real trench, or been exposed to gas. What they talked about during the trip and how they connected with each other along the next step of the journey east to England probably became more nervous as the got closer to Halifax. Many had travelled by ship when the emigrated to Canada, but most of the native-born Canadians would not have set more that 50 miles from their hometowns before the war. And now they were going to a whole different continent across the ocean.
Next stop: Fredericton
[i] Ruppenthal, K. and Bonikowsky, L., 2006. Automobile | The Canadian Encyclopedia. [online] Thecanadianencyclopedia.ca. Available at: <https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/automobile> [Accessed 10 September 2022].
[ii] Available at: Www150.statcan.gc.ca. 2022. Vehicle registrations, by type of vehicle. [online] Available at: <https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=2310006701> [Accessed 10 September 2022]..