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«LONDON PRINTED BY AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY, OVERSEAS MILITARY FORCES OF CANADA. REPORT of the MINISTRY Overseas Military Forces of Canada LONDON ...»

-- [ Page 49 ] --

Below is given a table showing the comparative strength of the Imperial and Canadian Railway Construction Forces on the Western Front as at the dates given :—

–  –  –

In addition there were four Canadian Railway Troops Operating Companies with a strength of 1,087, all ranks on November 11, 1918.

The total strength of Canadian Railway Troops in England on November 11, 1918, was 3,364.

During their career at the front, the personnel of the Corps of Canadian Railway Troops were awarded 489 honours and decorations.

The Construction Units of the Corps of Canadian Railway Troops were more mobile than any other construction Units on the British Front, as their establishment provided for 280 mules, 10 lorries and 8 box cars per unit. They also were able to carry out new construction with great rapidity by using scrapers and mules, thereby saving man power, one of the most important questions in the concluding phases of the compaign.

In this necessarily condensed report, it is impossible to give more than the briefest outline of the organization, functions and operations of the Canadian Railway Troops. The importance of the work assigned to them can easily be understood by anyone with only a rudimentary knowledge of warfare, as since prehistoric times, mobility has been recognized as an essential factor to victory. The career of the Canadian Railway Troops on the Western Front furnishes one of the most engaging chapters in the record of Canada's contribution in the War, and was a factor in helping to spell victory with a capital V.

Canadian Forestry Corps.

MEN WHO SAVED THE TIMBER SITUATION FOR THE

ALLIES.

Formation of the Corps.—When in February, 1916, the problem of the shortage of ships, increased by the ever-growing demands of the Allies, engaged the still more urgent attention of the British Government, the British Authorities deemed it necessary to issue a Proclamation restricting imports. Timber, of which over six million tons was imported by Great Britain in 1916, was one of the commodities especially designated for substantial reduction.

Mr. Bonar Law, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, therefore cabled to the Governor-General of Canada, to the effect that His Majesty's Government would be grateful if the Canadian Government would assist in the production of timber for war purposes, and asked if a Battalion of lumbermen could be recruited quickly and sent Overseas to exploit the forests of Britain.

The 224th Canadian Forestry Battalion was thereupon organised without delay, and in April the first draft of the Battalion landed in England. Early in the following month it was producing sawn lumber at Virginia Water Camp, Surrey. That is to say, in less than three months from the date the British Government sent its first request to Ottawa, the 224th Battalion was recruited, despatched to England with its machinery, had built its first mill, and delivered lumber to the Imperial Authorities.

Other detachments were operating in various places in England and Scotland, and the eventual strength of the battalion was 1,609 all ranks.

The 224th Battalion was the nucleus of the substantial force of Canadian lumbermen which followed, and later formed the Canadian Forestry Corps, a Corps that by its zeal and ingenuity extended the exploitation of the timber resources' of Great Britain and France, furnishing timber for four Armies -those of Britain, France, Belgium, and the United States, thus materially contributing to the attainment of Victory.

Soon after the arrival of the 224th Battalion the Dominion Government received another cable from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, stating that His Majesty's Government desired to express keen appreciation of the action of the Canadian Government in raising the 224th Battalion, but that the shortage in the supply of timber was still causing serious concern, and that 364 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

the acute shortage of transportation necessitated a more rapid exploitation of the timber reserves of the Allied Countries. The French Government had placed certain forests in France at the disposal of the British Authorities, and the cablegram concluded: " His Majesty's Government again turns to Canada for assistance." The formation of the 238th Canadian Forestry Battalion, which arrived in England in September, 1916, was the immediate answer to the appeal.

In the meantime the forests in France offered for exploitation, had been inspected and reported on favourably, and it was decided to extend the Canadian Forestry operations to the Western Front.

Authority was granted in October, 1916, for the formation of the Canadian Forestry Corps, and Major-General Alexander McDougal, C.B.

(then Lieut.-Colonel Commanding the 224th Battalion), was appointed in Command of the Corps and Canadian Director of the Timber Operations for France and Great Britain. The two Forestry Battalions in England at the time then became a part of the Corps, and it was arranged that all Forestry Units and details on arriving in England from Canada, should be absorbed by the Canadian Forestry Corps.

Following the organisation of the Corps, arrangements were made at once for the purchase of sufficient machinery and equipment in Canada for saw mills, etc., to employ at least 10,000 men. This policy was later proved to be an exceptionally wise one, for the shipping problem becoming more and more perplexing, the British Prime Minister announced that still further reductions in imports were absolutely imperative. He declared that timber imports would have to bear 60 per cent. of the total reduction decided upon, as three and a half million tons of shipping could thereby be saved.





In the interval of the few weeks that elapsed between the British Prime Minister's announcement and the putting into effect of the new regulations, some of the Canadian machinery had been delivered in England and the remainder was on the water en route. Had it not been for the expeditious action of the Canadian Authorities it is estimated that there would have, unquestionably, been a serious delay in the delivery of the machinery.

–  –  –

The first headquarters were at Conches (Eure). Here Group Headquarters, divided into two districts, were subsequently established.

By June, 1918, there were three other groups operating, one known as the Jura Group, one as the Bordeaux Group, and the other as the Marne Group, each with two District Headquarters. The work of the Corps extended over a wide area of France, reaching out almost to the frontiers of three countries-Spain, Switzerland, and Germany. The Corps Headquarters for France were established at Paris-Plage, not far from Boulogne. There was an office in Paris, which served as a connecting link between the various District and Group Headquarters. The Corps Supply Depot for Technical Equipment was at Havre.

When hostilities ended there were 56 Companies working in the war zone on the Western Front, of which 13 were German Prisoner of War Companies, with a combined strength of 19,162. Five of the Canadian Companies were then engaged exclusively on technical work for the Independent Air Force, and two for the Royal Air Force. This work consisted of clearing sites and effecting the necessary grading, levelling, and draining, in short, preparing the aerodromes completely with the exception of the erection of the hangars.

That the work of the Canadian Forestry Corps was appreciated by the Independent Air Force is attested by the following letter sent to the General Officer Commanding the Canadian Forestry Corps, from the Secretary of the War Office, dated October 21, 1918:—

–  –  –

A similar appreciation was received from the Royal Air Force.

In all the operations in France, Canadian methods were, as far as possible, applied in the exploitation of the forests, but the best means of transporting logs from the woods to the mills, and the finished product to the distributing centres, constituted difficult problems to solve. Waterways, rivers, and lakes are not so numerous in France as in Canada, nor so conveniently linked together, consequently the Canadian Forestry 366 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

Corps had to build elaborate systems of broad and narrow gauge railways in almost every zone of its activities.

Winter Methods.—In the mountainous districts of the Jura and Vosges, however, the temperature and snowfall in the winter months were about the same as in Northern Ontario, so that Canadian methods were adopted to carry on the work in these forests during the winter weather.

But the operations of the Canadian Forestry Corps in France were by no means confined to stationary camps a long way in the rear of the front line. Frequently companies had to establish mills in woods, or small limits, within a very short distance of the forward positions in order to meet an urgent demand for material at some particular point. Often, too, the work was carried out at considerable risk to personnel and equipment, and the quick transfer of portable mills had at times to be made. The record transfer was in the case of a mill where the last log was sawn at 9 o'clock on the day the move was to take place. By 7 o'clock the next day the mill had been transplanted to a wood over three miles away, and was busily operating. The following day the product exceeded 18,000 ft. (board measure), and the day after the total output was 23,000 ft., much more than the guaranteed capacity of the mill.

The largest output by any one company in a permanent camp was registered in the Jura Group, when a total of 156,000 ft. (board measure) was cut in 10 hours in a mill which was only registered to turn out 30,000 ft. in that time.

That Sir Douglas Haig soon appreciated the work of the Canadian Forestry Corps is shown by the following extract from his despatch on 25th December, 1917:—

–  –  –

This tribute from the Commander-in-Chief applied most emphatically to the Canadian Forestry Corps Forces in France, as they were producing the larger percentage of the total timber output in the country.

Tribute from Americans.—After the Armistice, Colonel Woodruff, who was one of the Chief Forestry Officers of the United States Army in France, wrote as follows:— " We wish to express our appreciation to the Canadian Forestry Corps for the excellent co-operation and assistance they have given the Americans in the Vosges, at Besancon, in the Landes, and, in fact, all over France.

" They have secured for us five complete saw-mills.

" In addition to the above, the Canadian Forestry Corps have repeatedly loaned, equipment to the American Forestry Troops, and have extended invitations to them to join in all of their sports and enter, tainments, and have co-operated in the matter of policing near-by towns, and in every manner assisted to the fullest extent.

" The American Forestry Troops are also indebted to the Canadian Forestry Corps for the use of their machine shops to make repairs to broken parts of the American mills, and for promptly furnishing lumber for building barracks on the arrival of the Americans at a time when it was most important that shelter be provided for the Troops.

" We wish to bring this matter publicly before the meeting, and I am pleased to thank General McDougall on behalf of the American Expeditionary Forces."

The appreciation of the French Authorities for the work of the Canadian Forestry Corps is exemplified by the following extract from a letter written by the French Conservation of Waters and Forests:—

–  –  –

Administration in France.—Owing to the scattered nature of the Forestry Corps and the various Commands in which its companies were operating, it was often difficult to adopt strict Army procedure in regard to administration. As a result a number of administrative problems had to be solved as best they could be in relation to such varied questions as the handling of a special hospital service for the Corps, the proper administration of discipline for men who were not trained soldiers, and the adjustment of rations to the needs of men who were doing ten hours' hard manual labour a day.

The spirit of the entire Corps, however, was but encouraged by difficulties. The morale of the men was always very high. A great many companies were frequently under fire, and those further back constantly made requests to be sent up to the Army area.

The officers and men were drawn from all parts of Canada, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In so far as possible, men were allotted to forests most nearly resembling those in which they have gained their experience in Canada. Men from Eastern Canada operated in -medium-sized timbers, and men from the West worked in the Jura and Vosges Mountains where logging engines, steel cables, and modern railways are required to get the timber out. Officers and men in the Corps, too, were employed as far as possible in the work for which they were best adapted. A great many of them were specialists in some particular branch of forestry work, and each specialist was employed on his own speciality, a method which not only insured greater efficiency, but promoted the best form of competition.

In March, 1918, at the time of the German advance, the Canadian Forestry Corps was called upon to train men as reinforcements for the Canadian Corps up to about 800 men, instructions being issued that each district must furnish a certain quota. As a result, when the Canadian Corps called for reinforcements in October, that number of Canadian Foresters was ready trained as Infantrymen.

Operations—Great Britain. In Great Britain the operations of the Corps extended over six districts at the time of the Armistice, four in England-at Carlisle, Egham, Southampton, and East Sheen; and two in Scotland-at Stirling and Inverness. There were 43 companies operating in the six districts and the strength of the Corps in Great Britain totalled 12,533, which Canadian Forestry Corps. 369 included attached labour and prisoners of war to the number of 3,046.



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