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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 66 ] --

Y.M.C.A. 501 In Belgium. In Belgium, where two Divisions remained, and whither the other two Divisions and the Corps Troopss subsequently retired in the process of demobilisation, similar service was given. One striking feature of this was the free entertainment at Liege of an entire Division in parties which were spread over two days. The Army provided the food and the " Y " found and staffed the kitchens, rented sleeping space, provided guides and tours, and opened a swimming bath that cost $40 a day to heat alone. In Brussels similar entertainment was available for the Canadians at the moderate cost for the two days of $1.40 per man.

At Havre, the port of embarkation from France during demobilisation, special efforts were made to supply the wants of the returning soldier, one of the features of the programme being a cinema constructed at a cost of $15,000 to seat 1,500.

Wonderful Athletic Ground. At the same time, the soldier in the rear areas, working day after day without the sustaining excitement of the fighting zone, was not neglected. At the Base Camps at Etaples and Aubin St. Vaast there were the usual " Y " huts and athletics and entertainments. At Aubin St. Vaast the " Y " laid out an athletic ground which could not be equalled in Canada, containing as it did in one area a football field, five indoor baseball diamonds, one outdoor baseball diamond, a running track of a quarter of a mile, three quoiting pitches, five tennis courts, a tug-of-war ground, a boxing and wrestling ring, a jumping pit, and fields for lacrosse, cricket, Badminton, and gymkhana or mounted horse events. In addition there were a canteen and a reading and writing room. In the completion of such an ambitious enterprise the Canadian Engineers had, of course, to co-operate, the same branch of the Service making it possible to construct as many as four running tracks in the area of one Division.

The Railway Troops and the Forestry Corps Units were paid similar attention, so far as conditions permitted, for the Foresters were scattered over France down to Bordeaux in the south-west and the Jura Mountains on the borders of Switzerland.

In England. The work of the Canadian " Y " would have been incomplete had it not kept close to the Canadian soldier during the many months of his presence in England-whether in training, or wounded, or convalescent, on leave, or in the stationary units such as the London permanent force and the Forestry Corps. The British end of the work grew rapidly, 502 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

more than keeping pace with the extension of Canadian enlistments and arrivals. The effort in England, which began with but nine centres in the early days, grew to embrace 84' centres before the end of 1918.

The recruit, fresh from Canada, was isolated in segregation camps for several weeks, and there the Canadian " Y " provided for him the only facilities available for amusement and for buying what he needed.

In the training camps, such as Witley and Bramshott, morale, as well as spirits, were maintained by a round of entertainment. In Witley Camp, for instance, were eight distinct huts, in each of which three concerts a week were put on by professional entertainers.

In the Canadian hospitals throughout England the " Y " did much excellent service by means of canteens and concerts, some of the latter being held in the wards for the benefit of the helpless. At the Canadian Military Hospital at Orpington the authorities turned over to the " Y " a theatre, seating 550, which was used during the day as a reading, writing and recreation room.

The Canadian Forestry Corps, scattered as it was from the South of England to the North of Scotland, isolated in many cases from the entertainments and amenities afforded by towns, provided the " Y " with great scope for its enterprise. In 38 scattered groups recreation rooms and canteens were opened under sergeants, and the usual plans were put into action for supplying the attendant deficiencies-distance from home and from the nearest towns. It was, indeed, generally conceded by Commanding Officers that the " Y " made up for many of the deprivations incidental to such lone camps.

The headquarters of the operations of the Canadian " Y " in the British Isles was, of course, London. Into London poured the Canadians on leave-from their first landing leave to the leave that precedes Demobilisation. London was the Mecca for all the troops and the situation which arose could never be properly coped with until experience and increasing facilities prompted the erection of the Beaver Hut, the most famous hut Overseas.

The Beaver Hut. Situated in the Strand, in the very heart of London's busiest life and traffic, the Beaver Hut, from its first week, became the centre for Canadians on leave. There the soldier can satisfy his every want. There he leaves his burden of kit in safety. He dines there, sleeps there, plays Y.M.C.A. 503 billiards there, buys his Canadian " tit-bits " there, purchases his theatre tickets there at about half the regular price, reads English or Canadian papers and magazines, listens to an orchestra or to unscheduled music: of which there is plenty at any hour. There, too, lie exchanges his French money into English without loss, asks questions on every conceivable subject on which he is in the dark, and arranges for his trips about London or the British Isles. Sight-seeing tours of London in charge of guides start from the Beaver Hut twice every day.





There is, too, at the Hut a complete theatre, in which there is either a cinema show or a play or a concert every afternoon and evening, and often in the morning.

Every Need Supplied. In the spacious dining room as many as 4,800 meals have been provided in a single day-served by relays from among the 800 well-known Canadian and English women who give their services as waitresses and cooks. And the prices are extraordinarily low as compared to those even of the most moderate London restaurants.

Dances, too, are a regular and greatly appreciated feature of a varied programme, while kindly English hostesses invite the Canadian stranger to their homes.

If he fails to find sleeping accommodation in the Hut-the space is unfortunately limited to A60-a bed is found for him elsewhere and transportation provided. If he is in real want, arrangements are made for taking care of him. Small wonder the Beaver Hut has come to be the one spot in all London where the Canadian knows he is unlikely to ask too much.

As Tourist Agency. In addition, the Leave Department at the Beaver Hut and the Vise Office in Southampton Street relieve the Canadian who would see Great Britain from all possible worry. There are certain regular tours of which every stage is definitely arranged. But no matter where he wants to go, or when, the soldier, thanks to this Department, can secure better facilities than he could obtain from a regular tourist agency, and the expense is much less than if he undertook the trip on his own account. In many centres the visiting soldier is met by local people and entertained during his stay. During the month of December, 1918, 2,754 soldiers took advantage of a complete or a partial Leave Department programme.

Apart from the Beaver Hut there are several other storage places for kit in London open to Canadians, including one at Victoria Station, at which terminus most of the men arrive when 504 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

on leave from France. The " Y " also provides an Athletic Field, together with equipment for all sorts of games, for those desiring outdoor recreation while staying in London. The Canadian Wing of the Officers' Club at Eaton Square is also a section of the " Y " service.

Nor are the soldiers permanently on duty in London by any means forgotten. All the " Y " huts in London are open to the men in the various and administrative offices, and at Millbank there is a special hut, with a restaurant and recreation room, for the accommodation of the numerous staff employed at the Pay Office and the other Canadian offices in that vicinity.

The Religious Side. The religious side of the Y.M.C.A. programme has, too, by no means been neglected, and every effort has been made, sometimes in most difficult circumstances, to provide special services to meet exceptional conditions. In addition to the official Parade Services, generally held in the Y.M.C.A. Huts, there have been organised, and regularly held, Bible Classes, Good-night Services, "Sing-Songs," Addresses by special speakers drawn from Canada and Overseas, and personal interviews, all followed up by a series of leaflets (the " Y " Pay Book Series), of which over half a million copies have been circulated.

Throughout, the Chaplains have heartily co-operated, and a close and happy working arrangement with the Chaplain Service has been effected in order to simplify operations, prevent overlapping and more effectively meet the men's needs generally.

Education. The Canadian " Y " has always been interested in education, and lectures of an educational nature have been features of the programme, especially in England. As time went on the need for special effort among troops, so long withheld from the advantages of the home schools and colleges, induced the Canadian Y.M.C.A. to bring to Europe Dr. H. M. Tory, President of the University of Alberta, to investigate the opportunities for furnishing some scheme of education of which the Canadian soldiers could avail themselves. This idea developed into the Khaki University, which is dealt with in full elsewhere ; and it is the proud record of the Canadian Y.M.C.A. that it collected half a million dollars to further the enterprise. The " Y," indeed, has provided all the funds necessary, with the exception of the financial outlay represented by the pay of their officer teachers released by the Military Authorities to act as the educational staff.

Y. M. C. A. 505, Demobilisation Duties. With Demobilisation came added duties for the Y.M.C.A. Few of their existing operations could be lessened, and with the taking over of new camps at Rhyl,. Liverpool, and Ripon, three new centres had to be formed. This entailed greatly increased expenses and a wider organisation for entertainment, in sections of England which had not before been touched. In these camps, too, as in the " Y's " Demobilisation programmes in France and Belgium, amusement had to be furnished on a liberal scale. Additional concert parties had to be put on the road, new staffs collected and additional shipping arrangements made.

In this work, however, the " Y " was well backed and encouraged by Commanding Officers, without whose hearty co-operation and influence the best results would have been impossible. Help was also freely given from the various Units, and in the task of organising sports the " Y " had the co-operation of the Army Gymnastic instructors.

Russia and Palestine. It is not only in England and France however, that the Canadian " Y " has marched with the troops. It had officers with the Canadian Detachments in Russia-at Archangel and on the Murman Coast-and its Russian work, carried on under the most trying conditions of climate and distance, has been of the greatest value and comfort to those isolated Canadians. The " Y," too, has even reached out a brotherly hand to Canadian Railway Troops in Palestine.

Aim of the Machine. An interesting and most important point in connection with the Canadian " Y's " far-flung activities relates to its finances.

The funds to provide such a colossal service come from two sourcesCanadian contributions and canteen profits. The people of Canada have given liberally ; none the less, opportunity would have been more circumscribed but for the added possibilities opened up by canteen sales In France, for instance, 5 per cent. of the total sales-the equivalent of 25 per cent. of the profits-was returned directly in cash to the Units to secure extra comforts for the men in the field ; and the entire balance is being expended Overseas in the " Y " service to the Canadian soldier.

In considering the whole of this complex question of canteen prices and profits, however, it should be borne in mind that the Canadian " Y " had, in France, no control over the prices it charged. These were fixed, and have throughout been controlled 506 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.

by the British Army Authorities. In any case, there could of a certainty have been no better way of employing the " Y's " profits than in the provision of additional necessities, comforts, and entertainments for the Canadian soldier and in the general furtherance of a wonderful programme which placed at his command aids and supports, physical, mental and spiritual, which it was not within the power or the sphere of any other organisation to provide.

Such was the aim in the adaptation of a peace-time machine to the needs of Canadians fighting Overseas in. this greatest of wars. Such was the end of the great effort which had no other ambition than that of-" Service to the Troops."

Non-Military Organisations. BODIES WHICH PROVIDED HOSPITALITY OVERSEAS.

This Report cannot fittingly be concluded without some acknowledgment being made of the great and whole-hearted and generous services which have been rendered to Canadian troops Overseas, not merely by organisations whose recognised object was the welfare of the men, but by the Canadian and British peoples as a whole.

In this vast effort of real sympathy and kindliness and aid, the Canadian and the British peoples vied with one another to such a degree that it is unfortunately impossible even to mention by name the long list of organisations which rendered assistance, much less to indicate the individual efforts of hundreds of thousands of people, rich and poor, of high and oftentimes of humble estate, who laboured together for the good of the Canadian troops.



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