«LONDON PRINTED BY AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY, OVERSEAS MILITARY FORCES OF CANADA. REPORT of the MINISTRY Overseas Military Forces of Canada LONDON ...»
The signing of the Armistice necessitated the immediate putting into action of machinery for Demobilisation, and by the end of December, 1918, detailed instructions, based on the general policy agreed by the Committee during the initial stages of its deliberations, were issued in regard to the procedure to be followed, up to and including the point of embarkation for Canada.
In the meantime, immediately on the signing of the Armistice, steps were taken to begin the return to Canada of all men who could be made available to fill what ships could be secured.
The question of the return of the troops of the Divisions of the Canadian Corps and the Canadian Cavalry Brigade to Canada by Units without the consideration of claims to priority, was a matter for anxious concern, but Lieut.-General Sir Arthur Currie, the Corps Commander, strongly urged that military exigencies demanded that such a policy should be carried through.
This policy, therefore, was, in the end, adopted, the reasons advanced by the Corps Commander in its support being briefly as follows:—
1. As long as the Corps constituted part of a larger military organisation, such as the Army of Occupation, it must remain a fully organised Unit from a military point of view.
2. If men were withdrawn on account of length of service, occupation, etc., it was probable that all the administrative service of the Corps would break down and the Corps become immobile.
3. The principle governing the Demobilisation of a Division should be that the men should return home by Units, in order that the organisation under which they had been controlled and supplied and had fought, should remain in existence as long as possible.
4. It was believed that the men would arrive in Canada happier and feel more contented and with discipline better maintained if the Unit organisation were adhered to until the last possible moment.
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The above considerations having been accepted, it was further decided, on the recommendation of the Corps Commander, that the Divisions should be sent home in the following order:—
If the military situation had permitted it, the Divisions would have been returned to Canada in the order in which they arrived, viz., First, Second, Third, Fourth. This, however, was impracticable. The First and Second Divisions had been sent to the Rhine first, because at that time it was the intention that all Canadian Divisions should go to Germany, and that if the First and Second Divisions went first they would later on be relieved by the Third and Fourth. On account, however, of various factors ruling the military situation, it was not found possible to send the Third and Fourth Divisions to Germany, and as it was impossible to relieve either the First or the Second by either the Third or the Fourth, it became necessary to nominate either the Third or the Fourth Division for Demobilisation first.
REASONS FOR RETURNING TROOPS VIA ENGLAND.
This disposed of the problem of the Demobilisation of the Divisions in the Field, but the human side then entered into the question, owing to the fact that the great majority of the men had either relatives or friends in the British Isles whom they wished to see before they returned to Canada.
To have attempted to grant leave to the large numbers of Canadian troops in France who desired to visit England, by providing them with passages in both directions, in order that they might later embark from France, was wholly impracticable.
There were, indeed, insuperable difficulties in the way. To begin with, immediately after the Armistice was signed, the Demobilisation of the Imperial Army was begun on a very extensive scale, while British prisoners of war, who were repatriated in large numbers through the Lines, took up a considerable amount of transportation facilities. In addition, there was a great flow of British troops on leave back and forth from England, and at the same time there was an immediate movement, on an Demobilisation. 519 extensive scale, of French and Belgian peasants, who were returning to the territory recently occupied by the enemy.
It was therefore decided, in order to meet the wishes of the Canadian troops, and also that all might be treated on the same basis, that as there were neither serious military nor economic objections to the scheme, the Canadian Divisions in the Field, together with the troops outside the Corps, should be returned to Canada via England.
To carry out this scheme successfully, however, it became necessary to establish Concentration Camps and special Demobilisation staffs in France.
CONCENTRATION OF TROOPS. From France.
A brief sojourn in England is absolutely necessary in order to reorganise Units arriving from France in such a fashion as to enable them to proceed direct to their-Dispersal Centres in Canada. The system adopted after bringing them over from France is to establish them in one of the Canadian Areas. The troops of the Divisions returned from France were at first concentrated at Bramshott Camp and subsequently at Witley as well. From these Centres they were finally entrained direct to the ports of embarkation.
Corps Troops, and the troops arriving from France from Formations outside the Corps, are sent to areas in England to be prepared for demobilisation and are dispatched thence in drafts to Kinmel Camp, whence they proceed direct to the port of embarkation.
To enable the troops to visit their friends and to attend to their private affairs or arrange for the repatriation of their family, each man is given eight days' leave. It is also necessary for him to be boarded both medically and dentally.
There is the further necessity of 'getting the men's documents in order, and the process of Documentation entails not only very great detail and consequently a considerable amount of time, but is also liable, quite unavoidably, to involve delay.
It has been laid down by the Authorities in Ottawa that the following documents must be prepared and completed before a man or an Officer is permitted to embark for Canada:— 520 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.
SOLDIERS' DOCUMENTS ON EMBARKATION.
1. Triplicate Attestation Paper (M.F.W. 23) or Particulars of Recruit (M.F.W. 133).
2. Casualty Form (A.F.B. 103).
3. Medical History Sheet (M.F.B. 313 or A.F.B. 178).
4. Proceedings of Medical Board (M.F.B. 227 or M.F.W. 129).
5. Dental Certificate (C.A.D.C. 5009a).
6. Field Conduct Sheet (A.F.B. 122).
7. Proceedings on Discharge (M.F.B. 218a). (Other Ranks.) 7a. Proceedings on striking off strength (M.F.W. 2591). (Officers and Nursing Sisters only.)
8. Discharge Certificate (M.F.W. 39). (Enclosed in special envelope 260 M.). (Duplicate.)
9. Copy of Discharge Certificate (M.F.W. 39a).
10. Dispersal Certificate (C.D. 3). (In triplicate.)
11. Equipment and Clothing Statement (Q.M.G. Form D.O.S. 2).
12. Last Pay Certificate (P. 851).
12a. Duplicate Last Pay Certificate (P. 851a).
13. Pay Book (A.B. 64).
14. War Service Gratuity (P. 880).
(Two of the above are in duplicate and two in triplicate.) Note.—An Officer is gazetted out of his Commission, thereby making a Discharge Certificate unnecessary.
The necessity for attending to all these details not only throws much work on the Record Office, London, but involves an immense amount of clerical labour in the sorting and assembling of the Documents at the different Areas and Concentration Camps. The work, too, has been somewhat handicapped by the necessity for creating new Staffs to handle it, and by the fact that the process of Demobilisation as a whole rendered it impossible to secure officers of requisite experience. Unforeseen circumstances, also, not only contribute to the work but occasionally add to delays. For instance, should sailings be cancelled or postponed, for reasons over which the Canadian Authorities have no control, many corrections are necessitated in Part 2 Orders, Casualty Forms, and so on, while if men have received further advances of money, changes are necessitated in Last Pay Certificates and Pay Books.
An individual soldier may also, by his own action, retard his embarkation. For example, should he fail to fall in on a signing parade, or be absent without leave, it may be necessary to transfer him to a later Draft, as it is not reasonable to inconvenience a number of men for the sake of one. Again, should a soldier report to an Area other than that to which he is ordered, his documents will be in one Area while he himself is in another ; and owing to the scattered nature of Reserve Units, Regimental Depots and Concentration Camps, there must be a considerable delay in bringing any man and his documents together. At times, in order to avoid lengthy delays, it is necessary to create certified true copies of documents and this, too, is a process which requires time and involves extra work.
The documents of each Officer and man are carefully checked before embarkation, when a further scrutiny is carried out on board during the voyage. Documents 12 and 13 are handed to the Paymaster for final revision, if any is needed. The remainder of the Documents are then once again examined by the Officer in Charge Documents in the Ship.
To conduct all the work in relation to documentation thoroughly and accurately, naturally, occupies some time before the soldier is ready to leave England, but on the other hand delay in discharge and payment of gratuities is by this means avoided in Canada. The thoroughness and efficiency, indeed, with which the whole of this work of preparation for Demobilisation is conducted in England, is evidenced by the fact that troops arriving at their Dispersal Centres in Canada are ready for immediate and instant Demobilisation there.
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As soon as a soldier is warned for Canada his pay is immediately adjusted, each man being shown his account and required to satisfy himself that it is in order and correct. The procedure which governs his
Last Pay Certificate is as follows:
1 (a) The soldier is issued with the current amount of pay (usually equivalent to fifteen days' pay and allowances) to which he is entitled at that date, subject to any deduction for Assigned Pay or Deferred Pay.
(b) An additional advance equivalent to not less than fifteen days' pay and allowances for the two weeks immediately following nomination for return. This payment is made without any deduction for Assigned Pay or Deferred Pay.
(c) Any available free balance in excess of (a) and (b) if the soldier so desires.
(d) In special cases, the soldier is taken by his Company Officer before the Regimental Paymaster, who enquires into the circumstances, dealing with each case on its merits and making such advances as may be advisable.
2. If a soldier is detained in England after the issue of the Last Pay Certificate, he receives an advance of pay every fortnight after the payments mentioned in para. 1. These fortnightly advances are £2 for soldiers whose accounts are in credit, and £1 for soldiers whose accounts are overdrawn.
3. Where the soldier is returning to Canada accompanied by his dependent, Separation Allowance and Assigned Pay are issued for the current month, and, where requested, for the subsequent month also, in order to facilitate the return of the dependents to their homes in Canada.
4. After embarkation, each soldier is advanced £1 by the Conducting Paymaster of the Militia Headquarters Staff, Ottawa, and the authorities in Canada have arranged for each man to receive " train money " after arrival at the port of debarkation in Canada.
Note.—Clause " D," para. 1, is also applicable to para. 2.
To facilitate the embarkation of the Canadian troops already in England and those returned in drafts from outside the Corps in France, a concentration camp was established at Kinmel Park. This camp is about 30 miles from Liverpool, from which port the majority of sailings take place, and it is from this camp that the men are entrained on the territorial system, the whole of the work being carried out by the Canadian Staff.
Canadian troops in England do not, in the majority of cases, receive special embarkation leave, as they receive regular periodic leave in such a way as to enable them to attend to their private business. The system of boarding and documentation is the same in respect to these troops as in the case of troops from France.
The work of repatriating the dependents of Canadian soldiers is carried out by the Department of Immigration and Colonisation of the Government of Canada in London, the men being found accommodation in the ships, the sailings of which are arranged for by that Department.
For the sake of convenience in handling them, the married men are concentrated in a special camp at Buxton, whence they are drafted to the vessels which carry their wives and families. Their boarding, documentation, etc., are the same as in the case of other troops.
Train and transport facilities are arranged by the Ocean and Rail Transport Department, Quartermaster-General's Branch. The actual embarkation work is conducted by two Canadian Officers who have been specially attached to the Imperial Transport Commandant at Liverpool.
Sailings, however, occasionally take place from other ports, and six other officers have, therefore, been trained as experts in this Branch of work and these are moved from port to port to carry out the work of embarking the Canadian troops as the occasion demands.
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DIFFICULTIES OF TRANSPORTATION.
Only those who have to deal with the problem of transportation can realise the extremely up-hill work there has been from time to time to find the ships required. The German U-boat campaign had resulted in a serious-not to say critical—depletion of shipping, so that after the Armistice was signed, the number of vessels available was totally inadequate to the demands which were being made on British shipping as a whole. It must also be borne in mind that in the subsequent allocation of shipping there were many claims to be met. Apart from the demands of the military situation, which necessitated the relief of Imperial troops in the East and elsewhere, ships were urgently required for the return of the troops of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
It was also quite impossible to guarantee that a ship would sail on the date given: This was due to many reasons, including a shortage of material and labour, and numerous labour disputes, principally among the dockers at the points of embarkation.
It was, therefore, inevitable that delay and consequent disappointment should occur, but, as already has been indicated, the average of sailings has been more than maintained, with the result that troops have been returned at a rate equal to the speed at which the authorities in Canada stated that they were prepared to disembark, entrain, disperse, and demobilise them there.
NUMBERS REPATRIATED UP TO APRIL 1, 1919.
In spite of the many difficulties of transportation dealt with above, the number of Canadian troops repatriated up to April 1, 1919, was in excess of the original estimate. From November 11, 1918, to April 2, 1919, the total number of Canadians returned to Canada from England, and to Canada from France via England, was 110,384. This total included 5,400 patients, who were returned in ambulance transports, and troops of the Third Division, the whole of which had sailed by March 19, with the exception of Divisional Headquarters and a few details. The balance was made up by a proportion of troops from France outside the Corps, but the majority consisted of long-service men and married men already in England and who had seen service in the Field. Corps Troops, and troops outside the Corps, and the long-service men all Demobilisation. 525 passed through Kinmel Camp, the married men sailing with their families in dependents' ships. From November 11, 1918, to April 2, 1919, the total number of these troops returned through Kinmel was 91,485.
The whole of the First Division had arrived in England by the end of March, and it was expected that over 30,000 additional troops would sail for Canada during the month of April.
With the opening of the St. Lawrence for navigation it is expected that the numbers returned in the months of May and June will be considerably in excess of those returned in April.
PERIOD OF DEMOBILISATION.
Every effort has been made to keep the men intelligently occupied, interested and amused during the period preceding demobilisation, both in England and in France. These activities have been dealt with in full under the sections relating to the Canadian Military Y.M.C.A., Chaplain Services and the Khaki University of Canada. A gratifying result of the combined programmes has been the very great interest taken by the men in the various schemes for resettlement in civil life.