This map of a tiny part of Montreal, known as the Golden Square Mile, was the social world of my grand father. It was a place where not only did everyone know everyone but you were likely to be related to most of them as well.
This tight social net meant that Montreal men were heavily represented in the first contingent's officers.
What was Alec doing after he signed up?
Alec's family home on Simpson Street.
He was going to the Craig Street Armoury, about 20 minutes walk from his home on Simpson Street, and two minutes from the Bank of Montreal, to work with his colleagues who were setting up the 2nd Brigade of CFA.
He was a junior Lieutenant in the Westmount Battery which then was the 21st. This number was changed after they reached Valcartier on August 14 to the 5th.
Alongside him, as the Major of the 3rd battery which was later to be the 7th, was Andy MacNaugton who was to be the gunner who changed the war.
Here he is, a general in his late twenties.
In this interlude before August 14th, the number one job was getting enough horses. They would need nearly 1,000 horses for the brigade. Without the horses, they could not arrive in Valcartier or go to Europe.
This picture of the CFA parading before the King in 1916 will I hope give you a sense of how many horses were involved. The horse in 1914 was still the key element in movement and espcially for artillery.
Where do you get 1,000 horses in 2 weeks?
You got them from your friends! In 1914, all of his class had many horses. For even though the car had arrived, in 1914, Montrealers still rode daily, hunted madly, played polo. Most still had actively used carriages and all used horse drawn sleighs in the winter. There was no snow clearance then and primitive tires could not cope with Quebec winter roads and hills.
Our extended family collectively would have had hundreds of horses.
Photo from the MCord Museum
These are the stables of the Allans - you will get to know them very well.
Here is the front view.
Photo from the McCord Museum
In charge of all of this horse round up was Alec's Uncle, Charles McEachran. Uncle Charles was a remarkable vet who, with his brother Duncan, had set up the first vetinerary teaching hospital just opposite the Craig St Armoury.
It is likely that Alec would have had a major role in this task. He would have called on everyone that he knew. The only way that they could have got 1,000 horses in less than two weeks was from family. Alec and each officer brought two of their own. The rest came from the family stables.
These were not nags but dearly beloved personal and carriage horses. We forget the close attachment that we had with horses. On PEI, they were often buried with the family. To give them up was in a way more wrenching that giving up your son or brother. You expected like a Spartan family to give up your son. But your horse was more like a young child. Also it was a significant financial burden. Most of these horses had been imported at great expense from the UK. Most lived as did the men who owned them in some splendour in heated stabling with beautiful oak stalls with devoted grooms.
The grooms signed up too. The sons of the wealthy Montrealers went to war with the men of their household. It was a medieval experience. In two weeks the men would all have gone. The people left would be without their sons and brothers and without most of their horses and their staff.
No one had any idea what would happen to their sons or horses. No one could imagine this!
In total, about 8 million horses died in the war. None of the Montreal horses returned. Few of the sons returned. Alec lost 16 first cousins. By 1919 the Montreal elite had been eviscerated.
But all of this was unkown in August 1914. In August 1914, most thought of this as a great adventure.
Who was he saying goodbye too in the last busy two weeks? In the next post, I will introduce you to his immediate and to his large extended family. What partings there must have been. The young men excited and their families proud but fearful.
PS - See the link below to Winnie the Poo - Lieut Colebourne took his pet bear with him to Valcartier and then to England where Winnie ended up at London Zoo where he was seen by A A Milne and his son Christopher Robin - Hence we all know who Poo is.