This is my grandfather, Alec, as part of a group picture of the RMC Senior Football Team in 1913, the year he graduated. He was mad about sports and played semi professional hockey well into his late twenties.
He had gone to RMC as part of plan by his father to instill some discipline.
Alec as a school boy had been involved in an incident at Bishops, a private boarding school near Lennoxville in Quebec, where the headmaster had been thrown into the swimming pool by some boys. In penance, he was sent to England to go to a school called Bradfield where the annual Greek Play was the high point. He hated it there. But, maybe like me, this experience prepared him culturally for life in the English culture.
His experience at RMC had prepared him also for military life. Very few Canadians had this experience in 1914. It put Alec in a favoured position and enabled him to start the war in the artillery. Here he not only had a better chance of survival but it was the elite branch where nearly all the leadership of the future Canadian Corps would come from. His advice to all of the family later was never to join the infantry!
RMC was and is Canada's premier military college. It was founded in the mid 19th century and was already part of the family tradition. His uncle, Somerled, had been to RMC too back in the 1890's.
Regretfully he was killed in a Polo accident in 1895 and is buried in Quetta then the HQ of the Indian Army and now part of Pakistan. I have just found his grave.
Alec followed in this part of our family tradition. We tend to gravitate to banking or soldiering. When given the choice, he always chose soldiering. Not only had he enlisted on the first day of WWI but he did the same in WWII. He was never comfortable as a banker.
Which is what he was after RMC and before August 1914.
He worked at the main branch of the Bank of Montreal which was very different from the bank we know now. Then it was the equivalent of the Bank of Canada. Alec's Uncle, Sir Vincent Meredith, was its President. Every morning, the police would close of all the traffic from his house on Cedar Avenue to the Bank on St James. At lunch time, the bank would close and all the staff would sit down to a roast that would be carved by the Manager. Not the BMO of today!
Alec could not wait to get out of this!
So, on this day, he turned up at the Armoury in Montreal where the batteries of artillery based on Quebec assembled their gear and requistioned their horses. In the end, millions of horses and mules would serve and we will spend a lot of time in this series on what their life was like.
In two weeks, Alec and his battery would journey to the new camp at Valcartier, to the North West of Quebec where over 30,000 men from all over Canada were assembling to be part of the first contingent to leave Canada and go to the UK.
He was not alone.
It is hard for us today to have a sense of the feeling in 1914. I think that part of this was a sense of how dull life was. But people were much more Nationalistic then. Canada was very British too. Nearly half of the first contingent had been born in the UK.
Already, on the first day, trainloads of men were converging from all over Canada. Most saw this as a huge adventure. Almost none of the first contingent would return home.