On October 3rd 1915, one day short of a month from the declaration of war, the First Contingent set sail.
The loading of the convoy finally finished on Oct 2. Alec and the 2dn Brigade CFA had been on board the Ivernia since the 22nd of September. They slept on board as they loaded.
Here is the manifest in the first entry in the war diary that would account for their movements and activities until the end of the war. It is on regular paper. The war diary forms had not been delivered yet. It records what landed in Devonport on October 20!
11 horses would die on the voyage. Most died after arrival when they had to stay on board for yet another week.
You can see the signature of Col Hanson who survived the war and remained close to Alec for the rest of their lives.
On the Scotian was my Aunt Francis's father, Francis Chattan Stephens. Aunt Francis and her mother were to set sail very soon to be with him in England. They rented a place near Salisbury Plain so they could be minutes away. When Chattan was desparately ill, his mother set out to join them with Aunt Francis's brother John. Unfortunately the ship that they chose was the Lusitania. My Aunt Marguerite Allan was on board too and they shared a table at lunch just before the torpedo struck. The Allan girls, Anna and Gwen played with little Johnnie. The three children all died. Much more on this in May 2015.
His sister in law, Aunt Francis' Aunt Marguerite (Stephens) Gault was on the Royal George with her husband who had financed the raising of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the unit.
This was to end in tragedy for the Gaults.
Aunt Marguerite had an affair with a junior officer of the PPCLI. Gault pursued her for years and finally managed to have the Marguerite, a flower named after her, removed from the cap badge after the war. He even had to leave the front during the war to attempt unsuccessfully to get a divorce. In Quebec in those days you needed an act of Parliament to get a divorce.
He survived the war after terrible wounds and did not return to Canada until after WWII.
Major John McCrae was also setting sail. He was with the 1st Brigade CFA on the Saxonia.
He had been a gunner in the Boer war but was going out with his old unit as their chief doctor. Bonfire was in the hold. We are not sure that Bonfire returned to Canada. There is no record. Most died or were given to Belgian farmers at the end of the war. I know of only one who did, Morning Glory, who returned to a farm near where I live today in the Eastern Townships.
Guy Drummond (Above) was also to set sail with the Highland Regiment. (Canadian Black Watch) Uncle Montague's regiment. His sister in law was also travelling with my Aunt Marguerite Allan on the Lusitania - she also lost her life that day. This is a very small world.
Here he is as a child with his mother. What a tender and sweet image!
He is important to our story because of his mother, Julia who will play a major role as one of the most remarkable women of her time. As he sailed, she was closing their huge house in Montreal and about to go to England herself. Guy was to die in the 2nd battle of Ypres. Julia, widowed twice and having lost her first son as an infant, was to collect herself and become the mother of all the Canadians in London.
So here we end the prologue of this epic story of Montreal and my family as World War begins.
In a month's time, the first act will begin. The First Contingent will arrive in England and spend a miserable winter on Salisbury plain under canvas. It will rain nearly all the time.
They will then move to France in February 1915. The PPCLI was even earlier and was in France in January. The Canadian First Division will arrive even before the British Territorials. In April, they will save the Ypres salient and maybe the war. We will end the first act when General Byng takes over and sets up the conditions that will transform this small army of amateurs into the shock troops of the Empire.
On the home front we will follow the key women too. They too will transform the world for they will forever shift the role of the "Good" woman out of the home and into the world. We will follow the Canadian Nurses - all made officers and all well paid - who scared themselves and men with how independently they lived. And we will follow the grander women of my family who today would have been CEO's of major organizations.
We will follow the home front too as Canada shifted to a total war footing and as the boys and girls of 1914 became sucked into the maelstrom.