“Brilliant performance”

June 27, 1916. The 55th Battery History does not provide any details of the event itself, only of the preparations:

We had one big inspection at Petawawa by the Duke of Connaught, after a week of practice, which dust, sand and lack of water bottles made a sore trial to body and spirit. (1)

The lack of water was more than made up on the morning of the inspection, when “there was a torrential downpour of rain, and the troops were thoroughly soaked.” (2)

The Globe’s correspondent cast it all in the best possible light:

Deep thunder clouds cast a gloom over the camp during the early hours of the morning. A veritable cloudburst endeavored to dampen the ardor of the men just as they commenced their three-mile tramp to the parade grounds, but rain cannot dampen nor hardships spoil the infinite good-heartedness and cheer of Canadian soldiers. They whistled and sang throughout the weary march and the long wait for the ducal party, the delay being caused by the hasty construction of a temporary shelter for the Duchess and Princess Patricia. (3)

What were the soldiers really thinking? Probably something like this account of another inspection, which John Walter Ellis wrote to his “own darling wifey” in January 1917:

Now sweetheart we had the Duke of Connaught inspect us the other day. We had to give him a “royal salute” & a whole lot more foolery, he kept us standing all Tuesday afternoon in the cold till we were absolutely frozen. This ceremonial stuff makes me wild. They sized all the men up made them shine up & have everything absolutely perfect & I don’t suppose the old fool ever saw us. He just walked down the line & talk[ed] & laughed with the Brigadier all the time. (4)

Connaught at Petawawa.JPG

 (1) MacArthur, D.C. The History of the Fifty-Fifth Battery, CFA. Toronto: H.S. Longhurst, 1919.3.
(2) 60th C.F.A. Battery Book, 1916-1919.[1919]. 16.
(3) The Globe (1844-1936). June 28, 1916. 4. Archive available from ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
(4) Ellis, John Walter. Letter to his wife, January 24, 1917. Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project. Ellis was a British immigrant to Canada; he enlisted in the 168th Battalion in May 1916, and died of wounds thirteen months later.

The image is a still from “Canadian Guns,” a National Film Board film describes as an unspecified “inspection of [unspecified] Canadian artillery in [an unspecified] training camp,” and dates only as 1917. In November 1916, the Duke of Connaught was succeeded as Governor General of Canada by the Duke of Devonshire; as Ellis’s letter shows, however, Connaught was still busy with military inspections after his return to Britain. Whatever the location, the scene of the film would be very similar to today’s events at Camp Petawawa — even to the civilian’s carrying an umbrella. Follow the link to watch the film; it takes less than a minute.
The second photograph is from Wills, Archie. All in a Lifetime [photograph album]. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.

Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”


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