Just as gun technology changed and improved over the course of the Great War, so did the training of gunners. During August of 1916, Percy and his pals sweated in Petawawa, while rumours grew that they would shortly be shipped overseas; we will take this opportunity to review in more detail the training they had been undergoing since enlisting.
It was two years since the war had begun, and the first Canadian Division had included many experienced men and units in its ranks. As more civilian recruits joined up, however, training could not always keep up, to the extent that Arthur Currie, made commander of the First Canadian Division in September 1915, complained a few months later that gunners might only have seen an eighteen-pounder three times in all their training, and might have had only one afternoon of hands-on work with one. (1) Currie had been an artilleryman before war broke out, and knew whereof he spoke.
The Field Artillery Training manual is the bible of artillery training, written for the Royal Artillery and applied to the dominions as well. “The object of training is to fit all ranks for the performance of their duties in war. This volume deals with the general principles which govern the training in peace and leading in war of horse, field, mountain, and heavy artillery.” (2)
The training must include both moral and physical instruction. The development of a soldierly spirit is needed to help the soldier to bear fatigue, privation and danger cheerfully; to embue [sic] him with a sense of honour; to give him confidence in his superiors and comrades; to increase his powers of initiative, of self-confidence, and of self-restraint; to train him to obey orders or to act suitably in their absence; to impress upon him that so long as he is physically capable of fighting surrender to the enemy is a disgraceful act; and finally to produce such a state of discipline that each individual will perform his duty coolly and correctly in the stress of battle. (2)
The four-hundred plus page manual makes frequent reference to official regulations, such as the Regulations for Field Service, for Training and Manoeuvres, and for Musketry, as well as to specific manuals such as the Manual of Physical Training. The Handbook of the 18 pr which we have been exploring also supplemented the more general training manual.
(1) Radley, Kenneth. We Lead, Others Follow. First Canadian Division 1914-1918. 2006. 256.
(2) Field Artillery Training. HMSO. 1914. 7
The photograph is from Percy’s large album.