The Field Artillery Training manual of 1914 provides a syllabus for training – with the warning that it is only a “guide to officers charged with the training of recruits” and can be adapted as required. (1) Obviously the schedule would be — and was — affected by the pressure of war, by the availability or otherwise of suitable locations, of equipment, of horses and of other necessities. In early 1915, for example, the 21st Battery was training in Montreal on twelve-pounders and without mounts. (2).
There were still twelve-pounders at Camp Petawawa when Percy got there. His training in Exhibition Camp, however, had generally been of a high standard: the 48th battery had had real firing exercises and mock battles.
Supposing they had stuck to the syllabus, what would a gunner have learned? Over the twelve weeks, nearly 300 hours of training was set out – excluding time for medical examinations, acquiring kit and uniform, undergoing kit inspections, sitting tests, and all the fatigues assigned, whether stable, kitchen or sentry duty.
- Physical training: 60 hours
- Drill (dismounted, without arms): 90 hours
- Rifle exercises and visual training: 25 hours
- “Cordage, knotting &c”: 19 hours
- Semaphore: 20 hours
- Gun drill: 46 hours
- Lectures: 30 hours (1)
The syllabus for drivers was slightly different: They had the same number of hours of PT, drill, and semaphore but fewer hours of cordage and lectures. They had no gun drill, of course. Their other hours were taken up with more appropriate tasks:
- Wooden horse: 7.5 hours
- Fitting and cleaning harness, etc: 12.5 hours
- Stable management: 40 hours (3)
Physical training and drill we learned about in March and April. We’ll learn more about the other aspects of the gunner’s training in the following days.
(1) Field Artillery Training. HMSO. 1914. Appendix I. 409
(2) Grout, Derek. Thunder in the Skies. A Canadian Gunner in the Great War. Toronto: Dundurn, 2015.32, 41
(3) Field Artillery Training. HMSO. 1914. Appendix I. 410
The photograph, labelled “Twelve-pounders at Petawawa,” is from Percy’s small album.