Percy’s battery, the 48th, left Amherst on September 11, 1916, after a “great send off – even Heine prisoners waved goodbye,” according to Ives (1). Their journey was probably very similar to that of Bertie Cox and Archie Wills whose train had traced the same route the day before.
I never, in any city, much less town, saw so many girls in all my life [as in Truro]. Thousands at the railway station, and we were not allowed to get off , or even talk to them through the windows, as from this point on to Halifax, the windows had to be closed and the blinds pulled down. (2)
Wills’ account describes the frustration of the men inside their carriages, looking out at the girls who were eager to share parcels of “eats” and conversation with them: “We sat inside and raved and swore and from the outside must have looked like a lot of caged animals. … The language used in our car was the choicest I have ever heard.” (3)
The blinds came down at Windsor Junction, leaving the men in semi-darkness, speculating that the authorities were merely “pulling some Sherlock Holmes stuff.” The men around Wills responded to what they saw as a ridiculous order by punching a few holes in the blinds. (4)
It was only a couple of hours more to Halifax, and by the middle of the afternoon Percy was on board the SS Cameronia.
This image from Percy’s small album shows the freight yards on the shore of Bedford Basin. Look closely to see a ship close to the shore.
The soldiers were marched from train to dock, and while they were being mustered, at least a few took to the top of the railcars for a better view.
Meanwhile, miles away from Halifax, just west of Quebec City, the Quebec Bridge suffered its second collapse, when the whole central span dropped into the St. Lawrence River. The first collapse had taken place in 1907, killing 75; the bridge was not finished until 1917, and remains a reminder to engineers of the responsibilities of their profession.(5)
(1) Ives, Raymond Ellsworth. Memoir (manuscript). Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project.
(2) Cox Bertram Howard. Letter to his mother, September 23, 2916. Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project
(3) Wills, Archie. Diary. 3:11. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(4) Wills, Archie. Diary. 3:12.
(5) Marsh, James H. “Quebec Bridge Disaster.” August 28, 2013. Canadian Encyclopedia.
The second image is also from Percy’s small album. Its caption reads: “Two left section boys Halifax.”
Copyright 2016. See “More about this project.”