Witley, March 24, 1917

Saturday       I do lots of reading these days play cards in the evenings Am in the Best

In fine weather on Hankley Common today, the winners of the successive rounds of battery and brigade sports are meeting for the divisional championships. The War Diary pronounces the effort worthwhile:

“Events were well contested & as every man entered for the preliminary contests, the Sports had considerable instructional value.” (1)

The O.Pip gives us a list of the sports.1916 06 17 wrestling on horseback crop

  • Gate Driving
  • SOS Race
  • Combined Casualty Race
  • VC [Veterinary Corps] Race
  • Tug-of-War on Horseback
  • Wrestling on Horseback
  • Officers Jumping1915 02 20 jumping crop.jpg
  • Tent Pegging with lances
  • Best team of six horses
  • Replacing of Wheel
  • Gas Helmet Race(2)

 Archie Wills tells us that they only had their first trial of walking and running in a gas helmet three days ago. It left a rotten taste in his mouth. (3)

If you weren’t participating in the games, you were free either to watch or to pursue other leisure activities. (Not, of course, if you were in quarantine, still under guard and behind barbed wire.) Archie chose to go to  Guildford ( about 9 miles/ 15 km) in the afternoon, to roam the town and take in an evening of theatre. (4)  His plans went awry, however.

(1) War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. Vol. 2 (March 1917): 4. March 24, 1917. Library and Archives of Canada.
(2) “Brigade Sports.” The O.Pip. 1:1 (April 1917): 8. Curiously, this report states that the brigade sports took place on March 24, 1917, when Archie Wills’s diary says they were on March 20th, and the War Diary puts the Divisional Sports on the 24th.
(3) Wills, Archie. Diary. 3: 19. March 21, 1917. Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(4) Wills, Diary. 3: 21-22. March 24, 1917.

The photographs of wrestling on horseback and jumping are from John Boyd’s First World War Photographs, City of Toronto Archives. They were taken in June 1916 and February 1915, respectively, both at Exhibition Camp, Toronto.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”



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