Witley, March 25, 1917

Sunday    I wrote today as usual no mail yet

It’s as if the quarantine huts were on another planet, for all the awareness Percy shows of greater goings-on.

Last night, Archie and his friend were about to buy their tickets for the show at the Royal Theatre in Guildford, “when a major come [sic] in and orders us back to camp at once.” Instead, they took themselves to another show, but the same announcement was made: all Canadians back to Witley Camp.(1)

The first message had come into headquarters at 5:45 pm: “No officers or other Ranks to leave Camp. Stand by for important orders.” (2) Subsequent orders recalled officers and men from leave and courses. Nearly three hours later, the Artillery learned that  a state of emergency had been announced by Aldershot Command Headquarters: “There are apparently several Home Defence Schemes – one of which is being acted on but none of which has been communicated to or affects the Divl: Arty: except so far as requiring a state of readiness for movement.”(2)

Gossip in camp runs wild: “We found that all the troops in England had been ordered to Invasion postcard crop.jpgrejoin their units. One report had it that the 4th Division had gone under in France, another that the Germans had invaded England and that the Zeppelins had come and that there was a naval engagement. We are standing by.”(3)

(1) Wills, Archie. Diary. 4: 22. March 24, 1917 Archie Wills Fonds, University of Victoria Archives. Copyright 2007, University of Victoria.
(2) War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. 2 (March 1917): 4. March 24, 1917.Library and Archives of Canada.
(3)  Wills, Diary. 4: 23. March 24, 1917.

The 1915 postcard takes a lighter approach to the possibility of invasion or Zeppelin. Drawn by Archibald English, it makes fun of the New Army of volunteers who enlisted after the war began. The verse reads: “Let no Invasion scares or Bombs/from Zeppelins drive you balmy –/ There’s naught can harm old Britain now/ for I have joined the Army!”

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”

 

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