Witley, March 28, 1917

Wednesday    I must miss these days as I’ve no record of them. with the exception of the weather which has been cold & raw all we seem to do now is just while away the time

The mobilization instructions noted that there were two possible scenarios: “mobilization for embarkation overseas” or “preparation to entrain immediately.” In the first, the

“Divisional Artillery will march out having disposed of every surplus Officer, man and article of store or equipment and closed the Camp in a thoroughly clean and sanitary condition. It is also possible that contacts in quarantine would be left behind and replaced by Drafts.” (1)

The second scenario involved a “real emergency [taking] precedence of every other consideration.” Mobilization under such circumstances would not achieve the same level of thoroughness.  Moreover, “Quarantine men – while kept separate from contacts as far as possible – would accompany their Units.” (1) Or, as William Calder told his mother, “still in quarintine [sic] but I guess they will lift it when they want us.” (2)

Reading no doubt helped while away the time.

235.pngThough set thousands of miles to the west, When a Man’s a Man might well resonate with men living and working in close proximity, even without the freedom that seems to characterize the open spaces of Arizona. Chapter 10, for example, describes the rodeo — not what we think of as a rodeo, which might be called the instructional sports competition of the cowboy —but the annual roundup of cattle. Cowhands from all the local ranches collaborate to locate, corral and sort out the cattle that range widely through the year; they brand the year’s calves, select animals to be driven to the home ranch, and send the rest out again. At the end of the day, we are told:

“The day’s work was reviewed with many a laugh and jest of pointed comment, and then, those whose horses needed attention … busied themselves at the corral, while others met for a friendly game of cards, or talked and yarned over restful pipe or cigarette. And then, bed and blankets, and, all too soon, the reveille sounded by the beating hoofs of the saddle band as the wrangler drove them in, announced the beginning of another day.”(3)

It’s not so very different from evening in a hut at Witley, except for the mechanism of the reveille.

(1) War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. Vol. 2 (March 191. Appendix 5: 2. Library and Archives of Canada.
(2) Calder, William. Letter to his mother, March 28, 1917. Available from the Canadian Letters and Images Project.
(3) Wright, Harold Bell. When a Man’s a Man. 1916. Chapter 10. The book is available from Gutenberg.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”

 

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