Witley, June 23, 1917

Saturday          Weekend clean up this am Weather good Ans[wered] Alfs mother’s letter tonight went to pictures I am in the pink no mail this week

Brigadier General Fox’s report of his inspection is submitted to “The Field Marshall, Commanding -in-Chief, Home Forces” and a copy delivered to the Fifth Canadian Division’s Headquarters. We have already quoted his generally favourable impression of the batteries in action. Under the headings of “Horses” and “Equipment,” however, Fox notes some deficiencies and remarks that it would be “beneficial” if better standings could be provided for the horses, and calls for harness rooms since maintaining leather and steel outside proper facilities requires extra work and material. (1)

stables.uvic.ca crop.jpg

Witley Stables, complete with harness hanging under the scanty protection of a roof overhang.

The Canadians are stung by these comments, and submit a written response.  “It is desired that these facts should be placed on record.” (2)

They are all frustrated by the conditions in the stable, and annoyed to have shortcomings  recorded which they had done their best to ameliorate.

The  standings were “in a very bad condition” when they were taken over by the Division, “exactly as they were left by the formations previously occupying the stables.” Bedding of straw or sawdust is not to be expected in the open stalls in which the horses stand, but the shortage of “brick, stone, cinders, timber etc. ” which Fox deplores is not the result of neglect, but of the difficulty in obtaining such materials.  Officers have been spending time and battery funds to acquire whatever materials they can locate in the countryside around, and men are assigned to extra fatigues to transport what can be found back to camp. (2)

As for the lack of harness rooms, Lieutenant Colonel Ogilvie, who signed the Division’s response, is almost indignant. Their predecessors had not built harness rooms in all the years they had occupied Milford Camp.  The implication is that the Canadians should not have to invest in improvements to British infrastructure. Of course, therefore, the harness has to hang where it is not protected from weather. Nor does anyone seem to have authority to issue harness wrappers. When the men took harness into their huts to keep the leather and steel from the worst of the winter weather, the practice was stopped for hygienic reasons. (2)

“The result has not only meant a very great deal of extra work to everyone concerned but has led to considerable expense both personally by Battery Commanders and from Battery funds in providing a large amount of extra oil, soap, and other cleaning and preserving material.”(2)

Ordinary gunners are unaware of the indignation at headquarters. Percy’s concerns are what to say to his friend’s bereaved mother, and what has delayed the Canadian post.

(1) “Visit of Observation to 5th Canadian Divisional Artillery.” Appendix I of War Diary of the Fifth Canadian Divisional Artillery. Vol. 5 (June 1917).. Library and Archives of Canada.
(2) [Response]. Appendix II.

The photograph is from the Dodds Collection at the University of Victoria.

Copyright 2017. See “More about this project.”

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