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War Declared - Edmonton Troops Mobilize

Edmonton Residents Seek War News – 3 August
(City of Edmonton Archives EA-10-3184)

Germany declared war on France on August 3, 1914. The next day the German Army marched through neutral Belgium as part of their plan to knock out France. In defence of Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th.

Canada was part of the British Empire and Britain's declaration of war meant that the rest of the empire was also at war.  The popular sentiment amongst the dominant Anglo-Canadians of the times was that, “When Britain is at war Canada is at war.”, and that Canada would send troops to the assistance of the British forces. That was considered Canada’s duty and obligation.

Three contingents of soldiers were immediately raised in Edmonton for overseas service. The 101st Regiment (Edmonton Fusiliers) and the 19th Alberta Dragoons had been training part-time for over half a decade and were now asked by Ottawa to supply volunteers. A new regiment was raised across Canada for the British Army, to be known as Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the name being lent by the daughter of the Governor-General, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught.  One quarter of the Patricia's joined in Edmonton.

The 101st Regiment, held to peacetime maximum of under 400, recruited over 1200 officers and men who were sent off to war within weeks of war’s declaration. The Dragoons had squadrons in Edmonton, Strathcona (Edmonton Southside), and one inVegreville/Vermillion. This regiment was the only one of thirty-five similar regiments across Canada asked to supply a cavalry reconnaissance squadron.

9th Canadian Overseas Infantry Battalion

The first Edmonton draft from the 101st Regiment, 908 men, left Edmonton in two troop trains, in charge of Maj. Peter Anderson, on August 22, for the newly constructed ‘tent city’ Camp Valcartier to the west of Quebec.  Lieut.-Col. Frank A. Osborne of the 101st Regiment and two officers remained in Edmonton long enough to complete the recruiting of an additional 350 men which left for Valcartier on August 27. Osborne had commanded the 101st since 1912 and had recently retired as a Canada Customs collector.  He had no war experience. Once in Valcartier Osborne stepped down to become second-in-command of the 101st contingent that was renumbered the 9th Canadian Overseas Infantry Battalion. Command of the 9th Battalion was given to Samuel Maynard Rogers. Lieut.-Col. Rogers had served in the ranks during the Battle of Cut Knife Hill in the 1885 Northwest Canada Rebellion, commanded a company of infantry during the South African War in 1899-1900, and from 1904 to 1910 commanded the 43rd Regiment in Ottowa. Rogers had resided in Edmonton in 1912, and became the first Superintendent of the Jasper National Park the following year.

Peter Anderson was the managing partner of a brick making plant near the south end of Edmonton’s Low Level Bridge. Anderson had also served in the 101st Edmonton Fusiliers and, like Osborne, had joined the 101st in 1908 as a captain. Anderson would fight in Flanders, where he was captured and made prisoner of war. He escaped and ultimately fought against the Bolsheviks in Northern Russia in 1918-1919.

Edmonton’s 9th Battalion reached England in mid-October 1914 but never made it to France. Instead, the Edmontonians were sent to France in the first half of 1915 as replacements for casualties within the four infantry battalions of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade.

19th Alberta Dragoons

Notice to mobilize a squadron of 196 all ranks for the First Contingent was received by Lieut.-Col. Frederick Charles Jamieson on August 7. Jamieson’s second-in-command was Maj. William Antrobus Griesbach. Both Edmontonians had served together in the South African War in 1900. Both were lawyers and original officers of the Edmonton squadrons of the Canadian Mounted Rifles (the predecessor of the 19th Dragoons) in 1906. “Billy” Griesbach was Edmonton’s mayor in 1906-07 and the son of retired North West Mounted Police Superintendent Arthur Henry Griesbach.

Over 100 men were accepted by the 19th Alberta Dragoons on August 7 as volunteers at the A Sqn armoury on Victoria Avenue (now 100th Avenue) and 106th Street. Every man that applied was taken to the lane behind the armoury and required to hold a rifle in one hand, the reins in another and mount a rather nervous steed. He then had to gallop up and down the alley while Maj. Griesbach urged greater speed with a long riding whip. Many otherwise acceptable volunteers failed the test.

The men of the Dragoons were quartered at the Victoria Avenue armoury and the assembly hall at nearby McKay Avenue School. For much of that first week they drilled on foot in Ross Flats, below McKay Avenue School, while the unit awaited the purchase of their horses. Upon arrival, horses were stabled at the Capital City Curling Rink at Jasper Avenue and 112th Street.

Troups from the 19th Alberta Dragoons leaving Edmonton
(Glenbow Archives NC-6-1210)

On August 26, the Special Service Squadron of the 19th Alberta Dragoons, 250 all ranks and 210 newly purchased horses, left Edmonton’s southside Canadian Pacific Railway station for Valcartier from where the soldiers were shipped overseas. Griesbach would return to Edmonton by the year’s end and raise the 49th Canadian Overseas Infantry Battalion. The 19th Alberta Dragoons Squadron would serve in France and Flanders until the end of the war, combining in 1916 to become a squadron in the Canadian Corps Cavalry Regiment, which became the Canadian Light Horse in 1917.

No. 2 Company, P.P.C.L.I.

Recruiting for the Patricia’s began in Edmonton on August 10, 1914. During the first day 82 applications were received at the recruiting office of the PPCLI in Edmonton. Many of the soldiers were recruited from the Legion of Frontiersmen, a paramilitary social club. Captain John William Herbert McKinery, an Australian who had served during the South African War, was placed in charge of the new company, assisted by Sergeant Major Foden.  William John Foden had fought with the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry in the South Africa. He subsequently served in the Royal Canadian Artillery in Canada’s Permanent Force. He was a contractor in civilian life and resided in Hardisty, Alberta.

Three contingents totaling 273 men (including a pipe band from the Caledonian Society), one quarter of the original Patricia’s from across Canada, departed from Edmonton’s on August 12 - 14, 1914. The new regiment, of one battalion in strength, assembled in Ottawa and trained for a month in Levis, across the river from Quebec City.

For the first year of the war the Patricia’s would serve as a battalion within the British Army. The casualty rate was to be horrid. Of 245 Edmontonians that reached Flanders in January, 1915, fifty percent were killed, seriously wounded or suffered from the serious effect of poison gas. Near the end of 1915 the P.P.C.L.I. would transfer to the Canadian Corps and fight alongside the 49th Battalion (Edmonton Regiment) for the remainder of the long bloody war.

For further details of Canada’s readiness for and immediate response to the declaration of war look under Canadian Military History/First World War and Regimental History/Edmonton and the 49th on this site.

 

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