Military Discipline

But from a military view-point, we, the boys of the First Canadian Division, did not make such a tremendous hit with British officials. It was not long before they even criticized us openly, and looking at it from a distance I do not blame them. Never in their lives had they seen soldiers like us. They had been used to the fine, well-disciplined, good-looking English Tommy. Of course I will admit that we were good-looking all right, but as far as discipline was concerned, we did not even know it by name. The military authorities could not understand how it was that a major or a captain and a private could go on leave together, eat together and in general chum around together.

The little training we had had in Canada was good, as far as it went, and we had devoured it all. But the most vital part of a soldier's up-bringing was absolutely forgotten by our officers-discipline! As I've said before, as far as discipline was concerned, we were a joke. Certainly we were looked upon as such by the Imperial officers.

In one of the leading British weeklies there appeared a series of comments reflecting rather seriously on our discipline. One of the most humorous yet caustic, it seemed to me, was of an English soldier on guard at a post just outside of London. His instructions were to stop all who approached. In the darkness it was impossible for him to distinguish one person from another. Before long he heard footsteps coming toward him:

"Halt! Who goes there?" demanded the sentry.

"The Irish Fusiliers," was the answer.

"Pass, Irish Fusiliers; all's well."

Before long some more steps sounded . . .

"Halt! Who goes there?"

"The London Regiment."

"Pass, Londons all's well."

"Halt! Who goes there?"

"Hic . . . mind your own damn business. . . ."

"Pass, Canadians; all's well."

At a parade, one bright November morning, when we were at Salisbury, a certain brigadier-general from Ontario, since killed in action, while reviewing the soldiers of a particular battalion, made a unique speech to the boys when he said:

"Lads, the king and Lord Kitchener and all the big-bugs are coming down to review us to-day, and for once in your lives, men, I want to see you act like real soldiers. When they get here, for the love o' Mike, don't call me Bill . . . and, for God's sake, don't chew tobacco in the ranks."

There is no doubt about it, the authorities probably looked on us as a bunch of good fellows, but that's about all.

Harold R. Peat, Private Peat (Toronto: George J. McLeod Limited, 1917), pp. 19-22.