Unending Seige

From Canada to Britain and France

The Canadians on Salisbury Plain

The Canadians' apprenticeship to war and the war itself fell under British tutelage, at least for the first two years. In 1915 a third of the Canadian staff officers, whose work it was to plan and prepare for combat, were British. Several years would pass before Canadians occupied the majority of these positions. Upon arrival in England, the first contingent headed for camp at Bustard on Salisbury Plain, a 200-square-mile tract that had long been used almost exclusively for military manoeuvres. Being near to Stonehenge, it was also a mecca for tourists. Some of the men lived in tents, others in barracks. The Canadians were not alone. Part of "Kitchener's army" - a term used to describe British conscripts-was training there too. Training was conducted in companies. The first stage lasted five weeks, followed by two weeks at battalion level and a further two weeks at brigade level. Finally, on 11 December 1914, the division drilled in formation for the first time.

Two events caught the attention of the Canadians on Salisbury Plain. They saw the King himself on the two inspections he conducted ... and it rained on 89 of the 123 days they spent there.

In January 1915 the lessons the British had learned on the battlefield were passed on to the Canadians. Their allocation of Colt machine guns went from two to four per battalion and the 30 men responsible for serving them received special training.