Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

CEF training time in England


Recommended Posts

When a cef battalion arrived in England, for how long will they train before being sent to France? Did time wary if the battalion was meant to be a combat unit or used for drafts of reinforcements ?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't say anything about subsequent contingents, but the First (comprising some 32,000 men) arrived on Salisbury Plain in mid-October 1914 and left for France in early February 1915. But it was notoriously poorly equipped and under-trained, with many very inexperienced officers. Not that it was able to do much training in the very wet winter of 1914-15. When it finally got to France, it equipped itself very well.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It varied tremendously. The 12 battalions of the 2nd Division arrived in May 1915 and left for France on 15 September 1915. There was no set time for training in England before crossing. Typically battalions that ended up in France had months in England before crossing. The battalions of the 3rd Division were a mix of units that were already in France and England. The 4th Division battalions were in England for at least 6 months before reaching France in August 1916. The battalions of the 5th Division which did not leave the UK lasted for close to year before the division was disbanded in February 1918.

 

The Canadian authorities broke up the vast majority of battalions that arrived in England, but how long they lasted before they were disbanded again varied tremendously. The residue of the stripped battalions could clutter up the books and barracks for several years before these units were fully disbanded in 1918. Depending on the casualty situation with the Canadian Corps, battalions might be stripped of all its ORs, NCOs, and junior officers on arrival or it could kick around for a year. It was not to 1917 that a competent replacement policy of sending drafts to England was implemented in the CEF. Prior to that the majority of replacements were men stripped from battalions in England.

 

As one clarification to Moonraker's point, the 1st Division was fully equipped when it arrived in England and when it arrived in France. The problem was some of the equipment was inadequate for the conditions on the Western Front. Particularly the rifle and machine gun employed by the Canadians were poorly suited. The rifle was the Ross, which had a terrible tendency to jam in rapid fire and was too long and cumbersome in the trenches. It was a very accurate weapon and often used by Canadian snipers, but it was not suitable for line infantry. The machine gun was the Colt or 'potato digger' which was inaccurate that it could not be used for indirect fire because of its dispersion. It had numerous other flaws that made ill-suited to the Western Front.

 

Bill

Link to post
Share on other sites

To which might be added terrible boots (leading to a political scandal), poor uniforms, 600 shoddy bicycles and a variety of makes of lorry that needed a wide range of spare parts, most of which were only available in North America. Not to mention a seaplane (!) that never actually flew after it'd arrived in Britain, some novel armoured cars whose impracticality led to their being left behind when the First Division sailed for France, the Oliver harness, wagons condemned by the War Office, fragile field-telephone sets and the notorious MacAdam shovel/shields that ended up as scrap.

 

Equipment that did not have to be replaced include officers' side-arms and British-made artillery.

 

Previously we have discussed most, if not all, of the defective equipment individually, sometimes more than once.

 

All this having been said, the Canadian Government - notably Sam Hughes, the Minister for Militia - did succeed in raising and equipping a large force of men very quickly.

 

Lessons were no doubt learnt for the benefit of subsequent contingents. Still, we digress.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you folks for you great answers.  So the amount of time spent in England essentially dependend on when the battalion was sent overseas? Also, Bill , the replacement policy you about wal implemented after conscription or before?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, the time spent in England was dependent on a large number of factors but a critical one was when the battalion arrived in England. If it was during a period of heavy fighting it could be broken up almost immediately depending on how well trained were the troops. Battalions arrived in England were rated in some cases as having completed three weeks of the 14 week War Office training course for infantry. This despite cases of units being embodied for 18 months. If the troops were poorly trained they would feed into reserve battalions where they would receive further training. If thought better trained they would get a shorter training period before going to France.

 

The change in policy to drafts versus full units occurred in early 1917 after Hughes resigned. The new regime instituted a new scheme of drafts from Canada receiving only enough training to be disciplined and sent to the UK where they would get the majority of there training. Conscription was not implemented until the 1917 federal election.

 

Bill

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...