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There was no shortage of men to volunteer. Motivated by duty and patriotism, or because they were unemployed or weary of sod breaking in the prairies, by the end of 1914 more than 59,000 had joined the Canadian forces, including a number of nursing sisters. Initially Borden had promised to send 25,000 men to England's aid. By January 1916 that number had grown to a commitment to send half a million. In 1915 some 159,000 volunteered.

Signing up

Many approaches were used in recruiting men for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The clergy and women were asked to help in persuading men into the ranks. In many cases, clergy preached sermons designed to boost recruitment and allowed recruiters to use churches for their work. Some women went overboard, issuing white feathers to young men not in uniform on the (usually unfair) assumption that they were "cowards." Posters appealed directly to women to use their influence to coerce their men folk to enlist: "Do you realize that the one word 'GO' from you may send another man to fight for our King and Country? When the war is over and someone asks your husband or your son what he did in the Great War, is he to hang his head because you would not let him go - Won't you help and send a man to enlist today?

The original mobilization plans had made careful provision for French Canadian units to be part of the First Contingent. Hughes resisted the idea that they should form their own units and those who did volunteer had to join English-speaking units. The only successful exception to make it overseas was the 22 Battalion (the "Vandoos"), whose fine war record shows what might have been achieved with a different approach. Such attitudes did much to alienate many Quebecers who were already concerned about attacks on French language education in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In any event, Quebecers generally did not have the close ties with France which recently arrived British immigrants had with their mother country.

Prime Minister Robert Borden and Cabinet Minister review the troops at Valcatier

The Kitchen at Valcartier training camp

Their were volunteers aplenty in 1914. Given rudimentary training at Valcartier, the First Contingent of 31,200 (of whom 65 percent were British born) embarked in thirty ships form Quebec on October 3, 1914. Their second stage training and preparation for battle was to take place in England under the command of the British General Alderson. When they arrived they were placed on Salisbury Plain, where in one of the worst winters on record it rained every day except one until Christmas - then it snowed. Flu and spinal meningitis took a toll, and the conditions delayed the dispatch of a second Contingent (20,000 strong) from Canada until the spring of 1915.

But training proceeded for the soldiers on Salisbury plain, and they were outfitted with new equipment in place of some of the inadequate equipment with which they had left Canada. The Canadian Division, as they were now known, was considered ready to move to France in January 1915. When the Second Division moved to France in September 1915, the two divisions formed the CANADIAN CORPS. The Third Division was created in December 1915, and the Fourth crossed to France in August 1916. All four divisions served together as the Canadian Corps after the Battle ofthe Somme in 1916.

Troops training at Valcartier

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