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To England

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After the initial rush of volunteers and the filling out of the regiments, one of the main basic training centres in Valcartier, Quebec, prepared the new soldiers to obey orders and behave within the limits of expected military discipline. Due to the urgency for troops in Europe it was decided that the first units would depart for Europe as quickly as possible.

On the night of September 23/24th the 31,000 raw troops were given orders to prepare fro embarkation on transports to Europe. They packed up heir equipments and were loaded on trains for Quebec City, where they boarded 33 ocean liners which were assembling in the Gaspe Basin where they would then meet up with escort vessels and cross the Atlantic. On October 3rd the troop ships departed led by the HMS Charybdis, HMS Diana, HMS Eclipse, flanked by the HMS Glory, HMS Suffok and followed up by the HMS Talbot. The battle cruiser HMS Queen Mary was to join up with the convoy later to replace the HMS Suffolk.

As the fleet passed the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, it was joined by SS Florizel, a sealing ship which carried the Newfoundland regiment. This was only the third time that Canadian troops had left Canada to fight abroad (the first being the Sudan, the second being the Boer War) but this was by far the largest contingent to depart for overseas service.

On October 14th the Canadian troops arrived at Plymouth and Devonport and began to disembark the troops. Due to wartime secrecy and in order not to attract enemy ships or U-boats, the arrival of the troops was a surprise for the English citizenry and their joy at receiving help from the dominions was overwhelming. They crowed the streets and cheered the Canadian and Newfoundland troops as they marched along the streets of the cities on their way to their training stations on the Salisbury Plain at Bustard, West Down South, West Down North, Pond Lake, Lark Hill and Sling Plantation. This became their home until they departed for France.

This proved to be a good location for training as it was similar to the ugly conditions of rain and mud that they would have to deal with in France, but the foul conditions did take their toll with illness, flu, spinal meningitis and a damping of moral when the weather was extremely bad. They trained, marched, learned how to use their weapons effectively, how to deploy for combat and how to obey their officers. They also developed a comradely and a feeling of Canadian nationalism that could not be created in ordinary life back home. This was their first step towards becoming some of the best troops of the First World War.

They were visited and reviewed by King George and Queen Mary of England and the great leaders of the British military establishment, Lord Kitchener and Lord Roberts. Their training time was relatively short and in December the orders had come through for their deployment to France and by the new year they were on their way.

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