H.T. Cock Manuscript Series: Bermuda

Harry Tredennick Cock's manuscript titled "Short History of The Royal Canadian Regiment, 1883-1933" is a valuable document on our Archive Collection including the first 50 years of the RCR history. For this Story, we will be focusing on The Royal Canadian Regiment's (RCR) service in Bermuda from September 1914 to August 1915, and feature original text and photographs from the manuscript. The author of the manuscript was a lieutenant and machine gun officer in The RCR during this period. Taken together, the words and images provide valuable insight into the Regiment’s first year of the war.

TYPEWRITTEN MANUSCRIPT: "SHORT HISTORY OF THE ROYAL CANADIAN REGIMENT, 1883-1933"
DATE:
December 1934
DONATED BY: Unknown
OBJECT ID: RCRM2013.043.092

H.T. Cock’s original typewritten writings on Bermuda can be viewed by clicking the following images: 

The Regiment is called to Bermuda

In 1914, Britain and the Triple Entente declared war on Germany and the Central Powers. Canada, as part of the British Empire, became automatically involved in the First World War. All companies of The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), which were spread out from Halifax, Nova Scotia in the east to London, Ontario in the west, were brought together at Halifax. Once assembled, the various companies ventured off to secure forts and other strategic points on the Atlantic coast. The Regiment was eager to sail to Europe where they could actively engage the enemy, but their services were required elsewhere. 

In late August, the Regiment received a message asking if they would relieve English troops garrisoning Bermuda, a small, but strategically important, island colony in the North Atlantic about 1200km from the coast of Nova Scotia. The RCR, being the best prepared Canadian infantry unit to carry out this duty, were obliged to take up the role and a battalion was formed for overseas service.

Not all members of The RCR travelled to Bermuda; around 130 officers and men stayed behind to operate a Regimental Depot in Halifax, and many officers and non-commissioned officers were dispersed throughout Canada to assist with mobilizing the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Many Royal Canadians did end up serving in the First Contingent of the CEF in other units.

The First Regiment Overseas

On 9 September, 1914, 400 recruits from Valcartier, QC, where the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was being assembled, were brought in to supplement the ranks of the battalion. They had all volunteered to serve in Bermuda. These men arrived at Halifax aboard the S.S. Canada, a passenger ship of the White Star-Dominion Line that previously saw service during the South African War (1899-1902). The same ship would take the battalion, now at a strength of over 1000 men of all ranks, to Bermuda. Departing on 10 September, the Canada was escorted by the H.M.C.S. Niobe, a protected cruiser of the Royal Canadian Navy. Images of both ships were included in Cock’s manuscript. The RCR was the first to sail from Canada for overseas service during the war.

On the way, attempts were made to outfit the new recruits from Valcartier to a standard befitting The RCR as they were haphazardly dressed in a mix of militia uniforms. As most of the new recruits were inexperienced, they were also formed into provisional companies for the purpose of training. Once these men arrived in Bermuda, they would train intensively to meet the quality of the rest of the battalion. 

After a relatively smooth and uneventful four-day voyage, The RCR landed at Bermuda on 14 September. They relieved the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment of the British Army who boarded the Canada and set sail for Halifax before proceeding to England with the First Contingent of The CEF.


Garrison Duty in Bermuda

Once The RCR battalion arrived in Bermuda it was dispersed amongst three different islands. Headquarters, the Machine Gun Section led by Lieut. H.T. Cock, and eight companies were stationed at Prospect Barracks on the main island, three companies occupied Boaz Island, and another three companies went to St. George’s Island.

While in Bermuda, the Regiment trained in preparation for service at the front, manned forts and posts, and guarded German prisoners of war. One special event is highlighted in images included in the manuscript. This was a 100-man guard of honour led by Capt. Langford, Lieut. Alexander, and Lieut. Macculloch for Sir George Bullock, who was the Governor of Bermuda, and also Commander-in-Chief in charge of the Bermuda Garrison. A guard of honour was traditionally provided at the opening and closing of Bermuda’s parliament. Local newspapers reported that a large civilian crowd turned out to witness this spectacle. 


Machine Gun Section in Bermuda

H.T. Cock commanded the machine gun section of the battalion. His manuscript provides insight into the activities of that unit in Bermuda. The section was raised from two guns to four in early 1915. They were provided with four Colt Machine Guns, an air-cooled weapon of American origin that would eventually be found unreliable and unsuited to the conditions of the Western Front. The weapons arrived in Bermuda with no spare parts or instructions, but the machine gun section experimented with them and eventually produced an instruction manual. In addition to the Colt Machine Guns, they were also equipped with two British-made Maxim Machine Guns, which were set up to defend forts on Bermuda.


Leaving Bermuda

H.T. Cock does not say much about The RCR’s departure from Bermuda, other than they were relieved on 13 August, 1915 by the 38th (Ottawa) Battalion, CEF, and sailed to Halifax in the S.S. Caledonia. However, the images he included in the manuscript show the Regiment marching to their point of departure in a long procession, led by commanding officer Lieut.-Col. Carpenter, and flanked by local Bermudians. They also show troops being ferried from the capital city of Hamilton on the main island to a dock yard at Ireland Island where the unit would then assemble and depart to Canada.

After arriving in Halifax, The RCR battalion proceeded to England where they would be equipped with a modified version of the infamous Ross Rifle, scrap the Maxim Guns in favour of the four Colt Guns, and receive instruction on the use of grenades. There were also ten new officers posted to the battalion and “considerable changes to personnel.” 

After 11 months in Bermuda, The RCR was going to get the chance to actively engage the enemy at the front. Many of the men in the battalion were no doubt excited to be able to put their intensive training in Bermuda into practice.