The remaining RCR troops left for France on November 1, 1915. Not long after, the regiment would form the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade along with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), the 42nd Battalion (Royal Highlanders), and the 49th Battalion (Edmonton Regiment). These units would fight side by side throughout the war. Cock explains that the first few months in France were spent assisting with constructing trenches, receiving further instruction on trench warfare, and engaging in “ordinary” trench warfare at Wulvergham, Kemmel, and Ypres.
In the manuscript Cock proceeds to provide brief descriptions of The RCR’s involvement in significant battles such as Mount Sorrel, Flers-Courcelette, Ancre Heights, Arras, Vimy, Hill 70, Passchendaele, Amiens, Scarpe, Canal Du Nord, and the pursuit to Mons. The regiment was awarded battle honours for each of these actions. He often paints a detailed picture of the battles by describing factors such as weather, battlefield conditions, and morale. For example, while describing the Battle of Flers-Courcelette he states the “whole operation was a most difficult one as the ground was churned up with shell holes and demolished trenches, without any landmarks as a guide.” He also provides interesting insights into new equipment introduced to the regiment such as gas masks and steel helmets which he explains “created confidence and saved many a broken head from overhead traverses in trenches and the roof beams of dugouts!”
He is sure to include interesting regimental stories as well. Speaking of the Battle of Mount Sorrel, one of The RCR’s first major battles, he states: “this battle so far as the regiment is concerned, has been known as the ‘Old Soldiers’ Day.’ The successful defence against repeated attacks was due to these old soldiers with their peace time training producing prodigious rapid fire from the rifle, although they were still imperfectly armed and automatic weapons were scarce.”
Interspersed throughout the manuscript are photographs from this period as well as cards, letters, and ephemera. You can read the author’s account of the regiment’s actions in France and Belgium below: