The Canadian Expeditionary Force Novels

Forging the Weapon cover 1914
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Frank Rockland

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Salisbury Plain

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During the fall and winter of 1914 the Canadians endured one of the wettest falls in living memory at Salisbury Plain. Since the chalk base didn’t allow for much drainage there was frequent flooding. For many years after the war veterans would recall those first months as the worst they had to endure.

In 1914, when the British accepted the Canadian government’s offer of a contingent of 25,000 men, they decided to station the Canadians at Salisbury Plain for final training and work up before going to France.

Salisbury Plain, in central southern England, had since 1898 been one of the British Army’s main training bases. At the time they had nearly 300 square miles of grassy hilly terrain with an occasional stand of trees. There was a thin coat of topsoil on top of a chalk base. The Plain had been used to conduct manoeuvres, summer camps, and rifle and artillery training on the ranges.

In preparation for the Canadians arrival they had pitched floor-boarded tents and erected cook houses. The arrival of an additional 8,000 men above the 25,000 they had been informed to expect, the British Army had to scramble to find additional tents for the men.

The British Army had requested that the Canadians bring waterproof tents since there was a shortage in England. Unfortunately, the tents were left behind at the Valcartier Camp which the Canadians would latter regret.

Colonel Carson, who headed the Canadian Advance Party, had spoken to Lord Kitchener about the conditions on the plain. Kitchener offered to move some British units into tents to accomodate the Canadians. However, Lieutenant-General Alderson was somewhat embarrassed when he found out and refused the offer stating that huts were being built to protect the men from the elements.

By the end of December only half the contingent had been assigned to huts.

Locations of Canadian units at Salisbury Plain
(December 1914)

Map of Canadian soldiers camps at Salisbury Plain

Source: Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919, Duguid, Colonel Fortesque, page 162.

BUSTARD CAMP (Tents)

WEST DOWN SOUTH CAMP (Tents)

WEST DOWN NORTH CAMP (Tents)

LARK HILL CAMP NORTH (Huts)

LARK HILL CAMP SOUTH (Huts)

ROLLESTONE

SLING PLANTATION CAMP (Huts)

POND FARM CAMP (Tents)

BULFORD MANOR

SALISBURY 

NETHERAVON

ENFORD

SHREWTON

AMESBURY

LONDON

CLIVEDEN (TAPLOW) BUCKS

HAMPSTEAD (LONDON)

Sources and further readings

Salisbury Plain - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

DHH - Official Histories, Official History of The Canadian Forces in the Great War, 1914-1919, Vol I Part 1

DHH - Official Histories, Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War, 1914-1919, Vol I Part 2