Toronto – Petawawa 1914

With the storm clouds of The Great War not yet on the horizon, the year prior to Britain’s declaration of war against Germany on August 4th, 1914, was filled with ceremonial and training events for the 48th Highlanders.

The Regiment’s DCO, Major John A. Currie who would take the 15th Battalion into the coming conflict, took command in 1913. Colour Sergeant JW Kirkness became the ‘regimental’ and Pipe Sergeant J Fraser became the Pipe Major. As well as an inspection parade in June by The Colonel-in-Chief, General Sir Ian Hamilton, the Regiment paraded in May at Barrie and at Hamilton in August. Sergeant William A. Hawkins won the coveted King’s Prize at Bisley as the best shot in the British Empire.

By June 1914 in a foreshadowing of things to come, the unit was dressed in khaki tunics and kilt aprons and training in Petawawa with newly issued P08 British webbing and Mark II Ross rifles. Following the assassination of the Austrian Archduke on June 28th, 1914, the European situation deteriorated quickly culminating with the Britain’s declaration of war on August 4th.

Soon thereafter, the Minister of Militia requested volunteers from the Militia regiments and the 48th Highlanders’ offer of a battalion was accepted. Volunteers in the assembling expeditionary force would serve under their own officers with the possibility of regimental affiliations being maintained.

On August 7th the Regiment paraded 900 of which 355 had already volunteered for overseas service and two days later on August 9th, mobilization orders arrived from Ottawa. The volunteers were kitted out at the Armouries on University Street, and they assembled for pre-embarkation purposes at Long Branch ranges on August 17th. Rudimentary training, route marches and inoculations were carried out there until August 27th when orders arrived directing all volunteers to move to camp Valcartier in Quebec.  The numbers of the 48th’s volunteer contingent had increased to 970 all ranks including volunteers from other area Militia regiments.

The advance party left Toronto almost immediately to be followed by the main body two days later. On August 29th, the battalion left Long Branch and dismissed briefly in Toronto for final farewells before reassembling at the Armoury and marching through the packed city streets to entrain at the Don Railway Station for their move to Valcartier. The long journey to the Western Front had begun and many who left that day would never return.

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