During this period our brass band, under Lieut. Good, was of great assistance to us, giving almost every day musical selections to the troops and playing at dances in the evenings. Praise is also due to the bugle band for their keenness, smartness and general esprit du corps. They, with Seargt. Overton on at the head, were much commented on during our frequent marches.
On the 4th of January we left Jauche and moved quite close to Brussells, arriving at Groenendael, only five miles away from Brussels, on the 6th, staying at Pietrebais and Wavre en route. Particular care was taken to see that all had good billets here as it was understood that our stay was to be of some month’s duration. Educational work, frequent trips to Brussels, Waterloo and the surrounding neighborhood, and sports were freely indulged in, intermingled with concerts and dances. One day was spent in Louvain, where a friendly football match was played with the civilians. In sports the old Battalion fully upheld its high reputation and made a fitting climax to its high record while in France and Belgium, being in the divisional finals in the company indoor baseball (“C” Company representing the Battalion) and creating a record by winning the brigade and divisional finals in both battalion football and indoor baseball, and also winning the brigade company football and massed football (“D” Company). At the divisional boxing tournament on the 15th of March Ptes. Burrows and Williams won the medium heavy and heavyweight championship bouts respectively, and were presented with silver cups by His Majesty the King of the Belgians.
During the month of March most of the Battalion was scattered over Belgium on guard duty. A large party under Major Nicholson was sent to Hasselt to establish a “Halte Repas” there and another party under Capt. Raphael was scattered between Namur and Liege guarding barges, etc. laden with cognac. This latter party on their return said they had a pretty good time! The football and baseball teams represented the 4th Division in the Corps finals at Brussels, but were unfortunately beaten after a splendid record. About the beginning of April all the transport horses and mules were taken away from the Battalion. This began to look like the end. The King of the Belgians reviewed the 11th Brigade in March and expressed himself as very pleased with the general appearance. Our new colors arrived just in time for this parade.
On the 18th of April the Battalion said goodbye to Groenendael and Belgium. A large number of motor lorries were ready to take us to the station at Wavre, where a train made up of cattle trucks fitted with stoves etc., was in waiting, and after two days’ journey Havre was reached. Here a week was spent in a closely packed hut camp. On the28th of April we left here and went on board the boat that which was to take us to England, and afer a very rough crossing and a comfortable train journey Bramshott was reached and all comfortably installed in good quarters. A considerable amount of work was done hereon papers, records, etc., but owing to the forethought and push of our colonel it was quickly got through and he packed us off on leave with instructions to stay away as long as possible. This enabled us to spend most of May on leave, and as it was beautiful weather, with England looking at its best, we all enjoyed ourselves very much. The colonel, of course, was on the “mat” for this, but the authorities eventually tumbled to the idea that he had done right. He also had one last fight, which was not concluded until Revelstoke was reached, as to the place of Demobilization; it is needless to say he got his own way.
On the 3rd of may a big parade of overseas troops was held in London in which the 54th took part. It should also be mentioned that the colonel did a record trip to Brussels and back, partly by car and partly by plane.
One the 1st of June the 11th Brigade left England on the Mauretania , where everyone was well treated, arriving in Halifax four or five days later. No time was lost here and we were soon installed in the train en route for Hamilton, Ont., our first point of demobilization. This place was reached on the 8th of June and a great welcome was extended to the Battalion by the good citizens of Hamilton, followed by a banquet in the evening and a trip to Niagara Falls the following day.
It should be remembered that at the banquet a very pleasing ceremony took place. To testify in a small way to their love and devotion to Colonel Carey, every member of the Battalion had subscribed towards a small gift to him. This took the form of a silver-fitted suitcase. For once the “old man” was lost for words, and all he could find in his emotion to say was, “oh, darn it, you know what I want to say.”
About three-quarters of the Battalion was demobilized at Hamilton. The balance for British Columbia left on the Monday evening in a special train for Revelstoke. A somewhat tiring journey of three days brought us to dear old British Columbia and at Revelstoke a large crowd was waiting to welcome the Kootenay boys home. The Battalion made its last parade up to the football grounds, and here after some speech-making the final salute was given and the last order to dismiss. The end had come, and it was with somewhat sad and full hearts that we fell out and left the parade ground. One could not help feeling that this was probably the last time that one would be associated with one’s comrades, comrades with whom one had spent so many months.
The good people of Revelstoke had laid themselves out to give us a good time, and after a wonderful banquet entertainments were provided followed by a big ball in the evening. There were still a few of the Battalion left for coast points, and these joined the train next day arriving at Vancouver, and there, joining with the remnants of the 67th and l02nd Battalions, left on the mid-day boat for Victoria, where another reception took place.
Before closing this little narrative it should be said how very greatly the kindness of the ladies all across Canada in supplying refreshments at the various stops was appreciated.
All of the Battalion was now demobilized and the final act was over. “Goodbye, old 54th.”
The principal officers of the Battalion at this time were:
Finally, before closing this book, let us remember that one outstanding figure of brilliancy in the Canadian Corps. To his care and forethought to his marvellous capabilities as a leader, to his great mind of ideas to his power of organization and administrative ability and to his love and affection are due the magnificent records of the Canadian Corps. Gen. Sir Arthur W. Currie, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., was the greatest success of the war. We are proud of having served under him, and trust that if ever the occasion arises we may do so again.
Throughout the whole time in France our Divisional Commander was Major-General Sir David Watson, K.C.B., C.M.G. Due to his untiring efforts and hard work the 4th Canadian Division made a great name for itself in France, and although looked on at first as the “baby” division, yet at the end it was recognized as second to none in the corps. A thorough sportsman and a good soldier, the qualities of General Watson were reflected throughout the whole division.
Our Brigadier, with whom we were all closely associated, was Brigadier-General V. W. Odlum, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O. It must be recorded that in all things our Brigadier allied himself closely with his men. Very keen on smartness and appearance, yet always with the love for his men at heart, he had endeared himself to all ranks. He never shirked a danger when he thought it necessary for the good of the cause. Those who knew him well realized how much he thought of his work and how greatly he loved his brigade did the best for them.
And now this short history must close. Dear old Cinquante-Quatre, how we honor thy great name and how we shall think of and talk over the many happy and some unhappy days we have spent under your name! One great brotherhood are we, knit together by the memories of what we have all gone through together, by the friendship of our beloved comrades who are no more, and by our glorious reputation. The 54th has always been first, both in the game of war and the games of peace.