The First Canadian Contingent Prepares to Sail

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A souvenir of Private John Denholm’s voyage across the Atlantic with the First Canadian Contingent

This is the fifth in a series of articles highlighting the experiences of Private John Denholm of the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) during the First World War. Articles will be published on the 100th anniversary of each event and will feature photos and ephemera from an amazing scrapbook that he compiled shortly after the war.

On the 29th of September the Cunard steamer Andania pulled away from the docks at Quebec and anchored in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. The following day she began steaming down river carrying the men and equipment of the 16th Battalion and part of the 14th Battalion, C.E.F.. Included among the more than 1500 soldiers were Privates John Denholm and my great-grandfather Herbert Clifford.

Early on October 2nd the Andania arrived in Gaspe Bay and according to the 16th Battalion Regimental History “took up station well clear of the ships already arrived”. It was on this day, while waiting for the last of the ships to arrive, that Herbert had his medical exam on board the Andania. The doctor who signed his medical form that day was Captain F.A.C. Scrimger, R.C.A.M.C. who less than 7 months later would become the first Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War.

That evening the following message from the Governor-General, H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, was read to the troops of the First Canadian Contingent:

On the eve of your departure from Canada I wish to congratulate you on having the privilege of taking part, with the other forces of the Crown, in fighting for the Honour of the King and Empire.

You have nobly responded to the call of duty, and Canada will know how to appreciate the patriotic spirit that animates you.

I have complete confidence that you will do your duty, and that Canada will have every reason to be proud of you.

You leave these shores with the knowledge that all Canadian hearts beat for you, and that our prayers and best wishes will ever attend you. May God bless you and bring you back victorious.

On the afternoon of October 3rd, 1914 the signal was given and the “Transport Flotilla consisting of 32 troops ships and 6 Cruisers” began its long journey across the Atlantic to England.

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Sept 29, 1914 – anchored just off Quebec City

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Oct 2, 1914 – the convoy gathers in Gaspe Bay

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