Canada's Fighting Forces
PART FIVE: The Servicing Units
IT WAS the other ex-Corporal—the Waterloo one—who once said that an army marches on its stomach, a succinct axiom widely quoted since. But in modem warfare its stomach is only one in the complicated category of things an army marches on.
Fighting men must have food, and lots of it. In this war they must have other things additional to an extent that would give Napoleon a severe headache. They must have, either in their possession or conveniently to hand, a wide variety of weapons, offensive and defensive, and ammunition for those weapons. They must have a diversified assortment of clothing, and of replacements and accessories for that clothing. They must have transportation for themselves and their equipment. They must have preventive and curative medical and dental treatment. They must be documented in every detail of their army careers, from enlistment to discharge or demobilization, and they must be paid regularly—something that never happened to Napoleon’s troops.
These days, conduct of war is big business, plus. We think of big business in terms of huge corporations engaged in one or another distinctive form of commercial or industrial enterprise; in manufacturing, in transportation, in merchandising. The army is one of the biggest businesses of all, including, as it does somewhere along the line, almost every big business activity, and embracing many of the professions as well.
In the Canadian Active Service Forces there are six main branches whose job it is to supply the multitudinous demands of the soldier in the field and in training. They
embrace the merchants, the caterers, transportation facilities, professional services, the accountants and the bankers for the troops. Officially they are known as the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, the Canadian Army Dental Corps, the Records Offices, and the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps. This is their story.
Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps
OF THE six, Ordnance is perhaps the most completely comprehensive. Should a soldier need a new pair of shoelaces or a cake of soap, he obtains them from his regimental stores. His regimental stores got them from Ordnance. If an artillery unit lacks a six-inch gun, Ordnance provides it, plus the shells that go with it. Ordnance supplies rifles and socks, gas masks and machine guns; Ordnance sees to it that Army cooks have stoves to cook on and pots and pans to cook with. Tables and chairs, jugs and sugar bowls, salt and pepper shakers, cups and saucers and plates come from Ordnance.
On enlistment, every C.A.S.F. recruit receives a personal kit. Included in this are needles and pins, buttons, thread and a thimble, all fitted into a “housewife” which the Army from time immemorial, but for no particular reason, has chosen to call a “hussif.” Ordnance supplies the “hussifs.” The new soldier gets an identification disc, a knife, fork and spoon, a safety razor, a comb, and brushes—tooth, boot, clothes and shaving—a tin of shoe polish, a cap comforter or balaclava, bootlaces, a clasp knife, a first field dressing,
soap, two towels, a holdall and a kitbag. Ordnance supplies those, too.
Ordnance has uniforms in stock; the new battle rompers, or the old tunic and trousers outfit. From Ordnance the soldier gets his shirts, socks, underwear, two pairs of boots, web equipment, greatcoat, cap and “tin hat.” Where horses are still employed on Army business. Ordnance furnishes harness and saddles, spurs and horseshoes. Ordnance provides the Army with its wagons.
Men of the C.A.S.F. in training camps are living a great deal more comfortably than the boys of the C.E.F. did at Valcartier in 1914. They sleep on iron cots or bunks, fitted with steel springs and equipped with mattresses, pillowcases and blankets. These comparative luxuries are supplied by Ordnance. Picks and shovels, barbed wire and dynamite for the Engineers, flashlamps, buzzers and wireless equipment for the Signals, sandbags, bombs and bayonets, detonators and precision instruments, all are obtained through Ordnance.
Hospital supplies, other than drugs and instruments classified as strictly medical equipment, are the business of Ordnance. The R.C.O.C. provides the beds, bedding, furniture, kitchen utensils, trays and such, for all Canadian military hospitals, here and overseas.
Ordnance handles the Army’s laundry, collecting and checking the dirty linen at regular intervals, issuing clean replacements, sending the soiled stuff out to contracting laundries, receiving it after it is washed, for reissue. An Ordnance Depot is a department store, a mail-order house and a wholesale merchandising establishment all rolled into
one. Every blessed thing the soldier uses, except his food, fuel and medical and dental supplies, comes from, or through. Ordnance.
There are about fifteen Ordnance Depots in Canada, not counting s]X)ts where heavy ammunition is concentrated. Others are being set up in England. When C.A.S.F. troops move to France, in many cases their Ordnance will go right along.
Organization of Ordnance units in the field differs slightly from that of the military districts and training camps. Ordnance field workshops are less permanent and more mobile than the depots serving as base of supplies, but all the way from Ottawa to the Maginot Line, by way of Aldershot, the main function of the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps remains the same—to make sure that the Canadian soldier has what he needs, where and when he needs it.
In some ways an Ordnance Depot looks odd. compared with other C.A.S.F. establishments. For one thing it requires a lot of elbow room, and its floor space may be measured by the square mile. Often the depots occupy entire commercial buildings several stories high, containing thousands of bales, packing cases, boxes and cartons of assorted goods. Also, many Ordnance Corps soldiers toiling inside the depots reverse the regular order for Army dress. They wear their uniforms off duty. On duty, they dash around in khaki coveralls or sweaters and fatigue trousers, on their faces the harassed look of worried shipping clerks with a lot of stuff to get out in very little time. Most of
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Canada’s Fighting Forces
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the C.A.S.F. establishments have a freeand-easy attitude toward smoking. Not Ordnance. The fire hazard is too great. Depots are plastered with signs warning all and sundry that smoking is forbidden except in certain recreation and lunch rooms. It is a serious offense to have a lighted cigarette, pipe or cigar anywhere else in the depot.
The thousand and one items catalogued as soldier necessities are purchased by the War Supply Board on contract. Deliveries are made, as they are needed, to the Ordnance Depots in the different military districts, and the goods distributed through the depots to the quartermaster’s stores of the various units. Ordnance officers, acting in the capacity of storekeepers, carry much the same loads of grief as wear down the Main Street merchant. A sudden change in the weather, for instance, may bring about an immediate heavy demand for a special type of equipment. It happens sometimes that supplies on hand are insufficient to fill the sudden rush of orders.
“Sorry, but our stock of that particular item is exhausted,” the Ordnance officer explains wearily for the ’steenth time to the late comers. “We’ve ordered extra supplies, hut they haven’t arrived yet.” Ordnance is the goat, and Ordnance officers often may be heard audibly wishing Alexander Graham Bell had never invented the telephone. There isn't much they can do about it except to ask Ordnance headquarters at Ottawa to rush the needed stuff along.
Repairs to worn articles is another Ordnance responsibility. Soldiers of the R.C.O.C. include men of many trades. Tinsmiths to mend pots and pans, shoemakers to repair boots—saddlers, carpenters, tailors, auto mechanics, armorers and armament artificers among them. Officers and N.C.O.’s in Ordnance must carry in their heads a tremendous number of details. When a certain unit indents— any order for stores is an “indent” in the Army—for horseshoes, Ordnance has to know the type of horse the shoes arc intended for. Some units are training with one style of machine gun, others with a different make. The R.C.O.C. personnel must remember what equipment is needed, and where.
Although the Royal Canadian Ordnance
Corps is not a combatant unit, all ranks are required to learn the fighting man’s trade as well as their own special craft. They go through regular periods of rille and machine gun training, trench fighting, open warfare tactics and the rest of it, just like any average infantryman. Officers and men specializing in the armaments branch of Ordnance take additional training at Woolwich Arsenal, in England, familiarizing themselves with all types of artillery. They must know how to make repairs to machine guns, and to light and heavy artillery behind the lines. Also they must be taught the knack of handling high explosive shells, a tricky business, and no job for a man with two left hands. Ammunition dumps in war zones are yet another Ordnance responsibility.
The Ordnance Corps provides tractors, and must repair them in field workshops. All repairable arms, from big guns to rifles, as well as precision instruments and other artillery equipment, go to Ordnance field workshops for rehabilitation. The strength of a field workshop is between six and seven hundred, all ranks. The officers and a large proportion of N.C.O.’s and men are science school graduates. They have to be. to understand their highly technical jobs.
Royal Canadian Army Service Corps
TN OUR modern interlocking Army the
duties of the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps and those of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps are closely co-ordinated. Just about everything missing from the schedule of the R.C.O.C. is provided by the R.C.A.S.C. through its two main branches, Supplies and Transport. The Royal Canadian Army Service Corps requisitions and distributes the food the soldiers eat, and takes them by road or rail, wherever they have to go. It fills the tanks of Army motor cars and trucks with gasoline—petrol in the Army—and delivers coal, coke or wood, as fuel for stoves and furnaces in camp buildings and barracks. Should an automobile be wanted for military business, the R.C.A.S.C. will have the car at the door at the appointed time, complete with driver, and if a unit needs a fleet of trucks for some heavy hauling job, the Army Service Corps provides both trucks and drivers.
Transportation and fuel supplies are of vital importance to all C.A.S.F. units, but the biggest single job the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps has on its hands is getting the raw materials for the soldiers’ three meals a day into the Army kitchens.
This is catering on a gargantuan scale. The wartime standard of rations is primarily designed to supply plain, wholesome food, containing the proteins, fats and carbohydrates essential to the well-being of a lot of hungry, hard-working, hardplaying men, and, while many frills may be eliminated, the menus are capable of wide variation.
The quantities of foodstuffs required for C.A.S.F. troops in training camps and barracks in a single military district, might well bring on dizziness in the case of even a big-time caterer. The weekly average in the particular district reviewed runs to twenty-five tons of bread, meats and potatoes, the three staple foods for all troops. Over and above this, the soldiers in the same area consume, on an average, three tons of bacon a week, three tons of sugar, two tons of beans, two tons of butter, two tons of jam, a ton of cheese and a ton of condensed milk.
Now, if you have your breath back, we’ll proceed to the consideration of casual lesser items, including fifteen hundred pounds of fresh vegetables, half a ton of split peas, half a ton of salt, six hundred pounds of coffee and four hundred pounds of tea.
This is the standard issue. It is varied
by a series of what the R.C.A.S.C. calls “alternativecommodities.” Mutton, pork, or fish may replace the beef ration. Biscuits and Hour are often issued in lieu of the daily bread ration, and corn syrup or dried prunes in lieu of jam. Canned tomatoes or canned corn serve as a substitute for fresh vegetables, and rice or rolled oats may be issued instead of beans. If the quartermaster, whose responsibility it is to indent for the food supply for each unit, finds that his men prefer tea to coffee, or vice versa, he can draw two rations of either in place of one ration of each. Last Christmas the boys got a bang-up turkey dinner in place of their regular beef issue. There were no complaints.
Good cooks can do wonders with the simple, wholesome foodstuffs provided, by calling the changes and switching the staple rations at frequent intervals. Happy indeed is the C.A.S.F. unit possessed of a quartermaster with imagination and a sergeant cook who knows his potatoes.
As is the case with almost all Army supplies, food bought for the troops is purchased on contract by the War Supply Board. The railroads or trucking companies deliver to conveniently spotted locations at stated intervals. Upon arrival the goods are inspected by a committee of three officers, one of them a medical officer. The Department of Defense has set up a high standard of quality, and it is the job of the inspection committee to make sure that no substandard commodities get by. Once past the inspectors, the supplies are transported in R.C.A.S.C. trucks either directly to the unit kitchens or to an Army Service Corps supply depot.
The R.C.A.S.C. personnel have to be men of many parts. Officers and N.C.O.’s must know how to judge food qualities and estimate food quantities with reasonable accuracy. Those branches handling the fuel supplies have to understand such things as octane ratings in gasoline, and be able almost at a glance to detect shortages in coal, coke and wood deliveries. In the transport sections, a thorough knowledge of automobiles, trucks, motorcycles and ambulances is necessary. Men of the R.C.A.S.C. also are trained in squad and company drill, and rifle, machine gun and anti-aircraft gunnery. The boys have to be able to protect themselves at all times.
Truck and taxi drivers, garage mechanics, coppersmiths, tinsmiths, fitters and blacksmiths are in demand for the transport sections of the R.C.A.S.C. In the supplies branch, butchers and bakers and men with grocery store experience in civil life are given preference, since obviously the knowledge they have gained in their former jobs is especially valuable when it comes to handling the foodstuffs issued to the troops.
In the field, the duties of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps are essentially the same as in the training camp areas. Supply columns are responsible for keeping the soldiers fed. Petrol companies must see to it that there is fuel on hand to keep the motor transports rolling. There are Vehicle Reception Depots, at which cars and trucks are received, checked and distributed, and where minor repairs are made to damaged vehicles. On active service there are also bridge companies of the R.C.A.S.C., whose job it is to store and distribute materials the Engineers need for building temporary or permanent bridges. All these units are in training at various camps, preparing to tackle the jobs assigned to them when they are attached to one or another of the Canadian Divisions.
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps
XTOW WE have lined up two combatant service corps and our soldiers are it'd, armed, clothed, equipped and transited. That brings us to the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, the burden of whose responsibility is perhaps greater than that of any other one establishment in the Canadian Active Service Forces. The duty of the R.C. A.M.C., as one officer tersely phrased it, is: “The actual care of
the sick or wounded, the preservation of the health of the troops, and the supervision of sanitation and hygiene.”
A most meagre outline that, needing elaboration. The R.C.A.M.C. staffs and operates all military hospitals, here or overseas. Its officers vaccinate soldiers and inoculate them against deadly germs and infection. It places doctors and nurses on ambulances, and in ambulance trains. It sets up regimental aid posts immediately behind the front lines, and advance dressing stations, main dressing stations, and casualty clearing stations within the battle areas. It establishes base hospitals to care for severely wounded soldiers, and convalescent depots to care for those recovering from wounds or sickness. Of all the services, the Medical Corps is the one nearest the anxious hearts of the wives, mothers and sweethearts the boys have left behind them.
The R.C.A.M.C. inspects, and either passes or condemns, the sanitary arrangements made for men in training and in the field. Its field hygiene companies look after the unpleasant but necessary tasks of disinfecting and dclousing. It provides medical stores, drugs, bandages, splints, blood for transfusions, serums, toxoids, antitoxins, oxygen, sedatives, opiates and anaesthetics. The Nursing Sisters, God bless ’em, are carried on the strength of the R.C.A.M.C.
No part of the Canadian Active Service Forces establishment shows a more efficient organization than the Medical Corps as it is now set up. Every possible contingency seems to have been anticipated and advance preparations to meet it completed. Medical examinations in this war are far more thorough than they were in 19141918. Preventive measures are being enforced to a degree never before attempted, and the most modern methods of treatment are being employed to bring about cures of physical and mental disorders arising from combatant service.
In this war the man presenting himself for enlistment goes through a searching physical examination at the hands of not one, but three medical officers including specialists in eye, ear, nose and throat ailments. If he gets by that first test, he may be called back for re-examination. This time he will get a chest X-ray. No man who is not completely fit physically has an outside chance of getting into this army. They’re checking on ages, too. In the last war hundreds of husky youngsters lied blithely about their accumulated years and sneaked past the examiners. Many of those cases made all sorts of trouble for the military authorities later. Angry parents stormed and threatened.
That doesn’t happen any more. Where there is the slightest doubt about the age of any recruit as stated by himself, he has to show a birth certificate, or go home and wait for his birthdays to catch up with him.
Until the last war, disease was a far more lethal weapon than any armaments an enemy could employ. Right through to the Boer War more men-at-arms died in every military campaign of typhoid, tetanus and similar war-induced pestilences than were killed in battle. Special precautions are being taken by the R.C.A.M.C. to prevent similar conditions ever again arising. Before the C.A.S.F. soldier is permitted to proceed overseas, he is vaccinated against smallpox, inoculated against typhoid, and given toxoid treatments to render him immune to attack by the tetanus germ. Immunity against scarlet fever and diphtheria has already been established among the soldiers, either because they are beyond the age limit of vulnerability, or because they have already been inoculated by the civil authorities. Tetanus, or lockjaw, caused by infected wounds, is the most dreaded of modern war diseases, and the toxoid treatments given our men are expected to eliminate even this deadly menace.
Before embarkation the R.C.A.M.C. supplies the medical officer attached to each unit—who is an R.C.A.M.C. man
himself—with a complete field kit, up-todate in every detail of its equipment. Everything the Medical Service uses has been standardized—drugs, instruments, bandages, even the carrying cases—-so that a medical officer who, through the misfortunes of war, finds himself confronted by an emergency without his personal kit, can take its identical twin out of medical stores and go right to work with familiar instruments, and the assurance that the drugs he expects to use are at hand.
The C.A.S.F. soldier has the advantage of consultation with many of the greatest physicians and surgeons in the Dominion, and they are among the best in the world. The Director-General of Medical Services, at his Ottawa headquarters, has a staff of eminent specialists to advise with him on hygiene, surgery, radiology and medicine. The richest man in Canada can buy no finer medical advice.
Each Canadian Division will have on its strength an R.C.A.M.C. unit of approximately seven hundred and fifty, all ranks. Administration of R.C.A.M.C. services in the field has been planned to the last minute detail. If, and when, the smoldering volcano of the Maginot Line explodes in a shattering horror of open warfare, and the Canadian Divisions cross the Channel for front-line service, every man in the Medical Corps will know exactly what he has to do.
On Active Service
TN THE event of a major engagement
involving the Canadian forces, this will be the procedure for the R.C.A.M.C. Regimental aid posts will be established immediately behind the lines, where minor injuries can be treated and the soldier returned to duty. In the same area, in the rear of regimental aid posts, advanced dressing stations will be located where more serious wounds can be cared for. Walkingwounded collecting posts will gather stray casualties and direct them to the nearest dressing station.
About five miles farther from the lines, main dressing stations will receive the wounded men for treatment, and here the first documents will be prepared for their evacuation to base hospitals. These stations are all in the collecting zone. Serums and blood transfusions may be made available at both the advanced and the main dressing stations.
From the main dressing station the wounded will be driven in motor ambulance convoys—seventy-five ambulances to a convoy, the cars driven by R.C.A.S.C. drivers, but under the command of an R.C.A.M.C. officer—to a casualty clearing station. The casualty clearing station will be a complete field hospital, with a staff of surgeons and anaesthetists. Emergency major operations may be performed at this station.
From the casualty clearing station the wounded will be evacuated in ambulance trains to base hospitals. All casualty clearing stations, and all base hospitals, are to be located on railway lines. Base hospitals are in seacoast areas, simplifying the problem of transporting major casualties back to England for further hospitalization and treatment.
Each unit, in training camp or in the field, has its own medical officer and a medical orderly. Additional services are provided by field ambulance units of nine medical officers, a dental officer, and a quartermaster, the latter being responsible for medical supplies. Total strength of a field ambulance unit is about two hundred and forty, all ranks.
The Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps is establishing a Convalescent Depot in France. The thought here is to evacuate convalescents from base hospitals as rapidly as possible, in order to make room for more urgent cases. At the Convalescent Depot, medical and nursing services will be available, but the men will be on their own to a large extent, and will be given plenty of opportunities for exercise in the open, in order that they may regain their strength. Convalescents require
different food and treatment from bed patients, and it is sometimes difficult to take care of them efficiently in a base hospital where the first consideration is the care of the seriously wounded.
Obviously the Royal Army Medical Corps demands a type of personnel entirely different from that required for duty with any other service corps. Men who have had some training in pharmacy are useful as dispensers. Another type of training is necessary for the development of radiologists. Any previous clinical experience is valuable, and even the men assigned to the lowly, but necessary, sanitary inspection duties are expected to have educational standards equivalent to junior matriculation. R.C.A.M.C. orderlies must know how to handle the sick, since in military hospitals staffed by an average of eighty nursing sisters for a twelve-hundredbed establishment, these orderlies are often called upon to perform the duties of a male nurse.
It is a paradoxical circumstance of Army routine that one of the most important duties in the R.C.A.M.C. is in the hands of an officer who may not possess a medical degree, or even have had the slightest experience in the practice of medicine. Every medical unit has a quartermaster, who is responsible for medical stores. This is a meticulous and painstaking job. demanding exact and scientific attention to detail, and an infinite capacity for never making a mistake.
There may be as many as twenty thousand different items in the medical stores of a military district. As many are required to stock base hospitals. These include drugs, tablets, serums, toxoids, antitoxins, sedatives, opiates, equipment, lotions, liniments, ointments, bandages, splints and instruments. It takes a lot of medicine to guard the health of the thousandsof soldiers inC.A.S.F. training camps.
The system of purchasing medical stores
is similar to that employed on behalf of the combatant units. The War Supply Board authorizes contracts and then directs deliveries to the various districts as the stores are needed. Heavy surgical equipment for military hospitals is ordered through the district medical stores and shipped directly to the hospital. The other items are kept in stock at medical stores. The usual custom is to indent on Ottawa for three months supplies at a time.
Drugs are not easy to keep in storage. Some of them deteriorate rapidly, others require even temperatures. Serums and antitoxins have to be stored in refrigerators. Narcotics are kept in heavily barred vaults.
We learned a handy household hint from one R.C.A.M.C. warrant officer. He opened the doors of a big cupboard and showed us hot water bottles, ice bags, tubing, and other articles of rubber. “Doesn’t it dry up and crack on you?” we asked him. He said, no, it didn’t, and pointed to a shallow pan on the floor of the cupboard, half filled with some liquid we did not at first recognize.
“Kerosene,” said the sergeant-major. “Just ordinary coal oil like you put in lamps. It keeps the rubber in good condition.”
The medical field kit issued to every unit’s medical officer is held in medical stores. There are rows upon rows of blue, and brown, and green, bottles containing various standard drugs in powders and tablets; bins full of corks of assorted sizes, rolls of bandages, cartons of cotton wool, packages of adhesive tape, cupboards full of phials and syringes, cases of gleaming surgical instruments neatly rolled in cloth.
Regulations controlling the purchase of medical stores are slightly less rigid than those enforced with regard to other items of military supplies. In an emergency, Ottawa will sanction the local purchase of extra equipment not carried in regular
stock—an oxygen tent for pneumonia treatment, for example. Otherwise a strict accounting has to be made of every item of the stores’ inventory.
“That Auditor-General’s crowd,” an N.C.O. mourned, speaking as one who has suffered. “They check you up for one single solitary aspirin tablet.”
Canadian Army Dental Corps
/^LOSELY associated with the Royal ^ Canadian Army Medical Corps is the Canadian Army Dental Corps, recently reorganized and mobilized as a separate unit of the C.A.S.F. The C.A.D.C. is a Great War baby. Previously, dental care for soldiers had been rather a hit-or-miss affair; but the experience of 1914-1918 convinced the high command that the condition of a fighting man’s teeth was capable of affecting his whole system, for better or worse. Dental examination is now a regular part of enlistment routine. A recruit’s teeth have to be in good shape or he is rejected until such time as he remedies the faults.
Once accepted, it becomes the responsibility of the C.A.D.C. to keep every soldier’s teeth in condition. Dental clinics have been established in every training camp, equipped with X-ray laboratories, instruments, and local and complete anaesthetics. also workshops for the manufacture of inlays and artificial dentures. Charts of the soldier's dental equipment, and a complete case history, go with him in his file wherever he may be sent. Dental stores are handled along the same lines as medical stores.
In a later article we shall deal with other services which mean much to the soldier —records, pay corps, postal, provost, chaplain, transport, etc.
The sixth article of this series will appear in an early issue.