Memories of a Photo — The Forgotten Canadian Forestry Corps, Booze and a Mud Quagmire

Memories of a Photo — The Forgotten Canadian Forestry Corps, Booze and a Mud Quagmire
Photo Larry Clark 1917-Linda I added to the Lindbergh file but this photo should go with it–Read– Tales You Did Not Know About—Charles Lindbergh Landed in Carleton Place

Thanks to one of my regular submitter Larry Clark for sending this photo that sent me seeking more information to document. I love the thrill of the kill as they say in history or murder mysteries. Any photo you have, study it as there is a story behind it that needs to be told.

Canadian Forestry Corps

Larry Clark has been sending me a lot of interesting pictures and this one he has of the Canadian Forestry Corps in the Rockcliffe Camp is an original. I am assuming that as I can’t see to find anything close on the Rockcliffe Camp photo site. So what was life like for these men photographed in 1917? The Canadian Forestry Corps was a 25,000 unit served as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the war in 1914-1919, yet very little mention is made of their war effort in history, and their service records has been omitted in many history books. They were often called upon to do menial jobs such as cleaning up former logging sites even though 1000s of soldiers serving in the CFC had physical disabilities. Did you know there is only one memorial in memory of CFC located in the National War Memorial? Next time you are in there look for a statue of a lumberjack that represents the thousands of men, immigrants, minorities or wounded/disabled that are forgotten in our history.

These Forestry Corps soldiers worked for over 2 1/2 years in Britain and France to make sure those serving at the front were supplied with timber for shelter and moved supplies and ammunition across the front lines at great risk. Not to mention the construction projects and the aerodrome construction in 1916-1919 they were involved in only to be forgotten about. Hopefully clicking on this link will add respect to those that served in the CFC.

In October of 1917

Four soldiers in October of 1917 were accused of peddling whiskey amongst the soldiers at Lansdowne Park and also at Rockcliffe Camp, according to information supplied by Inspector McLaugalin. Mr. Giroux, who drove a taxicab took large quantities of whiskey in flasks from the Rockcliffe Camp down to Lansdowne Park. There they were cached in the stables and retailed to the soldiers who wanted a drink, at$1.50 per flask, although the flasks were only worth 50 cents each. Some of the soldiers were found with flasks in their possession and admitted they had obtained them from the soldiers at Rockcliffe Camp, and this led to the arrest of the accused.

The Quagmire that was called Rockcliffe Camp October 1917

In any write up I have read about Rockcliffe Camp in the news archives it was called nothing but a quagmire, and the soldiers lived in dire straits when it was wet and cold. In October of 1917 an Ottawa Journal reporter took a tour through the camp and said: had the Glebe Curling Club and the Winter Fair Assc. accompanied him on the journey to Rockcliffe Camp perhaps all the opposition to having soldiers at Lansdowne Park would evaporate.

For two hours the journalist plowed through mud that sometimes reached over his boot tops and it was a wonder why more soldiers were not in the hospital with pneumonia. Conditions were even worse after two days rain and it was the same no matter where you went in the camp: from the signal training depot, railway construction and the Forestry Depot. As you can see by the photo above, there were lots of ups and downs in the topography of the camp. They said the conditions exceeded the front lines of the trenches in France. Things were so bad for the Forestry Corps soldiers that they requested major F.O.W. Tidy to permit them to hold a march upon the soggy grounds to get their blood circulation going and avoid further chills.

The reporter had an interview with Lieutenant Powers and he wrote that the next 12 minutes before it were spend dodging small lakes and the excruciating mud clung to everything. When he finally arrived at Lieutenant Powers tent he noticed the lieutenant was sitting next to the only operating stove in the camp wearing a heavy overcoat. Viewing the officers quarters next his feet were now as he said ready to bring on pneumonia or pleurisy. The wooden floors were drenched and the wind that blew through them was raw. The winds however that blew through the privy commode section were so bad that shaving was done in quick order.

The kitchens were in small shantys but that did not protect the men peeling the vegetables as they only had a canvas roof quarter and that provided no protection from the elements. The regular quarters were worse than the officer quarters with thick mud on the floor and the tents were cold and damp. At night they spread their blankets over their cold feet and tried to sleep surrounded by pools of water.

The hospital tent was apparently the end all. Sick soldiers said they were going to come out of the infirmary worse than they came in and they had not been able to get their feet warm since they arrived there. On top of one man burning with fever from pneumonia was two blankets and a great wool coat and there was not a working stove to be seen anywhere.

Later that day things got worse and the sick were sent to the local hospitals and the men were instructed to march around the grounds to keep warm. Others were digging a trench near their tents to carry away water that threatened to come above the floor level where they slept.

One asked the reporter, ‘Think you would like to live here? Why bother going to France and live in the trenches when you can have the same conditions in Canada?’

While some men were taking it in good form, but the reporter saw that they had just about enough. How much longer could they live in this state? Where they were to be quartered in the future remained with the militia. Hard to believe that this transpired in Ottawa, Ontario and not in some foreign country.


MaryAnne SharpeIf you Google “CEF Forestry Corps War Diaries”, Library and Archives Canada has a 167-page PDF guide to these war diaries that are in its holdings. Other references come up as a result of this search, as well.

more photos from Larry Clark

Close up of Will Slade in the CFC photo. He was the one that had the Lindbergh photo in his possession. He was my wife Beth’s grandfather. I had already picked him out and then when I cropped the photo, realized that there was a pencilled ring around around him. Also the possessor of the Forestry photo that I sent you above. Larry Clark.

Lost Ottawa

April 23, 2014  · Rockcliffe Camp, to the East of Ottawa in August, in 1899.

There was no real “base” at the time, and certainly no airbase. But there was a rifle range, and the lads in these tents were likely training for service in the Second Boer War, 1899-1902

Found the hockey photo-His name was William Thomas Slade and is right, in the back row. He was my wife Beth’s grandfather.
Larry Cark

Update to the Charles Lindbergh Story — Larry Clark

 Tales You Did Not Know About—Charles Lindbergh Landed in Carleton Place

Memories of Neighbourhood Kids — Larry Clark

Larry Clark Memories : Billings Bridge, Willow Trees and the Orange Lodge

Skating on Fraser’s Pond and Hobo Haven — Larry Clark

Glory Days in Carleton Place– Larry Clark

Larry Clark — Your Veribest Agent

A Personal Story — Caught in the Ice– Rocky Point- Larry Clark

more photos from Larry Clark

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

One response »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s