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193rd Blue Feather Battalion

by Q.M.S. Edgar E. Kelley,
O.R.C. 193RD Battalion
and Battalion Editor of
"The Nova Scotia Highlanders"

When the history of Canada's part in this war is written, many events will stand out in the text in clean-cut, bas-relief. One of those events will surely be the birth and formation of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade.And to record for generations yet unborn how the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade took definite shape from a nebulous idea, how that idea was vitalized and translated intoa potent, capable piece of fighting machinery, will be a task well worth the performing. The end of the war may come in months, or it may come in years. We cannot lift the veil. But come when it does, this much is certain: the longer the progress of the war, the greater interest will attach to that record.
When Great Britain, declared war on Germany, August 4, 1914, John Stanfield, M.P. for Colchester in the Dominion House of Commons, was in England. He hastened home from the Old Land, and immediately he returned, he offered himself to the Department of Militia and Defence in any capacity in which, in the judgment of the Militia authorities, he could be of most service.
Thse were days when we Canadians were counting our proposed expeditionary force in a few thousands. We did not realize just then the task we had before us. The supply recruits was ample. Valcartier was yet in the embryo.
One year later, Canada, found herself, conceiving a deliberate, definite campaign for MEN--and putting her plans into effective execution.
The records are, must be, very complete in the files of the Miltia Department at Ottawa. John Stanfields' patriotic offer was recalled, with many another.
On January 27th, 1916, the 193rd Overseas Battalion was authorized, and Lieut.-Colonel Stanfield was appointed to the command.
On that date, and for a few weeks following, the 193rd Battalion was regarded as an intergral unit of infantry--that is to say, it was not just then set down as a Highland Brigade battalion. Indeed, many men were recruited for the "One-Ninety-Third" before the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade idea had fructification. From the date of the authorization of the Battalion, no time was lost. "Do it know", was the watchword--and within 10 days, recruiting had begun in earnest. Indeed, as early as the 20th of February, we find Colonel Stanfield writing officially in Truro that "recruits are coming in very fast here."
Quartered at Halifax then was the 85th Overseas Battalion, N.S.H., commanded by the Man With a Big Idea. Lieut-Colonel A.H. Borden, who having made the 85th the crack unit it is, was not content to rest with that feat performed. But these are the historical preserves of another. Sufice it to say, for purposes of this writing, the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade was formed, and on February 23 rd, 1916, Colonel Stanfield was officially advised that the 193rd Battalion had been selected as one of the Brigade units.
With the groundwork of recruiting and organization already well lai, the 193rd was admirably situated to join in the Brigade movement and marked sucess and effect. A broad, comprehensive set of recruiting plans were already in operation, with Truro as the "nerve-Centre". for purposes of Brigade recruiting, the province was divided into three sections of territory. The territory of the 193rd embraced the six Eastern counties of the mainland--Cumberland, Colchester, Hants, Pictou, Antigonish and Guysboro. And, what with the Headquarters of the 193rd then established at Truro, a main central point was immediately available for the conduct of this Battalions' share of the campaign.
Meanwhile, in Halifax, the officers and men of the 85th Battalion were busy with the plans for the simultaneous, province wide call for recruits. And the smoothness and efficiency with which the plans and efforts of the 193rd workers geared with the general scheme, formed a feature that contributed largely to its' success, in so far as the 193rd Battalion was concerned. Already the Recruit Register of the 193rd bore many names. Within one month from the date of the launching of the province-wide bid for men, Colonel Stanfields' unit was over-strength.
The regimental series numbers allotted to the 193rd ranged from 91001 to 904000--and it is worthy of note that Daniel Forbes, now Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, is number 901001--the first man to affix his name to a 193rd enrollment form. Pay-Sergeant W.S. Currie, too, was an early recruit.
Meanwhile, with the recruiting campaign at its' height, the Battalion was steadily being organized and established on a working basis. Headquarters was located in the McNutt Block, Prince street, Truro. The Colchester recruits, to form "A" Company--those billeted in Truro, that is, immediately began training, with Major J.P. LeGallais in command. On March 1st, Number One of Battalion Orders of the day was issued. To Lieot. H.F. Ormon goes the distinction of signing these orders as Acting-Adjutant.. On March 24th, Capt. J.L. Ralston, of the 85th Battalion, reported and assumed the duties of Acting-Adjutant. Capt. Ralstons' assisstance was invaluable, and his energies and experience counted for much in these early days of organization. Capt. Ralston remained with the 193rd until relieved, on April 7th, by Capt. J. Welsford Macdonald, who immediately took up Adjutants' duties, to which position he was later appointed on transfer from the 85th. Capt. Macdonald, too, brought much valuable assisstance to the Batalion, when experience was so vital.
The first appointments to appear in daily orders were:
Quartermaster---------Capt. F.C. Baird
Paymaster-------------Capt. C. S. McArthur
Medical Officer--------Capt. E.D. McLean
These appointments appeared in Orders of March 3rd, together with those of Major J.P. LeGallais and Capt. A.T. McLean (now Major McLean, in command of "A" Company) These five officers did splendid recruiting and organization work.
In the files of the Battalions is a letter, dated February 18th, 1916, and to this letter much signigicance and importance attaches. It takes the form of a request by Colonel Stanfield for the services of Capt. R.J.S. Langford, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, Halifax. This letter is significant and important because it is to be assumed that Colonel Stanfield had a definite purpose in mind in writing it. He persisted in his requests for the transfer of this officer, until, on April 18th, Capt. Langford reported to the 193rd, to receive the appointment of Senior-Major and Second-in-Command of the Battalion. Immediately, Major Langford took up vigorously the duties of Officer in Charge of Training, and to his zeal and capabilities the 193rd owes much for its general efficiency. Since that date Major Langford has been regarded as the "mainspring" of the Battalion on the field, and the safe reliable adviser on intricate questions in the conduct of military affairs.
COLOURS AND BADGES. When the 193rd was asked to select its' distinctive regimental colour, the choice fell upon Royal Blue, and this is the colour of the feather that distinguishes members of our own unit from those of the other units of the Brigade. The cap and collar badges, worn by officers and men, may be described as follows:
A Maple Leaf, overlaid by a wreath of Scotch Thistle, bearing the Battalion
number in the centre of ring formed by the words,
the whole surmounted by the Royal Crown, bearing the word "CANADA",
and supported by the Nova Scotia Coat-of-Arms, under a scroll of the Brigade motto in Gaelic
(The Breed of Manly Men"
Someone has said, "If you desire to compile a bluebook of Nova Scotians, don't bother--use the nominal roll of the Nova Scotia Highland Brigade" and, desite the superlative, there is as much of truth as turn in the statement. The 193rd Recruit Register is an intersting volume. In it you will find names of men of almost every conceivable honorable profession and calling. the strenghth of the Battalion has been drawn from over 2,600 names, all ranks. When the Battalion moved from detachment form to Aldeshot Camp, its "Marching-in State" showed a strength of 1,459--that is to say, 300 over strength. and despite a "weeding out" process, that strength has not been reduced.
Which means, that, for every man discharged as unfir for military service, a recruit has voluntarily come forward to take his place. This is a record to be well-nigh unique. Certainly, it attests to the popularity of "The Blue Feather Battalion"
Did space permit, we could go on interminably, almost, with a recital of intersting facts. We would like to tell you of many outstanding events and features that have contributed to make the 193rd Battalion the unit it is.
The personnel of the Battalion is contained in this volume. You will recognize many of the members as friends and relatives. Others you almost know from repeated mention of their names, though, you have never met them, and not the least of these is Battalion-Sergesnt-Major T. Hewer, late of the R.C.R.
We do not pretend to say that the 193rd Battalion is the "best this" or the "best that", but we feel, and we want you to know that we feel it, that we are members of a unit of infantry that hard work and attention to duty has made clean, capable and ready.
That it is a Canadian battalion means much: It means that the noble example of Canadians who have gone before into the Gigantic Struggle will, must, be emulated.