Leslie Lionel Payne (1892-1975)
Chapter 4: Training
in Kent (Summer 1915)
Leslie Payne, along with the
rest of the 2nd Divisional Train, and indeed most of the Canadian Second
Division, spent most of the summer of 1915 training at a series of camps
on the south coast of England. Service and pay records show that
he was predominantly, but not exclusively, at Dibgate Camp, Shorncliffe
near the town of Folkestone.
Shorncliffe appears to have been a military
base at least as far back as 1802, when General Sir John Moore ("the father
of the Light Infantry") "began to develop further his ideas for the training
of infantry" at that location. Germans troops were even trained there
during the preparations for the Crimean Campaign. Otterpool was another
training camp to the west of Shorncliffe, near Lympne. Shorncliffe
and Dibgate became major training and embarkation camps for Canadian (C.E.F)
soldiers during the First World War, and the base for the entire Canadian
Second Division. Shorncliffe is still an army barracks, and at present
is home to a Ghurka Regiment.
The following is from notes made by CBP:
"The 1" O.S. map of 1945 (Sheet 173) shows
what I think is likely to be [Dibgate] camp, though it isn't named, about
1½ miles N.E. of Hythe Town centre. In September 1950 my parents
& Bunnie spent a holiday at Folkestone and I joined them for a [weekend].
(By bus from Canterbury where I worked 28th August 1949 to 15th Nov 1950.)
On 10th September Dad & I walked to Sandgate, on the road to Hythe,
and I vaguely recall his mentioning having been at a camp nearby.
Or do I imagine it?"
The War Diaries of
the 2nd Divisional Train of the C.A.S.C. for the summer of 1915 suggest
that CLLP was with No. 7 Company of the 2nd Div. Train for most if not
all of the period prior to their embarkation for France in mid-September.
They show that, after docking at Liverpool on the Thursday 29th April,
the troops somehow travelled to Avonmouth, and then to Shorncliffe, probably
by train, arriving at the latter in the late afternoon. From there
they marched to a hutted camp at West Sandling - part of the "Train" got
lost, and only arrived at the camp at 10 o'clock that night. The
following few days were spent unpacking, cleaning their equipment and resting,
but on the Monday they started their training with a route march.
The first week was busy, with drill, lectures, physical training, inspections
and more route marches.
A week later, on Monday 10th May, Nos. 7 &
8 Companies moved to Dibgate Camp. They were accomodated in tents,
the area was very sandy and dirty, the water supply was indequate, and
the camp was in an inferior location. However, in spite of inclement
weather for much of the time, their health was reported to be better than
that of the soldiers in huts. On the 22nd May, Nos. 5 & 6 Companies
were moved to Newingreen Camp, also under canvas, but located in a good
Life at the camp seems to have been quite
varied, as evidenced from the following excerpts from published
material. Louis Duff, of the 28th (North-West) Battalion
from Moose Jaw, wrote in letters to his uncle and aunt in Saskatchewan:
"29th June 1915, Dibgate Camp, Shorncliffe:
Just a line to let you know we arrived O.K. and am well. We had a
glorious trip across the water, fine weather and comparatively calm sea.
Only a few of the 2000 on board suffered from sea sickness, as for myself,
I was really sorry the trip was so short, 10 days from Montreal to Plymouth
… Our camp is seven miles west of Dover on a height overlooking the sea.
We have two very pretty coast towns close by, Hythe west of us about an
hours walk and Folkestone, a popular sea side resort, east of us a couple
of miles. On a clear day the coast of France shows up very plainly.
Submarines and Torpedo Boat Destroyers are patrolling the sea all the time.
Aeroplanes and dirigible balloons are a common sight. We thought
we were training pretty hard in Winnipeg but we are going at it even harder
now. About another four weeks and they figure we will be fit for
the firing line."
"21st August 1915, Otterpool Camp, Kent:
Well I have sure had some seige with my ankles, exactly one month in the
hospital. I arrived back in Camp on the 1st of Aug with my ankle
anything but strong so I got a 10 days sick leave and went up to London
for a 'quiet time'. Well it is certainly a wonderful old city and although
I was handicapped with a bad ankle I managed to see a good many interesting
places … I arrived back in camp a week ago but have not gone on parade
yet, my ankle is pretty weak yet. I expect to be on light duty around
camp for the next week or so. By that time we will be figuring on
striking camp and pulling out for 'Somewhere in France' or the Dardonelles.
The first week in Sept. is when we expect to move."
The two photos shown below were very kindly sourced
by Alan &
Alison Smith from the Local Studies Library in Folkestone. They
show troops drilling (at left) and exercising (at right) in the fields
adjacent to Shorncliffe Barracks during World War 1.
H.C. Singer, in his History of the 31st
(Alberta) Battalion, C.E.F. (Calgary, n.p., 1938, p. 22), has written:
"Company and battalion drill and manoeuvres,
trench digging, and similar work occupies most of the time. Courses
of special instruction and bayonet fighting, grenade throwing, machine-gunnery,
musketry, signalling and map reading were also inaugurated …"
Donald Fraser, who was at this stage in the 31st,
wrote in The Journal of Private Fraser (ed. Reginald H. Roy, CEF
Books, 1998, p. 23):
"Friday, September 17, 1915: After
a four months' training in Kent, England, where we had a very enjoyable
time, first at Dibgate in the vicinity of Shorncliffe, then at Lydd where
we had a rush shooting practice and finally at Otterpool where water was
very scarce, we were considered fit and skilled in the art of warfare,
ready to meet the hated Hun. When I think of it, our training was
decidedly amateurish and impractical. It consisted mainly of route
marches and alignment movements. Our musketry course amounted to
nothing; we had only half an idea about the handling of bombs. We
were perfectly ignorant regarding rifle grenades."
Private G. Broome (440955, "A" Co., 32nd Battn.)
wrote the following to his mother in Canada, from Risboro Barracks, Shorncliffe
(N.B. he was in the Third Division which arrived in England as the Second
Division left for France:
"17th September 1915: We had a good
trip over here & a good time. I kept a diary on the boat a copy
of which I am enclosing. You will notice by my address that I am
with the 32nd now. It trains the men as they come from Canada &
then sends them to other Battn. at the front. We are in a nice place
here. About 1 mile from Folkstone & we go down there nearly every
night. We see quit of lot of Airoplanes around here. They are
sailing around all the time. We go down to the sea every morning
at 6 o'clock. The drill is a lot harder here than a Sewell, but we
can stand it all night. I am going to London soon I expect" "29th September 1915: We have had
nice weather here till today and its raining cats & dogs. We
are fixed up alright though. We are in huts. About 30 men live
in each hut and have their beds and tables and chairs and crockery.
The food is brought from the cook house and we eat right in our huts.
They are pretty big although the name makes one think they are small.
I believe I told you that we are near Folkstone. We go there nearly
every night. I am learning to roller skate. It is great fun
although kind of rough for a learner."
Further details of the training programme and
daily activities which occupied the men of No. 7 Company can be studied
by reference to the War Diaries and various
including the weekly "Syllab[i] of Training". Leslie Payne never
did keep a diary, so we'll probably never know whether or not he walked
into Folkestone in the evenings to learn roller-skating, or learn any details
of his extra-mural activities. However, we do have some information
regarding his movements during the training period. The following
have been extracted from his service records and pay sheets:
Pro[moted] to Cpl. Auth. Part II O[rder]
Confirmed in Rk. of Corpl. By O/C 2 D.T.
Pt. II - 160 & Nom. Roll 3/8/15
Assigned $25 of Pay to Constance Hogg, 48
1st - 31st Aug
Temp[oraril]y Employed as Armourer
1st - 30th Sep
3rd Class Work Pay. 7 days
On the 7th July, Leslie Payne was promoted
to the rank of Full Corporal, and accordingly his pay was raised by an
extra 10c. per day from this date. It was on this and the following
day, according to the War Diaries, that
Nos. 7 & 8 Companies were busy moving the 29th and 31st Battalions
and their equipment from Dibgate Camp to Lydd. Leslie Payne received
his pay again at Dibgate on Thursday 15th July. Leslie may have gained
his claimed "knowledge of machine guns" - that would stand him in such
good stead when he applied for transfer to the C.M.G.C. a year or so later
- during the month of August, while he was temporarily employed as an armourer.
The BANDOLIER photo shown (at left) was taken
by "Treble, of Derby". Comparisons with other photos of CLLP during
this period suggests that Leslie may have visited his family in Derby,
possibly during a brief period of leave, some time during the summer of
1915. He does not have any corporal's stripes on his uniform in this
photo, and for this reason it seems likely that it would have been taken
prior to his promotion in early July. It's also possible that he
just hadn't sewn the stripes on yet, although I think this is unlikely.
He withdrew a large portion of his pay in June and July 1915 - a total
of $82.50 - and the only other times during his service that he withdrew
large amounts was immediately prior to going on leave. Would it also
have been more likely to be shortly after a visit to Derby that he would
have assigned a portion of his pay to Con? There is no evidence from
his service records that he was granted any leave at this time, and it's
possible that this photograph was taken a year later, when we know
he had some leave. In the latter case, however, his uniform and insignia
would surely have been those of the Canadian Machine Gun Company, to which
he had transferred in June, and which they are definitely not.
On Saturday 17th July, the whole Train paraded
with the entire Second Canadian Division at Beechborough Park, having practiced
most of the previous day. They were inspected by Right Honorable
Sir Robert L. Borden (then Canadian Prime Minister), accompanied by Sir
George Perley (Canadian Overseas Minister), R.B. Bennet, M.P. (and Future
Canadian Prime Minister) and Gen. Sir Sam Hughes (Canadian Minister of
Munitions and Defense). On the 20th July, Nos. 7 & 8 Companies
moved the 6th Infantry Brigade from Dibgate to another camp at Otterpool.
On the 28th July, No. 7 Company was allotted to the 6th Infantry Brigade,
and the following day they joined them at Otterpool, where there was a
far better camp than the one at Dibgate. On Friday 30th, when Leslie
Payne was given his pay at Otterpool, they moved the 29th and 31st Battalions,
also part of the 6th Brigade, from Lydd to Otterpool.
On the afternoon of the 4th August, the 2nd
Division was paraded at Beechboro Park, Shorncliffe, for inspection by
the Rt. Hon. Sir Bonar Law (then British Secretary for the Colonies), accompanied
by Major-Gen. The Hon. Sam Hughes, and they were addressed at the Drill
Hall later that evening. On the following day Major-Gen. Samuel Benfield
Steele, C.B., M.V.O., A.D.C., Commanding 2-Canadian Division, assumed command
of stations. On the 10th and 11th August, and again on the 14th,
No. 7 Company participated very satisfactorily in training manoeuvres with
the 6th Infantry Brigade. Between the 23rd and 26th August, they
joined in with the other companies in the much more extensive, and correspondingly
less successful, Divisional manouevres.
The photo of Leslie Payne seated, with at
least three others, on the ground drinking his "rum ration" from a mess
tin (above left), was one of a batch sent to CLLP by Ed Pye in 1936, who
refers to it thus:
"His lordship taking his rum ration
- The latter I have removed from my war picture album"
On the 30th, they were told to prepare for
an inspection by H.M. the King in three days' time, so they must have realized
that their training was shortly to come to an end, and that departure for
France, and the War, was imminent.