Leslie Lionel Payne (1892-1975)
Chapter 5: The Continent
& War (Winter 1915/1916)
The King, accompanied by Lord
Kitchener, did indeed inspect the troops at Beechborough Park on the 2nd
September, and within less than two weeks they were off to France.
Nos. 5, 6, 8 and the Headquarters Companies entrained at Shorncliffe for
the docks at Southampton on the 13th September, and embarked for Havre
in France later that day. CLLP and the rest of No. 7 Company, however,
only entrained at Shorncliffe on the following morning, perhaps because
they had longer to march from Otterpool. They arrived in France on
the morning of the 15th "in good shape", and proceeded to their temporary
billets at St. Sylvestre via St. Omer.
By this time, the rest of the train was scattered,
at Rouge Criox, Eecke and Hazebrouck. It took a few days for their
equipment, including supply wagons, to arrive, things being somewhat confused
in the mean time. The Headquarters Company moved to what would be
their permanent base for the next few months at Croix-de-Poperingue on
the 23rd September. The remaining companies moved to Croix-de-Poperingue
too over the next week. No. 7 Company transferred from Neuve Eglise,
near Nieppe, where they had been since the 22nd, on the 27th September.
Having all four companies of the train "within a small radius" of the headquarters,
as well as having received at least some of their equipment, made it much
easier to carry out their duties, delivering rations and forage to the
troops of the entire 2nd Division.
The following is taken from the history of
the 28th Battalion:
"Early September 1915: 28th Battalion
received a warning order: prepare to move to France. Major General
Turner takes command of 2nd Division from General Steele, who remains to
command the training camp at Shorncliffe. The Battalion is issued
British uniforms, boots, webbing, equipment, all of it new and stiff.
This, along with the issued ammunition was quite a load, men's packs were
90 pounds, officers 75 pounds." "September 16, 1915: The event called
'The Retreat from Moscow' by the 28th Battalion. The Battalion received
orders to embark for France. The march to embark at Folkstone is
diverted onto narrow, dusty side roads for security reasons. High
temperatures, high humidity, tall hedges, new webbing & new boots resulted
in sore feet, severe chaffing, exhaustion and confusion. Some troops
dropped out on the 10-mile march. Sailing was postponed due to reports
of submarines in the English Channel so a bivouac was arranged on St. Martin's
Plain, one mile from the port. The local guide became lost, leading
most of the battalion on a 5-mile trek. Stragglers and separated
parties began to fall out and lie down on sidewalks, porches & half
a company at the railroad station. Colonel Embury was found it to
be quite embarrassing that a fit, well-trained outfit could fall apart
so easily. Major Alex Ross gathered the stragglers onto the plain
in the early morning. The bivouac was poor as the water supply was
limited and all supplies (including food & cookers) were already loaded
on the ship." "September 17, 1915 - A night march from
St. Martin's Plain to Folkstone harbour takes 1/2 hour. There are
none of the incidents of the previous day's march. The Battalion
embarks for France."
And this from The Journal of Private Fraser,
ed. Reginald H. Roy (CEF Books, 1998, p. 23-24):
"Friday, September 17, 1915: Anyway,
our training was at an end, word was passed around that we were leaving
today for France. The camp was all excitement. At last we were
to witness real fighting. It was almost too good to be true.
Everyone was pleased at the idea though a bit dubious of the outcome.
The consequences, however, were thrown to the winds, the only thing that
mattered was we were bound for France. Orders to strike camp were
given and in due time we were on the move, our packs choke full of clothing,
etc. It was a memorable day as our brigade stepped out on the road
and marched for Folkestone through Lympne, Hythe, Seabrook and Sandgate.
The march was gruelling one. Our packs were so heavy that the strappings
almost cut into the flesh and there were many connivances employed
to ease the aching back, and shoulders. Near Folkestone at the Leas
we halted and lay on the road. By this time the stragglers had caught
up. It soon became evident that there was something wrong and everyone
was enquiring the reason for the delay. The command rang out along
the lines, "about turn," then we learned the reason - there were mines
in the English Channel and we could not cross until the sweepers announced
all clear. Our first battle, the retreat from Folkestone, commenced.
Twos and threes were falling out by the roadside, the climb to the plains
above Sandgate took the heart out of many, so they took up their abode
for the night on the roadside, in gardens, in the fields, amidst bushes,
and a few fortunate ones managed into houses. The Companies got badly
mixed. By the time a halt was called the battalion was widely scattered.
About a couple of dozen, including the writer, represented 'A' Company.
That night we slept on [Sir John Moore's] Plains under the canopy of heaven
with only what we carried with us for covering. Next morning and
forenoon the stragglers began to arrive from all directions and by the
afternoon we were up to strength again …" "Saturday, September 18, 1915: The
channel was evidently clear for in the early evening we were on the road
again. At Folkestone we embarked. The British Navy had its
sentinels out, one particular vessel keeping a watchful eye on us.
It darted hither and thither, racing alongside us or crossing our bow or
stern. In the fading light England was soon lost to view - to many
On 1st October 1915, CLLP reverted to the ranks
"at [his] own request". Between then and 16th March 1916, when he
made an application for transfer to the Canadian Machine Gun Company, the
service records are completely silent about his activities, apart from
details of his pay, and these do not show any locations. Bud Payne
remembers his father:
"… speaking of having been in the Fort
Garry Horse before becoming a machine gunner … Fort Garry Gate features
on the 20 cent definitive stamp issued 15 Jun 1938, and it's possible that
sight of this prompted Dad to tell me."
Was this perhaps the period that he served with
the Fort Garry Horse? And was his apparently voluntary demotion to
the ranks in order to facilitate such a transfer from the 2nd Divisional
Train, C.A.S.C. to the Machine Gun Corps?