Soldier 214384 - France and Flanders

Pte. Arnott goes to War

Ira Kilbourne Arnott (IKA) was born to Myrtie and George Arnott in London, Ontario on May 28, 1895. At an early age they moved to Windsor. He lived at 19 Pelissier St. in a house that his parents would live in for a number of years even after it was moved to 1491 Pelissier St.

As a boy, IKA, was afflicted by a number ailments including Scarlet Fever and Typhoid. He also had Rheumatic Fever at 12 and 16 years of age. It would be Rheumatic Fever that would strike him again while serving in France.

Prior to enlisting, IKA worked as a clerk. At some point in 1915 or 1916 he joined the 99th Battalion in Windsor, perhaps inspired by Canadian propaganda targeted at the Germans. At this point in the war, the government found it easier to use local Battalions to recruit men and give them some very basic training (marching, shooting, etc.) before they were shipped overseas. The 99th Battalion (Essex Battalion) consisted of men from Windsor and Essex County, it was formed on September 5, 1915. The 99th Battalion was considered a recruitment battalion and by June of 1916, the men of this Battalion were split up and sent to Reserve Infantry Battalions once they reached Britain. At London, Ontario, on May 18, 1916, IKA passed his medical and signed his Attestation Paper and thus became part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). On May 28th, IKA turned 21, perhaps while on his way to Halifax.

"Red" Arnott in 1918

By May 31st, IKA was boarding, at Halifax, Nova Scotia, along with 5000 other men, the troopship, S.S. Olympic ( sister ship of the White Star Line's, S.S. Titanic which had sunk 4 year prior.) The Olympic was a fast ship travelling at about 25 knots; however this troopship was still a target for German submarines. After dark smoking was not allowed on deck for fear of giving their positions away to these subs. Conditions below were quite cramped as well, but the ship safely arrived at Liverpool, England on June 8th.

By July 6th, IKA was with 35th Canadian Reserve Battalion at West Sandling, England. It was 'absorbed' into the 39th Canadian Reserve Battalion (July 19th) which in turn became part of the 6th Canadian Reserve Battalion (Jan. 4/17). During this time, IKA was put through the rigors of training. At some point it was established the he would receive training as a signaller. This may have been the result of his small stature and slight build.

IKA spent over 9 months in England while he trained to go to France. He spent all of that time at East Sandling. This base was used as a training depot for Canadian soldiers. Originally, the first Canadians to England (1914) went to Camp Bustard on the Salisbury Plain. Later, two new camps were built at Bramshott and Witely. East Sandling was only 50 km south-east of London. It is likely that IKA was able to make the short trip to London during periods of leave. Or perhaps he made the even shorter trip to the white cliffs of Dover. The Canadian soldiers had quite a reputation in England. They were the best paid of all the British Empire soldiers (IKA's pay was $1.00/day). They were known as a fairly undisciplined group yet managed to avoid most serious trouble. Their unruly behaviour was somewhat forgiven because of the reputation they were beginning to earn as an outstanding group of fighting men on the field of battle.

Postcard from East Sandling

After months of training IKA was no doubt relieved at finally being assigned to a Battalion fighting in France. That battalion of course was the 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion which was part of the 1st Brigade, 1st Canadian Division. IKA travelled to the Canadian Corps depot at Seaford, England. This depot served as one of the Canadian Corps logistic nerve center. Through it flowed all the men and material (food, clothing, ammunition, etc.) the Corps needed to fight. He left Seaford and arrived in Le Havre, France on March 9, 1917. Two days later he came down with the mumps and spent the next 6 days in No. 2 Canadian General Hospital. These six days could have been critical in the destiny of IKA. He may have reached the 2nd Battalion prior to their involvement in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. As it turned out he did not reach the 2nd Battalion at Mont. St. Eloy until April 20, 1917.

For a direct link to the author of this article, EMAIL TOM ARNOTT

Copyright © Tom Arnott, September, 1997.

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