Running a Battalion

There were many tasks involved with the daily running of the 118th battalion. Not only was the battalion actively recruiting, but day to day concerns such as feeding and paying the troops required attention.

Officers who were sent across the northern part of Waterloo County for recruiting efforts required reimbursements for travel while training required equipment and the types of facilities where soldiers could learn to fire rifles and use their bayonets. But like many new battalions, the 118th lacked the necessary equipment for war-fighting—even uniforms, blankets, and band instruments were difficult to come by.

War is sometimes portrayed as a glamorous business but in reality, especially at home, it was characterized by bureaucracy and monotonous administration. Organizing soldier’s pay required significant attention. Not only did the battalion have to maintain a payroll of soldiers, but in some cases had to organize the distribution of money to the men’s dependents. However, only certain members of a soldier’s family were eligible to receive military pay—and then only if they were considered ‘deserving.’ It was up to  Battalion Headquarters to determine which soldiers’ wives could receive a marriage separation allowance and how money would be paid to other dependent children and parents. Often soldiers’ families claimed that they were not receiving the money to which they felt entitled.

The battalion also disciplined and punished soldiers accused of disobeying orders, such as going absent without leave. This crime was the most common one in the battalion. Soldiers found guilty of this crime were docked a day’s pay per day absent and were given a half-hour’s additional drill after morning roll-call and another session in the evening. Convicted soldiers were also made to do jobs in their off time such as scrubbing floors and cleaning up the parade square.

For further information on the administration of the Battalion see Files #32, 33, 34 and 35, and for how Col. Lochead handled disobedience, see File #51 Boards of Inquiry.


Citations

Gardner, Nikolas. “The Great War and Waterloo County: The Travails of the 118th Overseas Battalion,” Ontario History 89, no. 3 (1997): 119-236.

Hayes, Geoffrey. Waterloo County: An Illustrated History. Waterloo: Waterloo Historical Society, 1997.

O’Brien, Mike. “Manhood and Militia Myth: Masculinity, Class and Militarism in Ontario, 1902-1914.” Canadian Journal of Labor Studies 42 (1998): 115-141.

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