Overseas

September 1916

OFFICERS CHOSEN TO LEAVE FOR ENGLAND-- The personnel of the draft of junior officers, which is being mobilized in Military District No. 11 for dispatch to the Old Country in order to be available to reinforce the C. E. F. in France as needed, was announced yesterday from headquarters, Work Point.  3aa   The officers chosen from the 143rd Battalion were:

Lieuts. A Lineham, D. B Hanna, T. St. E. De Wolf, J. W. Southin and R. F. Ely.

October 1916

RECOMMENDS BANTAMS FOR ACTIVE SERVICE-- Col. J. Duff Stuart, D.O.C., informs 143rd Battalion that it may expect orders to "Stand By" at early date.  There is joy in the camp of the Bantams at Sidney as a result of the official announcement made there yesterday that the Bantams are to be the next battalion to leave Victoria for overseas service.

The "stand by" orders are expected to be received shortly and before many weeks the Bantams will be dispatched across the Atlantic to complete their training in England and then join their fellow Bantams from the United Kingdom, who have done such grand work in the present offensive on the Somme.

The 143rd, since passing through the recent stringent medical examination by the usual board of doctors, has a strength of little over 900 men and the recruiting staff has been notified that it must get the hundred more men needed to bring the battalion to full strength without delay.3ac 

November 1916

In November, at the request of Powley, the OC, MD11 sent a telegram requesting that the battalion be sent overseas early in December.

December 1916

CANNOT AVOID BREAKING UP UNITS-- The Canadian Associated Press has been authoritatively informed that the practice of breaking up units of the Canadian forces after they have arrived in England into drafts for the reinforcement of battalions already at the front is a military necessity.  Under existing circumstances at the front it cannot well be avoided.  The casualties have been a heavy drain in the divisions in action, and these divisions must be kept up and supplied with new men and junior officers.3ai 

On Dec 6, Lieut.-Col. Powley received a letter from the Acting Adjutant General of MD 11 saying they would not be sent overseas in December.  The letter went on to say that there was no room for more battalions in England and "that there are already in England an enormous number of Lieut.-Colonels, Majors, Captains and Battalion Staff Officers for whom there is no employment whatsoever.  Therefore it is impossible at the present time, to send over any more battalions, as such, and the only way . . . to send infantry overseas . . . is by sending 100 or 200 or 300 men, with Lieutenants . . ."

The first unit in this military district to come under the new ruling in regard to breaking up and going overseas in separate drafts is the 225th Battalion, which, incidentally, has not been mobilizing as long as the Bantams.  The 225th is 700 strong and it will be split into two companies.3aj 

January 1917

On Jan 3, in a hand written letter to the OC, MD 11, Powley made a request that the 143rd be converted to a railway construction battalion.  Powley was fairly direct in the letter:

"Will the District Officer Commanding be good enough to recommend this by wire today. . ."

On January 4th the OC MD11, wrote back saying he could not recommend his request of Jan 3 [to be converted to a railway construction battalion].

On Jan 5th, the Office Commanding MD 11 sent a telegram to Headquarters requesting that the 143rd be converted to a railway construction battalion, so as to allow it to proceed overseas as a unit.

As the byline in a photograph of Lieut.-Col. A Bruce Powley the Daily Colonist reported that the 143rd would stay intact, but be going overseas as a railway construction corps.  Lieut.-Col. Powley confirmed this in an interview.3ak 

February 1917

THANKS VICTORIA FOR LOYAL SUPPORT--"I want the people of Victoria to feel that we really appreciate everything that they have done for us.  We have had our little difficulties and our trials, but the Bantams recognize to the fullest extent the loyal support which they have received in their every endeavor.  In every public undertaking which we have organized we have been given strength by the hearty co-operation of Victorians, and we want to thank them for it.  It is our hope that we will have the opportunity of repaying the people for their kindness by maintaining our record of efficiency in the field.  We shall do our best to fulfill our duty to ourselves, to our country and to Victoria."  This was the farewell message of the 143rd Battalion, as expressed by Lieut.-Col. A. Bruce Powley.3an 

BANTAMS SAY GOODBYE TO VICTORIA CROWDS--It was an inspiring send-off that Victoria gave the 143rd Battalion yesterday afternoon, and the spirit with which it was given showed in a clearer, more unmistakable way than any other possible the popularity which the unit enjoyed among the people of this city.  After the march from the Beacon Hill barracks to the CPR docks, the members of the 143rd boarded the Princess Victoria and Princess Mary ships to start their 6,000 mile trip to the Front.3ao

"The 143rd sailed from Halifax aboard S.S. Southland, on February 17th, 1917."1h  On board with the 143rd was the 218th Battalion, an Artillery draft and a draft of R.C.N.V.R.5a  The S.S. Southland and another troop transport was accompanied across the Atlantic by the armoured cruiser HMS Drake.  Ten days later they were in the Canadian Holding Depot at Purfleet Camp, Shorncliffe.1h

On February 7th, Sir George Perley, the Minister of the Overseas Military Forces issued a telegram cancelling the railway construction equipment required by the 143rd and the 228th Battalion, to function as construction battalions.  With this order, the battalion's fate was sealed.  It would not remain intact once it got to England.

On February 9th, the same day the Battalion left Victoria, a report on the battalion was sent by the OC, MD 11 to the Secretary of the Militia Council in Ottawa describing the operational readiness of the battalion, which had been recently re-designated as a railway construction battalion.  The report undoubtedly supported the final decision to break up the battalion. 

Break Up

Upon arrival at Purfleet, the battalion was medically examined and categorized.  On the 15th of March 1917 all ranks in Category A, (744 all ranks) were transferred to Seaford and attached to the 24th Reserve Battalion.  The remaining categories were transferred to the Canadian Railway Troops on the 14th of March 1917 and remained at Purfleet.5a

From the 24th Reserve Battalion, former members of the 143rd were assigned to several units on the Western Front.  In March 1917, documents from the National Archives show that 135 men went to the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops.  The War Diary of the 47th Battalion shows that at least 83 former members of the 143rd served in that battalion.  The history of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles from the records of Lieut.-Col. G. Chalmers Johnston, show that in May 1917, at least 229 members went to that battalion.

No record has been found, other than the individual soldiers war records, that show where the balance of the men from the 143rd Battalion served.

Next:  The Nominal Roll of the 143rd

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