In November 1915, recently commissioned Windsor M. P., Lt. Col. Hedley B. Tremain, received orders from Ottawa to form an infantry battalion, pulling it from “all counties in Nova Scotia west of Halifax.” Recruiting began immediately and after basic training in their community militias, the newly formed 112th Battalion, CEF, assembled for the first time in Windsor the following spring. The Battalion camped on the grounds at Fort Edward for more intensive training over the next three months.
The official records tell us that over 1500 men volunteered for service in the new battalion but only 1200 made the cut. The average age of the volunteers was 23. They came from farm country and fishing villages, all with patriotic zeal, as if going off to war was something to celebrate. Sadly, as a side note, of the 1200 that eventually sailed off to the war in Europe, many of them, at least 200, would never return.
My father, one of those patriotic farm boys, enlisted in the 112th Battalion shortly after it was formed This piqued my interest in the Battalion, especially when I recently saw a copy of the Hants Journal, dated July 5, 1916. This issue was devoted to the departure of the 112th from Windsor and apparently, it was an occasion for celebration. They are off, declared the Journal, to participate “in a final glorious victory and a safe return home.”
Saying goodbye to the 112th took up the entire issue of the Hants Journal. Portraits of the officers on the front page, a muster roll, and even a farewell poem by the Journal’s editor, James J. Anslow, filled its pages. The last stanza of the poem read: “So here’s our hand, good trusty men/Shake and we say goodbye/We wish you luck and home again/When Huns are forced to fly.”
On the muster roll, the Journal proclaimed that it was the “official list of every man in the 112th under canvas in Windsor.” Except for a few advertisements, nine of the 10 pages of the Journal listed the men of the 112th and their rank and county of residence. Read the list carefully and you’ll find that the 112th not only had volunteers from one end of Nova Scotia to the other, and from New Brunswick and the United States.
The mood set by the Journal was, well, happy and enthusiastic – ice cream, cake, strawberries and cream were served the men at the farewell party and the regiment was presented with a new set of colours. Unfortunately, and all too tellingly, the Journal’s editor noted, in effect, that this may be the last opportunity to say farewell to the soldiers. Anslow may have had in mind the battle at Mount Sorrell earlier that year when Canada suffered 8000 casualties.