V. E. Goodwin Part 1

Private V.E. Goodwin
On the voyage to the shores of Europe. . .

"As far as one looked, one saw nothing but water, water, everywhere. Once we saw whales and occasionally a porpoise skimmed the surface." Fear of the unseen enemy stalking beneath the surface haunted every moment, the German U-Boat which could send them to a watery grave. They travelled in convoy. Escort ships accompanied the troop carrier. At night on October 3rd, as preparations for landing commenced, tensions mounted when subs attacked the convoy. "As dawn broke, we looked out and the escorts had disappeared; no ships of any kind were in sight. Customarily in sub attacks all ships scattered." They kept looking for escorts as their defenseless ship plowed on. Mercifully, by October 5th they sighted the Irish coast, and next day they docked at Liverpool. "We were lucky though. The Germans eventually sank our ship." The S.S. Tuscania was torpedoed at night on February 3rd, 1918, off the Irish coast while carrying over 2000 United States troops and a crew of 141. Of the 2397 people on board including civilian passengers, 2187 were saved.

On the arrival in Liverpool. . .

A great armada lay at anchor in Liverpool when the Tuscania steamed in, "more ships than ever I had seen at one time." The men arrived in early morning on October 7th at Shorncliffe, a camp near Folkestone in Kent. Immediately the brigadier strutted out from headquarters to inspect the new arrivals. Vincent got his "first little taste of Beefeaters, sergeant-majors adorned with waxed, handle-bar mustaches, who roared out orders which tremored the ground upon which they stood."

Troops carrying wounded
spacer The Luftwaffe strikes. . .

Tranquil pastoral scenes abruptly vanished next day as the lorries neared the line. As they rumbled through the town of St. Pol, the war's ghastly reality savagely burst upon them. Above, in sun drenched sky, a sickening drone momentarily grew into a deafening roar. Characteristically the German planes swooped in so low "one felt like he could reach up and touch them with a rifle." They bombed and strafed the convoy. The main body of trucks pulled round the burning wreckage and casualties and proceeded.

Troops maintain watch from the trench
spacer The dangers of chemical warfare. . .

On April 23rd, a platoon officer from Moncton, Lieut. Denny, chose Vincent to run from trenches back to company headquarters, a duty he performed until May 1st. At least once daily he and a companion threaded their way through trenches, slipped over the top, and raced to deliver messages, "a very chancy business." One day a breathless scout ran up to Lieut. Denny and reported an impending gas attack. Intelligence had spotted canisters of chlorine, the deadly yellow-green poisonous gas which, when released, drifted over the terrain like ground fog. Denny ordered Vincent to rush word to brigade headquarters. When he reached the command post and advised the brigadier, "the poor fellow immediately began to shake and pull on his gas mask. He fumbled around trying to write out a general order warning troops of the attack, but the mask impaired his vision and slowed the process an agonizingly, indeed terrifyingly, long time." Similar instances of military ineptitude happened not infrequently "with spit and polish officers, especially some who had won stripes in the South African War. They lost their nerve in combat."

spacer The Canadian Cavalry Brigade

Canadian cavalrymen had waited four years for that moment. "There was something grand, majestic, imposing, almost epic about that charge -- I would have liked to have been in it. Oh! I really would have liked to have joined the Canadian Cavalry Brigade -- I loved horses." They cleared the way to a large extent for the Canadian infantry advance, yet many men touched spurs to horses' flanks and galloped off under blue sky and in light breeze for their last sunny afternoon ride. "They furnished a pitifully unequal match, an easy target in open fields, man and horse pitted against machine gun. As the day wore on they encountered several heavy, bloody engagements -- a seemingly pointless slaughter of gallant men and magnificent horses.

Only once during its career in France, on August 8th, 1918, in the Battle of Amiens, did the Canadian Cavalry Brigade take part as a mounted force in an engagement of the Canadian Corps. The rest of the time it fought exclusively with Imperial Forces. It was attached to the British 3rd Cavalry Division for the major portion of the time.

Continued in V. E. Goodwin Part 2.

spacer The text on this page has been taken from Memories of the Forgotten War, by Dr. David P. Beatty.

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