Sir Francis Howard Inspects 161st Hurons

Battalion Diary – February 14, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

8:00am  Syllabus of training.

2:30pm  Battalion inspected while in training by Sir Francis Howard.

3:15pm  Battalion sports commenced but owing to the delay in starting due to the inspection was badly handicapped and many of the events were cancelled.

Four (4) N.C.Os went On Command, Drill Course, Bordon.

Two (2) other ranks taken on strength from the 4th Reserve Battalion.

One (1) N.C.O. struck off strength to the C.C.A.C. (Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre)

One hundred (100) other ranks composing Firing Party completed training in Engineering.

Site Update – Exciting Developments

Thanks to kind readers, more information and photos of the men of the 161st Battalion are coming to light.

Enhanced past entries and new features are just a few of the changes we are making. As photos become available, faces are being added to the enlistment entries so people can see the young men who enlisted and the men who commanded them. Over the next month, over 40+ new faces will appear next to entries of men from all ranks.

Under development is a bibliography section for the site that will be added to as the site grows. It will document the sources used in the inspiration for this site.

There will also be a section to find the men, by name in addition to enlistment date. This section will include their history as we know it and will be added to as new information is shared.

Visit the site often to keep abreast of men of the 161st and their adventures and challenges, published a century to the day, after the events of WWI. History made and now documented in all its glory and sadness.

Winter 1917 for 161st Battalion

Battalion Events – Winter 1917
The battalion moved from Dibgate to West Sandling and onto Witley Camp in Surrey County, near Milford, England. This is where the 161st Huron Battalion remained. Plans were afoot for establishment of a 5th Canadian Division and this called for a concentration of troops at Witley Camp, Surrey County.

At one point, it was believed that the 161st Hurons would become one of four battalions forming one of three brigades of The 5th Canadian Division. (LWC). That did not come to pass.

The battalion may have remained stationed at Witley Camp, but the men from Huron County, who trained together both in Canada and in England, were moved in small groups to reinforce Canadian battalions at the war front.

When the men of the 161st Battalion landed in England in November 1916, the Canadian infantry were engaged in the Battle of the Somme. The Canadian troops took the Regina Trench on November 11, 1916. The Somme offensive cost the Canadians 25,000 casualties. In total, the Allied force suffered 623,907 casualties. The offensive left the Canadian battalions starving for troops. The 161st Huron Battalion was one of many newly landed battalions feeding the front and its depleted battalions with manpower.

Throughout the winter of 1917, 161st Huron Battalion men were ‘struck off strength,’ a military term for ‘transferred out’ of the Battalion and ‘taken on strength’ by battalion in the battlefield. Training was over and rumours of a spring offensive began to wend its way through the troops.

Shuffles In 161st Command

Battalion Diary – March 12, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

Captain C.G. Vanstone being On Command, Captain Town took over the duties of Acting Adjutant.

Captain D.G. Ross and Captain A.P. Malone transferred to the 4th Reserve Battalion, Bramshott.

Lieut. J.K Mair and Lieut. R.A. Cluff returned from Officers’ Course, Crowborough.

Training at Mytchett Ranges

Battalion Diary – March 11, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

8:30am  Three (3) Officers and 200 other ranks left to fire their general Muskets Course at Mytchett Ranges.

9:30am  Church Parade held in men’s mess room by a Chaplain detailed by Senior Chaplain.

The 18th Machine Gun Company paraded with the 161st.

3:00pm  One (1) Officer and 39 other ranks returned from Mytchett Ranges.