News from Witley Camp and Home

Battalion Diary – April 5, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

Battalion proceeded on 14th Brigade Route March all day via PORTMOUTH ROAD – DYE HOUSE-PITCH PLACE-SILVERBACK main road to MILLBRIDGE-SHEEP HATCH-RISTEAD-CAMP. Battalion returned to Camp at 6:00pm. Weather good.

Home Events – April 5, 1917

On April 5, 1917, the Brussels Post ran the following letter.

“Witley Camp, Surrey England

“Dear Sir – In regards to one of our boys doing his “bit” for King and Country, Corporal J.G. Anderson is a son of James Anderson on the 5th concession of Morris. His grandfather rented his farm at Dundalk to one of his sons and is visiting with members of his family. Nineteen years ago (1898) he moved from the United States and is proving himself to be more than a “Note writer.”

Some time ago L/C John G. was picked for the “Guard of Honor” and proved himself worthy of handling his men on such an occasion. We, as a section, hope in the near future that he will accept Sergeant’s stripes of which he is worthy. Three cheers and hats off to J.G. Anderson of the 161st Battalion.

From two of the section,

H.P. McCluskey & Pte. J.R. Chisholm”

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.

List of Battalion Officers and Training Staff-Feb 28, 1917

Appendix A – Battalion Instructional Cadre – February 28, 1917

This is list of the non-commissioned officers and officers in charge of training and leadership in the 161st Huron Battalion as of February 28, 1917. It was included as Appendix A to the entry of February 28, 1917 in the 161st Huron Battalion Diary.

P.T.  & B.F.

Officer in charge: Lieut. W.F. Scott

654053 A/CSM H.G. James

654123 A/Sgt T.H. Bissett

654207 “ B.B. Bell

654035 “ A.M. Forbes

654078 “ M.W. Pfaff

305134 “ T.L. Rivers

654176 A/L/Sgt L.C. Cantelon

654242 “ J.E. Holmes


Officer in charge: Lieut. R.A. Walter

654139 A/L/Sgt F.W. Andrews

654350 “ H. Kingland

654442 A/L/Cpl J.M Ballantyne

654376 “ C.A. Campbell

654573 “ T.C. Lutton


In charge: No. 654087  A/Sgt  G.W. Schaefer

654059 A/Sgt R.C. Mann

654377 “ J. Gillepsie

654740 “ B.J. MacLean

654217 “ A.R. Mustard

654032 A. Cpl W.L Faegan

654153 “ C.A. Johnson

654524 A/L/Cpl L.R. Davidson

654533 “ C.H. Mitchell

654682 “ A.L. Tiernay

654451 “ E.A. Warner

654575 “ J. Yungblut

Musketry School

Officer in charge: Capt. I. Hetherington

654180 A/CSM F.W. Burchell

654027 “ J.O. Crich

654528 “ A.H. Jane

654570 A/Sgt J.H. Best

654428 “ C.R. Clark

654343 “ C.J. Cox

654470 “ J.H. Dunsmore

654042 “ A.J. Hefford

654368 “ W.E. Peachey

654358 “ L.J. Wasman

654168 “ S.A. Scott

654694 A/Cpl. H. Clairmont

654517 “ A.H. Gambrill

654198 “ J.A. Kelly

654164 “ C.D. Ross

654086 “ V.L. Sanderson

654167 A/L/Cpl T.D. Savage

654659 “ D.F. Young

School of Engineering

Officer in charge: Lieut. W.F. Grieves

654002 A/Sgt D.C. Angell

654071 “ W. McKinley

654647 “ I. Redford

654784 A/Cpl J. Adams

654282 “ G.W. Handley

654463 “ R.H. Neelands

Anti-Gas Instructors

Lieut. W.B. Wilson

Lieut. D.E. Holmes

654217 A/Sgt A.R. Mustard

654100 “ J.W. Straiton

654037 A/L/Sgt R.E.S. Fox

654041 A/Cpl H.P. Guest

654833 A/L/Cpl W.T. Fisher

654269 “ W.G. Harburn

654530 “ M.L. Toms

654305 “ C. Tuckey

654317 A/Cpl F.O.T. Manuel

654252 “ R.F. Woods

654548 A/L/Cpl C.G. Lawson

654496 “ H.C. Lawson

654823 A/Sgt N. McK. Geddes

654059 “ R.C. Mann

Company Commanders & Officers of Companion

“A” Company Major N.T. Sinclair

Capt. A.F. Sturdy

Lieut. W.B. Wilson

“B” Company Major H. Campbell

Lieut. H.C. McLean

Lieut. J.K Mair

Lieut. W.F. Scott

Lieut. F.M. Scott

“C” Company Major W.J. Heaman

Capt. C.K Macpherson

Lieut. D.S. Scott

Lieut. D.E. Holmes

“D” Company Capt. P.C. Town

Lieut. C.S. Hall

Lieut. R.A. Walter

Lieut. R.A. Cluff

Musketry Officer: Capt. I. Hetherington

Transport Officer: Lieut. W.P. Grieve

Lieutenant D. E. Holmes Observing Royal Flying Corps

Battalion Diary – February 15, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

7:45am  Firing Party of 1 Officer and 100 other ranks and 8 coaches, also Butt Party of 115 other ranks, paraded for Route march to Ash Ranges.

Battalion also supplied a Company of 4 Officers and 150 other ranks to be at the disposal of the Commandant, Senior Officiers’ School, Witley.

Lieutenant D.E. Holmes transferred to Royal Flying Corps as observer.

Four (4) other ranks went On Command to attend course at Bordon.

Strength: Taken on three (3) Officers from the 156th Battalion.