Canadian Division Orders Wearing of All-Steel Helmets in the Field

War Events – April 13, 1917

April 13, 1917 was the fifth day of Canadians’ attack on Vimy Ridge.


Battalion Diary – April 13, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

Muster Parade at 6:30am. All Correct. Battalion marched to Training Area and carried out collective, flank and rear guard training all day. Dinner in field. The wearing of all steel helmets in all field training ordered by Division.

Battalion Diary – April 11, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

Battalion was inspected on parade by G.O.C. (General-On-Command) of the 5th Canadian Division. Kits, rifles, equipment and loaded transport were inspected also. The Battalion was favourably criticized by the inspecting Officer.


War Events – April 11, 1917

April 11, 1917 was the third day of Canadians’ attack on Vimy Ridge.

Canadian Prime Minister’s Speech at Witley Camp

Battalion Diary – April 9, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

Sir Robert Borden, Premier (Prime Minister) of Canada, addressed Officers and men of the 5th Division at Y.M.C.A hut in Witley Camp.

Note: Sir Robert Borden, the Canadian Prime Minister’s address at Witley Camp announced the beginning of the Canadians attack on Vimy Ridge. It was part of his presence in England during the ramp-up and launch of the Vimy Ridge attack, which he later spoke about in the Canadian House of Commons.

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.

Lieutenant D.S. Scott Left for London

Battalion Diary – February 28, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

Lieutenant D.S. Scott proceeded to London for discharge to Canada as “Permanently unfit for any service.”

By the transfer of 9 draft horses from the Remount Depot, the Battalion Transport section is complete for personnel of men, animals, and equipment.

Preliminary Musketry Party carried on work during the afternoon and the remainder of the Battalion carried on with Sports.

The Musketry Party was inspected at 2:30pm in training by the General Officer Commanding (G.O.C.), the highest ranking officer, of the 5th Canadian Division.

Six Men Sick With Mumps

Battalion Diary – February 16, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

8:00am  Battalion formed up for inspection by Canadian Ordnance Corps (C.O.C.) 5th Division, who was received by the General Salute. Five (5) Officers and 155 other ranks on parade. Inspection, on the whole, was fairly good.

1:30pm  Syllabus of training.

6pm  Six (6) men reported back from Ash Ranges and placed under Quarantine as Mumps’ contacts.

Start of Official 161st Battalion Diary

The contents of the diary of the 161st Huron Battalion’s activities, which was kept by the head of the Battalion, is available starting in February 1, 1917, courtesy of the Library and Archives of Canada. This diary provides a very basic overview of the 161st Battalion’s daily activities as a reserve battalion.

Official 161st Battalion Diary – February 1, 1917

Location: Witley Camp, North Surrey

8am Strength: 25 officers, 496 other ranks.

Reformed the Battalion from the system used in the Shorncliffe area and which is applicable to Reserve Battalion, to four (4) company basis. Quarters were allotted by Companies and the Cadre of Instructors for the several schools detailed. Schools were formed in Musketry, Drill, Bombing, Engineering and P.T. and B.F. Owing to lack of instructors no Anti-Gas or Lewis Gun training was carried on.

1:30pm Battalion attached to 14th Canadian Infantry Battalion, 5th Canadian Division. Training was carried on under the school system.