When we settled into camp, we were soon to find out that the 37th Fld Bty had supplied the advance party and had arrived in Petawawa some days ahead of us.
This advance party was headed up by a Major Mc Niell. I'm afraid to this day some unflattering thoughts go through our heads regarding this officer as we, down to the last one of us, felt the major had designs on becoming a colonel and being in full command. Well that did not happen and I have jumped ahead on the narrative.
Right away there was a lot of jealousy and petty attitudes and things between the 37th Bty and the 60/76 th Bty. The 37th came from Portage la Prairie Manitoba, Kenora Ont, the twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur, Fort Frances, and other Ont. towns. The 60/76 th Bty came from the small prairie towns in Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw, Regina, Indian Head, Aneroid, Ponteix ,Neville, Vanguard, Hazemore, Kincaid, and Admiral. All small towns and farms. Our older first world war officers knew that they wanted good young men to be Non Commissioned officers, so when we met up with the 37th it looked like we had a good number that had been promoted, all in acting ranks, as you had to have the acting rank. If I remember it took 60 days before getting that rank confirmed.
Mind you most of these fellows were just boys, with a sprinkling of old timers. Some of these oldsters were likely about thirty. Showers were always available. Mind you, there was some who did not believe in showering and had to be thrown in the shower before going home for Christmas leave. They got a little high in the three months of not finding where the shower was located.
I was in the 60/76th sergeants hut and ate in the sergeants' mess and drank in the sergeants' bar or mess. The other ranks had a wet canteen, and the officers had their mess complete with bar and gunners to do the duties in this area. Petawawa was a big camp and there were other artillery units there If I remember. They were the 4th anti tank Regt., and the 5th LAA unit, and a large amount of RCE Royal Canadian Engineers. The numbers were in the hundreds of all ranks. The RCE had a canteen called the Merry Sappers Canteen. Now this canteen had a couple of WW1 engineers who were black. These chaps were in their forties and I can see them now. They were two of the most entertaining con men you ever met. Here we were a group of prairie boys who were not used to seeing blacks unless we had seen one as a sleeping car porter on a train or a touring ball team called the Colored House Of David. So I have no regrets and these fine old fellows probably conned every one of us to buy them a drink. They were the greatest, and I will always remember their laughs, their humour, and they knew what war was all about and had survived. They made our growing up and facing life with a great deal of respect for these two coal black gentlemen. They wore their ww1 medal ribbons with pride, as we wear our ww2 now.
I have wandered away from the regimental happenings to talk about the camp.
The Salvation Army had a hut also the YMCA and The Knights Of Columbus. These were service huts that sold food, chocolate bars, and souvenirs , and also supplied free writing material if you so wished. The Sally Ann was in my books the greatest. It was operated by a Major Watters and Mother Watters as he called his wife. He, the Major, could pick out a homesick boy, steer him over to Mother Watters and some other motherly ladies likely have a free cup of tea and get his uniform fitting better and his unit flashes sewn on by the ladies. I have never forgotten them! At closing time they gave away any of the cookies and doughnuts that had not sold, and none of the other service clubs ever did this.
Next writing I will get on with the regimental happenings