On 1 February 1915 Archibald Piper, my grandpa, a blacksmith working in Pincher Creek, enlisted in the 13th C.M.R. The 13th Canadian Mounted Rifles was organized in 1914 under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel A.C.Kemmis, with Headquarters and Depot in Pincher Creek Alberta. Most of the recruits were from the southern ranching country in Alberta.
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One of the notable features of 13 CMR was the 42 men born in Japan in its ranks. By the early part of 1916, there was a shortage of volunteers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and the solutions included conscription and removal of impediments to enlisting what had earlier been considered undesirable nationalities. The appearance of not only Japanese, but also eastern Europeans born in countries on the Allied side, in the nominal rolls marked a decided change in recruiting policy.
The train took them east and they arrived in Halifax Nova Scotia in time to board the “S.S.Olympic” which sailed on 29 June 1916 with a roster of 34 officers and 933 other ranks.
On 11 November 1918 an armistice was signed and all fighting stopped.
There is a 90-year-old legend in the North Wales town of Bodelwyddan. On some nights you can hear the sound of soldiers marching through the town, but if you look, none can be seen. The soldiers are the spirits of Canadian troops that rest in St. Margaret’s Churchyard in the town. 208 Canadian soldiers are buried there, most of them victims of the influenza epidemic that was rampant in Europe and North America in early 1919. Four of the graves are different: they are the graves of soldiers that were killed when the Canadian soldiers in the Kinmel Park Army camp mutinied in 1919.
For the17,400 troops at Kinmel Park, conditions were far from ideal. The days were filled with exercises that they thought meaningless, medical examinations, route marches and military discipline and training. For them the war was over and they didn’t see the need. They were anxious to return to Canada, not just to their families, but they also realized that the first soldiers home would have the pick of the available jobs, and no one wanted to come home from the war and be unemployed. At Kinmel Park, there was the military bureaucracy to overcome. Troops awaiting transport had to fill in some 30 different forms with approximately 360 questions. The food they were fed was bad; it had been compared to “pigswill”. At night, the troops had access to “Tin Town” a nearby group of shops and pubs that had inflated their prices to take advantage of the, comparatively, well paid Canadian soldier. After a month of these rates, many soldiers were broke. At Kinmel, probably because it was supposed to be a short term camp, the men did not receive regular pay,
Although warmer than most Canadian winters, the winter of 1918-1919 was also one of the coldest that the locals could remember. With the camp situated right on the coast, the men were exposed to the constant, harsh wind that came in off the sea.
In late February it became common knowledge that a number of large ships had been reallocated to the American troops, who hadn’t been overseas for as long as the Canadians. As a last straw, at the beginning of March, General Sir Arthur Currie made a decision to transport the 3rd Infantry as a whole back to Canada, instead of the troops waiting at Kinmel Park, who were originally scheduled for these ships. There was no question that these were combat troops who deserved to return quickly, but they hadn’t been overseas as long as many of the men stationed at Kinmel Park
On 4 and 5 March 1919, Kinmel Park experienced two days of riots in the
It was reported: "The mutineers were our own men, stuck in the mud of North Wales, waiting impatiently to get back to Canada – four months after the end of the war. The 15,000 Canadian troops that concentrated at Kinmel didn't know about the strikes that held up the fuelling ships and which had caused food shortages. The men were on half rations, there was no coal for the stove in the cold grey huts, and they hadn't been paid for over a month. Forty-two had slept in a hut meant for thirty, so they each took turns sleeping on the floor, with one blanket each."
“This resulted in five men being killed and 23 being wounded. Seventy eight men were arrested, of whom 25 were convicted of mutiny and given sentences varying from 90 days' detention to ten years' penal servitude."
On the 22 March 1919 Grandpas finally got to head home. He boarded the “SS Regina” from Liverpool which would take him to Halifax and then a train ride to Medicine Hat to his family.
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