By Ted Ross

Part Two - 1916

The Daily Colonist, January 1, 1916 has its first three pages covered with war news. There is one report of a young miner crushed between two ore-cars in a Nanaimo coal mine on p. 3, but the rest of the reports are war-related. The financial listings are on p. 2 along with a casualty list of twenty-one reported killed and wounded that day.

Editorials are on page four. One reads, "Our friend, The Inland Sentinel [Kamloops], counts the day lost [that] does not illuminate some ill-natured reference to this good city and this newspaper. What worries [them] ... is the fact that Victoria is going to build a barracks for the Bantams.

"When the Bantam Battalion was proposed in Victoria, our good neighbors in Vancouver thought they would like to have it there...Their Board of Trade...exerted all their influence to secure the location. Victoria, although better suited in every way as a headquarters for training purposes, had no available building. The local [Victoria] Board of Trade got busy and proposed that a barracks be built here. The proposal was made at noon, and two hours later the City Council agreed. We cannot understand that what was right and proper in the case of Vancouver is unblushing, unpatriotic and everything else that is wicked in the case of Victoria.

"We wish The Sentinel a Happy New Year, and grant that it may get over its attack of jaundice."

It's not clear why the Kamloops newspaper was castigating Victoria and the Colonist in this matter. One would have expected such censure to come from a Vancouver journal.

The Bantam Battalion was comprised of men and officers of diminutive height. In the Scottish News, 14 December 2013, we read, "They were known as the bantam battalions - thousands of men who had been told they were too small to fight in World War I, only to be called into service. Standing no taller than 5ft 3in, some of them were dwarfed by their own guns.

"When the war started in a haze of patriotic fervour and a belief it would be over by Christmas, the minimum height for volunteers was 5ft 3in. But as the patriotism gave away to the realities of a long, brutal and bloody conflict, the need for more manpower made it inevitable that rules would be relaxed. It meant a whole battalion of men, all of about 5ft, were put into service."

According to the Daily Colonist, April 2, 1916, p. 15, "When the various transfers of the many Bantams expected to come from battalions already in existence following on the district order recently issued giving all men of bantam height the right to transfer, the numbers will be greatly swelled, [the order] giving them the right to transfer from any other battalion if their height is less than five feet and four inches."

The paper goes on to say, "A short time will elapse before the band is organized and ready to lead the battalion on parade. Pending the formation of the band, steps will be taken at once to organize a bugle band."

Regarding the new barracks, which were being built in Beacon Hill Park, the Daily Colonist says on p. 15, "The barracks being constructed in as picturesque a location as it is possible to find, under the spreading oaks at the entrance to Beacon Hill Park, are being converted into most comfortable quarters and with the approach of Spring the Bantams find life enjoyable."

On April 6 the Colonist reported on p. 4, "A bantam rooster, with the inscription Multum in Parvo and a maple leaf background, is the crest adopted by the 143d Battalion, B.C. Bantams."

The April 6 Colonist relates, "The new quarters at Beacon Hill are being advanced. They are now half completed. The Prince Rupert Hotel [where they had been billeted] has practically been abandoned as far as the Bantams are concerned. Only one or two details are quartered there, and in a few days they will be moved."

The Daily Colonist, March 12, 1916 reported, "5th Regiment Band Giving Concert; Bandmaster W.J. Smith has a splendid programme arranged for the Sunday evening concert in the Royal Victoria Theatre, given by the 5th Regiment Band. The concert opens with God Save the King at 8:45pm." The hall was packed for the performance.

An article about the 143d Bantam Battalion appeared on p. 5. "It is anticipated a new order will shortly be started. It is proposed to have various degrees..., the first of which will be open to the rawest recruit, this being the first degree, the order of the Buff Cochin. [Degrees are attained to] the 33rd degree, that of Game Bantam, a first-class fighting bird, who, small in stature, makes up in gameness and fighting qualities for anything he may lack in weight and size...with a period of training about 1,150 members will qualify for the 33d degree, and be first-class Game Bantams."

On March 24 the 67th Battalion of 1100 men left Victoria bound for Europe.

On May 23 the 88th Battalion left the City en route to the Front.

We read in the Daily Colonist, May 24, 1916, "A concert was held at the Willows last night which was in the nature of a farewell entertainment to the men of the 88th Battalion who are under orders to leave for overseas."

The casualty list on p. 4 records 80 names. There is an article on p. 5 headed, "Killed in Action; Word reached Victoria yesterday of the death of Pte. John Steven, of the 7th Battalion who is reported to have been killed in action on Friday, May 5." Another local man lost.

Nearly 1,050 officers and men of the 103d Battalion left for overseas duty on July 15. The headline on p. 3 of the Colonist is, "Lieut.- Col. Henniker, C.O., and officers of the 103d Battalion, Sergeants of 103d Battalion Soon Going Overseas."

In the August 5 edition of the Daily Colonist, one headline on p. 1 reads, "Victoria Marks Anniversary; Patriotic Gathering at Beacon Hill Passes Resolution Re-affirming Loyalty to Empire's Cause" with the article following, "While the sun bathed the Olympics and the straits in ideal Victoria sunshine yesterday afternoon, a little band of 4,000 enthusiastic patriots gathered around a platform on the western slope of Beacon Hill to re-affirm their loyalty to Empire and the cause for which its soldiers are battling in Europe.

"The ceremony at the park was preceded by a parade of the band of the 143d Battalion, a guard of honor also from the Bantams, Mayor Stewart and the members of the City Council, through the streets. A number of other persons joined in at the end of the procession."

The daily casualty list on p. 4 shows 75 names.

On p. 5 the headline states, "Mechanical Corps is Given Send-off; One Hundred Officers and Men Leave for Eastern Canadian Training Camps -- Taken on Motor Car Ride." The story tells us, "One hundred men, recruited in Victoria and Vancouver almost entirely, left for Eastern Canada training camps last evening. they have enlisted in the Canadian Mechanical Transport Corp and are going to be attached to the troops at Valcartier, Borden, Barryfield, and Niagara, to receive what further instruction is necessary prior to proceeding overseas."

The Daily Colonist, Tuesday, November 21, contains a casualty list of 150 names on p. 2. On p. 15, firewood at $6 a cord and coal at $7.25 a ton are available at 617 Cormorant Street.

On p. 5 of the issue, the headline is "Local Casualties" followed by the story, "Pte. A.R. Ashby has been wounded in the thigh. Sergt. F.L.B. Price has died. Major Monteith is recovering."

The Colonist, December 24, 1916, contains a p. 1 invitation to returned soldiers and their wives. The announcement states, "Will all returned soldiers who have received invitations for the Christmas Dinner, to be given by the Camosun Chapter, I.O.D.E., at the Alexandra Club today, if possible let Mr. H.W. Hart, secretary of the Association, know if they can attend. Wives of returned soldiers are also invited."

Some soldiers were home, but more were being sought. An article on p. 5 includes, "...the Army Services Corp is now in the midst of a recruiting campaign for men to be sent away on overseas service."

Another headline on the page reads, "Recruits Wanted for Overseas." The war was still eating men from Victoria, even in the Christmas season.

Next year will be the grimmest, yet.

to be continued....