Item is an interview/narrative of Cecil James's experiences during World War I. Second Lieutenant James, M.C. served with the 6th Battalion (The Middlesex Regiment) and the King's Royal Lancashire Regiment. Interview took place on June 1, 1977.
Born in 1889 in London. Came to Canada in 1905, a small legacy of twelve pounds sterling buying his passage. An incomplete chemist apprenticeship in England served to find him employment in drug stores in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Enlisted in a C.E.F. Field Ambulance at Yorkton, Sask. About six weeks later he received a telegram, delayed in transmission, to join his unit, but by then the unit had left for overseas. Bought his own passage to England, through New York. In London a boy scout led him to a recruiting station where he soon found himself a member of the 6th Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment of the British army. After a few weeks of basic training he was sent to France as a reinforcement. Attained rank of sergeant and was later commissioned at Saint-Hubert (ca. 1916) into the King's Royal Lancashire Regiment. (12:00) Comments on trench war, "over the top", occupied enemy trench. Describes trench life and conditions. British Army strictly observed the relationship between officers and men. Compares discipline, as personally observed, with that of Canadian and other Dominion troops. Was awarded the Military Cross; an account of the action, leading off from a sunken road, across no man's land, cane in hand. Many casualties. After a few minutes only two of his machine-gun section on their feet. Fired effectively into a German trench, then withdrew under enemy mortar fire. Only one other returned with him to the British trenches. (33:00)
Describes a Vickers machine-gun crew. Portions of machine-gun battalions were attached to regular infantry battalions during attacks. (40:00) Speaks of reasons for joining in the war: offered a certain esprit de corps and to defend England. Finally point out the difficulty of many in attempting to join the Canadian army in Winnipeg: units were swamped with volunteers. (45:00)