Item is an interview/narrative of Gerard Renvoize Bradbrooke's experiences during World War I. Brigadier Bradbrooke, M.C. served with the Canadian Machine Gun Corps and Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians). Interview took place on May 22 and 29, 1980.
Born on Nov. 1, 1896 in England (d. 1980). Emigrated to Canada at the age of fifteen. In 1914 he joined the 18th Canadian Mounted Rifles (C.M.R.) as a trumpeter, then transferred to the 32nd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) as a bugler. Discusses training, uniforms, rough barrack conditions in Winnipeg. Overseas to Shorncliffe, England in 1915. After considerable effort and a small bribe he was included in a draft to France as a machine gunner in the 28th Battalion, C.E.F. No battle training: never fired a Lee-Enfield rifle before entering the trenches. Personal experiences on the Somme (1916). Carried so much equipment that running was impossible. Occupation of a German trench. Winter terrain very bad. Troops exhausted by the time they reached the front line. Constantly wet, much sickness. Morale high despite conditions.
Transferred to the 1st C.M.R. Provides details of first trench raid in daylight. Bombed German dugouts causing high casualties. Prepared for Vimy Ridge attack. Volunteered for the Canadian Machine Gun Corps. Commissioned. Describes use of machine guns; defensive fire, barrages, harassing fire, ammunition expenditure heavy. Later, at Passchendaele, 350,000 rounds fired by his command of eight guns in twenty-four hours. Over half the men in his battery were ammunition carriers and belt fillers. Wounded. Hospital in England. Sent to 3rd Canadian Division Machine Gun Battalion in 1918. Recounts exhilaration at "going over the top".
Near Cambrai in Sept. 1918 he was wounded again. Treated by German doctors at a captured German dressing station. Describes machine-gun limbers: basically two boxes on wheels, joined together and pulled by four horses. Two machine guns in the first, five thousand rounds of ammunition, gun stores, etc., in the second. Four "fighting limbers" to a battery. Armistice signed when in hospital in England. Military Cross awarded for Passchendaele. Returned to Canada, directly to Vancouver, aboard the Empress of Asia. Employed in discharging returned soldiers (including himself in Regina). Later went to Kingston where he rejoined the new Canadian Machine Gun Brigade which was disbanded shortly thereafter. Joined Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry about 1922 as a lieutenant. Transferred to Lord Strathcona's Horse (L.S.H.). Discusses use and disuse of cavalry. Mess life carried on in a most civilized manner. Proud of their mess. As a brevet-captain was sent to the staff college at Quetta, India for two years. As a single officer he had seven servants, including two personal, two grooms, and a "bungy" who was an untouchable, for all the menial jobs (including feeding the dog!) and a shared gardener. The system for about fifty dollars per month gave employment to many, for without this system some would have starved. The staff college taught students how to instruct and to handle situations of all types. Was seconded as a staff officer for the official visit of Sir Arthur and Lady Currie to India. Describes the pomp and display of wealth of various maharajahs at official functions. Inspiring parades mounted by Indian cavalry.
Returned to Canada in 1931 to London, Ont. Acting major and general staff officer. As a general staff officer, grade two, he was in charge of training of regular and militia units in his district. Worked for George Pearkes at National Defence Headquarters, which he found frustrating. Returned to the L.S.H. in Calgary after two years. Attached to the 4th Hussars in England for a short time. They had just been mechanized, and he came to believe that the day of the horse was over. Short discussion of new Canadian Leopard tanks. In 1939 commanded a mounted escort for the King.
At the beginning of the war was an instructor at Royal Military College. Appointed commanding officer of the Calgary Tank Regiment which he recruited to strength as part of the 1st Army Tank Brigade. Discusses tank training overseas on Salisbury Plain. Appointed Canadian Military Observer in Egypt. (45:00) Promoted to brigadier. North African experiences.
Returned to Canada. Organized 2nd Canadian Army Tank Brigade at Camp Borden. Posted to the 5th Armoured Brigade overseas (5th Canadian Armoured Division). Italy, but did not see action there as deemed to be over-age. Later was Canadian liaison officer at Naples. Ill health finally forced him home to Canada. Retired in the fall of 1945. Lastly, he offers a few thoughts on World War II service and his disappointment at not being in action.