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[Interview with Arthur Lord, Armed Forces at UBC Project, Part I] Specht, Allen [unknown]

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Per. Arthur Lord
July 25, 1973
Interview, Tape 1. Track 1.
Mr. Specht: Where were you born, Mr. Lord?
Mr. Lord: Well, I was born on Lulu Island in 1897.
Mr. Specht: Was your father a farmer?
Mr. Lord: No, he was in the canning business, salmon canning.
Mr. Specht: Was that near Steveston?
Mr. Lord: Yes, very close. That's where the cannery was. It was only about half a mile over away from the house where I was born.
Mr. Specht: How long had your family been in British Columbia?
Mr. Lord: Well, my father came here in '81 from Seattle.
Mr. Specht: Is your family of American background.
Mr. Lord: My father, yes, but my mother came here just after the turn of the century from Ontario. They were fourth generation Canadian at that time.
Mr. Specht: Where did you grow up then? On Lulu Island or in Vancouver?
Mr. Lord: Oh, I don't remember Lulu Island. I was only a few months old when we moved into Vancouver. The first place I remember living in Vancouver is on Howe Street, the 800 block there. Now the parking lot for the Grosvenor Hotel is where
our house used to be.
Mr. Specht: At that time, the area was residential?
Mr. Lord: Oh yes.
Mr. Specht: Did your father quit the canning business?
Mr. Lord: Oh no. He kept on 'til he died or he retired and then he died when he was 78.
Mr. Specht: You went to high school in Vancouver, then?
Mr. Lord: Yes, I went to King Edward High School.
Mr. Specht: Where was King Edward located?
Mr. Lord: It was the one that burned down, just the other day.
Mr. Specht: Right next to the Fairview site?
Mr. Lord: Yes, more latterly that was the campus for the regional college. But it used to be called King Edward High School. I've never heard it called Fairview Campus though.
Mr. Specht: You joined high school cadets, didn't you ?
Mr. Lord: Yes.
Mr. Specht: What year did you join the cadets ?
Mr. Lord: 1912.
Mr. Specht: 1912?
Mr. Lord: Or 1911, I guess. It had been going for several years. We had a group of about 60 cadets, officers, one or two senior officers. One of the ones was Captain Davy who was one of the teachers at King Edward.
Mr. Specht: Did the cadets correspond to the Sea Cadets or Air Cadets or Army Cadets today?
Mr. Lord, : I suppose you could compare them to that.
Mr. Specht: There was no compulsory military obligation or anything like that?
Mr. Lord: Oh no.
Mr. Specht: Did you have uniforms?
Mr. Lord: Oh yes, very smart. There were leggings, leather leggings. They were grey uniforms with trimmings of green. I've got pictures of it around somewhere.
Mr. Specht: What kind of training did you have as a cadet?
Mr. Lord: Discipline was drilled into us and that was mostly drill and shooting practise. There were certain places where we had rifle ranges. in 1912 we went down on a trip to Australia with the Cadet Corps.
Mr. Specht: How did that come about?
Mr. Lord: Well there was a group called the Young Australian League, Y.A.L. from Western Australia. Their motto is 'Education By Travel'. They had been taking trips to various parts of the world, mostly to Great Britain. They had a band, a very good band. Their ages would be 14 to 18 or 19 and mostly of the younger age. On their way back to Australia once they came through Vancouver. That was in 1910. We as Cadets were asked to billet them while they were here. We had two of them staying in our house on Tenth Avenue right by King Edward High School. They issued an invitation at that time for us to come down and pay them a visit. Two years later we went down. 'Education by Travel' is really a good thing.
Mr. Specht: Which city in Australia were you in?
Mr. Lord: Oh well, we were 5 1/2 months on that tour alltogether. We touched at New Zealand. It took us almost a month to get to Australia by boat, you see. We stopped at Aukland on our way over to Sydney. We were at Sydney for a few days, then Melbourne. We went to all the states of Australia except Queensland. Spent a month in Western Australia.
Mr. Specht: Was this as a Corps?
Mr. Lord: Yes, as a Corps. We had some good lads who would be entertainers. We used to put on a display of drill. We went on a very rigourous course of training as soldiers in drill. We used to troop to colours and things of that kind. We had a gym squad that could entertain when we were having concerts with the band. We had a trumpet band, not all the musical instruments, just the trumpets with the drums.
Mr. Specht: How was your reception in Australia?
Mr. Lord, : Quite good except in New South Wales and Sydney, they didn't know who we were....(chuckles). A bit of lack of communication there for a while. But we overdid it, I thought for a while. We were entertained by all the governments of the various states we went to. western Australia, where the invitation came from really had been hearing stories about our being neglected. So they had signs up and banners: 'The West will make amends." (laughing} We had a lovely time. Then we went down to Tasmania....for about a week and then by boat across again over to New Zealand. We went to the southern tip of New Zealand and spent a month in New Zealand.
Mr. Specht: Perth is the major city in Western Australia?
Mr. Lord: That's right.
Mr. Specht: Did you go by train across the desert?
Lord: There wasn't any cross country it hadn't been built then. No we had to go across the Australian Bight by ship. it was about a 4 day trip, I think.
Mr. Specht: Was Australia very much a frontier society at that time?
Mr. Lord: Well, Western Australia was just beginning to waken up, then. It's one of the fastest growing parts of Australia now with all its industries and its mines. It's really a place for a young man to go to. Sydney, of course you'd hardly recognize. We were down again two years ago, my wife and I. Lots of the places we didn't recognize....of course there was 60 years between.
Mr. Specht: I guess that's a tremendous difference. Were there any people in the corps who you later had quite an association with? Colonel Letson, I believe was with those cadets.
Mr. Lord: Yes, he was with us. I have two brothers who are still alive who were on that trip. We had a meeting marking our sixtieth anniversary of our arrival home from Australia just 2 years ago. Russell Richards was one. He's a lawyer in town. I don't think the other names would mean much to you. Martin Mathews, a lawyer and magistrate here, he's still going. But there are only 8 or 9 of us who are in the city. Letson sent a cable from either his Caribbean home or from Ottawa. I can't just remember. He was always very interested to keep in touch as he was with C.O.T.C.
Mr. Specht: Being in the high school cadets, were you thinking of a military career?
Mr. Lord: Oh no. I don't know why I joined really. A good bunch of boys and all good friends together. We had a wonderful time on that trip. I didn't know anything about the trip when I joined, of course.
Mr. Specht: What year did you finish high school?
Mr. Lord: '14.
Mr. Specht: 1914 and then did you enroll at the university?
Mr. Lord: Yes, I enrolled at the university and took my freshman year.
Mr. Specht: Did you join the C.O.T.C. when it formed on campus in 1914?
Mr. Lord: No, no, not in 1914 - It had just started up then and everybody was in the C.O.T.C. The university made it compulsory.
Mr. Specht: So when did you enlist?
Mr. Lord: I enlisted in '16.
Mr. Specht: So you had two years of university first?
Mr. Lord: Just one year.
Mr. Specht: One year?
Mr. Lord: I enlisted in the early part of '16.
Mr. Specht: Immediately did you join the Western Universities battalion?
Mr. Lord: Yes. The WUB's as we were called. The Western University Battalion. It was made up of the four western provinces...one company from each of the provinces, B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Mr. Specht: Do you know how that came about?
Mr. Lord: No, I'm not sure who got this bright idea.
Mr. Specht: What did you think of all university battalion at that time?
Mr. Lord: Well they weren't all university students. Then anybody of a similar type....
Mr. Specht: Similar educational background.
Mr. Lord: Similar educational background. One man had two or three years of the university and he'd have a friend who'd want to come in and he maybe dropped out of high school or something like that. So they took up quite a group there.
Mr. Specht: What training did you receive at the Vancouver campus before you went to Camp Hughes?
Mr. Lord: Well, I wasn't with them at that time. I couldn't get my parent's consent. My two brothers had been over and they'd both been wounded. I was 18 at that time and you were supposed to get your parent's consent. That was in September of 1916.
Mr. Specht: Were you part of the 'D' Company then?
Mr. Lord: Yes.
Mr. Specht: So you trained as Company?
Mr. Lord: Yes, they went to Camp Hughes. They trained on what used to be called the 'University Shacks' area there, just by the General Hospital. The tents that they lived in were next door to the Centennial Building. There's a parking lot in there now. But there used to be a private ward pavilion but they tore that down and it's parking now. That's where the tents were. All that area was the training for the
196 'D' Company.
Mr. Specht: Did you live in the tents, yourself?
Mr. Lord: No. When I went to Camp Hughes that was my first taste of living in a tent. All the sand that would blow around there....it wasn't very comfortable...(chuckles).. It gets in your food and in your clothes. A lot of my friends were away on harvest leave. So harvest was being taken at about that time and they were short of labourers so they give the boys harvest leave. But by November we left for England.
Mr. Specht: Going back a little bit to the campus, I think Dean Brock was the Major of the 'D' Company, wasn't he?
Mr. Lord: That's right.
Mr. Specht: What do you remember of him?
Mr. Lord: Oh he was a very strict disciplinarian. Of course as a young man you get more of a sense of that strictness than you do when you're more of an age. But he was pretty well, "Hail fellow, well met." You know? He was very popular. He went off to India.
Mr. Specht: Did you receive any drill or instruction directly from 'Major Brock ?
Mr. Lord: Well he was the senior officer in charge of our company. He was also second in command of one of the battalions at Hope. So you'd never get any personal instruction except I remember one occasion. (chuckles) We had an awful job keeping clean there was so much dirt and sand around. On parade once and he was inspecting us. He was passing behind me and he stopped and he said, "Sergeant, take that man's name, he's got a dirty neck." (laughing) I got my name taken and I had to peel potatoes for a day or two as punishment.
Mr. Specht: Was that at camp Hughes?
Mr. Lord: At Camp Hughes, yes.
Mr. Specht: You had received some preliminary training before you went to Camp Hughes, hadn't you?
Mr. Lord: Oh yes. I'd had all that really in the cadet corps.
Mr. Specht: Oh yes.
Mr. Lord: That type of training was nothing new to me...marching ceremonial drills that you have.
Mr. Specht: What special training did you have? Was it strictly in infantry?
Mr. Lord: Yes. That's the only branch I was in.
Mr. Specht: Small arms, then?
Mr. Lord: PBI we called it. The Poor Bloody Infantry.
Mr. Specht: Did you have new experience with machine guns?
Mr. Lord: No, no machine guns just the rifle. There was a machine gun section but I didn't go into that section. I did.
Mr. Specht: So you went to England, was it early 1917?
Mr. Lord: That was November 1916.
Mr. Specht: To Seaford?
Mr. Lord: Yes, that was our camp. There were thousands and thousands of Canadian there. It was a Canadian gathering camp.
Mr. Specht: Did you receive additional training at Seaford ?
Mr. Lord: Yes, I was in an officer's training corps for a while. A group of us started on this course for an officer's stripe but the Canadians had suffered pretty badly at the battle of the Somme and that whole thing was broken up when we were
sent over to France.
Mr. Specht: You were sent over to reinforce the other contingents?
Mr. Lord: Yes.
Mr. Specht: What was your feeling when you were broken up? You weren't expecting to be broken up, were you?
Mr. Lord: Well we'd been given some warning that it might take place. A lot of battalions were broken up that year. A lot of the boys too, would want to go to the Air Force and some would want to go to some other type of service.
Mr. Specht: Was the 'D' Company or the 196th Battalion with a real sense of esprit as a battalion?
Mr. Lord: Oh, very much so. We used to have sports days and that sort of thing. There was rivalry between all the different companies.
Mr. Specht: I see. How did 'D' Company fare in the rivalry?
Mr. Lord: Pretty well.
Mr. Specht: Held your own?
Mr. Lord: Oh yes.
Mr. Specht: Do you think the morale did suffer when you were broken up and sent to....
Mr. Lord: Well we all felt very disappointed about that course. We were grumpy out it but it didn't take long to get over that.
Mr. Specht: Didn't you think it was a little bit reckless in a sense because if you put all the educated soldiers in on battalion....if you get in a section of the front where there was really heavy casualties....
Mr. Lord: Yes, a lot of good officer material would be wiped out at one time.
Mr. Specht: It really kind of make sense to break up the battalion. Which unit were you attached to in France?
Mr. Lord: 12th Brigade.
Mr. Specht: 12th Brigade of the 46th Saskatchewan..?
Mr. Lord: Oh, was attached to the 4th battalion and that was in the 12th brigade.
Mr. Specht: You took part in the Vimy Ridge Campaign.
Mr. Lord: Yes.
Mr. Specht: Was that the first action you saw?
Mr. Lord: Yes, that was the first real battle. We had been holding the Carry On Raids at Vimy Ridge for a few weeks before that. We went to France in February. I was in the trenches for five months after enlisting. We got there at the same time as the boys who'd been there a year before me. (chuckles) I was supposed to be a trained soldier.
Mr. Specht: Were you surprised at the way things were in the trenches?
Mr. Lord: Oh yes.
Mr. Specht: I wonder how you felt. What your impressions were.
Mr. Lord: I'll tell you my first impression under fire. We'd been sent up as a work party from our Chateau de la. That's where our reinforcement group had gone to to the 46th. The officer who took us from Le Havre where we'd come across by boat see, then by boxcar to a certain area in France. Then there was an officer returning from leave who was supposed to take us to the Chateau de la and he lost his way! We were rather short of rations. We finally got to the Chateau and it was just a sea of mud in the parade ground part. We all had to be lined up and inspected. Major Beverly Rhodes who was a Vancouver man, he told us what to expect in the way of training and so on there. He also had a reputation as a strict disciplinarian. Then at 2 o'clock the next morning we were all wakened up with the guards batting our feet. We were all just dead tired with all this marching we'd done the day before. We were told, we were on a work party....go up to the front line.
Mr. Specht: At 2 o'clock in the morning!
Mr. Lord: Yep. well, we had to go at night you see. To get across to Vimy Ridge you had to avoid daylight because the lower part where you had to cross, duckwalks over the swampy bit were muddy and the trenches were under German fire all the time. Well, we got to work with shovels and started shovelling stuff that had been-blown down into the trenches by the trench mortar. All of a sudden there was a tremendous rain of trench mortars on us. I thought, well, this is what war is, I guess we'll have to expect this. Just then another 4 or 5 came. See, leading from the trench down there was the dug-out. The sergeant of the regulars who was there stationed with the battalion pulled the sack aside, stuck his head out and said, "What the Hell you fellows sticking out there for? Get in here quick before there's another. After this stay in there 'til this is all over." we slid down where there was
quite a big open space there.
Mr. Specht: Did you have any idea what it would be like before you arrived at the front?
Mr. Lord: No, you can't tell anybody what it's going to be like.
Mr. Specht: Did you have to hear about the number of casualties and things like that?
Mr. Lord: Oh yes.
Mr. Specht: Did you just kind of accept it as necessary?
Mr. Lord: Yes, that's war. we accepted it. I think I was probably a bit fatalistic about it myself. If I'm going to get it, I'm going to get it and that's it.
Mr. Specht: How did you view the war when you were 18 or 19 years old? Did you view it as something necessary?
Mr. Lord: Yes, I did. I felt it was necessary because Canada was in it so deep already. Of course we were fed propaganda about the dirty Germans and that sort of thing. But they were fed propaganda about the dirty Canadians...(chuckles).
Mr. Specht: Did you have an conception of the Vimy Ridge campaign?
Mr. Lord: Oh yes, we knew the attack was going to take place because we'd been training. We had tapes set out on the ground way behind the lines for training. You'd have time up in the trenches, say four, five or six days and then you'd go out just for a rest. Then you did more work back there than you did in the trenches. That's what we were doing for a few weeks beforehand is going over this. It was mostly to get the officers so they would be familiar with the war of the trenches as we had them outlined. They had pictures and pictures and pictures of the German trenches. After we had got to our objective, where were we going from there? From these tapes we were supposed to know where to go.
Mr. Specht: This was a very thorough preparation then, wasn't it?
Mr. Lord: Oh yes, very though.
Mr. Specht: So, as a private in the infantry, you would have known pretty well what you were supposed to do then when the campaign commenced ?
Mr. Lord: You mean when Vimy started?
Mr. Specht : Yes.
Mr. Lord: Well we had the general idea. As a matter of fact I didn't go over on the 9th of April. Our particular company was held in reserve on what we called the pimple of Vimy Ridge and held up the Germans. We were out there on sort of a peninsula and they had to be dislodged. On the morning of the 12th we went around from our deep dug outs, through a snow storm and mud and took our positions for the attack. We were about an hour out there before the barrage started. We laid down a very, very heavy barrage for protection. Then the officers were supposed to take us on. Well, the ground was all pock marked with shell holes and I was in charge of a bombing squad with rifle grenades and bombs. We hadn't gone more than about 50 yards when we'd lost most of them. Some were casualties and some had gone around the side of the shell holes. I couldn't find them. I couldn't find my officer. That all cleared up the following day when the Germans were driven back and I found my own battalion. So that's the difficulty with that kind of warfare.
End of track 1

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