‘Then the town assumed almost the appearance of a city in Scotland, so many of the Canadian soldiers being in the National dress of the Northern Kingdom.’
Extract from ‘The Story of Shoreham’ by Henry Cheal, 1921.
In late autumn 1916 Shoreham welcomed the Canadian Expeditionary Force into the area.
Over the next few years thousands of Canadian recruits would train and recover from injury in Camp. Later in 1918 the Canadians were joined by a ‘large contingent’ of South Africans.
The presence of the Canadians was noticeable in the local press: from favourable mentions regarding sports and entertainments to a fair number of run-ins with the law.
The Canadian troops took part in rink hockey matches with the locals and their 23rd Battalion Band was in demand for performances – the band had played professionally in the US and Canada before the war.
The locals also looked to provide for the comfort and entertainment of the colonials. The YMCA at the Steyne, Worthing, appeared to have been popular with the Canadians. Appeals were made to locals for books for Canadian convalescents and concerts were put on especially for them. In July 1917 Shoreham even arranged a whole day of celebrations for Canada Day.
‘It is indeed a glimpse of home and comfort for thousands of us who are alone in this strange country.’
Canadian A.B. Walker, stationed at Shoreham Camp, reporting on the work of the YMCA, Worthing Gazette, 18th July 1917. (Quote credit 3).
The presence of these men was not without its problems. The Canadians were only allowed into Worthing if they held a pass and the Military Police were present in numbers in Camp and beyond, according to soldier A.Y. Jackson. However the papers record several incidents of soldiers, Canadians and South Africans, being Absent Without Leave (AWOL) and drinking to excess. A group of young Canadians from the underage Battalion in Camp were charged with burglary for stealing tobacco and a cheque whilst two of their fellow recruits were found in possession of a stolen tricycle that they intended to ride to London. There was even a Canadian soldier suspected in the murder of a local woman.
Considering there were thousands of colonials in Camp the number of incidents uncovered in the local papers is fairly low.
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Key Sources: West Sussex County Times, West Sussex Gazette, Worthing Gazette and Horsham Times. Accessed at Worthing Library, Courtesy of West Sussex County Council Library Service www.westsussexpast.org.uk Jackson, Y. 1958 A Painter's Country