Supply and Command - Lougheed House

Posted by | June 06, 2017 | 150 stories | No Comments

Hello there! I’m Jake, a history student working at Lougheed House over the summer. I haven’t been here long, but I’ve already learned about so many fascinating things that I’ve just gotta share with somebody, so here goes!

Clarence Hardisty Lougheed, eldest son of James and Isabella, signed up to go to war barely a month after his thirtieth birthday. He wasn’t destined for the front lines, though. Having already served five years with the 15th Light Horse and another year with the Canadian Army Service Corps, Clarence was enlisted as a captain. From 1915 to 1919, Clarence once again served in the CASC. Before his promotion to major, his men gifted him this gold wristwatch (#20).

The CASC was created in 1901. Until its deactivation in 1968, the CASC was the lifeblood of Canadian fighting forces around the world. Along with other support corps, like the Canadian Ordnance Corps, the Canadian Veterinary Corps, and the Canadian Postal Corps, CASC troops were relied upon to ensure that frontline soldiers received the supplies, materiel, and support necessary to keep them operating smoothly.

When war broke out in 1914, the CASC counted around three thousand men among its ranks. By the time the war ended, that number had leapt to seventeen thousand. Operating mainly in Britain and France during the First World War, the CASC was responsible for virtually every facet of logistical support. If a frontline soldier needed bread, bullets, or bandages, chances are it was the CASC who delivered it to him.

Clarence was first deployed with No. 1 Railhead Supply Detachment, which he commanded from January to July 1916. This is an excerpt from the unit’s War Diary, a day-by-day report recorded in Clarence’s tidy, looping hand. Note the signature on the bottom-right.

Service troops oversaw the entirety of the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s supply lines, which they divided into three parts: The first line of supply saw materiel transported from railheads to supply dumps via trucks or light rail; the second line of supply consisted of horse-drawn carts carrying the supplies from the dumps to the rear zones of frontline units; the third line of supply required combat troops to return to the rear of the unit under cover of darkness and carry their new supplies back in their arms. This, of course, was incredibly dangerous. Not only did they leave the relative safety of the trenches to make these supply runs, but their absence also weakened the whole front line. Eventually, an officer from Montreal introduced the use of tumplines — backpacks secured with a strap across the forehead, first used by the First Nations of Canada — which meant fewer men could carry more supplies to the front.

The CASC also provided transportation for combat troops, the evacuation and transportation of wounded soldiers, equipment repair, and mail delivery services. They were even responsible for the salvage of enemy assets abandoned on the field. The corps was rarely involved in direct combat, but it wasn’t unusual for service members to encounter enemy artillery or gas attacks. Over the course of the war, three hundred sixty-three CASC troops were wounded, including Clarence himself, and one hundred and four were killed.

-Jake, Summer Student