Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Harry's Journey: March 23 to October 11, 1916

Harry’s diary entries during the 85th’s tour of the Nova Scotian mainland make no mention of one special item. Prior to the band’s departure, Harry penned a set of lyrics, “The Eighty-Fifth Feather,” set to the tune of a popular song, “When you wore a tulip.” Throughout the tour, Harry performed the selection, with band accompaniment, at their various recruitment stops.

Harry's "The 85th Feather" Lyrics
On March 23, 1916, Harry ceased writing his daily entries. One reason may have been the band’s increasingly busy schedule. As the 185th, 193rd and 219th Battalions continued their recruitment campaigns throughout April, the band was in constant demand throughout the province. The arrival of spring also heralded another season of outdoor drill, the 85th’s personnel relocating to Camp Aldershot in May 1916.

Camp Aldershot, NS
Throughout the summer months, Harry and his musical colleagues played at various recruitment functions and ceremonies, in addition to following a daily rehearsal and training schedule. Military authorities organized two major events in which the band no doubt participated. On August 25, Camp Aldershot opened its doors to the public for two days. Over 8000 Nova Scotians flocked to the camp, HRH the Duke of Connaught, Governor-General of Canada, reviewing the Brigade’s troops in a March Past held on the second day. In late September, the Brigade staged a “grand gymkhana,” consisting of “interesting and amusing sporting events” traditionally referred to as “Scotch Games,” according to Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Hayes, the 85th’s Medical Officer and post-war chronicler.

With the arrival of autumn, the Highland Brigade’s four battalions completed final preparations for departure. The 85th Battalion travelled from Kentville to Halifax by train on October 11. Upon disembarking, personnel marched through the streets to the docks and boarded SS Olympic, anchored in Bedford Basin. The 185th joined them before day’s end, while the 193rd and 219th made their way to the city and boarded the vessel the following day.

As Harry settled in for his first night of sleep on the Titanic’s sister ship, he made his first diary entry since March 22, 1916.

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