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ARCHIVED - Oral Histories of the First World War:
Veterans 1914-1918

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Graphical element: Rendering first aid to a wounded Canadian soldier

Perspectives on War

In this section:

Interview with H.S. Cooper: 3rd Battalion
Transcript Excerpt, 5 minutes, 47 seconds

A. Luck of the gods it is, oh it was funny.

Q. Well that was a pretty good professional job I would say.

A. Oh yeah, as I say, just the luck of the gods, and how.

Q. Sure, did you have very many more, did you scrounge a lot of other things or was that, I guess that was about the biggest thing.

A. Oh that was the biggest haul in a way, but you know it is very funny the way things work in the army, awfully funny. How I don't know whether I'd better mention any names in connection - well he's gone now, nobody could say anything about it. At anyway, the chap Colonel he was then Colonel Matthews, he was G2 division, looked after training and he was in a sense my boss at division. So he came along to me one day, and he said to me, the General wants you to train all your men in Lewis gunning. I said good gosh sir, I have got about 2400 men and I said I have got 2 Lewis guns, both grill purpose guns. He didn't listen to that all, he just said the General wants you to train all your men in Lewis gunning. He didn't listen to that at all, he just said the General wants you to train all your men in Lewis gunning. So I mean you just said very good sir, and you didn't disobey your Generals orders you see. Well the way in which you could scrounge Lewis guns, would be to first of all to scrounge some kind of transportation and that was quite a job. I got a little 750 lb lorrie on two or three occasions, and you go up to the line where there was a dump and you generally swing your rank there, and if the poor devil that was in charge of the dump and put these, he wouldn't have to account for them anyway you see, but put 3 or 4, 5 or 6 or 8 or 10 Lewis guns in this truck, you see. They would all be damaged to some extent, but you could get new parts for the damaged ones. I mean that was routine in ordinance. So I'd put them there and would bring them back. At any rate I'd been going ahead and getting enough Lewis guns so I could train my gang properly. Oh I'd had them maybe two weeks, or something like that, maybe a little longer. I got a message from Corp one day saying, wanting to know how many Lewis guns I had. Well there was GRO came out, authorizing 12 Lewis guns for a Corp camp. Well with the Canadian Corp camp, there were six units in it. Which meant that if I'd waited until corp drew those guns, I'd get two and that was mighty little good to me. At any rate I got a hold of my quartermaster and I told him I said now go down and draw those 12 guns under this authority. He said but this is for a Corp camp, I said I didn't ask you that, I said go down and draw them under that authority you see. So we got the 12 Lewis guns under that and brought them up to the wing, and that made 14 we had. So when I got his message from Corp wanting to know exactly how many Lewis guns I had I replied and said that I had 14, 12 under GRO so and so and being sure to give the wrong GRO number, and 2 that were loaned to me, one by the 5th, and one by the 7th Battalion. Well that wire hadn't gotten to division, or to Corp, it seemed to me, when back came another one a good deal more pre-emptory. We want to know exactly how many Lewis guns you have. So I said oh, oh there is something behind this, I don't know what it is. So I sent a letter up which would take a couple of days to get up. Well that letter seemed to be hardly got there when the next wire came back from them. Now no fooling, the gist of it was, now no fooling, we want to know exactly how many Lewis guns you have. Well this is another case where lady luck plays with you. Who should come along to inspect the wing that day but General MacDonald. He said I don't want - just show me what you want me to see, Cooper. I said well you'll see everything anyway sir. He had talk about a hawk's eye, but this were better, he' see everything.

Q. You had met this man before?

A. Who General MacDonald, oh yes, he was our divisional commander. Oh yes, he was a wonderful chap, marvellous. At any rate when we were going along I tried to divert him away from this Lewis gun hut. Well with that it was something I wanted to hide, and of course that is where he'd go. So we got going about 5 or 10 paces along toward it when I started to explain to him about these Lewis guns you see. I was shut right up immediately you see, well when we got about 10 yards from the hut, I got a little bit of wind up, because I didn't want him to, in a sense, see what was there. I said we got 14 Lewis guns in there sir and with that again he shut me up, you see. So when he came into the Lewis gun hut he started to count 1, 2, 3, and he counted up to 14, and he turned to me, you have 14 Lewis guns Cooper. I said yes sir, I said, oh you talk about injured innocents you see. I spoke about Corp questioning my word about his thing that I had sent two wires up to them stating that - three - that I had 14 Lewis guns, and they didn't seem to believe me. So he turned to his side, and he said take a note of that, I'll take it up to the Corp when I get back, they mustn't go over our heads. So that was it you see there were 14 Lewis guns there. Well he stopped at 14; there were 56.