Lever une armée

Canadian Training School in Shorncliffe

The Film










Running Time
01 min 32 s

Canadian War Records Office

This footage was shot at the Canadian Training Camp in Shorncliffe, Kent, on the southeast coast of England. The first segment, shot during the winter, shows soldiers in battle dress engaged in fencing and battle training. This is followed by scenes, filmed during summer months, of men doing target practice.

Canadian troops moved to Shorncliffe in the spring in 1915. The first Canadian contingent had spent the cold and wet winter housed in tents on Salisbury Plain, an issue that the Canadian government raised with the British War Office before the members of the 2nd Canadian Division left for England. The accommodations at Shorncliffe would have been a welcome improvement.

The scenes of bayonet training may have been filmed in March 1917, when Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden visited the camp. Although bayonet practice was an important part of training, there are few accounts of soldiers actually using bayonets on First World War battlefields. Artillery fire was by far the leading cause of casualties, with bullet fire a distant second. Bayonet wounds were rare.

Shorncliffe was first established during the Napoleonic Wars for training riflemen – the latest military elite at the time – and the site included large rifle ranges. The system of targets – or butts, as they are known – is handled by a butt party. Hidden from sight in trenches, the members of the butt party indicate hits and misses with signalling disks. Once practice is complete, they remove the target screens and record the number of bulls-eyes, near misses and total misses to calculate the firer’s score. They then patch the targets for future use.

A first-class shot would be awarded a marksman badge – a small insignia of crossed rifles, worn on the lower right-hand sleeve. This qualification entitled men to an extra allowance, which was welcome for poorly paid soldiers. Marksmanship qualifications had to be re-earned every year.


Canadian Troops Training for Trench Warfare at Shorncliffe, England, Sept 1917. Ready for Gas Attack (Canadian Military Demonstration, Shorncliffe), September, 1917. Tents - McGill Military Hospital,  Shorncliffe, England. 1915 Troops Resting Hut Interior Camp Hut Interior – Sat. P.M. A Cosy Corner of My Hut

Other Materials

The Ross Rifle and other Small Arms in World War I

Teaching Materials

Conscription Debate: A Country Divided

Conscription Debates: Canada on the World Stage