100 Years Ago: Leave of Absence for Soldiers on Farms, 254th Battalion Band Places Second in Contest

The Intelligencer August 8, 1918 (page 1)

“Six Weeks Leave Of Absence For All Soldiers From Farms. Mr. E. Guss Porter, K.C., member of parliament for West Hastings, received a telegram from the Adjutant-General at Ottawa advising him that an order-in-Council has been passed granting six week’s leave of absence to all soldiers in Canada who were engaged exclusively in farming prior to their enlistment. Any soldier answering these conditions and making application to his commanding officer will be granted leave at once.”

The Intelligencer August 8, 1918 (page 2)

“21st Batt. Band Won Out. Mrs. Garnet Dobbs has received a letter from her husband, Sergt. G. E. Dobbs, telling of the splendid success the band had in a contest held in France of all the different bands. He explains just what their band was up against and the number competing.

There are four bands in their brigade and only one of the four could compete and it fell to the 21st Batt. Band (better known in Belleville as the 254th Battalion Band). There were seventeen brass bands, eleven pipe bands and eight fife and drum bands, all competing in their different classes. Sergt. Dobbs says in part:

‘We found we were to play between two of the best bands in the Canadian corps, one before us and the other following us. There were six Canadian bands and eleven Imperial bands altogether, and some mighty good ones too. After listening all day to the different bands I concluded that if we were in the running at all we would be lucky.

Well, our turn came and we entered the ring, got our inspection of dress over with, the signal came to start playing, and we waded in. The boys all kept their heads and worked together very nicely, working just like a piece of machinery, and almost before we knew it we were through playing and out of the ring.

After the last band played they held a massed band program, all the flute bands combining (about 150 players) and playing a tune, and it was pretty fine. As soon as they finished the pipers, who had been forming up in the meantime, started to play—and you should have seen it. There were about 250 pipers and drummers, and with the ribbons and kilts flying in the wind and the drumsticks twirling, etc., it was a magnificent sight and one I shall never forget. When they were finished we did our stunt, the seventeen bands massing and playing the French and British National Anthems, under Dr. Williams of the Grenadier Guards. There were over 850 in his turn, and you can imagine that we kicked up quite a row.

Just at the finish of this the result of the contest was announced. The King’s Royal Rifles first; The 21st Canadians second, and the Royal Scots third. Well, I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard it. Just fancy us ‘cleaning up’ all the ‘crack’ Canadian bands and all but one of the Imperials also. There were several of our officers in attendance and I thought they would go crazy! It was certainly a fine band that beat us to first place and we feel satisfied at the decision, although a great many of the Imperial bandsmen thought we should have been given first. However, the judges were two of the best musicians in England, namely Dr. Williams and Dan Godfrey, Jr.

The whole affair was carried out very fairly. The musical judges could not see the bands at all, everything being done by numbers, and they couldn’t tell whether it was a Canadian or an Imperial band playing, so I guess we must have won on our merits.

We’ve been receiving congratulations ever since, and this morning a message came over from headquarters, conveying congratulations from the General and staff of the brigade to Bandmaster E. R. Hinchey and players on their splendid success.’ ”