On April 6th, 1917 the United States of America entered the First World War. As the USA mobilized, and began transporting troops overseas, a “demand came from the [American] Colleges for military instructors from Canada who had seen service overseas” (U of T Roll of Service). The University of Toronto provided eleven instructors for this scheme, comprised of men who had been invalided home “whose experience at the front combined with their academic training especially fitted them for this work.” Major Peregrine Acland was among them.
After several surgeries and six months of recovery, Peregrine Acland returned to Canada from hospital in South Kensington, England, with his mother during the week of May 22nd, 1917. His pending arrival was announced in the Toronto Globe. Sometime in the summer of 1917 Acland became involved in the University of Toronto’s military instructor program, likely after participating in rehabilitation and physiotherapy programs stationed on campus.
On October 4th, of ’17, Acland delivered an address to the Women’s Canadian Club of Ottawa, titled Thoughts of a Returned Solider. On October 11th and 12th it was announced in the Washington State newspapers The Spokane Review and The Pullman Herald that Major Acland would be arriving in approximately a week:
Real War Training for College Cadets
Hero of Somme Drive Coming to W.S.C. to Teach Cadets
War Methods Used on European Front
With three years of military training on the battlefields of Europe to his credit, bearing as lasting reminders of the drive of the Somme a bullet wound through his chest and a shell wound on his face, and wearing the military cross, the coveted insignia of bravery, Major P.P. Acland, of Toronto, Canada, will come to Washington State College to train the members of the cadet battalion in military tactics as employed on the European fronts. The training of the over 500 cadets in methods of European warfare becomes possible through action of the board of regents yesterday in approving the recommendation of General W. Gwatkin, head of the Canadian department of military and defense, that Major Acland be brought to Pullman for that purpose. The new military instructor will bear the title of assistant commandant, serving with Colonel Willis P. May, this week detailed as commandant by Adjutant General McCain.
This action by the regents is in line with their policy of providing the best possible military training for the cadets at this time, giving them the opportunity of qualifying for officerships in the national army, equipped in every way for the tasks presented by the new methods of warfare.
Major Acland, who is but 27 years of age, is a graduate and honor man of the University of Toronto, receiving his degree in 1913. The year following his graduation he went as subaltern with the Canadian contingent for special training in France. Later he was advanced to lieutenant and later to captaincy, in which capacity he was in charge of the intelligence office of the battalion, a position of trust and responsibility.
Going forward in the drive of the Somme he was shot through the chest and received a shell wound in the face. He was cited in the day’s dispatches for bravery and was awarded the military cross. He was returned to Canada because of his wounds.
Major Acland, together with Colonel May, will arrive in about a week to begin active work with the local cadets. Stress will be laid upon military work of both an offensive and defensive nature, as now employed on the European front.
–from The Pullman Herald, Washington State, USA. Friday October 12th, 1917. Vol. XXIX, No. 51, page 1.
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The American entry in the war drastically reduced university enrollment across the United States. There were only 950 students enrolled for the fall term in 1917, when Acland arrived, down more than 15% from the previous spring.
There appears to have been a great interest in Acland’s opinions and experiences in Pullman, Washington. He is mentioned in the paper with some regularity, and spoke to the entire college body at an assembly on November 20th, 1917 (as American troops saw their first action at Cambrai), church groups, the chamber of commerce, and was even interviewed by the local high-school newspaper (I am trying to track this down, but it has proved elusive. Acland related “the methods of celebrating Christmas in the trenches”). As the USA joined the war effort, there could not have been many soldiers with first-hand experience in this corner of the Pacific Northwest, and there is a sense in both the newspapers and college yearbook, The Chinook, that the community was fortunate to have the benefit of his instruction as their young men prepared for war.
Major Acland Tells of War Conditions
Canadian Officer Predicts Evacuation of France and Belgium by Germans Next Year
That next year will see the evacuation of at least the greater part of France and Belgium now held by the Germans was the forecast made by Major P. P. Acland, of the 48th Highlanders, who has arrived in Pullman from Toronto to instruct the State College cadets in military tactics as employed on the European Fronts. Major Acland spoke before the chamber of commerce Tuesday, relating the conditions on the present fronts.
Major Acland received what were thought to be his death wounds at the drive on the Somme, being sent back to Canada to recuperate his strength and health after he had partially recovered from the effects of a bullet wound through his chest and severe injuries to his forehead and face by shell fragments.
“There can e no doubt as to the final outcome of the struggle,” said Major Acland, “but the war may be prolonged several years to make the defeat of Germany a thorough one and to insure against a recurrence of their attempts to secure military domination over the entire world.”
Major Acland told of the hardships of any attempts at big advances by the allies during the late fall and winter months, occasioned by the heavy rains, predicting that the allies would content themselves with hammering incessantly at the German lines and paving the way for big advances in the spring. He stated that the allies now hold all the important key positions on the western fronts and that Germany has been on the defensive almost continuously since the battle of the Marne in October, 1914.
from The Pullman Herald, Friday October 26th, 1917, Vol. XXX, No. 1, page 1.
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Acland continued his position as Assistant Professor of Military Science and Tactics into 1918, but was granted a temporary leave of absence from January 21st until the middle of March “on account of his health” with the intention of recuperating in San Fransisco and San Diego. After his return in the spring, Acland put on a demonstration of trench warfare.
Trench Warfare to be Demonstrated
Major P. P. Acland Arranges Novel Feature for Entertainment of High School Athletes
High school athletes who come to Pullman for the eleventh annual interscholastic track meet on the afternoon of May 3rd, as well as residents of Pullman, will be treated to a realistic demonstration of trench warfare as it is now conducted on the European battle fronts. Hand grenades, bayonets and other death dealing weapons will figure prominently in the sham trench attack to be conducted by the state college cadets under the direction of Major P. P. Acland, a member of the Canadian expeditionary forces who came to Washington State as assistant commandant after two years in the tick of the European fray.
The attack will be made as realistic as possible, with actual trenches and will be conducted just north of the athletic field on Saturday morning, May 4th, as a special event to entertain the visiting athletes and give them a concrete idea of the methods of warfare now in vogue in France.
from The Pullman Herald, Friday April 26th, 1918. Vol. XXX, No. 27, page 1.
This attack was actually filmed by the Washington Motion Picture Corporation, and shown as a newsreel throughout Washington State.
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The Student Army Training Corps program at Washington State College was demobilized in December of 1918, though I suspect that Acland’s time there ended in the spring of 1918 at the conclusion of term. In the summer of 1918, Peregrine Acland married Mary Louise Danforth on either June 1st, or August 1st, in Colorado, and there is no mention of either of them when the fall term commenced in Pullman in October of 1918. In fact, it was announced in the Toronto Globe of October 12th, that “Major Peregrine Acland of Cleveland and his bride are coming across the border very soon to visit friends,” and there is no mention of Acland in the 1918-1919 WSC yearbook, leading me to believe his time on the west coast had passed. The University of Toronto program for visiting military instructors also saw Acland posted to the Groton school in Massachusetts, and I suspect this is where he was posted in the fall of 1918, though my research on his time there is only in its initial stages.