Whilst many Cornish emigrants to Canada signed up as a result of patriotism, a sense of ‘duty’ or a desire for adventure, others may have seized the opportunity to return to Britain (particularly if they could not afford to purchase the return ticket).
Chris Roberts of Camborne remembers that hearing people who emigrated to Canada before World War 1 -then returning – saying life in Canada was far from easy, especially the winters. His father, Harry, was one of those who emigrated.
A researcher on the Great War Forum shared some of his findings regarding the 1st Battalion and the Cornish recruits in Canada:
Some (men) who were born in Great Britain and/or were new immigrants in Canada… could not afford a trip home (and) thought in August 1914 that they would fight in one or two victorious battles and avenge Britain’s honour…the war would end by Christmas, and they would get a free trip to visit their family where they would be revered as heroes.
In late 1914 there was almost a mad dash to enlist with the men who ended up in the 1st Battalion. Overall, Canada was able to very quickly raise over 30,000 men for the 1st Contingent, which sailed to England in October 1914. I’ve scrutinized the Dundas Ontario papers (which included reprinted letters from the newly enlisted men and officers) from the September 1914 to mid-1915 editions. The newspaper records, reporting on the recruiting for men who ended up in the 1st Battalion, speak of great dismay of not passing medical exams. …The actual letters of the men tell of the disappointment of those who could not go over, due to age or other reasons, or who were held back at Valcartier training camp in Quebec from going on to England. At that time, men from earlier pre-war regiments were recruited throughout Ontario…Upon arrival at the training camp in England at Salisbury Plain, these men were placed in the 1st Battalion Western Ontario regiment.
My great uncle emigrated in early 1911 and signed up in early 1916. One of his letters home from Canada mentioned the shortage of work. There is mention in Hansard of a debate regarding Canadian Agents coming to the UK to recruit men for almost non-existent jobs for the purpose of bringing down wages in Canada. I expect the return journey was too expensive for most of the émigrés, so signing up was a route home.