The Vilified

Lieutenant Colonel W. E. Seaborn
210th (Frontiersmen) BattalionSeaborn

While from the nature of the case the fact is difficult to prove, this man Seaborn is also by common reputation at Camp Hughes, and even among the Headquarters Staff at Camp Hughes, known to be a sexual pervert (Sadist), which in itself constitutes every reason why he should not be permitted to retain an important military appointment and remain in command of men.

(Maj. Erskine-Tulloch to Borden 26 Dec 1916)

Born on 25 January 1880 in London, Ontario, Walter Ernest Seaborn was a Saskatchewan barrister and insurance broker. He also had the distinction of owning the first automobile in Moose Jaw in 1906. He originally enlisted with Lieutenant Colonel Francis Pawlett’s 128th Battalion before transferring to command the 210th in March 1916.

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Canadian Military History Article

Link to my most recent publication in CMH:

“Absolutely Incapable of ‘Carrying On:’”
Shell Shock, Suicide, and the Death of Lieutenant Colonel Sam Sharpe

Sam Sharpe

Abstract

This article examines Canadian social and medical responses to nervous breakdown and suicide in the First World War through the case study of Lieutenant Colonel Sam Sharpe, a Member of Parliament and commander of the 116th Battalion. An historical analysis of Sharpe’s experiences and reaction to war trauma provides wider insights into how shell shock and military suicide represented a potential threat to prewar masculine ideals. Medical and political interpretations of Sharpe’s breakdown initially aimed to preserve social stability and validate the war’s moral justifications but contradictory understandings of shell shock ultimately made for a complicated and unstable process of commemoration.

Barrett, Matthew (2016) ““Absolutely Incapable of ‘Carrying On:’” Shell Shock, Suicide, and the Death of Lieutenant Colonel Sam Sharpe,” Canadian Military History: Vol. 25: Iss. 1, Article 19. Available at: http://scholars.wlu.ca/cmh/vol25/iss1/19

The Farmer

Lieutenant Colonel T. Bart Robson
135th (Middlesex) Battalion
Robson

Experience teaches that a recruiting meeting in the Country has to be of the nature of an entertainment in order to draw the crowd.

(Robson, 14 Feb 1916)

Born in London, Canada West on 24 January 1859, T. Bartholomew Robson was a farmer with thirty years’ experience in the militia. As commanding officer of the 26th Middlesex Light Infantry, he was authorized to raise the 135th Battalion from Middlesex County in November 1915. When the unit arrived in England in August 1916, it was broken up and the troops were divided among the 116th, 125th and 134th Battalions.

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The Fabricator

Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Ryan
6th Canadian Mounted RiflesRyan

Ryan, who was already a nervous wreck as a result of harrowing experience in the trenches, was demoralized completely by the new tragedy. He came to London unmindful of everything, and disregarded the order for his return to the front. The sequel came in the Gazette’s announcement he had been dismissed by court-martial.

(Washington Post, 5 Nov 1915, 6)

It does seem darned shame that a man like this, although he was a good fellow and a good officer should get these ghost stores of himself put into the papers. It makes the whole thing into a screaming farce.

(Gen. John Carson to Sam Hughes, 18 Dec 1915)

Following a court martial for disobeying orders, Robert Holden Ryan was stripped of command of the 6th Canadian Mounted Rifles, cashiered from the CEF and sent home in disgrace. A sympathetic article in the Washington Post called Ryan’s dismissal “one of the most tragic stories of the war.”

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The Old Man

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Palmer, D.S.O.
49th (Edmonton Regiment) Battalion
Palmer

Soldier of the old school, fearless, straightforward, a fighter and a sportsman, sincere with an independency of opinion which frequently got him into trouble with the Staff, especially if it were upon some question that had to do with the welfare of his men—such was the character of the second C.O. of our Battalion.

(The Forty-Niner, Jan 1934, 19)

 Robert Henry Palmer was chief fire ranger and Indian agent in Alberta. Born in Glamorganshire, Wales on 19 February 1868, he immigrated to western Canada as a young man. He was an original member of Lord Strathcona’s Horse and fought in the Boer War. In January 1915, he joined Lieutenant Colonel Griesbach’s 49th Battalion as a company commander. Admired for his toughness and fearlessness on the battlefield, Palmer—who had lowered his age by seven years on enlistment—was affectionately known by his men as “The Old Man.”

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The Favourite Son

Major General Garnet Hughes
1st Infantry Brigade
HughesG

I was importuned, threatened and bullied. I was told that Garnet Hughes would get the 1st Division, that there was a combination in England and Canada for him, that neither I, nor any man could beat; that his father wanted him to get the position and that God help the man who fell out with his father.

(Currie to E.O. McGillicuddy, c. 1925)

 Garnet Burk Hughes was the son of Militia Minister Sir Sam Hughes. Born in Toronto on 22 April 1880, he was a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada and a railway engineer. In 1913, he formed the 50th Regiment (Gordon Highlanders) with Arthur Currie. Although Hughes and Currie volunteered together in August 1914 on good terms, their friendship would not survive the war.

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The Industrialist

Lieutenant Colonel Byron James McCormick
213th (Toronto Americans) Battalion

I have only one son, but I thank God that this is his war too. While I was in Flanders I heard that the boy had enlisted because his dad had enlisted. When I was given command of the 213th Battalion I hoped that he might be able to fight under me, but I learned that we have passed each on the seas. The boy was going over to do his bit. I hope to get back to help the kid, as he started out to help me.

(McCormick speech, Toronto World, 19 May 1916, 4)

Born on 17 May 1872 in Port Huron, Michigan, Byron James McCormick became a successful entrepreneur and Industrial Commissioner in Welland after immigrating to Ontario in 1905. He enlisted as a captain with the 35th Battalion and transferred to the British Army. One observer described McCormick: “Tall and alert, he looks every inch a soldier, and he is one, with sixteen years’ service in the Michigan National Guard behind him. His motto, ‘Never let a fault go unchecked,’ explains his rapid rise in the army.”

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The Civil Servant

 Lieutenant Colonel J. R. Munro
8th Canadian Mounted Rifles
JRMunro

If Canada’s oldest civil servant (In point of years in Government employment) fails to write his memoirs as his friends are urging, invaluable Canadiana and a unique record of old Civil Service days in Ottawa, and of historic episodes in the environs of the House of Commons in the Eighties and Nineties, will be lost.

(Ottawa Journal, 3 Feb 1944, 5)

John Routh Munro was born in Ottawa on 12 August 1874. He was a venerable civil servant with the Trade and Commerce Department and a commanding officer of the 5th (The Princess Louise) Dragoon Guards. He raised the 8th Mounted Rifles from Ottawa beginning in January 1915.

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The Pal

Lieutenant Colonel W. C. V. Chadwick
124th (Governor General’s Body Guard) Battalion
Chadwick

Col. Vaux Chadwick, of the 124th Battalion, appealed to recruits: he pointed out that the 124th, called the Pals Battalion, was distinct from any other, as men joining who brought friends, were allowed to keep together in companies right thru training, and would eventually be able to fight side by side. The speaker appealed to the women and girls present, who he said could do a great deal for the cause by refusing to be seen out with any young man who had not donned the khaki.

 (Toronto World, 3 Jan 1916, 6)

William Craven Vaux Chadwick was the former commanding officer of the he 9th Mississauga Horse and partner in an architecture firm with fellow colonel Sam Beckett of the 75th Battalion. Chadwick was born in Toronto on 6 December 1868. He had long served in the 36th Peel Regiment and retired as the 9th Horse commander in 1913. In December 1914, he organized the 4th Mounted Rifles from the Toronto cavalry regiments, the Governor-General’s Body Guard and the 9th Horse.

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The Son of a Bitch

Brigadier General J. A. Clark, D.S.O.
72nd (Seaforth Highlanders) Battalion
JAClark

“My Brigadier, the son of a bitch, is still alive— I’ll kill him if I see him.”

(Capt. W. G. Little, P.P.C.L.I., 1964)

Born in West Flamborough, Ontario on 8 June 1886, John Arthur Clark was a Vancouver barrister and militiaman. A major in the 72nd (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) Regiment, Clark was appointed to command the 72nd Battalion, one of the few CEF units to perpetuate its militia designation. Commenting on the tremendous responsibility of a commanding officer one of his men observed that the twenty-nine year old colonel “looked forty.”

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