The Voter

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Glenn
96th (Canadian Highlanders) Battalionglenn

Lieut. Col. Glenn, the Officer Commanding, is an officer of some years experience in Mounted Infy. He is not an efficient officer but has done good service in recruiting the Battalion, and desires the honour of taking his Battalion across seas.

(Gen. John Hughes, 19 Sept 1916)

Joseph Glenn was the Conservative member for South Qu’Appelle in the Saskatchewan legislature from 1912 to 1921. Born on 29 August 1860 in Owen Sound, Canada West, he moved to the North West Territories during the early 1880s. Settling in Indian Head, he built a farm, imported horses, worked in the lumber trade, acted as the local mail carrier and operated a grain elevator. During the 1885 Rebellion, he volunteered as a dispatch rider for General Middleton and Major Sam Steele.

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The Prohibitionist

Lieutenant Colonel J. E. Hansford
203rd (Hard and Dry) Battalionhansford

He has also on different occasions intimated that he does not want to return to Canada, and has given the impression that he would “stall” off his return as long as possible.

 He is the most unsatisfactory officer I have had to deal with, and since he has wilfully disobeyed an order and made a false statement, I think that disciplinary action should be taken … should he again return to this area, he will be placed under arrest.

(Col. Smart, Officer Commanding, Shorncliffe, 19 Oct 1917) 

The son of Reverend William Hansford of Quebec, Jeffrey Ellery Hansford was born on 17 November 1864. He graduated from the University of Toronto and belonged to Loyal Orange Order No. 1307. A member of the 90th Winnipeg Rifles and major with the 144th Battalion, Hansford received authorization to raise the 203rd in February 1916.

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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


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:

The Farmer

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

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

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

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

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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