The Operagoer

Lieutenant Colonel F. S. Meighen

14th (Royal Montreal Regiment) & 87th (Canadian Grenadier Guards) Battalions

Meighen

Colonel Meighen was a very thorough and painstaking officer, very much loved by his men. Several companies of his battalion were French Canadians and they fairly worshipped him. He was a model trench commandant, never tired of strengthening the works, and always ready himself to do anything that he asked of his officers or men. He had made an excellent battalion out of his corps, and as we had alternated with them in the trenches until this turn, we knew their worth.

(Col. J. A. Currie, 15th Bn. The Red Watch, 1916, 199)

Frank Stephen Meighen was a Montreal businessman, mining director and patron of the arts. He was born on 26 December 1870 in Perth, Ontario. After inheriting the family fortune after the death of his father, Meighen pursued various business interests in Montreal. As a trained pianist, he held a particular interest for arts and culture. He founded the Montreal Opera Company, but it only ran for three seasons between 1910 and 1913.

When the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces assembled at Valcartier in August 1914, Meighen took command of the 14th Battalion. Finding himself leading soldiers in the trenches, Meighen recognized the irony that a man of the most peaceful pursuits should find himself in the midst of war.

87thFollowing the second battle of Ypres in April 1915, Meighen requested leave to Canada. He was replaced by Major W. W. Burland as commander of the 14th. After arriving back in Montreal during the summer of 1915, Meighen praised his former unit, “I knew that our men were all right, but I never expected that from the outset they would act like seasoned veterans. I could never ask to command better troops.”

In spring 1915, he helped to organize the 87th Battalion (Canadian Grenadier Guards). Speaking to the Canadian Club in December 1915, Meighen anticipated postwar treatment of Canada’s enemy: “We find that there will be a whole lot of mealy-mouthed humanitarians who will want to give the Germans the best of it…. Well, we are not going to give them the best of it.” By June 1916, he was promoted to brigadier general in charge of training Canadian troops at Bramshott, England.

On learning that Meighen was to return to France, Corps Commander General Edwin Alderson strongly objected:

I am sorry to hear that Colonel Meighen is likely to come over with a Brigade of the 4th Division. He voluntarily left his Battalion out here, and for that reason alone – even if he were fit to command a Brigade – he should not command one. I am afraid that as he is in Canada I cannot prevent his appointment.

On 14 October 1918, Meighen reverted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in order to take command of the 87th Battalion in France.

After the war, he remained active in promoting arts and culture in Montreal. He privately financed musical concerts, festivals and opera companies. He died on 19 January 1946 at the age of seventy-five.

RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 6099 – 29

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