Lieutenant Colonel W. H. Floyd
139th (Northumberland) Battalion
You asked me about our friend Floyd. He was at West Sandling when I left. When he gave us his farewell address he asked if any of the boys on parade would give him a set of badges and there was not one stepped out and he did not get a cheer from his Battalion, although he felt pretty bad as he wiped the tears from his eyes when he said good-bye to his Battalion. I guess he was ashamed of himself as he had as good boys as any that came overseas, only they were not handled right…
(Ptv. Robert Franklin, 139th Bn. to Moses Marsden, 2 Mar 1917)
Born on 7 November 1860 in Cobourg, Canada West, William Herbert Floyd joined the 40th Regiment as a mess boy at the age of nine; he retired as the commanding officer forty years later in 1909. In his civilian life, Floyd was a dealer of men’s shoes and clothing lines. He was closely involved in municipal affairs and served one term as Cobourg mayor in 1903. In early 1916, the fifty-five year old militia officer was appointed to raise the 139th from Northumberland County.
Writing to a friend in Alderville, Private Robert Franklin, a member of the Mississaugas First Nation, considered Floyd an uninspirational leader. Referring to his transfer into a labour battalion, Franklin remarked, “We have good officers, they do the best they can for us. That is what I could not say about the 139th fellows.” He dismissed his former commanding officer as a hypocrite and “another cold-footed man.”
The Cobourg World published Franklin’s highly critical letter but added an editorial qualification, “Our Indian soldiers are among the best in the Canadian forces, but it may be quite possible that the point of view taken by Pt. Franklin in some of his references was not general among the men of the Battalion.” Nevertheless, the newspaper considered the soldier’s opinion of great potential interest to readers.
Following a brief instructional tour of the front with the 42nd Battalion, Floyd returned home from England in May 1917. He was appointed police magistrate for Cobourg in 1919. He held the post until 1932 when forced into retirement due to ill health.
He died on 24 June 1936.
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