Colonel-in-Chief Princess Patricia of Connaught
Lieutenant Colonel F. D. Farquhar, D.S.O. †
Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry
So poor Francis Farquhar is dead; killed, as he would have wished it himself, in action, fighting for his own dear country and her Allies.
(London Times, 30 Mar 1915, 14)
Francis Douglas Farquhar was a Coldstream Guard and military secretary to the Governor General of Canada Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Born on 1 September 1874 in England, Farquhar had been a professional soldier and veteran of the Boer War and Somaliland.
When the British Empire declared war on Germany in August 1914, Farquhar assumed command of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, a private regiment financed by Montreal millionaire Captain Andrew Hamilton Gault. As the unit’s patron, Princess Patricia, the daughter of the Governor General, became the honorary Colonel-in-Chief.
Within a week Farquhar and Gault had recruited over one thousand men into the Princess Patricia’s. The vast majority of the volunteers had fought in the Boer War. By December 1914, the P.P.C.L.I became the first Canadian infantry battalion to land in France.
During the battle of St. Eloi on 20 March 1915, a German sniper shot and killed Colonel Farquhar as he stood on a parapet. On 22 March, Robert Borden announced the news of Farquhar’s death to the House of Commons. Just two weeks before, the P.P.C.L.I. commander had written to the prime minister in order to praise his men’s courage. Writing from the field to Militia Minister Sam Hughes, Major Gault mourned:
Farquhar so dominated us by his military genius and wonderful capacity, besides being universally beloved by officers and men, that his loss to the battalion is one which can never be replaced. We all felt that he was so indispensable to the regiment that nothing could ever be allowed to happen to him, and yet by now you have doubtless heard how he fell by a stray bullet at night while inspecting some new earthworks.
Princess Patricia communicated her sentiment to the men at the front who fought under her name: “The sorrow that is felt at Rideau Hall at the death of Col. Farquhar is shared by all who knew him in the capital.”
Major Herbert Cecil Buller succeeded Farquhar as commander of the P.P.C.L.I on 21 March 1915.
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