Lieutenant Colonel Lewis H. Beer
140th (St. John’s Tigers) Battalion
I forgot to mention that Gen. Seeley [sic] comes back on Tuesday the 10th. Well I have made up my mind to not stay when he returns. I am quite sure I would only get into trouble and would never feel easy under his command knowing he is not to be trusted. He is the kind of man who pats you on the back and at the same time knifes you. I want nothing to do with him. I have discovered him now in several lies not only about me but about other people. I have applied to return to England at the same time if humanly possible. I am going to make every effort to secure another place in France.
(L. H. Beer, Diary, 8 July 1917)
Lewis Herbert Beer was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on 12 December 1873. He was a member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 614, worked in insurance and belonged to the 36th P.E.I. Light Horse. In October 1914, Beer joined Lord Strathcona’s Horse as a lieutenant. He served in England and France until December 1915 when he returned to Canada in order to raise the 140th Battalion from New Brunswick.
As the 140th neared full strength after months of recruiting, Beer expressed confidence: “If the rest of New Brunswick does as well as Fredericton, we will have no trouble getting the required 100 men. As a matter of fact we should have been able to get every man we wanted without going out of St. John.” When the battalion, dubbed the St. John Tigers, disembarked in England in September 1916, it was absorbed into the 13th Reserve Battalion and provided reinforcements for the RCR and PPCLI.
On 9 May 1917, the now former 140th commander reverted to the rank of major and joined Canadian Cavalry Brigade headquarters in France. Beer soon came to despise his commanding officer, British General J.E.B. Seely, who he felt undermined his authority and frustrated his efforts to see action. Beer recorded hopefully on 14 June:
I have asked to be given some job where I will learn something of French warfare. The General has promised to relieve me of the Transport and give me special reconnaissance work when we get in the new line. Well if I am given a chance in the fighting line I can forgive most anything.
The next day, Beer realized that his prospects for a frontline post were dim: “It is quite plain to me that the General does not intend to give me a chance. I hope I am wrong but I am afraid I am right.”
Although Beer was temporarily assigned to a forward position in early July 1917, he learned that General Seely had been criticizing his conduct behind his back. Not only did Beer consider Seely a liar and a fake, he also believed that the cavalry brigade would be under better management with a Canadian in command.
Deciding that he could no longer work with Seely, Beer applied for a transfer back to England on 9 July. He wrote: “Will not leave a stone unturned to get a place here and with the credentials I now hold if I do not get a place there is something rotten & wrong and it is not with me.”
However, after conferring with Canadian liaison officer Colonel R. F. Manly Sims on 13 July, Beer regretted to learn:
… if I go to England on anything but leave they will probably send me back to Canada. It seems that I make a wrong move every time. My bad luck still pursues me or is it bad management? One thing is certain whatever I do my intentions & wishes are to get a permanent place in France in the fighting line and it seems very hard to get.
“I am still here and likely to be here for some time,” Beer recorded on 25 July. Unwanted by the colonel of Lord Strathcona’s Horse, Beer was recalled to England a few weeks later. His service in France was over.
Beer was posted to the 13th Reserve Battalion until September 1918 when he returned to Canada as a surplus officer. He moved to Ottawa some time later and died in Aylmer, Ontario on 22 August 1937.
Canadian Letters & Images Project, L.H. Beer’s Diary, 27 May 1917 to 8 Aug 1917: http://www.canadianletters.ca/letterlist.php?collectionid=353&docid=2&warid=3
Digitized Service File (LAC):