Lieutenant Colonel C. M. R. Graham, D.S.O.
142nd (London’s Own) Battalion
“I wish to emphatically deny that the 142nd London Battalion was concerned in the recent alleged incident at the ceremonial parade before Sir Sam Hughes.”- Col. Graham
The above disclaimer refers to the “booing” that it is said, broke from the ranks of the London brigade as they passed the saluting base for the second time.
(“142nd Did Not ‘Boo’ Sir Sam,” Toronto Globe, 13 July 1916, 2)
Born on 16 March 1866, Charles Milton Richardson Graham was three-term Conservative mayor of London, Ontario from 1911 to 1914 and raised the 142nd Battalion from his hometown. Although noted for his bravery overseas, Graham was also the centre of scandal due to his unethical conduct and abuse of power.
While stationed at Camp Borden, Colonel Graham was involved in a controversy over corporal punishment. Following the alleged “incorrigible conduct” of Private L. Bellanger, Graham ordered a sergeant to strap the offender. Writing to his mother, E. L. Johns of the 161st Battalion, gossiped, “I guess he [Graham] will lose his job. You want to rub it into Mrs. Smith about Will’s Col. tell her he must be some Leader.”
Defending his conduct, Graham claimed that since the private was only eighteen, “I decided to treat him in a fatherly way, so ordered the spanking rather than have the lad discharged in disgrace.” In the end, both the private and sergeant were discharged. Graham was reprimanded and temporarily relieved of command.
After the 142nd arrived in England in November 1916, the unit was absorbed into the reserves. Graham transferred in and out of several units before reverting to the rank of major in order to serve in France. The fifty-two year old former mayor joined the 18th Battalion in April 1918. Following a reconnaissance mission, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. In late August, Graham suffered an ankle injury due to a large shrapnel fragment, leading to several months of recuperation.
After the war, Graham became clerk for the First Division Court of Ontario. In February 1925, Attorney General William Nickel charged the former colonel with embezzling $8,000 of court funds. Graham pleaded guilty and reimbursed the court. Despite an impassioned appeal for clemency from his lawyer that highlighted Graham’s wartime service to his country, the disgraced colonel was sentenced to imprisonment at the Ontario Reformatory in Guelph.
Graham’s prison term was evidently short because by late-1925, he was living in the United States. Suffering from weakness and ill health due to his war wounds and the stress of the court scandal, Graham moved to Miami, “the world’s greatest open-air sanitarium.” Living on the south coast of Florida, the sixty-year old Graham regained his health and vitality. In an interview with the Miami News in 1927, Graham praised the region’s agricultural possibilities, strategic location and excellent climate: “While I am a transplanted Miamian; not a native, I expect to spend the next 40 or 50 years of my life right here.” However, he died five years later at the Westminster Hospital in London, Ontario following a lengthy illness.
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