Lieutenant Colonel R. C. Andros, D.S.O.
1st Canadian Mounted Rifles
His nervous condition is only fair he has been in trenches steadily for 33 months and is tired physically and mentally. Treatment in this country will not improve this man’s condition. The Board therefore recommends – Invaliding to Canada.
(Medical Board Report, I.D.O.E. Hospital, 1 June 1918)
Born on 7 February 1871 in Port Hope, Ontario, Ralph Craven Andros was a former North West Mounted Policeman and member of the 20th Border Horse Hussars. After his tour of duty in the NWMP, Andros moved to Montana and built a horse ranch near Fort Benton. He retired in 1910 and moved to British Columbia. In November 1914, he enlisted with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifle Battalion.
The battalion arrived in France in September 1915 with the 1st Mounted Rifle Brigade. Andros served as second-in-command with his trusty stead, “Star.” Recognizing that the static conditions on the Western Fronts were unsuitable for horsemen, the dismounted units essentially became infantry troops.
Andros assumed command of the battalion of the 1st CMR after the battle at Mount Sorrel on 3 June 1916. The former commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Shaw, disappeared during the fighting. His body was never found and he was later officially declared killed in action. Andros led the 1st CMR for nearly two years; he received the Distinguished Service Order and was mentioned in General Haig’s dispatches.
When he joined the 8th Infantry Brigade on 24 April 1918, Andros relinquished command to Lieutenant Colonel Burnett Laws. Suffering from the cumulative effects of long service in the field, an over-strained Andros soon left for England in late May. Admitted to I.D.O.E. hospital with painful joints, chest discomfort and bad gums, the forty-seven year old colonel was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and pyorrhea. In addition to physical pains, doctors also noted mental stress symptoms.
In June 1918, the I.D.O.E. medical board recommended home treatment for Andros in light of his deteriorating physical and mental health. As an Esquimalt doctor later summarized, Andors “Had 33 months continuous service in France and felt the strain. Was becoming irritable.” Andros remained in British Columbia hospitals until 1919. His old horse “Star” died overseas one month after the armistice.
In The Horse in War (1920), veterinary surgeon and 1st CMR veteran, Colonel D. S. Tamblyn, described his former commander:
I remember both “Star” and his master well, they both exhibited that western spirit, especially the Colonel.
He was a lover of all animals and a friend to those who realized that their dumb charges depended upon them in regard to their wants and care. He preferred that a man should feed and water his horse before looking after his own requirements—a wonderful trait and an example for all to profit by.
Andros died in Victoria on 16 August 1943.
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