Lieutenant Colonel George W Morfitt
137th (Calgary) Battalion
The Major has another good one. During his recruiting experiences—and he has enrolled 3,800—he has come across two Tipperary men who did not know their birthday. He christened them both for Christmas Day, so that it would be easy for them to remember in the future.
(Medicine Hat News, 7 Oct 1915, 4)
Born on 16 March 1873 in St. Mary’s Ontario, George W Morfitt was a Calgary broker and member of the 103rd Militia Regiment. Before his appointment to command the 137th Battalion in November 1915, he had been a recruiter for the 31st under Arthur Henry Bell and second-in-command of the 82nd. Suspicious of foreign volunteers with Germanic names, the “eagle-eyed” recruiting officer vowed, “I’m not taking any chances—not if I know it. A German who slips into the 82nd will have to get up pretty early in the morning.”
Lieutenant Colonel G. B. Laurie
1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
I used to be up at cockcrow when a small child on Christmas Day, to see what Santa Claus had brought me, and I shall be up early enough to-morrow in all conscience too, but for a different reason—standing to arms—so that I shall not get my throat cut.
Best of love to you for Christmas. Whilst you are in church I shall be in the trenches, but both doing our rightful duty, I trust.
(Lt-Col. Laurie to Wife, 24 Dec 1914)
On 25 December 1914, George Brenton Laurie described the Christmas truce in No Man’s Land as “English and German, begin to swarm out to meet each other.” Suspicious, Laurie initially held his men back before going to investigate himself. The Germans complimented the colonel on his battalion’s marksmanship and were eager to learn if the Canadian Division had arrived yet. The armistice held for two days until both sides resumed the fighting.
Lieutenant Colonel G. F. McFarland
147th (Grey) Battalion
Away over in the Hun lines I could hear male voices singing Christmas Carols very melodiously….
Just about dawn one of our snipers saw a Hun making his way overland from one trench to the other, evidently thinking the light was not yet good enough for rifle-fire. Our fellow “drilled” him clean, and was heard to remark as he ejected the empty shell: “Merry Christmas, Fritz, you …!
(McFarland, Diary, 25 December 1917)
Born in Markdale, Ontario, on 30 June 1880, George Franklin McFarland was a Toronto barrister and member of the 31st Militia Regiment. He graduated with a law degree from the University of Toronto in 1905. In early 1916, McFarland was appointed commander of the 147th Battalion, based in Owen Sound.
Lieutenant Colonel B. H. Brown
220th (12th York Rangers) Battalion
Lieut.-Col. B. H. Brown of the 220th (York County) Battalion played the role of Santa Claus last evening when the two battalions in question celebrated Christmas.
(Toronto Globe, 22 Dec 1916, 6)
Benjamin Hinchcliffe Brown was the son of retired Colonel F. M. Brown, a leading Orangeman, long-time member of the 12th (York Rangers) Regiment and veteran of the Riel Rebellion. A member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 142, B. H. Brown was born on 15 October 1878 in Toronto. He worked as a printer and publisher with his brother, Francis Frederick Middleton Brown, who was born on 20 August 1885, and named in honour of their father’s commanding general in the 1885 Rebellion.
Lieutenant Colonel L. H. Archambault
41st (Canadien-Français) Battalion
The 41st, under Col. Archambault, had more than its share of desertions. The Colonel naturally was uncommunicative, but it was learned on fairly good authority that 150 men drooped away utterly…
(Toronto Daily News, 23 Oct 1915)
Born on 10 October 1879 in Montreal, Louis Henri Archambault was a lawyer, militia officer and Inspector of Cadets. He had served with the 64th Regiment for nearly twenty years. In early 1915, he transferred from the 22nd Battalion to raise the second French Canadian unit from Quebec, the 41st.
Major General Robert Rennie, M.V.O.
3rd (Toronto Regiment) Battalion
As a candidate, I seek election not on my personal record so much, but on that of those who were associated with me in the great war. I am now more a civilian than a soldier, but—and please let there be no frills about this—if war should threaten again, I am ready to offer my services.
I stand on a Liberal platform because I am a Liberal and always have been. I believe in the great principles of Liberalism…
(Rennie’s speech, Toronto Globe, 21 Nov 1921, 1)
Robert Rennie was a Toronto seed merchant and thirty-four year member of the Queen’s Own Rifles. He joined as a rifleman in 1880 and rose to become lieutenant colonel by 1914. Born on 15 December 1862 in Markham, Canada West, Rennie was an expert marksman, respected businessman and prominent sportsman, with a specialty in curling.
Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Robert G. C. Kelly
Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Thomas P. Bradley &
Major W. W. MacVicar149th (Lambton’s) Battalion
He had previously been in good health with heart in normal condition, and medical opinion was that his death was probably caused by fatigue and strain in connection with organization of 149th Battalion.
(Lt.-Col. Kelly, Circumstances of Death, 1915)
Born on Christmas Day 1869, Dr. Robert George Campbell Kelly was a physician and associate coroner in Lambton County, Ontario. As commanding officer of the 27th (St. Clair Borderers) Regiment, he offered to raise an overseas battalion from his home county in November 1915. He had belonged to the militia since 1885.
Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Arnott
151st (Central Alberta) Battalion
Song for the 151st
But bloodier yet will the field be,
Till, ‘twill quench his insatiable thirst,
And there will be glory at last for the boys,
Of the Hundred and Fifty First
Oh, into the thick of the fight
We’re straining each moment to go
As Bill’s match, his plans to ignite
With those of his servitor, foe;
When their air castles lie in ruins
And their subjects from bondage have burst,
Then we’ll come back home,— those who are left of us,
Of the Hundred and Fifty First
(Wetaskiwin Times, 12 Oct 1916, 3)
John Wilson Arnott was a gentleman militia officer and graduate of military instruction at Toronto and Kingston. Born on 9 December 1860 in Northumberland County, Canada West, Arnott had long belonged to the 49th Hastings Rifles before he moved west in 1912.
Lieutenant Colonel Adam Weir &
Major Andy M. Moffat160th (Bruce) Battalion
But still in England? Mustering as much good grace as possible we have finally given up all hope and desire to read the future. It is the third X mas in khaki for most of us, each having left a little farther up the beach of army life. Shall we continue? We cannot possibly go much further without slipping over the edge into life in France.
(Editorial, “Bruce in Khaki,” 1 Jan 1918, 98)
Adam Weir was a manufacturer in Port Credit and a twenty-four year member of the 32nd (Bruce) Regiment. He was born on 21 November 1863 in Aberfoyle, Canada West. In December 1915, Wier was appointed to raise the 160th Battalion from Bruce County. Well respected as a militiaman and civic leader, Weir, a local newspaper observed, “is regarded as a most capable officer, and is remembered here for his fine soldiering abilities.”
Lieutenant Colonel Donald Sutherland, D.S.O.
52nd, 71st, 74th, & 160th Battalions
A man that can fight, a fighter who’s fought,
A man to whom danger to self counts for naught,
A man all the way with a conduct sheet clean,
As a man and a soldier our Colonel’s beloved.
A man; Colonel Sutherland, that’s whom I mean.
(Lieut. L. Young, 71st Bn. “Our Colonel,” Bruce in Khaki, 12 Oct 1917, 2)
Born on 3 December 1879, Donald Matheson Sutherland was a Norwich County physician, militia officer in the 24th Grey Horse and member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 999. In September 1914, he enlisted as a captain with the 1st Battalion. Wounded during the second battle of Ypres on 24 April 1915, he was invalided to Canada. After raising the 71st Battalion from Woodstock, he again embarked for England in April 1916.