The Broken-Hearted

Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Arnott
151st (Central Alberta) BattalionArnott

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.

In late 1915, Conservative MLA James Robert Lowery proposed the creation of a distinctly central Alberta battalion. As a well-known figure in military circles, Arnott was selected to command the 151st Battalion with Lowery serving as second-in-command. As an elected local representative, Lowery was well positioned to organize recruitment efforts in the rural districts.

When the 151st arrived in England in October 1916, the troops proceeded to reinforcement drafts. Writing home to Wetaskiwin, one of the volunteers described the depressing scene before the formal breakup of the battalion:

We all felt sorry for Col. Arnott the other day …The Colonel then lined us up to dismiss us for the last time, and, with tears running down his kind old face he thanked us for the honor we had brought hm. He said there were always bright spots in a fellow’s life, and that this was the brightest day he had ever seen. He said he could wish for no greater honor than to take us to the front, and that although the battalion was now broken up, he knew that we would all remember that we were his men and in our hearts would always belong to the 151st.

In a low voice he then dismissed us and slowly walked away, looking sorrowfully back at us as we marched to the various drafts. Believe me, we were all nearly crying, even the officers looking pretty blue.

(Wetaskiwin Times, 14 Dec 1916, 1)

In 1919, Arnott was elected first honorary president of the 151st Battalion association, an organization designed to ensure the mutual benefit of the central Alberta veterans.


Digitized Service File (LAC):

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