The Partisan

Lieutenant Colonel S. G. Robertson
17th (Nova Scotia Highlanders) BattalionRobertson

As a matter of fact Robertson was quite hopeless as a commanding officer. When I obliged to tell him so he made at least 3 answers in excuse all of which made me exclaim to him: ‘Why here, out of your own mouth, you more than ever convince me of your unfitness for command.”

(Gen. Alderson to Perley, 12 Mar 1915)

Struan Gordon Robertson was a Nova Scotia barrister and militia major. Born on 13 September 1868 in Bothwell, Scotland, he was a Conservative party activist and a candidate for the riding of Pictou. When the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces organized at Valcartier in August 1914, Robertson assumed command of the 17th Battalion.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Boer Beater

Lieutenant Colonel P. J. Daly, D.S.O.
27th (City of Winnipeg) BattalionDaly

Mayor Davidson received a communication today from Lieut.-Col. P. J. Daly, commanding the City of Winnipeg battalion, now somewhere in France, stating that he had rounded up two more guns, making a total of six. He said he would donate them to the city, if desired. His worship promptly accepted the offer. Congratulations were sent to the officer. The guns will be placed eventually on historic spots in the city.

(Winnipeg Tribune, 9 Aug 1917, 5)

Patrick Joseph Daly took command of the 27th Battalion on 15 April 1916 following Lieutenant Colonel Irvine R. Snider’s nervous breakdown during the battle of St. Eloi. A native of Ireland, Daly had fought with the 6th Western Australian Mounted Infantry during the Boer War. He was seven times wounded in the South African campaign, nominated for a Victoria Cross and awarded the Distinguished Service Order. In one engagement, despite having both arms broken, Daly rode for a mile and captured over forty enemy prisoners.

Continue reading

The Accountant

Lieutenant Colonel Walter R. Brown, D.S.O.
26th (New Brunswick) BattalionWRBrown

I see in my mind many bright, cheery figures, some of the best of our county’s stock, soldiers every inch of them—how sorry I am they are not returning with us today, and how I feel for their people. But though they are sleeping in some military graveyard in France or Belgium, I know they are not forgotten…

(Brown to People of N.B., St. John Telegraph, 1919)

A member of the 62nd Fusiliers and Boer War veteran, Walter Richard Brown enlisted with the 26th Battalion in February 1915. He was born on 3 June 1872 in London, England. After the removal of Lieutenant Colonel James L. McAvity in May 1916 and the departure of Lieutenant Colonel A. E. G. McKenzie to an officer’s course in summer 1917, Brown assumed command of the battalion.

Continue reading

The Ross Rifleman

Lieutenant Colonel C. H. Ackerman
247th (Victoria & Haliburton) BattalionAckerman

Officer is troubled with insomnia. There is also a history of nervous symptoms following his wounds. This nervous condition is referred to in previous boards. Officer is slight in build but fairly well nourished and up to his normal weight, no organic disease.

(Ackerman, “Medical History of Invalid,” Kingston, 12 Mar 1918)

While fighting with the 2nd Battalion at Festbuert in June 1915, Lieutenant Charles Haydn Ackerman suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder and shrapnel injuries to the scalp. Born in Port Perry on 28 July 1888, Ackerman was a manufacturer in his father’s firm and member of the 57th Regiment. He was evacuated from the trenches to England, where he was treated for his physical injuries and mental overstrain.

Continue reading

The Fisherman

Lieutenant Colonel F. P. Day
185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 25th Battalions Day

The war was over; I came home tired and worn-out, obsessed with one idea—I wanted rest, quiet, and peace; I wanted never to speak again without necessity or to give or receive an order. I wanted to live in the woods, and be alone along my streams.

(F. P. Day, The Autobiography of a Fisherman, 1927, 144)

When Lieutenant Colonel John Wise was wounded during the battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918, Major Frank Parker Day took command of the 25th Nova Scotia Rifles. Day had raised the 185th Highlander Battalion from Cape Breton and sailed from Halifax to England in October 1916. After the Highlanders were absorbed into the 17th Reserve Battalion, Day reverted in rank and joined the 25th on the front.

Continue reading

The Manly Man

Lieutenant Colonel A. H. Borden, D.S.O.
85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders) BattalionBorden

Oh, wha is foremaist and a’ and a’,
Oh, wha does follow the blaw, the blaw,
Colonel Borden, the king o’ us a’ hurra’,
Wi’ his hundred Pipers and a’ and a’,
His bonnet and feather he’s wavin’ high,
His prancing steed maist seems to fly.
He’ll lead us to Berlin across the Rhine,
Wi’ his 85th Highlanders bonny and fine.

(Songs of the 85th Battalion, 1917, 16)

In September 1915, Allison Hart Borden raised the 85th Nova Scotia Highlanders, nicknamed with the Gaelic motto Siol na Fear Fearail (The Breed of Manly Men). Encouraged by rapid recruitment in the province, Borden proposed a four battalion Highlander Brigade from the Maritimes. The battalions (the 85th, 185th, 193rd, 219th) departed Canada in October 1916. After arriving in England, the Brigade was broken up to the dismay and confusion of many citizens and politicians in the province.

Continue reading

The Steeplechaser

Lieutenant Colonel L. H. Nelles, D.S.O.
4th (Central Ontario) BattalionLHNelles

Colonel Nelles never became the popular idol that Thomson had been; but as the months went by and he showed that in addition to this bent for smartness he had tactical ability far beyond the average, a sense of justice, and (more important still) his full share of personal bravery a better feeling grew.

(Lieut. Pedley, Only This, 1999, 18)

Lafayette Henry Nelles was the last commanding officer of the 4th Battalion. He was born on 5 December 1890 in London, Ontario. In November 1914, the twenty-three year old enlisted with 12th Reserve Battalion. When an enemy sniper killed Lieutenant Colonel A. T. Thomson on 20 November 1917, Nelles took charge of the 4th Battalion. Nelles received the Distinguished Service Order in June 1918 and remained in command until demobilization.

Continue reading

The Unforgotten

Lieutenant Colonel A. T. Thomson, D.S.O., M.C. †
4th (Central Ontario) Battalion Thomson

The fourth will not forget him
Although his stay was short,
For he proved to be a soldier
Far above the average sort.
His ways were very quiet
But in action he was strong;
He was absolutely fearless
And his judgment was seldom wrong.
To the men he was a leader
Whom they were proud to serve,
Never say a word against him
Or you’ll regret that word.
He is gone but not forgotten
By those who knew him best,
For we know that safe in heaven
He has found eternal rest.

(4th Bn. Scout Section, 1917)

Born on 27 February 1888 in Port Credit Ontario, Alexander Thomas Thomson was a member of the 36th Peel Regiment. He was assigned to the 10th Battalion at the rank of lieutenant when the First Contingent assembled at Valcartier in August 1914.

Continue reading

The Lil’ Colonel

Lieutenant Colonel W. Rae, D.S.O.
4th (Central Ontario) Battalion Rae

A battalion of infantry is a chameleon, ceaselessly changing its colour to suit the changing complexions of its commanding officers. The Fourth Canadian Battalion followed the rule.

But the madness of the Fourth appears to have been an intermittent fever. Birchall engendered it, Colquhoun advertised it, Rae damped down the fire. For with the coming of Rae we first discern another element creeping in, which seems as difficult to mix with the rugged abandon of the early days as oil with water—the element of cold discipline.

(Lieut. Pedley, Only This, 1999, 18)

A native of Scotland, William Rae was born on 15 January 1883 in Aberdeen. He immigrated to Canada in 1907, moved to British Columbia and joined the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders Regiment. At the outbreak of the Great War, the five-foot-six Scotsman enlisted with the 16th Battalion. Rae fought at Second Ypres during the German gas attack and was the only company commander in the 16th to survive the battle. By June 1916, he had transferred to the 4th Battalion in order to take command from Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Colquhoun.

Continue reading

The Hometown Hero

Colonel Mac Colquhoun, D.S.O.
4th (Central Ontario) BattalionColquhoun

People here have quite a different opinion of the Canadians now. They want to have the Canadians in the fighting all the time. We are classed now among the very best troops.

(Colquhoun to Wife, Apr 1915, History of Brant County, 1920, 451)

Born in Mulmur, Ontario on 13 April 1869, Malcolm Alexander Colquhoun was a Brantford contractor and captain with the 38th Dufferin Rifles. In August 1914, he enlisted in Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hodgetts Labatt’s 4th Battalion. In command of “B” Company at Second Ypres, he was one of the only officers in the entire battalion to emerge unwounded from the battle. Describing the fighting to his wife, Colquhoun wrote, “To put it plainly, it was a perfect hell.”

Continue reading