Lieutenant Colonel W. B. Kingsmill, D.S.O.
123rd (Royal Grenadiers) Battalion
Feeling very confident that the Battalion will carry on in the future as it has done in the past, I wish one and all, A Happy New Year, and trust that it will please God to see our task completed, and that we will be back in Canada with those we Love in the not far distant future.
(Kingsmill, 123rd War Diary, 1 Jan 1918, 51)
Born in Toronto on 6 May 1876, Walter Bernard Kingsmill was a graduate of the Royal Military College and Osgoode Hall. He joined the 10th Royal Grenadiers in 1898 and became commanding officer of the militia regiment. In November 1915, he received authorization to raise the 123rd Battalion from Toronto.
During the Christmas season of 1915, Kingsmill flooded the city with patriotic pamphlets and dispatched squadrons of recruiting sergeants. One battalion leaflet appealed for the women of Toronto to aid the recruitment of unwilling men:
Refuse their invitations, scorn their attentions. For the love of heaven if they won’t be men, then you be women.
Get the apologist, the weakling, the mother’s pet, into the service. Weed out all, and we will find out who are the cowards.
In February 1917, the 123rd deployed to France as a pioneer battalion. Kingsmill remained in command throughout the sixteen-months in field. On 25 May 1918, the battalion was formally reorganized into the 7th, 8th and 9th Canadian Engineer Battalions, which formed part of the 3rd Canadian Engineer Brigade. In the final entry in the battalion War Diary, Kingsmill expressed great pride in his unit:
It is a very happy feeling to be able to record that, during the whole 2 years as Commanding Officer of the Battalion, there has never been an unpleasant moment as regards the relationship between myself and any of my Officers, and while I have never spent 2 1/2 years more happily I never passed a more unhappy day than when the Regiment was broken up.
Kingsmill received the Distinguished Service Order in June and went on leave to Canada in August 1918. By October, he was Deputy Judge Advocate General in Ottawa. He returned to his law career after the war and became King’s Counsel in 1926. He died in Toronto on 10 January 1950.