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.

4thNellesReflecting on the new commander’s leadership, Lieutenant James Henry Pedley of the 4th recalled:

At the end there were few grumblers and a great share of the credit for the success of the Fourth during the last year must be laid at the feet of Colonel Nelles. He had the excellent qualities of youth as well as youth’s defects. I always found him fair in his criticisms and anxious to be reasonable in his judgements.

After the war, Nelles moved to Oakville and became an inventor. He took out a number of patents on improvements to everyday items such as soaps and razors as well as an aerial bomb design in 1940.

In 1938, Nelles became a prominent fixture in horse racing as an owner and breeder. His first victory came at the 1945 Canadian Derby with Ferry Pilot. Reporting on the win, one newspaper remarked, “Col. L H. Nelles, owner of the Derby winner, is not exactly a pauper, neither is he one of those wealthy sportsmen to whom $5,000 purses are a dime a dozen.” In 1954, his horse, Extra Points, won the International Steeplechase at the Belmont for a $20,000 prize. Other horses owned by Nelles during his three-decade career included Dogstar, Old Faithful, Hardy Admiral, Sergeants’ Mess and Took a Bit.

RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 7260 – 63

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