Lieutenant Colonel F. P. Day
185th (Cape Breton Highlanders) and 25th Battalions
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.
Born in Shubenacadieon, Nova Soctia on 9 May 1881, Day had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, where he was a noted athlete and member of the King’s Colonials. After graduating, he returned to teach English at the University of New Brunswick. He later moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1912 to take a position at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. In 1914, he returned to Canada and enlisted as junior major with Lieutenant Colonel A. H. Borden’s 85th Battalion before receiving a command of his own.
Conservative MP Fleming Blanchard McCurdy declared, “He is a splendid type of the expatriated Canadian who in this great emergency have returned to Canada to offer their lives and their all to defend the land of their birth and to ensure the triumph of the cause of civilization.”
The 185th Battalion, nicknamed Siol Na Fear Fearail (Seed of Manly Men), was intended to appeal to the descendants of the original Highlander immigrants to Cape Breton Island.
Prime Minister Robert Borden reflected on the good character and reputation of Day and cited him as an example of the non-partisan nature of the CEF:
He is, I am told, a very able man, a very patriotic man and a man who, I believe would be inspired by no other consideration or feeling than the desire to do his duty. I have not the slightest idea as to what his politics are, nor have I ever inquired.
While attached to the 25th Battalion in France, Day observed his men’s “destructive methods of fishing.” They lobbed grenades into ponds and collected the fish that floated to the surface. Although the tactic violated Day’s sensibility as a fisherman and sportsman, he admitted. “I had not the heart to stop them.” Day himself also engaged in his own fun on the front. He practiced sharpshooting from the trenches by indulging “for a while in one of my favourite sports, sniping at aeroplanes.” He explained that his aim was “as one fires at a flying duck, but not a feather flew.”
After the war, Day returned to an academic career and wrote a number of novels including River of Strangers and Rockbound as well as a memoir, The Autobiography of a Fisherman. He died in Yarmouth on 30 July 1950.
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