The Marksman

Lieutenant Colonel W. E. Forbes
145th (Kent—Westmorland) Battalion

Shooting constituted one department in which the 145th Infantry Battalion excelled. Its subsequent success in sniping derived largely from the painstaking effort of Lt. Col. Forbes, who was—as has been noted earlier—a notable marksman, and twice a member of Canada’s Bisley Rifle Team.

So Lt. Col. Forbes offered his Battalion the benefit of more experience in musketry than the average Officer Commanding possessed.

(Pte. V.E. Goodwin , Memories of the Forgotten War, 1988, 34)

Born on 8 August 1868 in Richibucto, New Brunswick, William Ellis Forbes was a merchant and farmer with seventeen years’ experience in the 73rd Regiment. In national and international rifle contests he demonstrated excellent marksmanship abilities and competed at the Bisley shooting ranges in England.

In November 1915, he joined Lieutenant Colonel J. R. Kirkpatrick’s 55th Battalion before transferring to Montgomery-Campbell’s 64th Battalion as a company captain. In late 1915, Forbes was authorized to raise his own unit from the counties of Kent, Albert and Westmorland. When the 145th Battalion arrived in England in September 1916, it were absorbed into the 21st Reserve Battalion.

Perhaps referring to the experience of Forbes and his surplus officers, Liberal MP for Westmorland, Arthur Bliss Copp, criticized Government wastage and partisan patronage. In a speech to the House of Commons, he explained:

145thI have no fault to find with a man being a lieutenant-colonel, or drawing the pay which is attached to his office, but if a lieutenant-colonel has nothing to do, and if he is not willing to take the rank of lieutenant, or some other subordinate position, and go to the front, he should resign and the remuneration that is being paid to him should be stopped, and he should come back to this country and assume the role of a private citizen as the rest of us are doing.

Forbes was eventually returned from England  and re-entered civilian life. He died in Rexton, New Brunswick on 23 October 1951.

Digitized Service File (LAC):


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