The Jack-of-All-Trades

Lieutenant Colonel John G. Rattray
10th (Fighting Tenth) BattalionRattray

But when I find myself honored by such frenzied attacks by the Rabbi Samuel, the chief Hebrew apologist of Jewry and Jewish morals, and this attack signed by the Canadian Jewish committee (what’s in a name!) a short statement of my side of the story would appear necessary…

If it is personal attack, it is apparent in every paragraph that the Hebrews are ‘out to get Colonel Rattray.’

(Rattray to Winnipeg Free Press, 13 Jan 1922, 19)

John Grant Rattray was a schoolteacher, militia officer, hardware salesman, newspaper publisher, businessman, town reeve, insurance agent, soldier, police chief, political campaigner, civil servant, veterans’ official and sportsman. Born on 15 January 1867 in Banffshire, Scotland, he immigrated to Manitoba in the 1880s. As commanding officer of the 20th Border Horse, he organized the 10th Battalion at Valcartier when the Canadian Expeditionary Force assembled in September 1914.

Rattray was summarily dismissed by Militia Minister Sam Hughes and replaced by Russell Boyle before the First Division left for Europe. The notoriously partisan Hughes objected to Rattray’s Liberal Party affiliation. As president of a local Liberal Association, he had been an unsuccessful candidate in the 1907 Manitoba provincial election. Although humiliated and bitter, Rattray managed a secure staff officer position in England.

10thRattrayAfter the death of Boyle at Second Ypres, Rattray was recalled to succeed Major Dan Ormond in command of his original unit. Rattray remained on the front for fifteen months, from June 1915 until 8 September 1916. He returned to England to organize a training brigade at Bramshott and endorsed Ormond as his replacement.

After the war, Rattray was appointed to head the Manitoba Provincial Police. His tenure was marked with controversies beginning with allegations of anti-Semitism. He was forced to resign in 1922 after his officers botched an attempt to capture a gang of bank robbers. Although Rattray asserted “I am not going to accept the decision lying down,” his appeal failed.

He relocated to Ottawa in 1927 when appointed to the Soldier Settlement Board. After R. B. Bennett’s Conservative Government removed Rattray in 1932, the Liberal Opposition suspected partisan motives. Minister of Immigration and Colonization, Wesley Ashton Gordon, thought Rattray “a fine soldier and a gentleman” but claimed to have found a better man for the job. Liberal MP William Duff interjected, “In other words he appointed a man from his own constituency and dismissed a good servant of the public who had served overseas.”

Rattray remained active in veterans’ affairs and was elected president of the local Canadian Legion branch in 1935. With the Liberal Government back in power, Rattray became chairman of the Old Veterans’ Assistance Commission and complied a report on the state of veterans in Canada.

Prominent in Ottawa social circles, Rattray was a noted golfer and curler. As a member of the Rideau Curling Club he helped to build interest in the game and competed against members of Parliament. He was nominated by the Liberals to run in Ottawa West but the seventy-three year old stepped aside before the 1940 federal election. He died on 23 June 1944.

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