I thank you for the unanimity with which you have chosen me as your candidate, for without unanimity we cannot get anywhere. Let there be no mistake. I am not agreeing to run as the representative of any particular party. I am not agreeing to run as a representative of any one class or sect. I will not be tied to any hitching ropes. I will not be haltered by any party. If you elect me, you will elect Hugh Dyer. If that is satisfactory to you, I, on my part, pledge myself to do everything in my power in your interests, and will not spare myself as your representative in the house of commons.
(Dyer speech, Winnipeg Tribune, 21 Oct 1921, 2)
Nicknamed “Daddy Dyer” by his men, Hugh Marshall Dyer was the second CO of the 5th Battalion and commander of the 7th Infantry Brigade. Born in Kingstown, Ireland on 28 January 1861, he immigrated to Manitoba in 1881 and built a farm in Minnedosa where he lived for the rest of his life.
After Lieutenant Colonel Tuxford was forced from the field due to illness in May 1915, Dyer assumed command of the 5th Battalion despite having suffered his own injuries during Second Ypres. Distinguishing himself through the battles of 1916 and 1917, two years later, Dyer succeeded General A. C. Macdonnell in command of the 7th Brigade. After fifteen months in command, he was replaced by J. A. Clark in September 1918.
Many of his battalion colonels regretted his departure. Royal Ewing of the 42nd lamented, “Not only had his leadership won the admiration of the men and officers under his command, but his personality had endeared him to all who knew him.”
In the 1921 federal election, Dyer entered the political battlefield against Progressive Party leader Thomas Crerar in Marquette. Although he received support from the Great War Veterans’ Association as well as the Conservative Government, Dyer disclaimed any party affiliation. In announcing his candidacy, Dyer declared, “If we want to live In Canada we must make It a great Canada, not a country split up Into parties, creeds and sects, and whoever has to legislate for Canada must legislate with one thought, for the country as a whole. We cannot live without one another.”
Dyer ran on a free trade platform in support of the farmers’ interest: “It Is now 41 years since I put In my first crop in Manitoba. With the exception of a little holiday of five years In France, I have put In a crop every year since. Therefore, I know something of the farmer’s troubles.” By contrast, Dyer portrayed Crerar as an absent politician: “I have been back from the war two and a half years, and I have never seen him in the constituency.”
John Wesley Dafoe, editor of the Manitoba Free Press editor, however found the general’s supposed independence “most illogical.” While Dafoe expected Dyer would get a sizable complimentary vote from his hometown of Minnedosa, the Liberal journalist observed, “his candidature displays no strength.”
Progressive supporters complained that the Liberal candidate, Lewis St. George Stubbs had only entered the contest to split the vote and let Dyer win. Indeed, on the campaign stump, Stubbs railed against Crerar but praised the general’s war record. In the 6 December 1921 result, Crerar nevertheless easily defeated Dyer by over 5,000 votes.
Dyer died in Minnedosa on Christmas Day 1938.
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