What really makes a real man? The best men I have known always openly say they are cowards and hate the situation they find themselves in and really are afraid, perhaps it is partly their education which helps them to realize the danger, but there is a great deal in being one of a long line of soldiers in a family, although this only partly accounts for it, for men who never saw a soldier and for generations have led useless lives, have behaved in a similar manner when put against it out here...
(Agar Adamson to Mabel Adamson [wife], 4 Mar 1915)
Agar Stewart Allan Masterton Adamson was the first Canadian-born commander of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. A native of Montreal, he was born on 25 December 1865. A member of an influential family, Adamson became a socially connected civil servant and militia officer in Ottawa. Despite being forty-eight and having poor vision, in August 1914 the Boer War veteran enlisted as a captain with P.P.C.L.I. under Lieutenant Colonel Farquhar.
Adamson became temporary commander of the regiment after Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Buller’s death at Sanctuary Wood of on 2 June 1916. Adamson remained in command until Raymond T. Pelley relieved him in August. Following Pelly’s promotion to brigadier general in October, Adamson resumed his post as head of P.P.C.L.I. until March 1918.
Throughout the war Adamson carried on extensive correspondence with his wife Mabel Cawthra Adamson, who he had married in 1899. Mabel followed her husband overseas to volunteer with the Red Cross and help Belgian war orphans. Explaining his sense of burden and responsibility, Adamson wrote to Mabel, “…the isolation of a Commanding Officer is necessary but most trying to one of my disposition… If things go wrong it is your fault, if they go right, no matter how well thought out before, it is only considered the natural event of things. You have no idea how I yearn for a little domestic abuse from you.”
Suffering from to the strain of prolonged duty and ill health, Adamson was finally relieved of command on 27 March 1918. As he explained to his wife, Brigadier General Hugh Dyer “…felt sure that if I returned to the Regiment it could only be a short time before I cracked up. He was very nice about it.” Adamson was relieved of duty and command of P.P.C.L.I. passed to Major C. J. T. Stewart.
The mentally and physically exhausted Adamson returned home from the war a changed man and his marriage soon fell apart. After separating from Mabel in 1921, Adamson moved to England. He died in London on 21 November 1929 due to injuries sustained in an airplane crash.
Further Reading: Agar Adamson, ed. N.M. Christie, Letters of Agar Adamson 1914-1919 (Nepean: CEF Books, 1997)
Digitized Service File (LAC):