Many in this unit have ancestors who fought in 1776 against England, or rather against the tyranny of an English king and against German mercenaries. The descendants of these fighting men of old are proud of their ancestors’ deeds. How could the descendants of those men living through these times of stress, in days to come, answer the very natural questions from their children: “Why did you not fight for the oppressed?”
(S. R. Flowers, The Legion, Dec 1915)
Warren Morrill Sage was an American-Canadian civil engineer and militia officer in Calgary. Born in New York on 28 January 1886, Sage moved to Alberta after graduating from the Columbia School of Mines in 1906. He joined the 103th (Calgary Rifles) Regiment as a private and was reputedly a “crack shot” with a rifle. At the outbreak of the war, Sage joined the 56th Battalion as a captain and later the 137th as second-in-command. After Militia Minister Hughes created the American Legion battalions in 1915, Sage offered to recruit a unit from Alberta and British Columbia.
Drawn from “practically every portion of the United States,” the battalion included several Spanish-American war veterans as well as a former member of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.
The unit magazine, The Legion, declared: “Men born under the Stars and Stripes are voluntarily taking their place beside men born under the Union Jack to aid a cause that is just and right; a cause that the Stars and Stripes have not yet espoused…”
Upon arriving in England, Colonel Sage appealed to Canadian military authorities for the 211th to remain as a complete unit when deployed to France. Anticipating the American declaration of war two months later, Sage argued that his battalion should not be broken up in order to represent the United States on the battlefield:
It would seem but fair that at least one of the American battalions be kept together in view of the large number of Americans enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and if, as it looks at present, the United States of American should go to war with Germany all ranks would feel that they were fighting for their own country as well as for Britain, and their friends and relations in the United States of America would feel that they were fighting for them.
(Col. H. M. Sage to C.O. 14th Can. Inf. Tng. Bde., 6 Feb 1917)
Despite Sage’s request for battlefield deployment, the 211th was amalgamated with the 218th to form the 8th Canadian Railway Troops under the command of Lieutenant Colonel J. K. Cornwall. Sage became second-in-command. Despite the reorganization, the unit nevertheless partly retained its American identity and celebrated Independence Day 1917 in the field.
After the war, Sage returned to Canada to pursue business interests in gold and diamond mining. An early airplane model maker before the war, he also worked as an engineer for the Horace Keane Aeroplane Corporation based in New York. In 1930, his wife of twenty-one years sued for divorce, alleging to have discovered her husband and a woman in a Canadian hotel.