Lieutenant Colonel R. M. Dennistoun
53rd (Northern Saskatchewan) Battalion
Conditions in Western Can. are disturbing. The Printers Union are demanding all that the Free Press can earn saying they will own the paper and will allow nothing for capital. The Wpg. St Ry. Employees are saying the same thing and putting another strike forward contrary to agreement. A labor Candidate in Calgary has announced he is out against the policies of the late Mr. Jesus Christ. Karl Marx is now the prophet who speaks wisdom.
(Dennistoun, Diary, 7 May 1919).
Robert Maxwell Dennistoun was a Winnipeg lawyer and King’s Counsel. Born on 24 December 1864 in Peterborough, Canada West, Dennistoun graduated from Queen’s University in 1885 and moved west in 1907. On 25 August 1914, he enlisted as a captain in the 6th Battalion. He returned to Canada in late 1914 to recruit the 53rd Battalion from Saskatchewan.
A longtime member of the 57th Regiment, Dennistoun promoted militia service for all young men in the years before the war. Claiming Canadians were “too free and independent a people to consent to conscription,” he argued that the franchise ought to depend on military training. “If a man does not want to fight,” he reasoned, “there is no hardship in telling him he must not vote.”
Two of his sons, James Alexander Dennistoun (1893-1948) and John Romeyn Dennistoun (1895-1916) had enlisted with their father at Valcartier. After several months in the trenches, both joined the Royal Flying Corps. On 4 May 1916, John was shot down and killed behind enemy lines.
Dennistoun and the 53rd sailed to England in March 1916. When the battalion was broken up, the colonel served in a military law capacity on court martial boards. In July 1917, he was appointed deputy judge advocate general in London. After the war, he became a judge with the Manitoba Court of Appeal until his retirement in 1942. He died in Winnipeg on 10 October 1952..
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