Brigadier General Victor Odlum 7th
(1st British Columbia) Battalion
Victor Wentworth Odlum was a curious specimen. Warfare fascinated him. It was said that he had taken to peacetime soldering because it presented an interesting problem, that he had set himself the task of mastering the psychology of war.
(Pierre Berton, Vimy, 1985, 114)
Victor Wentworth Odlum was a prominent journalist, businessman, diplomat and media tycoon. Born in Cobourg, Ontario on 21 October 1880, he moved to British Columbia as a young man to become a reporter and later editor for the Vancouver Daily World. A veteran of the Boer War and member 6th Regiment, he volunteered with the 7th Battalion in September 1914. He deployed to France as second-in-command.
After the death of Lieutenant Colonel Hart-McHarg at the second battle of Ypres in late April 1915, Odlum assumed command of the 7th Battalion. On 10 July 1916, he was promoted to brigadier general in command of the 11th Infantry Brigade, a post he held until the end of the war.
He helped to formulate and implement many of the trench raiding tactics that made the Canadian Corps famous. Multiple times wounded, Odlum earned the Distinguished Service Order and was six times mentioned in dispatches.
Following demobilization, Odlum returned to Vancouver where he became a leading figure in political and media circles. He bought the Vancouver Star, ran unsuccessfully for the Liberals in 1921 federal election and won a seat in the British Columbia legislature in 1924.
Congratulating his friend on the victory, General Arthur Currie wrote, “I often wonder, Odlum, why it is that so many men seem to lose their sense of right and fair dealing just as soon as they enter political life.” Odlum did not stand for re-election in 1928.
During the Second World War, he briefly rejoined the army at the rank of major general. In 1941, he became High Commissioner to Australia and in 1943, was appointed Canada’s first ambassador to China. From 1947 to 1952, he was ambassador to Turkey. He died on 4 April 1971.