The Lieutenant Governor

Lieutenant Colonel Harry Cockshutt
215th (38th Regiment Dufferin Rifles) BattalionHCockshutt

War should be non-existent. But before that I would have one war–to clean up Moscow.

(Cockshutt, Toronto Globe, 21 Nov 1930, 1)

I still see Canada as the greatest country and Ontario as the greatest Province. I am optimistic of the future.

(Cockshutt, Globe and Mail, 8 July 1939, 4)

Born in Brantford, Ontario, on 8 July 1867, Henry Cockshutt was a successful merchant and manufacturer of farming implements. His older brother William Foster Cockshutt was Conservative MP for Brantford and honorary colonel of the 125th Battalion. In early 1916, Henry Cockshutt was authorized to raise the 215th from his hometown.

While Cockshutt played a prominent role in recruiting volunteers and financing the unit, the forty-eight year old resigned when he learned that there would be little chance of going to France. In September 1916, command passed to W. O. Morris, a major in the 170th Battalion. Less than 400 men in the 215th sailed for England under the command of Major Hedley Elliot Snider in April 1917. The Brantford battalion was broken up and absorbed by the 2nd Reserve Battalion.

Back in Brantford, the Conservative Party in the riding of Brant had nominated Cockshutt in the event of a wartime election. After the formation of a Union Government, Prime Minister Borden asked Cockshutt to step aside for Liberal John Harold to contest the upcoming federal election. Cockshutt refused. The Toronto Globe called on the former 215th commander, “to do the manly and the honorable thing and withdraw.”

Instead, Cockshutt sought the nomination of the Great War Veterans’ Association and ran as an independent “Win-the-War” candidate. He declared, “I am not personally ambitious, but I considered it my duty to enter the political field and carry your standard for Union Government.”

In the December election result, Cockshutt received most of the civilian votes in a three-way contest with Harold and Laurier Liberal Blackwell Doran. However, virtually all of the overseas solider votes went to Harold (490 to 16), giving the official Union candidate a slim 83 vote margin of victory.

In the House of Commons, an incensed W. F. Cockshutt protested that his brother’s name had been left off the ballot. He explained, “where a candidate’s name was suppressed the soldier, of course, had no opportunity of knowing that this man was running at all.” During the heated debate, Walter Nesbitt, who had been involved in a similar controversy against Lieutenant Colonel Donald Sutherland, challenged the Brantford MP “we can settle it right now, or outside if he likes.”

Although, Harry Cockshutt failed in elected politics, he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 1921. After completing a six year term, he became chancellor of Western University.

Cockshutt died in Brantford on 26 November 1944.

Digitized Service File (LAC):

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