Major General Malcolm Mercer †
3rd Infantry Division
It is now fully believed here that General Mercer is dead.
Nothing whatever has been heard of him since and it is now considered almost certain that his body lies in the shell torn area where the former front trenches were, but are now practically obliterated.
(Montreal Daily Mail, 6 June 1916, 1)
Malcolm Smith Mercer was the highest ranked Canadian officer killed in the First World War. He was born on 17 September 1859 in Etobicoke, Canada West. While a student at the University of Toronto, he joined the Queen’s Own Rifles in 1881. He became commanding officer of the Regiment in 1911 and was posted to the 1st Infantry Brigade when the First Contingent assembled at Valcartier in August 1914.
In anticipation of the British declaration of war, Mercer professed Canada’s first duty and loyalty, remarking, “We share the Empire’s protection and should gladly share her dangers.”
Due to his leadership during Second Ypres, Mercer was promoted to major general and took command of the 3rd Division in December 1915. Six months later, he disappeared on a reconnaissance mission during the battle of Mount Sorrel on 2 June 1916. The six-foot general was wounded by gunfire before being struck dead by shrapnel from a nearby exploding shell. His mangled body was recovered in Armage Wood several weeks later.
Lieutenant Gooderham, who taken prisoner by the Germans in the battle, wrote home: “Was beside my beloved General when he was killed and lay on the battle field for two days suffering from shell shock until picked up by a patrol.” General Louis Lipsett succeeded Mercer in command of the 3rd Division.
The general was greatly mourned in Toronto, where he had been a prominent lawyer and civic leader. At a memorial service in July, Archdeacon H. Cody declared, “from the bones of our brave dead come to us that faith which rings out its challenge to carry on the cause for which they made the supreme sacrifice, to carry the struggle to ultimate and complete victory.”
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