The Man Among Boys

Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Daniel MacKay
196th (Western Universities) BattalionMackay_DS

The student, then, is working at high pressure and has no time for consideration of the subjects he is taught in the day. As a matter of fact he has no time to think for himself, and the consequence is that he must come out of the university more or less as a sort of stuffed fowl rather than a human being who can tackle a question and analyse it. We have found this not only with our own students but with students from elsewhere.

(MacKay, Medical Conference, 20 Dec 1924, 133)

Daniel Sayre MacKay was a Manitoba physician, graduate of McGill University, officer in the Cameron Highlanders and second-in-command of Lieutenant Colonel Snider’s 27th Battalion. The son of Conservative Senator William MacKay (1847—1915), Major MacKay was born in Reserve Mines, Nova Scotia on 20 January 1878. While serving overseas with the 6th Brigade headquarters, MacKay was selected to command the 196th raised from university students in western Canada.

In January 1916, professors from the Universities of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan held a conference to discuss the formation of their own battalion. Agreeing to make an application to the Militia Department, the university leaders began to organize the 196th with McKay in command. The former 27th second-in-command returned to Canada to lead the new unit.

196thAfter arriving to England with the 196th in January 1917, the University volunteers were absorbed into the 19th Reserve Battalion. MacKay was placed in charge of the Young Soldiers’ Battalion composed of underage volunteers, some of whom had already served on the front. Though a firm disciplinarian, he assumed a paternal responsibility for the boys under his command. The reserve unit was designed to train the teenage soldiers until they reached the required age of nineteen.

By October 1918, MacKay recommended dissolving the Young Soldier’s Battalion and sending the teenaged recruits home. “If the war continues long enough,” he reasoned “then these men can be given the privilege of re-enlisting on attaining the age of 20 years.”

MacKay remained active in the militia after the war and became a prominent authority on medical issues in Winnipeg. During an October 1938 battalion reunion, MacKay criticized the old men running the Empire and called on the younger war generation to “be given the reins of office.” MacKay explained, “Even if they do make a lot of mistakes, at least they’ll he right sometimes.”

He died on 27 October 1943 shortly after an annual 196th Battalion reunion with “his boys.”

 

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