On the other hand the tactics of his enemy, Col Wedderburn, were considered by military experts at the front as decidedly clever. A less practical and inexperienced man could not have given Col. McLean the fight he did.
It was evident that Col. Wedderburn had laid his plans well, but the fact that he had burned Moncton and that if victorious he might mete out the same treatment to St. John and the other surrounding towns, field the hearts of the defending soldiers with one determination—to win or die.
(St. John Daily Sun, 8 Jul 1905)
Frederick Vernon Wedderburn was a New Brunswick barrister and militiaman born in St. John on 16 April 1861. After graduating with a law degree from the University of New York in 1882, he joined the 8th Princess Louise Hussars.
During his militia career, Wedderburn volunteered for multiple military campaigns but was not accepted. He attempted to volunteer with General Garnet Wolsey’s Nile Expedition in 1884 and General Frederick Middleton’s Northwest Field Force in 1885. He later offered his services during General Herbert Kitchener’s Sudan Campaign in 1896 and the Boer War in 1899.
In a July 1905 militia war game, which imagined an invasion of New Brunwick, Wedderburn squared off against Colonel Hugh Havelock McLean. Though defeated, the St. John Sun nevertheless complimented Wedderburn as “one of the most wily and daring fighters that ever commanded a foreign army.”
He retired as commanding officer of the 8th Hussars in 1912. Wedderburn returned to duty at the outbreak of the Great War to aid recruitment efforts in New Brunswick. In November 1915, he was appointed to raise the 115th Battalion based in St. John.
On 23 July 1916, the 115th sailed for England, where it was broken up and absorbed into the 13th Reserve Battalion. Wedderburn, a fifty-four year old cavalry officer, was deemed unfit for frontline service. He assumed various staff positions in England and served on court martial boards. He commanded the New Brunswick Regimental Depot from 1917 to 1918 and 7th Canadian Garrison Regiment until demobilization.
On returning to New Brunswick in 1918 and married his fiancée Alice Jane Kee McGerighle (1880—1944). The pair had been separated by the war when Wedderburn went overseas with the 115th. McGerighle had stayed in St. John to work for the Red Cross.
Wedderburn died shortly thereafter in Montreal on 27 November 1920. The Daily Telegraph eulogized the colonel:
Had it been a war for cavalry operations there is no doubt but that he would have been chosen for a high Canadian mounted command, for his services and ability were recognised.
Thanks to Greg Haley for information about Wedderburn’s biography.