The Incompetent

Lieutenant Colonel G. A. LeCain
25th (Nova Scotia Rifles) BattalionLeCain

As I was merely a private at the time I do not know what really transpired; but we never saw the colonel at all that night.

The Germans, however, failed to get into our trenches; and up to this day the 25th can with perfect truth declare that they never failed in the critical hour, for if we did not always have competent officers at the head of the battalion we certainly had them in our companies..

(Lieut. Lewis, Over the Top with the 25th, 1918)

George Augustus LeCain, a fruit farmer and militiaman with twenty-five years in the 69th Regiment, was authorized to raise the 25th Battalion from Nova Scotia in October 1914. He was born on 21 September 1862 in Round Hill, Annapolis County. The 25th Battalion deployed to France In September 1915 as part of the 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division. Within weeks, the battalion leadership would be overhauled for the alleged incompetence and cowardice of several senior officers.

25thDuring heavy enemy bombardment in late September and early October 1915, some Nova Scotia soldiers had fled their positions while the colonel was nowhere to be found. Several senior officers also succumbed to nervous breakdown. Major James Grant Mackenzie suffered shell shock and Major Alfred Nagle Jones was removed for hysteria.

In the aftermath, Corps Commander General Edwin Alderson reprimanded the battalion for having “lost your heads, left your posts and your trenches.” He reminded them, “the duty of every officer, non-commissioned officer and man to die in the trenches.” He further emphasized the duty of each man to shoot any who “retired in the face of the enemy without orders.”

Due to his controversial performance in battle and his inability to “get a real grip” on the men, LeCain was swiftly replaced by Major Edward Hilliam, a professional soldier and veteran of Second Ypres, on 26 October 1915. The second-in-command Major William Humphrey Conrod was dismissed as well.

The colonel’s son, Corporal Clarence LeCain, was injured in the Halifax Explosion on 6 December 1917 and died several weeks later. After the war, LeCain worked for the Department of Public Works overseeing fruit shipments through Nova Scotia.

He died on 15 May 1944.

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