Lieutenant Colonel W. T. Edgecombe
183rd (Orange) Battalion
The pursuit of Brother Edgecombe is one of the most contemptible things that has happened in the politics of any Province.
It is just another instance of the implacability of political leaders. They expect men to violate their consciences, to ignore their convictions, to surrender their own views on public questions for the good of the party.
(Winnipeg Free Press, 17 Feb 1915, 22)
William Thomas Edgecombe was a Winnipeg city alderman, Grand Master of the Manitoba Loyal Orange Lodge. He was born in Harbor Grace, Newfoundland on 15 August 1868. He held various positions in publishing, engraving and banking before moving to Winnipeg in 1893. Although not active in the militia, Edgecombe was selected to raise the 183rd Battalion.
In the 1914 Manitoba Orange Lodge election, a contest rife with allegations of ballot-stuffing, Edgecombe, a Conservative, had defeated incumbent Grand Master James Willoughby, a Liberal. The Conservative Manitoba government under Premier Roblin had supported Edgecombe’s election in order to regain the confidence of Orangemen, who were suspicious that planned provincial education reforms would fund Catholic schools.
Edgecombe however defied the government by opposing the education amendments, dubbed the Roblin Scheme. The ruling Conservative Party in turn actively opposed and slandered its former handpicked candidate. The Liberal party won a landslide victory in the August 1915 provincial election.
After his controversial term as Grand Master, Edgecombe turned his attention to recruiting. He succeeded in raising a four-hundred-man battalion composed of fellow Orangemen. After going overseas in October 1916, the 183rd was broken up among the various Manitoba battalions. Edgecombe reverted to the rank of major to join the Forestry Corps in England. He returned to Winnipeg in spring 1918.
He died 5 June 1941.
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