The Forger

Lieutenant Colonel Onésime Readman
167th (Canadien-Français) Battalion

 As to Col. Readman, he thought he was sincere and a man who had a clear past. Colonel Readman was a man who had offered to do his bit for his country and this should be weighed in the sentence, and if he had not received what was due him, he should get it from the Government and he hoped he would be given full justice.

 (Quebec Telegraph, 22 Apr 1918, 1)

 In August 1914, Onésime Readman enlisted to defend King and Country; after charges of corruption and forgery four years later, he was forced to fight against the Crown in a Quebec courtroom. Born on 4 June 1877, Readman was a flavouring extracts manufacturer and militia officer. Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, he assumed command of the 4th (Chasseurs Canadiens) Regiment.

Originally enlisting with the 12th Battalion, Readman returned from England as a surplus officer and joined the 41st Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Archambault. In late 1915, through his Conservative party connections, Readman received a command appointment to the 167th based in Quebec City. Competing with three different francophone units, Readman struggled to fill his battalion’s ranks. Following financial irregularities and suspected corruption, Canadian military authorities dissolved the 167th.

In 1918, the Crown charged Readman and his officers with 153 counts of forgery totaling $4,000. Prosecutors alleged that battalion commander had endorsed pay cheques of his men and forged signatures on official documents. During the April 1918 trial, Armand Lavergne, the nationalist leader and vocal opponent of conscription, represented the embattled colonel. Denying all accusations, Readman claimed to have spent his entire fortune raising the 167th Battalion.

After several court battles, on 31 January 1919, Readman was cleared of all charges and honourably discharged. With his reputation nevertheless tarnished, Readman died on 19 March 1920.

 

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