It is unfortunately clear that members of the battalion are using drugs, and I am of the opinion that neither Lieut. Col. McKenzie nor Captain George are making any effort to check this pernicious and demoralizing habit.
(Gen. H. N. Ruttan to GOC, MD 10, 21 Apr 1917)
Born on 30 October 1871 in Hamilton Ontario, David Croal McKenzie was a militiaman, municipal politician and physician. He started a medical practice in the Rainy River District after graduating from the University of Toronto in 1897 and established the first private hospital at Fort Frances in 1902. He was later a six-term mayor of Fort Frances (1906, 1913, 1914, 1915 and 1919).
Commanding officer of the 98th Regiment, McKenzie was authorized to raise the 141st Battalion from the Rainy River District in spring 1916. Military authorities quickly became suspicious of improper record keeping, over spending and mismanagement of funds.
Even more serious were allegations of widespread cocaine and alcohol abuse in the battalion. One militia detective reported, “I feel confident in saying that though there are all kinds of dope fiends in the battalion things are so well organized that we can never again get a conviction against them.”
Unable uncover the drug ring, and finding the senior officers uncooperative, the military district commander ordered “these officers, and the drug users should be kept under observation” as the unit proceeded overseas.
In his final message to the people of the District, McKenzie stressed, “It is our hope that we shall soon be sent to the firing line where the Canadian boys who have proceeded us, have so valiantly won for all Canada an undying fame.” Despite the colonel’s hope “to emulate their example,” the 141st was broken up upon arriving in England in April 1917.
A Liberal before the war, McKenzie endorsed the Union Government when he returned from overseas. During the December federal election, he supported the nomination of Captain Robert Manion in Rainy River District riding. After the war, he returned to the Liberal fold and supported his old university classmate, Prime Minister Mackenzie King.
McKenzie died in Fort Frances on 21 October 1939.