Lieutenant Colonel Byron James McCormick
213th (Toronto Americans) Battalion
I have only one son, but I thank God that this is his war too. While I was in Flanders I heard that the boy had enlisted because his dad had enlisted. When I was given command of the 213th Battalion I hoped that he might be able to fight under me, but I learned that we have passed each on the seas. The boy was going over to do his bit. I hope to get back to help the kid, as he started out to help me.
(McCormick speech, Toronto World, 19 May 1916, 4)
Born on 17 May 1872 in Port Huron, Michigan, Byron James McCormick became a successful entrepreneur and Industrial Commissioner in Welland after immigrating to Ontario in 1905. He enlisted as a captain with the 35th Battalion and transferred to the British Army. One observer described McCormick: “Tall and alert, he looks every inch a soldier, and he is one, with sixteen years’ service in the Michigan National Guard behind him. His motto, ‘Never let a fault go unchecked,’ explains his rapid rise in the army.”
After serving with the British at Ypres, he received a promotion to major and trained soldiers on the use of gas masks. He explained, “now the Allies are no more disturbed by a wave of German gas than if it were a bank of fog.” Returning to Canada in 1916, he was appointed commander of the 213th Battalion, a unit designated for American citizen volunteers. At a Toronto banquet hosted by Mayor Tommy Church, McCormick expressed his great desire to fight alongside his son.
In October 1915, twenty-year Arthur Beamer McCormick had enlisted as a lieutenant in the 81st Battalion. After arriving in England, Arthur transferred to the 3rd Battalion on the front lines in France. Although Militia Minister Sam Hughes had arranged for him to be offered a post in his father’s battalion, the son “preferred to win his promotions in the field.”
McCormick never got an opportunity to fight alongside Arthur. Following the battle of Vimy Ridge on 10 April 1917, McCormick and his wife learned that their son, a Military Cross winner, had been reported missing. Although family and friends hoped Arthur might have survived as a prisoner, military authorities officially listed him as killed in action. His body was never recovered.
Colonel McCormick was killed in a car accident outside of Oshawa, Ontario in 1935.