The Favourite Son

Major General Garnet Hughes
1st Infantry Brigade

I was importuned, threatened and bullied. I was told that Garnet Hughes would get the 1st Division, that there was a combination in England and Canada for him, that neither I, nor any man could beat; that his father wanted him to get the position and that God help the man who fell out with his father.

(Currie to E.O. McGillicuddy, c. 1925)

 Garnet Burk Hughes was the son of Militia Minister Sir Sam Hughes. Born in Toronto on 22 April 1880, he was a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada and a railway engineer. In 1913, he formed the 50th Regiment (Gordon Highlanders) with Arthur Currie. Although Hughes and Currie volunteered together in August 1914 on good terms, their friendship would not survive the war.

Hughes served as brigade-major for the 3rd Division under the command of General Richard Turner. His conduct during the second battle of Ypres in late April 1915 left Currie with the impression Hughes was unsuited for a command in combat. Turner’s headquarters had been gassed and shelled, creating a situation of confusion and panic.

GarnetAt his father’s insistence, Hughes received a promotion to command the 1st Infantry Brigade in November 1915. Canadian Corps commander General Edwin Alderson was unconvinced of Hughes abilities and only very reluctantly accepted the promotion. Alderson noted: “Although he has brains and if insisted upon by Canada, as he probably would be, he might do as well as some others.”

Hughes commanded the 1st Brigade until February 1917 when he was succeeded by W. A. Griesbach. Despite great political pressure to give Hughes command of the 1st Division, Currie refused. After a long argument between the two, Hughes stormed away yelling, “I will get you before I am finished with you.”

Hughes remained in England to assume command of the new 5th Division, which according to Currie had been created by Sir Sam “solely that his son might be made a Major General.” The 5th Division provided reinforcements until it was formally disbanded a year later in February 1918.

A decade later—when the Port Hope Evening Guide published a slanderous editorial denouncing Currie for wasting the lives of his men during the final hours of the war—the former Canadian Corps commander felt, “The threat [Hughes] made to me in London when I refused to take him as GOC 1st Division is being carried out at the present time.”

Hughes worked in industrial engineering after the war and died in Lindsay, Ontario on 13 April 1937.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s