The Vilified

Lieutenant Colonel W. E. Seaborn
210th (Frontiersmen) BattalionSeaborn

While from the nature of the case the fact is difficult to prove, this man Seaborn is also by common reputation at Camp Hughes, and even among the Headquarters Staff at Camp Hughes, known to be a sexual pervert (Sadist), which in itself constitutes every reason why he should not be permitted to retain an important military appointment and remain in command of men.

(Maj. Erskine-Tulloch to Borden 26 Dec 1916)

Born on 25 January 1880 in London, Ontario, Walter Ernest Seaborn was a Saskatchewan barrister and insurance broker. He also had the distinction of owning the first automobile in Moose Jaw in 1906. He originally enlisted with Lieutenant Colonel Francis Pawlett’s 128th Battalion before transferring to command the 210th in March 1916.

After months of lobbying, the Canadian branch of the Legion of Frontiersmen had received authorization to raise a western battalion formed from its membership in early 1916. The Legion was an Imperial paramilitary organization founded in 1905 by Roger Pocock, former NWMP constable and Boer War veteran. Pocock saw the association “as a means of securing for the service of the State men of good character, who have been trained in wild countries, at sea, or in war.”

Major Denis Rolland Diarmid Stewart Erskine-Tulloch, the eccentric son of a British general, bragged that hundreds of fellow Frontiersmen would rally to his side. Canadian military authorities soon realized Erskine-Tulloch had no real support and appointed Seaborn to take command of the battalion.

While the 210th was stationed at Camp Hughes, Seaborn allegedly ordered Provost Sergeant C. W. McGee to flog Private J. P. O’Connell, driving the young solider insane. A court of inquiry comprising fellow colonels, Angus Bonnycastle, James Lightfoot and D. W. Beaubier exonerated the 210th commander of any wrong doing. The court found Private O’Connell had not been flogged and any rough handling had been “caused by his own violence.”

An embittered Erskine-Tulloch, who had had his commission cancelled, was incredulous. In a rambling letter to Prime Minister Borden, the disgruntled ex-officer claimed to have been forced out of the 210th because he refused to join in the cover-up of Seaborn’s “abominable outrage.”

Even more incredibly, Erskine-Tulloch claimed Seaborn later arranged the murder of the sergeant ordered to do the flogging:

This illegality & violence on the part of Seaborn has begotten murder! The tool (Sgt. McGee) is murdered but the cause of all this still wears a colonel’s uniform.

Military authorities, who regarded Erskine-Tulloch as a pompous “troublemaker” ignored his wild allegations.

In April 1917, the Frontiersmen sailed for England, where the 210th was split up between the 46th Battalion and the 1st Mounted Rifles. Informing his men that war necessities required a parting of ways, Seaborn observed, “You have always shown yourselves to be men. I know that you will always act as such.” Disappointed that he would be unable to lead his men on the battlefield, Seaborn was nevertheless determined to get to France. He reverted to the rank of lieutenant and served on General Haig’s staff.

In 1926, Seaborn became president of the Prairie Hockey League based in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The league folded after two seasons. Seaborn was also active in the Army and Navy Veterans’ Association.

He died on 4 October 1955.

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