The Idler

Lieutenant Colonel Donald Sharpe, M.P.P.
176th (Niagara Rangers) Battalion


A large number of officers who will not go to the front, who it is known do not intend to go to the front, and who are deriving pay from the Government simply as officers being practically on a holiday.

(W. M. German, Debates, 6 Feb 1917, 560)

Criticizing the Borden Government’s recruitment system, William Manley German, Liberal MP for Welland referred to the conduct of Donald Sharpe’s 176th Battalion, based in St. Catharines. Sharpe was the Conservative member for Welland in the Ontario provincial legislature. He had won a by-election on 29 June 1914, one day after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.

Born on 13 May 1875 in Willoughby Township, Ontario, Sharpe was a local politician, member of the Orange Lodge and a militia major with twenty-four years’ experience in the 2nd Dragoons. After the declaration of war, the new MPP enlisted with the Canadian Mounted Rifles. While inspecting the regiment in late 1915, General Logie called on Major Sharpe to raise an infantry battalion from Welland.

176thcoExplaining why so few young men were willing to enlist, German denounced the “thousands of militiamen” idle in St. Catharines and Niagara, “who have no intention of going to the front, and who would not be allowed to go to the front even if they went to England.”

Sharpe and the 176th finally departed Canada in April 1917 to be absorbed into the 12th Reserve Battalion. He reverted to the rank of major to deploy to France, where he served with the 2nd Canadian Division Employment Company. His health soon broke down and he was hospitalized for nervous debility.

Sharpe was defeated for re-election in 1919 but became Grand Master of the Orange Order of West Ontario in 1920. He visited Northern Ireland, denounced Sein Finn and warned of “a worldwide conspiracy to wreck the British Empire.”

He died in St. Catharines on May 11, 1966, two days before his ninety-first birthday.

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