The Clerk

Major John P. Girvan
15th (48th Highlanders) Battalion


He personally attacked and captured an enemy machine gun, shooting the gunner and turning the gun on the enemy. He went on and assisted in capturing Chapel Corner and the village of Marquion, and then gained his final objectives. His courage and dash were a fine example to his command.

(Bar to D.S.O., 4 Oct 1919, 12218)

Born in Kingarth, Scotland on 27 November 1887, John Pollands Girvan was a champion rower and mail sorter in the Toronto general post office. He enlisted with the 15th Battalion as a private and rose through the ranks to end the war as a major and second-in-command.

Girvan received a commission after the battle of St. Julien in late April 1915. By the battle of the Somme, he had been promoted to major in charge of a company. In October 1916, he was forced from the field due to a gunshot wound to the chest. A medical board further observed, “This Officer as a result of 20 months service in Flanders is debilitated and his nerves are shaken. Requires a prolonged rest.”

Following several months rest leave in Canada, he resumed his post with the 15th after the battle of Vimy Ridge and won the Military Cross at Hill 70 in August 1917. After Lieutenant Colonel C. E. Bent sustained a serious shrapnel injury in August 1918, Girvan assumed command of the battalion.

He led the Highlanders for the final Hundred Days Offensive and earned the Distinguished Service Order. On returning to his post office clerk position in 1919, he was instead promoted to principal clerk and assistant to the superintendent. He became superintendent in 1927 and retired as Toronto postmaster in 1948.

Girvan also remained connected to the militia and was commanding officer of the 48th Highlanders from 1932 to 1936. He was appointed to the Director of Military Training at the rank of brigadier during the Second World War.

He died in Georgetown on 29 May 1961.

Digitized Service File (LAC):

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  1. Pingback: Lt. Col. Allen, Part III | World War Graphic History

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