Lt. Col. Arthurs, M.P.

Lieutenant Colonel James Arthurs, M.P.
162nd (Timber Wolves) BattalionArthurs

But they wanted to go. One member of this House, Col. Arthurs—I read the most touching letter I have seen for many a day—is in the trenches. He had reduced his rank and gone over in spite of his son’s remonstrance from the trenches ordering his dad to get out.

(Sam Hughes, Debates, 6 Feb 1917, 574)

James Arthurs was a hardware merchant, self-styled gentleman and Conservative MP for Parry Sound (1908—1935). He was born on 3 October 1866 in Toronto. He raised the 162nd Battalion from his home county and proceeded to England in November 1916. Despite age restrictions on senior officers, the fifty-year old Arthurs reverted to captain and joined the 1st Battalion on the front in February 1917.

162ndAfter the disorganization of his battalion, Arthurs wrote to Frank Macfie about his sons who had been transferred from the 162nd, “I am now on my way up to the front to join the 1st Battn. and will at once look up your son.” Arthurs also admitted, “I regret very much that the authorities found it necessary to break up the 162nd as I had hoped to go through with them.”

Encouraged to hear about Arthurs’ arrival on the front, one of Macfie’s sons wrote to his father:

I understand that our Colonel is a major in the 1st Battalion, Foxy Jim, as the Timber Wolves call. I hope it’s true as he was a good old Scout, and if it is so he has more sand than a lot of them, as it seems they cannot compel them to reduce there ranks, therefore a lot of the higher ranks go back to Canada as there are not so many of them needed, but if old Foxy is doing his bit in France all honour to him. 

Suffering from the physical and mental effects of four months in the field, Arthurs returned to Canada in May 1917. Throughout the war, he tracked the welfare of his original volunteers by recording those wounded, missing or killed on the 162nd nominal roll.

Arthurs was welcomed back to the House of Commons as “one of our heroes of Vimy.” After retaking his seat, he delivered a strong anti-Quebec speech and denounced the lack of French Canadian patriotism.

Liberal MP William Power raged against: the so-called hero of Vimy Ridge who stated he said good bye to hundreds of his men at the front. Why did he leave, what for? Was it to come to his House to raise passion and prejudice against the province of Quebec, and to be acclaimed as a hero? 

By 1920, Arthurs continued to be affected by his service overseas. He complained of shortness of breath and weakness. He further stated that he “becomes restless and nervous. Sometimes does not sleep well at night.”

After twenty-seven years in the House, Arthurs was appointed to the Senate by R. B. Bennett in 1935. He remained in the upper chamber until his death on 7 October 1937.

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