Lieutenant Colonel Royal Ewing, D.S.O., M.C.
42nd (Royal Highlanders of Canada) Battalion
They were looked on as a necessary evil. War diaries were presumably for the benefit of historians, if you will, and were prepared as carefully as could be under the circumstances.
(Ewing’s testimony at Currie Libel Trial, 25 Apr 1928, 1)
Royal Lindsay Hamilton Ewing enlisted in the 42nd Battalion as a subaltern, rose from platoon leader to adjutant, and returned home as the commanding officer in 1919. Born in Montreal on 12 November 1878, he was a real estate agent and member of the Black Watch regiment. Having served with the 42nd throughout the war, Ewing was twice mentioned in dispatches, received the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, and won the Military Cross.
After Lieutenant Colonel Bart McLennan was killed in action on 3 August 1918, Ewing assumed command of the 42nd. During the final Hundred Days Offensive, he often clashed with his superior, 7th Brigade General J. A. Clark. Ewing felt that the new brigadier asked too much of his battalion commanders and complained “the troops are being used too continuously without an opportunity to properly re-organize.”
Noted for his, “initiative and absolute disregard for personal danger,” Ewing led the 42nd until demobilization. After returning to Montreal, he became commanding officer of the Royal Highlanders Regiment. When invited to speak at the city’s Canadian Club in March 1919, Ewing began:
I have spent the greater part of the last three years and nine months being scared, and I was really more scared to come to this meeting than I have been on some other occasions.
In April 1928, Ewing was called as a witness in General Arthur Currie’s libel trial against the Port Hope Evening Guide. The newspaper claimed Currie had wasted soldiers’ lives at Mons in the final hours before the armistice. Despite his previous disagreements with General Clark over strategy in the final days of the war, Ewing stood by his former Corps Commander.
When asked by the Guide’s defence lawyer, Frank Regan, if more casualties might have been avoided had the battalion not been there, Ewing sarcastically retorted, “You mean if we’d never gone to France at all?”
An irritated Regan seethed, “You like to be smart don’t you? Was that remark meant to be cute or smart or what?”
“That is for you to decide,” Ewing replied, referring to the fact that Regan had not served in uniform. After the tense exchange, Ewing left the witness box with the mood of the courtroom against the defence counsel. In the end, Currie was victorious and his reputation restored.