The Scoundrel

Lieutenant Colonel W.H. McKinery, D.S.O.
66th (Edmonton Guards) Battalion

All rotters are eventually found out and you will be glad to hear that McKinery has been cashiered for using his Battalion funds for his own purposes and we have heard the last of him in the B.E.F.

 (Agar Adamson to Mrs. Mabel Adamson, 2nd Feb 1916, 138)

When William Herbert McKinery enlisted in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, he claimed to have been born in Waterford, Ireland on 5 April 1878. He also used his father’s first name, John, when filling out the attestation papers. McKinery was actually born on April 5, 1875 in Melbourne, Australia. Believing that he would be rejected as overage, the forty-year old Australian had falsified personal information in order to fight overseas.

A Boer War veteran, McKinery served as a company commander in P.P.C.L.I. when the regiment deployed to France in December 1914. Following heavy enemy bombardment in early January 1915, a shell-shocked McKinery allegedly abandoned his post. He was struck off strength on 8 January and hospitalized for several months. When he returned home, McKinery praised his former unit, “The Canadians have earned for themselves undying fame.” However, according to Lt. Col. Agar Adamson of the P.P.C.L.I., McKinery was a scheming, untrustworthy officer whose opinion “is of no consequence.”

In summer 1915, McKinery began recruiting the 66th Battalion from Edmonton. He also helped to organize the 194th Highlanders and the 218th Irish Guards from the city in early 1916. According one military official, McKinery and several of his officers “became more or less tied up with one another through the medium of the card table.” He was also rebuked for filling his battalion “with misfits and castoffs.” McKinery led the 66th overseas to England in April, only for it to be absorbed into the 9th Reserve Battalion in July.

Despite Adamson’s earlier assurance that he had heard the last of McKinery (he was not cashiered), the former 66th commander returned to the field in April 1917. After heading a training brigade at Bramshott, McKinery led the 4th Labour (later 2nd Infantry Works) Battalion to France. On 31 October 1917, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership in organizing repairs to a railway system during heavy enemy shelling. The citation noted, “His fine example of fearlessness and energy kept the men together and was instrumental in the work being rapidly and successfully carried out.”

The day after the armistice, while both were stationed in Gouy Servins, Colonel Adamson heard that McKinery had claimed, “he was the first Canadian to enter and hold a trench in France.” Writing to his wife Mable, Adamson observed, “He might have added he was the first to run away. I hope I do not meet him as I shall only lose my temper.”

McKinery died in London on 11 April 1936.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s