Lieutenant Colonel William Grassie
43rd (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) Battalion
When I was told that we must take over the line which had been held by a London detachment of 1,000 men, I said, “Well there is one consolation, every man I have is as good as ten of the men who have been holding the line. We will do it.
(Grassie interview, Winnipeg Tribune, 24 Jan 1918)
A native of Scotland, William Grassie was born on 27 July 1872. He worked in Winnipeg as a real estate broker and was a former member of the 3rd Field Battery and 78th Cameron Highlanders. After Lieutenant Colonel Thomson of the 43rd Battalion was killed on 8 October 1916, Major Grassie assumed command.
During his fourteen months in command, Grassie was twice mentioned in the dispatches, brought to the notice of the Secretary of State for War for valuable service and awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
Following the battle of Vimy Ridge, the 43rd was tasked with continuing the advance across the Douai Plains. Grassie described, “This was the battalion’s first experience in real open warfare and it was exciting and thrilling in the extreme.” He also recognized the future possibilities of tanks and argued that Canadians were best able to use the new technology.
Grassie remained with the Cameron Highlanders from the summer offensive around Lens until the battle of Passchendaele. In late October 1917, Grassie left on leave and was later invalided back to Canada due to ill health.
He died in Vancouver on 15 July 1935.