Lt. Col. Harwood

Lieutenant Colonel Dr. R. deL. Harwood
51st (Edmonton) Battalion

Colonel Harwood, who had hoped, I say, to add some credit to the family to which he belonged by rendering military service to Canada and the Empire, and who was no doubt competent in every way to render that service, was relieved of the command of his battalion; it was broken up into drafts, and Colonel Harwood has been given employment as a medical officer in England.

 The cruelty of that is, that so long as Colonel Harwood lives or his children after him, instead of his service to the country brining credit or glory to his name, there is a stain against him from which he can never relieve himself.

(Frank Oliver, House of Commons Debates, 13 July 1917)

Born on 27 March 1872 in Vaudreuil, Quebec, Reginald deLotbinière Harwood was a member of a distinguished and influential Lower Canadian family. He was the descendant of the Marquis de Lotbinière (1723–1798), a French-Canadian seigneur, military engineer and general in the Seven Years’ War.  After completing his medical education in Montreal, Paris and London, Harwood became a surgeon in Edmonton.

A member of the 101st Fusiliers, Dr. Harwood was appointed to raise the 51st Battalion in early 1915. The Roman Catholic commander hoped to recruit French-Canadian volunteers from Alberta.

In May 1915, Edmonton Alderman Hugh Calder called on Mayor William Thomas Henry to submit a formal request to the Militia Minister for the 51st not to be broken up. Calder’s suggestion met with disapproval from city council members who felt that political interference with military decisions was unwise. Alderman Joseph Clarke argued that if a complete city went into battle, “there might be hundreds of men from Edmonton killed at one blow. It would be a shock that it would take us a long while to recover.”

After remaining in Canada for over a year, the 51st finally sailed for England in April 1916. Upon disembarking, it was broken up to provide reinforcements for the field. Due to his medical experience, Harwood transferred to No. 8 General Hospital at St. Cloud, England. As the Edmonton Bulletin explained, although Harwood did not see active service in the field, he contributed to “an equally important though less showy sphere than in the fighting, namely in a position where the work is continuous and unvarying, where excitement and the glamour of the battlefield is non-existent…”

Despite Liberal MP Frank Oliver’s fear that Dr. Harwood would forever be disgraced by the loss of his battalion, when the doctor returned home in 1919 he was enthusiastically greeted by former 51st soldiers. He later moved to Vancouver where he became as a leading specialist in general surgery.

Harwood died at Veterans’ Hospital in Victoria on 20 January 1952.

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