Lieutenant Colonel J.J.H. Fee
109th (Victoria & Haliburton) Battalion
& Lady Flora McCrea Eaton
I have often thought that if I were a man I would be at the front to relieve them. The honor and glory of the Canadian soldier is all his own because he has made it himself. It is our duty now that we see that he is not deserted.
(Lady Eaton, Toronto Star, 8 Dec 1917, 5)
On 24 May 1916, the 109th Battalion under the command of John James Havelock Fee assembled before a crowd of ten thousand in Lindsay, Victoria Country as it prepared to depart overseas. Speeches followed by Victoria MP and Minister of Militia Sir Sam Hughes and the battalion’s sponsors, Sir John and Lady Eaton.
Although it was the usual custom to leave regimental colors behind when a regiment departed for active service, Lady Eaton had expressed the wish that these be carried by the 109th Battalion to Berlin. “Will you do it asked Sir Sam.” The men of the battalion answered in union: “Yes.”
Born on 23 July 1883 in Victoria County, Ontario, Fee was a Lindsay department store salesman with fourteen years’ experience in the 45th Regiment. He had become commanding officer of the militia regiment in October 1914 and was authorized to raise the third battalion from Victoria County in November 1915. After the 109th was broken up in England among the 20th, 21st, 38th and 124th Battalions, Fee went to France as second-in-command of a Forestry battalion.
A native of nearby Omemee, Lady Eaton took an active interest in the organization of the 109th Battalion. Her older brother, Major John McNeely McCrae, a Boer War veteran, was the second-in-command. She donated the instruments for the battalion band and presented the regimental colours. After the battalion was disbanded in England, the colours were returned to Omemee to be accepted by Lady Eaton.
During the December 1917, she took to the campaign platform to appeal for women voters to support the war effort and conscription. “The only way the women of Canada can show that they are as good as a soldier is to cast their votes for the Union Government,” she explained. “The women were glad to have their sons go to war, and they shall be glad to support them while they are there.”
Fee died on 14 February 1950.
Lady Eaton died on 9 July 1970.