Lieutenant Colonel W.H. Bruce
173rd (Canadian Highlanders) Battalion
A very good officer well qualified and with many years experience in the Militia. He is tactful, popular with all ranks and fitted for command. He has organized and trained a battalion which does him credit.
(Maj. Gen. Lessard, Inspection Report, 12 Oct 1916)
Born on 26 May 1870 in Hamilton, Ontario, Walter Hamilton Bruce was a seed merchant and militia officer. He had belonged to the 13th Royal Regiment for 14 years and the 91st Highlanders for 9 years. In February 1916, Bruce began to organize the 173rd Battalion from his hometown.
Objecting to the coercive methods of some of Bruce’s recruiting sergeants, a local magistrate remarked, “If we are going to force men to go to war against their will and against their principles we are forcing them to do just what we are fighting against, namely militarism.”
While a popular unit, the 173rd like most late war battalion struggled to fill its ranks. The battalion eventually sailed for England in November 1916. It became part of the 2nd Reserves and provided reinforcements for the 116th Battalion.
After over half a year in command of the 2nd, Bruce was struck off strength as surplus to requirements in August 1917. He became president of the family seed business and died on 18 November 1930.