Lieutenant Colonel R.O. Alexander, D.S.O.
24th (Victoria Rifles) Battalion
Born on the island of Ceylon on 7 August 1888, Ronald O’Keden Alexander was a soldier with the 3rd Regiment, Victoria Rifles and the Royal Canadian Regiment. He served with the 24th Battalion and succeeded Lieutenant Colonel J. A. Gunn in command on 1 November 1916.
After one month, Alexander was evacuated from the field with influenza and appendicitis in December 1916. Doctors determined that Alexander “Had long service at Front and requires rest.” He did not resume command of the 24th until after the battle of Vimy Ridge on 14 April 1917. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and three times mentioned in the dispatches. From October 1917 to demobilization, he was attached as a staff officer to the 2nd Canadian Division.
After the war, Alexander continued to serve in the Permanent Force in the R.C.R. During the Second World War he was General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Pacific Command and responded to public pressure to support the internment of Japanese “enemy aliens.”
Four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the loss of Canadian troops at Hong Kong, the Vancouver Sun criticized the lack of defence preparations on the west coast. An editorial denounced the “military men who are in awe of the politicians and who, aged, ineffective, mentally incapable of initiative or strong action, have resolutely persisted in hopeless ‘paper-war’ routine…” Alexander responded calling the reporting “fifth-column work.”
Despite Conservative Opposition attacks, Defence Minister J. L. Ralston, former commander of the 85th Battalion, endorsed Alexander as “a soldier of very long experience and a splendid record.” Nevertheless, he was replaced by General George R. Pearkes in June 1942.
He died in British Columbia on 22 July 1949.