The Nervous Officer

Lieutenant Kenneth Cameron Fellowes
84th and 25th Battalions

An illustrated story of one officer featured in my book Scandalous Conduct: Canadian Officer Courts Martial, 1914–45.

Speaking quite impersonally, it is manifest that having regard to the very trying conditions at the Front it would never do to establish the principle that an officer who by reason of his nervous condition failed to carry out an order given to him could escape the consequences by attributing the fault to his nervousness. Men at the front have to “stick it” at all costs, and the establishment of a precedent excusing the failing to do so would be very dangerous.

(Maj. Walter Gow, 17 Jan 1917)

Fellowes 1A

Fellowes comic page 2Fellowes comic page 3Fellowes comic page 4

Born in Quebec on 28 August 1888, Kenneth Cameron Fellowes was a Toronto civil engineer. After the 84th was broken up in England, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion for a month-long instructional tour of the front in June 1916. Although he had badly struggled to control his nerves, Fellowes was sent back to France in July. Just days after reporting to the 25th Battalion, he felt unable to continue. For failing to report to Lieutenant Colonel Edward Hilliam as ordered, Fellowes was sentenced to dismissal by court martial.

The court recommended mercy that he be allowed to resign his commission on medical grounds instead. The punishment was nevertheless confirmed and promulgated on 6 September 1916. Writing on the ex-lieutenant’s behalf, Canada’s surgeon general, Eugène Fiset, felt that the stigma of dismissal “will follow him through his life, may seriously affect his professional prospects, and reflects on his family, three of whom, brothers, are serving Overseas.”

Fellowes died in a Niagara hospital in April 1948. His story is just one of over 170 Canadian officers dismissed or cashiered in the Great War.

Read more about Canadian officers’ scandalous conduct in my book.

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Pre-order Through Their Eyes: A Graphic History of Hill 70 and Canada’s First World War

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