Lieutenant Colonel D.R. Street
77th (Ottawa) Battalion
I merely add without comment, we hear that the men of the 77th battalion in Ottawa looted the Parliament Buildings the night of the fire. I am prepared to say this—I never thought it worth mentioning it, but my attention was brought to it yesterday–that the men of the 77th, as well as the Engineers, conducted themselves in the most orderly and becoming manner on that night…
(Sam Hughes, Debates, 16 Feb 1916, 855)
Douglas Richmond Street was a member of the Governor General’s Foot Guards and director of the Ottawa Electric & Gas Company. He was born on 19 June 1864 in Fredericton, New Brunswick. In spring 1915, he was selected to raise a battalion from the Ottawa area.
As a Roman Catholic, Street hoped to appeal to French-Canadian volunteers when organizing the 77th. Liberal MP Charles Marcil noted approvingly, “I learned with pleasure from Colonel Street that the enrolment from the French-Canadians of this city, notwithstanding the grievances which, rightly or wrongly, they now complain of, was sufficiently large to permit the formation of one whole French-Canadian company in this battalion.”
On 3 February 1916, a mysterious fire destroyed the Parliament buildings, killing one MP and several others. Soldiers from the 77th rushed to help control the blaze. Although many in Ottawa, including some politicians, suspected German sabotage, the official report determined that the fire had not been deliberate. The battalion was later assigned to assist with the cleanup effort and guard the damaged buildings.
While testifying before a royal commission into the cause of the fire, Parliamentary Library clerk M. C. MacCormac denied all allegations that the guarding soldiers had engaged in theft:
There is another thing—that is a statement in regard to Colonel Street of the 77th and his men. Those men if so fond of pilfering could have taken thousands of dollars worth of valuables from the library. We have a collection of Canadian coins- and medals and also the Jubilee coins, and they could have been taken, without anybody seeing them for we were attending to the removal of the books at that time and there was not five cents’ worth taken from the library, so I wanted to make that statement on behalf of the staff of the library because it had been reported that these men were stealing everything and had filled their pockets with coins.
In June 1916, the 77th disembarked in England, where it was broken up. Street returned to Canada as an enumerator for the Military Service Act. He later resumed his career with the Ottawa Light Heat & Power Company.
He died in Ottawa on 7 August 1943 following a long illness. Many veterans of 77th Battalion attended his funeral.