Major “Jock” Rankin, D.S.O.
46th (Suicide) Battalion
Whether in the arena of sports, the Training Camps in Canada or England, or on the Battlefields of France and Belgium, the “Fighting Forty-Sixth” (or Suicide Bn.) held an unsullied record of solid service’ and achievement, and of duty done quietly, surely and effectively.
(46th Battalion CEF—Year Book, 1926, 9)
James Sabiston Rankin was born on 30 December 1882 in Liberton, Scotland. After graduating from the University of Glasgow, he joined the 8th Highland Light Infantry. He moved to Saskatchewan in 1905 to become a lawyer in Weyburn. In June 1915, he enlisted with the rank of captain in Lieutenant Colonel Snell’s 46th Battalion.
After four months in the field with the 46th, Rankin earned promotion acting major in November 1916. During the Hundred Day’s Offensive, the Suicide Battalion attacked the Drocout-Queant Line. During the German counterattack in early September 1918, the unit sustained nearly three hundred casualties including Major Rankin who was shot in the leg.
Despite his injury, Rankin remained on the front and served as temporary commander between mid-September and October 1918. He was attached to the 75th Battalion before returning to the 46th after demobilization. Promoted to lieutenant colonel, Rankin led the battalion back to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1919.
After the war, Rankin remained involved in the militia, married, and became a barrister in Regina. During the Second World War, his son Ronald William Alexander Rankin, a flying officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force, went missing over Germany in February 1945 and was presumed killed.
Rankin died on 20 October 1954.