Lieutenant Ronald John Beck
8th Reserve Battalion
In conclusion, I would like to say that I have no one to blame but myself. It was caused by two things: Drink and women. I never knew the taste of liquor until I went to France. I still wish to stay in the army in any capacity whatsoever.
(Lt. R.J. Beck, court martial, 7 Jan 1918)
Born in Oshawa, Ontario on 15 November 1897, Ronald John Beck enlisted as a private in the 58th Battalion in September 1915. He appears to have lied about his age. He served for fourteen months in France until being recommended for a commission after Vimy Ridge. After attending the officers training school, he was appointed a lieutenant and posted to the 8th Reserve Battalion in Shorncliffe in July 1917. Beck soon discovered the financial opportunities and perils of his new rank.
As he assigned half of his pay to his widowed mother, he began to borrow money from fellow officers and rely on post-dated cheques for his transactions. Reckless spending led to several dishonoured cheques with the regimental paymaster, civilians, and other service providers
On the morning of 30 October, 1917, after spending the night with one woman, Beck gave her a £3 cheque knowing it was no good. After spending the next night with another woman, he signed a false name and presented her with a £5 cheque. He then went AWOL for a day and committed several forgeries at the bank hoping to raise cash to pay accumulating debts.
He was convicted on ten counts of theft, forgery, AWOL, and issuing worthless cheques. The court sentenced him to be cashiered plus one year in prison in January 1918. Eight months later, Beck earned early release from Canterbury Prison to re-enlist in the CEF as a private.
Read more about Canadian officers’ scandalous conduct in my book.