Major Lightfoot led the front line of his battalion, the 10th.
“Come on, boys,” he said, “remember you are Canadians.” The line advanced with great spirit, less than two thousand Canadians against a hundred thousand Germans. It was the biggest bluff in history but it won. On and on went the Canadians, 10th and Highlanders, one moment with the bayonet the next moment firing. The Germans, who were busy digging in south of the wood, saw the Canadians coming in the twilight, and only waited to fire a few shots and then they started to run. Lightfoot was down, but the line went on.
(J.A. Currie, The Red Watch, 1916, 222)
Born on 12 August 1879 in Aston, Cheshire, England, James Lightfoot was a soldier and Boer War veteran. He served with the Imperial Yeomanry and the Scottish Horse during the South Africa campaign. He immigrated to Manitoba in 1905, became a prominent Winnipeg citizen and established the city’s first taxi company.
In September 1914, Major Lightfoot was one of the first volunteers to join the 10th Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Russ Boyle. At the battle of Ypres in April 1915, the major was said to have rallied his company, yelling, “Come on, boys, remember you are Canadians.” He was wounded during the advance and later witnessed Boyle’s death in hospital on 25 April 1915.
While recovering in Manitoba, he was appointed commander of the 222nd Battalion. At a mass recruitment meeting in Miami in February 1916, Lightfoot delivered a “vivid word picture of his experiences of life in the trenches and on the battlefield.”
After arriving in England, Lieutenant Amos William Mayse summarized the fate of the battalion, “Well the 222nd is no more … We are losing our Colonel & most of our officers.” After the disorganization in January 1917, Lightfoot reverted to fight once again in the trenches. He was forced to return to Canada due to wounds suffered after the battle of Vimy Ridge. In 1918, he was named superintendent of Dominion police responsible for rounding up draft evaders.
A Conservatives supporter, Lightfoot made several attempts at elected office after the war but was unsuccessful. In November 1921, he stood for the Conservative nomination in Winnipeg Centre. Unable to gather enough delegates, he dropped out to endorse fellow war veteran Major Norman Kitson McIvor. In the December federal election, McIvor lost to Labour leader J. S. Woodsworth.
Lightfoot died at the age of fifty-one in 1930.