Lieutenant Colonel Jack Mersereau, D.S.O.
25th (Nova Scotia Rifles) Battalion
Col. C. J. Mersereau, a French Canadian who went with the first contingent sent by Canada to the front, spoke French and a little English. He has returned knowing no French, but still retaining the power to speak English. At the second battle of Ypres he was struck by a fragment of a shell on the head. He was operated on and lay in the hospital three months, with but little hope of recovery. He finally pulled through, but without the power of understanding any language but English.
(San Bernardino County Sun, 12 Sept 1916, 10)
Born on 13 July 1880 in Bathurst, New Brunswick Chalmers Jack Mersereau was the second son of Lieutenant Colonel George W. Mersereau of 132nd Battalion. A graduate of Harvard with an MA and PhD, he formed a brokerage firm in Doaktown. He belonged to the 73rd Regiment for ten years, served with the Royal Canadian Regiment for eight and was commander of the New Brunswick Corps of Guides at the outbreak of the Great War.
He was posted to the 3rd Brigade at the rank of major when the Canadian Expeditionary Force left Valcartier. During the second battle of Ypres, Mersereau coordinated with Lieutenant Colonel Russell Boyle of the 10th Battalion to save the Canadian position after the German gas attack.
While carrying a message to Brigadier General Arthur Currie, Mersereau was struck in the head by a piece of shrapnel. Although he managed to deliver the report to headquarters, he slipped into unconsciousness. Hospitalized for the next two months, he attempted to regain his speech, which remained impaired for the rest of his life.
Mersereau returned to New Brunswick where he helped to recruit for the 236th (Mclean’s Kilties of America) Battalion. He returned to the field in 1918 and commanded the 25th Battalion for the final month of the war. He won the Distinguished Service Order during the battle of Cambrai.
According to the citation, he organized: “a most successful night operation, crossing a canal under very difficult conditions, afterwards capturing a village and inflicting casualties and taking many prisoners. The success of this operation was largely due to the initiative and gallant behavior shown by this officer.”
At Harvard, he was classmates with Theodore Roosevelt Jr., commander of the 26th Blue Spaders Regiment and Hamilton Fish III, commander of the 369th Harlem Hell Fighter and later Republican Congressman.
Mersereau died in Fredericton in November 1942.