The Lumber King

Major General Aleck McDougall
224th (Lumbermen’s) Battalion

Many of these men have left families at home, and are looking forward to rejoining them at the end of the war, and it is a scandal that the minds of these people should be disturbed by the thoughts that our soldiers are in the midst of dire temptation and are falling victims to it, when as a matter of fact the behaviour of the men of this corps since its formation has been exceptionally satisfactory and it is my opinion when they return home they will demonstrate that their overseas activities have improved them in every way.

(MacDougall to Montreal Gazette, 25 Apr 1918, 10)

In February 1916, British Colonial Secretary Bonar Law requested the Canadian Government provide a special battalion of lumbermen for overseas service. Ottawa timber magnate Alexander McDougall, who had proposed a forestry unit, was quickly appointed commander of the 224th Battalion. Born in Renfrew, Ontario in January 1878, McDougall was an experienced woodsman and leading figure in the North American lumber industry.

In selecting McDougall, militia minister Sir Sam Hughes, remarked, “I am afraid he is a Liberal, but it is one of my peccadillos—I have a knack of picking these fellows.” McDougall financed the battalion himself and recruited over 1,500 men in just over one month. The battalion departed Canada in May 1916. The lumbermen felled forests in England and Scotland, providing lumber for entrenchments, railways and building construction. As more forestry units arrived from Canada, they were absorbed into the Canadian Forestry Corps, which came to total over 35,000 men.

On 28 September 1916, McDougall was appointed Director of Timber Operations in Great Britain and France. He was made brigadier general in April 1917 and promoted major general on 1 January 1918.

He died in Toronto on 28 February 1941.



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