Colonel J.B. White
242nd (Foresters) Battalion
He came to me and told me he would guarantee to raise me a French Canadian battalion inside of two weeks. I said “God bless you my boy, go ahead, I will give you every help I can.” But I never dreamt he would get them.
Inside of two weeks Colonel White came to me and said: “The jig is up; we cannot raise the men.”
(Hughes, Debates, 5 Apr 1918, 411)
John Burton White was a lumberman and sawmill manager in the Ottawa Valley. He was born on 1 January 1874 in Aylmer Road, Quebec. A senior officer with the 17th Hussars, he enlisted as a major with Alexander McDougall’s 224th Battalion in April 1916. He left with the forestry unit for England but was recalled home two months later to raise a new lumber battalion from Quebec.
Unable to gather enough French-Canadian volunteers, in July 1916, Hughes authorized White to command the 242nd from Montreal. While told the Militia Minister that French-Canadian men said: “the advice of the clergy to them is to let the English-speaking people go to the front; you can go into Ontario and get their jobs; stay at home and earn good money, and if they get killed you will retain their places.”
The 242nd was soon absorbed into the Canadian Forestry Corps. On 22 April 1917, White was appointed Director of Timber Operations in France. In recognition for his valuable services in coordinating the Forestry Corps, White was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and promoted to brigadier general in December 1918.
During the Second World War, White became commander of the Canadian Forestry Corps in the United Kingdom. The sixty-eight year old was forced to return to Canada due to overage in 1942. He died from illness two years later on 31 May 1945.
In 1943, he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire:
Brigadier-General White who commanded the Canadian Forestry Corps in France in the last war was called upon to organize the Canadian Forestry Corps in this war. In the performance of this duty he has made an outstanding success. For this efficiency General White is in a large measure personally responsible. He has carried out his duties with energy and decision. He has exhibited professional ability of the highest order.
(Order of the British Empire citation, 1 Jan 1943)
.He died on 31 May 1945.