The Deadbeat

Colonel D. D. Cameron
17th Reserve Battalion

I expect you wondered why I asked you for Lieut. Col. D.D. Cameron’s address. The reason is because he is the father of my child. I have written to him twice and received no answer. I have given him over 6 months to make up his mind so that I need tell no one which he asked me on my honour no to, but I cannot possible afford to keep Baby myself because I work for a living, which he knew.

(Miss Ivy Smart to Canadian Overseas HQ, 31 Oct 1918)*

Daniel Duncan Cameron was born in Salt Springs, Nova Scotia on 15 March 1859. He had thirteen children with his wife Elizabeth “Bessie.” Although commanding officer of the 78th Pictou Highlanders, he agreed to exchange rank with his second-in-command Major Struan G. Robertson at Valcartier on the formation of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Robertson was appointed to command the 17th Battalion with Cameron as his second. On arrival in England, to the disappointment of the senior officers, the 17th would not go to France but instead provide reinforcements as a reserve unit.

Deemed incompetent by the War Office, Robertson was sacked and when his replacement Lieutenant Colonel E.B. Worthington transferred to France, Cameron assumed command of the 17th Battalion in September 1915. When he learned that his unit was to be merged with the 92nd (Toronto) Battalion, Cameron expressed to Prime Minister Borden “a protest, as emphatic as I can make it, against the obliteration of one of the units of the original Contingent and the insult to Nova Scotia by the union of the premier Battalion with an Upper Canadian Unit of most recent origin.” By January 1917, the 17th had been officially re-designated a reserve battalion

Cameron was struck off strength a month later and replaced by Lieutenant Colonel W.H. Muirhead. On arrival back in Nova Scotia, Cameron requested an extended leave of absence from the militia and relocated to Quincey, Massachusetts.

In the meantime, Canadian Overseas Headquarters received several desperate inquires from a young woman named Ivy Smart who claimed that Cameron had fathered her child, evidently at some point during his two years stationed in England. Smart had pleaded for financial assistance which Cameron ignored and then abandoned her.

Deputy Judge Advocate General R.M. Dennistoun remarked, “this is a case which unfortunately is common.” As Cameron had already left England, military authorities could take no action in forcing Cameron to provide any support.

He died in Pictou, Nova Scotia in 1943.

*Thanks to Dr. Bill Stewart for this unique source.


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