Lt. Col. Fisher

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Fisher
23rd (Westmount Rifles) & 14th (Royal Montreal Regiment)


[Fisher] was not a success when he previously commanded this Battalion and also, that having been to the front in command of a service Battalion and having been returned, that he will not command respect and that the Battalion will suffer.

 (Report of Gen. E.C. Ashton, 21 Apr 1916)

Frank William Fisher was born in Yorkshire, England on 7 July 1868 and emigrated to Canada as a teenager. With twenty-five years in the militia, he had been the commanding officer of the 3rd Victoria Rifles until retirement in 1912. In late 1914, Fisher organized the 23rd Battalion from Quebec City. After it was designated a reserve battalion on arrival in England, Fisher proceeded to France as second-in-command with the 14th Battalion.

Within a few months of arriving to the front, he assumed command from Lieutenant Colonel Watty Burland. In January 1916, Fisher authorized the creation of battalion trench journal The Growler. The first issue explained “As the name will suggest, our columns are open to every grouch in the Battalion, and a growl on any subject, whether the grievance be either real or fancied, will be joyfully received and have immediate insertion.”

Fisher struggled to maintain control over a unit divided between majority English-speakers and a Francophone company. Notorious for its poor discipline and reputation for desertion, the 14th had the second highest number of court martial death sentences in the CEF— though only one was carried out. On 15 March 1916, four-time deserter Private Fortunat Auger was sentenced to death.

Four days after the court’s sentence, General Arthur Currie replaced the underperforming Fisher with Major Robert Percy Clark. One week after the change in command, on the morning of 26 March 1916, Auger was executed by firing squad.

Sidelined to England, Fisher commanded the 23rd Reserve Battalion until December 1917 when he returned to Canada to take command of the 1st Depot Battalion in Quebec. Fisher remained active in militia affairs after the war and was honorary colonel of the Royal Montreal Regiment from 1936 to 1952. He died in Montreal the next year.

For a more detailed biographical sketch, read his profile at the Royal Montreal Regiment:

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