Lt. Col. Bradshaw

Lieutenant Colonel John Bradshaw, M.L.A.
Major Gavin Graham Smith
243rd (Prince Albert) Battalion

Bradshaw sat silent, clothed in the uniform of an officer of His Majesty’s army, representing the justice and right of British traditions. Bradshaw sat there with the red color slowly mounting to his cheeks as he realised that the people of the province through their elected representatives demanded that for once he play the part of a gentleman and live up to the traditions of the uniform he wears.

 (S.S. Simpson, Liberal M.L.A., 9 Feb 1917)

John Ernest Bradshaw was the first commanding officer of the 243rd Battalion. Born on 13 December 1866 in Newport, Isle of Wight, he was a Hudson’s Bay Company manager, Prince Albert mayor (1906) and Conservative member of the Saskatchewan legislature (1908–1917). In June 1916, Bradshaw attempted to raise the 243rd from northern Saskatchewan. According to an inspection report, “He has no military experience; he has however a good business training and looks after his Battalion in a creditable manner.”

In February 1916, Bradshaw had attempted to topple the provincial Liberal Government with charges of corruption and bribery. Several Liberal backbenchers were indicted, and Premier Thomas W. Scott retired in October. Liberals derided Bradshaw as a “political colonel” who was “prostituting the King’s uniform” for the sake of petty ambitions.

In anticipation of the provincial general election and sensing a chance to defeat the government, Bradshaw resigned his commission on 22 May 1917 to devote more time to campaigning. Instead the Liberal Government under Premier W.E. Martin managed to survive the scandal and increased its majority in the Saskatchewan legislature. When the former 243rd commander lost his riding of Prince Albert, one newspaper gloated:

The news that John Ernest Bradshaw had been decisively defeated in Prince Albert appeared to give the crowd just the opportunity they had waited for and as the result flashed on the screen, to be followed by a picture of “Brad” with tears rolling down his cheeks, the crowd roared and cheered to its heart’s content.

Bradshaw died of a sudden heart attack on 25 December 1917.

Following Bradshaw’s resignation in May, Gavin Graham Smith, a militia officer in the 22nd Saskatchewan Light Horse and veteran of the Boer War, assumed command of the 243rd. Born of 19 February 1875 in Glasgow, Scotland, Smith immigrated to western Canada in the 1890s, eventually settling in Battleford, Saskatchewan.

On 24 September 1914, Smith had enlisted at Valcartier and served as a captain in France with the 8th Battalion in France. Returning to Canada in 1916, he joined Bradshaw’s the 243rd Battalion, stationed at Prince Albert. Smith and the battalion departed for England in June 1917 where it was absorbed into the 15th Reserves.

Smith died in Battleford on 11 February 1928.


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