Brigadier General Jim Elmsley
8th Canadian Infantry Brigade
Facial expression slightly nervous, tremulous and changeable. Has been worrying excessively over routine matters, particularly having to meet people. Has been excessively worried over the ordinary conditions arising in the Brigade under his command. Sleep is fair, but there are times when he will be awake for three or four hours.
(Medical Board Report of Brig. Gen. Elmsley, 4 June 1918)
Born in Toronto on 13 October 1878, James Harold Elmsley was a professional soldier and Boer War veteran. During the South African campaign, he was shot through the chest but somehow survived. On the start of the Great War. he was appointed second-in-command of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, followed by a brief period commanding the Canadian Light Horse. After Brigadier General Victor Williams was captured at the Battle of Mont Sorrel, Elmsley assumed command of the 8th Infantry Brigade in June 1916.
Worn down and nerves strained after two years in charge of the brigade, he relinquished command on 25 May 1918 to Lieutenant Colonel D.C. Draper. A medical board recorded Elmsley’s description of his deteriorating health:
First noticed nervous symptoms after he had been severely wounded in South Africa in 1900. From that time until September 1917 he considered himself slightly nervous. Follow the severe strain of the work in Belgium in September and October 1917, his symptoms became much worse. They have gradually been becoming more troublesome since that time.
Several months later, a reinvigorated Elmsley was promoted to major general appointed to command the Canadian troops in the Siberian Expeditionary Force. Following the abortive Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, Elmsley returned to Canada on 19 June 1919.
Through retired from army service, he continued to speak on military issues into the Second World War. On 31 October 1940, he published an open letter to the prime minister in the Globe and Mail, urging Mackenzie King to take the people of Canada into “his full confidence regarding his war polices.” Dismissing notions that a neutral United States could protect Canadian soil, Elmsley asserted, “our battlefields will be those of the British Empire in Europe or possibly Asia, and the security of our territory will depend on the Empire’s success or failure in these battles.”
He died in Toronto on 4 January 1954.
One thought on “Brig. Gen. Elmsley”
Interesting article about Brigadier General Jim Elmsley’s deteriorating health during the First World War. It’s amazing how he managed to survive being shot through the chest during the Boer War. I’m curious to know, did Elmsley receive any medical treatment for his nervous symptoms during his time in command of the 8th Infantry Brigade?