Lieutenant Colonel J.A. Scroggie, D.S.O., M.C.
16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalion
Some correspondents have stated that trench warfare days were days of monotony broken by half-hours of Hell. While that is exaggerated it is in a sense true.
(Lt. Col. Scroggie speech, Kingston Standard, 7 Mar 1922, 2)
Born in Scotland on 4 August 1890, James Austin Scroggie immigrated to Canada in 1911 and took up fruit farming in British Columbia. He enlisted with the 30th Battalion as a private in November 1914, and joined the 16th Battalion in the field on a reinforcement draft six months later. Having proven himself as the NCO leader of the bombing section, he was commissioned a lieutenant on 12 May 1916. By the end of the war, he was twice-wounded, three-times mentioned in dispatches, and earned the Military Cross and two Bars.
Although without previous military experience, Scroggie was prompted swiftly through the non-commissioned ranks. He suffered a severe gunshot wound shortly after becoming a lieutenant in May 1916. He was out of action four months until he rejoined the 16th. By March 1918, he was acting major and completed a senior officers’ course just as the war ended. He succeeded Lieutenant Colonel Cy Peck in command of the 16th after the armistice.
In his official regimental history of the 16th, Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Urquhart wrote of Scroggie, “in the opinion of all ranks who served with him, should be given extended mention”:
Of medium height and average proportions, with a quiet look, Scroggie’s true disposition belied first impressions. He could be quiet and amiable, and he could be forcible, for at heart he was a man of determination and perseverance, with a great reserve of self-reliance. Scorggie instilled confidence into his men. No danger disturbed his balance, at least if it did, he took care to hide his feelings.
One junior officer said that when he was faced with a critical situation in the face of the enemy, he always said to himself, “What would Scoggie do here?” Speaking of his ambition a brother officer said he suspected Scroggie carried the extra star in his pocket in case promotion might come to him unawares.
On return to Canada, in 1919, he was appointed instructor of tactics at he Royal Military College. He died only a few years later, on 27 March 1924, from blood poisoning indirectly caused by war wounds. In his Sunday sermon a few days later, a Kingston reverend remarked, “He had the courage which maintained a position amidst danger and difficulty, daring which sought out new knowledge of the enemy and points of vantage, and a brightness of character which kept up he spirits of those under his command … We can ill afford to lose a man of his type.”
After lying in state at Currie Hall on the RMC campus grounds, his body was returned for burial in Scotland.