Lt. Col. Newcomen

Lieutenant Colonel T. Newcomen
Royal Canadian Dragoons

Examination of this officer to-day brings out the facts, that he cannot sleep at nights, that he has violent fits of temper, that he has very great trouble in concentrating his mind on any problems, and that he is restless and irritable. He himself fears that if these symptoms continue and increase their results may be very serious to him.

(Neurological Report on Lt. Col. Newcomen, 22 Sept 1923)

Terence Robert Gleadowe Newcomen was a professional British Army officers born in County Longford, Ireland on 18 November 1883. He had enlisted at seventeen during the Boer War and was commissioned in the 5th Battalion, the Royal Irish Regiment in 1901. Posted to Canada on an exchange program to train officers since 1912, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Dragoons in September 1914.

He was quickly promoted to captain shortly after arriving to France with the R.C.Ds. in July 1915. For leading a trench raid on the night of 12 February 1918, he earned the Military Cross: “He displayed the greatest dash and cool courage in handling whatever arose … several of the enemy in the open space between the trenches.” He was promoted to major a few months later.

Newcomen assumed command of the Dragoons following the death of Lieutenant Colonel Van Straubenzee on 10 October 1918. He remained with the Permanent Force after the war. However, he experienced a difficult transition back to peacetime army life and worried about his future prospects as his military career came to a close. In 1923, he complained of restlessness, insomnia, and irritability. Dr. E. P. Lewis, later director of Mental Hygiene in Toronto, diagnosed, “a moderately severe neurosis, which I believe, is the result of conditions to which he as been subject in the Army. He tells me that he found himself restless and very active whenever his Regiment had a period of rest back from the Front in France.”

In his neurological report on the colonel, Lewis remarked:

He impresses me as an energetic, well educated, and capable man; the type who would be very earnest in anything he took up to do. He is perfectly clear mentally in every way one of his great worries is that of finding suitable civilian occupation after having spent 23 years of his life in the Army. 

The doctor recommend finding a new occupation in anticipation of leaving the army. Having earlier completed postgraduate work at London University, Newcomen started a new career as a civil engineer and joined the Alberta department of public works in 1930. In addition to working on road construction projects, he took an active interest in conservation as provincial supervisor for Duck Unlimited. “Seven out of ten persons who are co-operating with Ducks Unlimited in Alberta,” he stated, “are not hunters, concerned with assuring an additional supply of ducks, but nature-lovers and conservationists, who enjoy the presence of wild life around their holdings.”

He died in Edmonton on 5 January 1966.


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