The Blue Bomber

Lieutenant Colonel R.L. Denison
1st Canadian Tank Battalion

He is very weak & debilitated. He suffers from insomnia & shock. The Board is of opinion that he will not be fit for any Service at home or even light-duty for nine months, & as he is a native of Canada he should be permitted to proceed home. He has also six bullet wounds in the left leg and four in the right

(Proceedings of Medical Board, 22 May 1915)

Born on 23 March 1889 in Minnedosa, Manitoba, Richard Lippincott Denison was a Winnipeg insurance manager and sportsman when commissioned as a lieutenant with the 8th Battalion in August 1914. He was put out of action when badly shot up and concussed in France in May 1915. Suffering from multiple bullet and shrapnel wounds as well as likely shell shock, he was found unfit for any duty and returned home. Six months later he enlisted as a major with the 90th Battalion.

Still medically unfit on his return to England in June 1916, he was sent back to Canada, where he now acted as machine gun instructor. When Canada agreed to provide a battalion for the Tank Corps in March 1918, Denison was appointed to command and recruit. Largely drawn from university students, the 1st Canadian Tank Battalion sailed overseas in June, marking Denison’s third trip to England. The unit trained for several months before being set for France in early November. Still suffering from the effects of his wounds, Denison was once again found medically unfit and struck off strength to Canada. Lieutenant Colonel J.E. Mills, an artillery commandant who had initiated the idea of Canadian tank battalions, assumed command. The 1st Tank Battalion landed in France but the armistice meant it never served in action.

During the Second World War, Denison commanded an infantry advanced training centre at Camp Borden. His daughter, a private in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps, acted as his batman for a time.

Denison remained in the insurance business until retirement in 1964. Throughout he remained active in Winnipeg civil life, and was an executive for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

He died in Winnipeg on 12 February 1980.


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