The Scout Master

Lieutenant Colonel J.A. Hesketh
Lord Strathcona’s Horse

Among the citizens of Winnipeg, such men as Col. Hesketh is deserving of special praise and honor for his interest in our boys. His objective was not to teach them war, nor turn their thoughts in enmity towards any people. But he was one of the men who taught them the national need of rigid adherence to paths of duty.

(Winnipeg Tribune, 3 May 1921, 4)

Born in Aldershot, England on 20 November 1863, James Arthur Hesketh was a graduate of the Royal Military College and a Canadian Pacific Railway engineer in Winnipeg. He was a early leader of the Boy Scout movement and helped to organize the first scout council in Manitoba. With over thirty years in the Canadian militia and as commander of the Corps of Guides, Major Hesketh went to overseas with Lord Strathcona’s Horse in October 1914.

He earned the Distinguished Service Order at Messines in 1915 when he risked his life to salvage ammunition from a fire caused by enemy shells. By the end of the year, he assumed command of Lord Strathcona’s Horse, succeeding Lieutenant Colonel A.C. Macdonell who had been promoted to brigadier general.

Several times cited for gallantry and promoted to lieutenant colonel, Hesketh and remained in command in field for over twenty months until he was posted to England. By October 1917, he was attached to the Canadian Railway Troops and reverted back to major. The next month he led a reinforcement draft to France and served with the 1st and 11th C.R.T.

By the end of the war, at the age of fifty-five, long service and a bout of pneumonia had taken a toll on Hesketh’s health. A 1919 medical report recorded, “Answers questions irrationally. Condition of D.Ts [Delirium Tremens] present. Marked alcoholic tremor. Very irrational.”

Back in Winnipeg, Hesketh returned to his involvement in scouting. The press reported that eighty percent of his original troop had enlisted during the war and eight had fallen in action.

He died of a stroke on 26 January 1923.


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