The Piano Salesman

Lieutenant Colonel Milton Francis, D.S.O
47th (British Columbia) BattalionFrancis

This officer appears before the Board after one month’s extension of leave. He feels very much better and fit to return to duty. Former hospital papers and medical Board puts his disability as V.D.H. [Valvular Disease of the Heart] which is an old lesion & in the opinion of the Board was not the cause of his present breakdown, which was due to nervous overstain,

(Medical Board Report on a Disabled Officer, 1 Mar 1918)

Born in London, Ontario on 26 March 1884, Milton John Francis was manager of a Fort William music store selling pianos and gramophones. He first enlisted with the 44th (Manitoba) Battalion and transferred to the 46th as second-in-command before assuming command of the 47th just before the Vimy offensive in April 1917 .

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The Sawmiller

Lieutenant Colonel Fred Lister, M.C.
102nd (Central Ontario) BattalionLister

We started out a British Columbia unit; we return an Ontario Battalion; but I defy anyone to note the point of cleavage. Welded together by many months of common danger, East and West have fused as one…

(Lister, “Final Order,” 25 May 1919)

Born on 10 February 1879 in Wigtoft, Lincolnshire, England, Frederick Lister was a sawmill superintendent in British Columbia. He had been a policeman with the Bechuanaland Protectorate since 1896 and fought in the Matabele Rebellion and the Boer War. He immigrated to Canada in 1903. In December 1915, he enlisted with the 102nd Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel J .W. Warden.

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The Capitalist

Brigadier General Robert P. Clark, D.S.O. M.C.
14th (Royal Montreal Regiment) & 2nd BattalionsRPClark

This Christmas, I believe, will be your last in France. That the next may find you Home again, safe and happy, and with your loved ones, is my most earnest wish. The war is drawing to a close. Your many trials and privations will soon be forgotten. The horrors of this war will soon become to you a memory, dimmed by happier things to come. But the glory of this war, though some day a memory too, can never fade.

(Gen. Clark to The Listening Post, 2 Nov 1918)

Robert Percy Clark was a Vancouver businessman, investor, real estate agent and capitalist. He was born in London, England on 17 April 1874. He worked on the London Stock Exchange and volunteered to fight in the Boer War. He later immigrated to British Columbia, where he pursued various gold mining enterprises. He served in the 5th and 50th Regiments under Arthur Currie. As part of the First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Clark became staff-officer to Currie with the 2nd Brigade.

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The Mountain Climber

Lieutenant Colonel W. W. Foster, D.S.O., M.L.A
52nd (New Ontario) Battalion Foster

Billy Foster was a very interesting and safe companion, who always wore well no matter what the circumstances or the dangers might be. He was what is called a good mixer and always had an interesting and appropriate tale of experience, or a story, for that pause during a discussion or controversy which, if not pleasantly broken, might result in serious contention.

When there are more men like him to protect and guide its Nations, the whole world will be a safer and better place for all mankind.

(A. H. MacCarthy, Alpine Journal, 1954)

William Wasbrough Foster was a mountaineer, president of the Alpine Club and among the first to climb Mount Robson and Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak. He was born in Bristol, England on 1 October 1876 and immigrated to Canada in 1894. Mount Colonel Foster on Vancouver Island is named in his honour.

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The War Hero

Lieutenant Colonel Cy Peck, D.S.O., V.C.
16th (Canadian Scottish) BattalionPeck

We commanders in the field have to be very careful; if you make a success of a venture you are a great hero, but if you happen to lose a few men, no matter how well your attack might be planned, your position, your reputation, and, perhaps, your head may be the price.

(Peck, Debates, 14 Mar 1919, 466.)

On 2 September 1918, Cyrus Wesley Peck led the 16th Battalion against the Drocourt-Queant Line. Under heavy machine-gun and artillery fire, Peck completed a dangerous reconnaissance mission, captured crucial objectives and directed tanks to support of his battalion’s advance. For “magnificent display of courage and fine qualities of leadership,” Peck was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the British Empire.

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The Ambassador

Brigadier General Victor Odlum 7th
(1st British Columbia) Battalion Odlum

Victor Wentworth Odlum was a curious specimen. Warfare fascinated him. It was said that he had taken to peacetime soldering because it presented an interesting problem, that he had set himself the task of mastering the psychology of war.

(Pierre Berton, Vimy, 1985, 114)

Victor Wentworth Odlum was a prominent journalist, businessman, diplomat and media tycoon. Born in Cobourg, Ontario on 21 October 1880, he moved to British Columbia as a young man to become a reporter and later editor for the Vancouver Daily World. A veteran of the Boer War and member 6th Regiment, he volunteered with the 7th Battalion in September 1914. He deployed to France as second-in-command.

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The Soldier o’ Fortune

Colonel Jack Leckie, D.S.O.
16th (Canadian Scottish) BattalionLeckie_J

Colonel “Jack” was dashing, impulsive, with the stocky build which indicated great reserves of physical strength, and the temperament of the man of action ready for any adventure. And of adventures he had more than the considerable share which generally is met with by members of his calling. He passed along the most beaten paths of land, sea and air, and ventured on others, of which the majority of humankind know nothing outside of story books.

(Urquhart, History of the 16th Battalion CEF, 1932, 97)

Born in Acton-Vale, Quebec on 19 February 1872, John Edwards Leckie was a soldier, mining engineer, adventurer, world traveler and treasure hunter. In August 1914, he joined the 16th Battalion and served as second-in-command to his brother, Lieutenant Colonel R. G. E. Leckie. Both had graduated from the Royal Military College and served in the Boer War. Jack had won the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry in the South African campaign.

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The Quiet Man

Brigadier General R. G. E. Leckie
16th (Canadian Scottish) BattalionLeckie_R

Spare of figure, short of stature, with an almost ascetic type of face, a trait which was accentuated rather than disturbed by the scar on the cheek received when he was mauled by a leopard in a big game hunt in Somaliland, the original Commanding Officer of the 16th was of a reserved disposition, even shy. In action he was cool and observant; he talked, and gave his orders, in a conversational tone. He showed not the slightest sign of irritation; and what such a temperament means in battle only the soldiers who have been through the turmoil of it can truly estimate.

(Urquhart, History of the 16th Battalion CEF, 1932, 97)

Born in Halifax on 4 June 1869 Robert Gilmour Edwards Leckie was a soldier and mining engineer in British Columbia. He graduated from the Royal Military College, served in South Africa and Somaliland, and organized the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders in 1910. During a safari on the Somaliland frontier in 1904, a wild leopard attacked him. Of the incident Leckie explained, “I brought the skull and skin home with me.”

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The Concussed

Lieutenant Colonel William M. Davis
54th (Kootenay) & 2nd Pioneer BattalionsDavis

He complains that he cannot apply his mind to things. Until lately, he could not even with difficulty read a novel.

Memory seems clear but patient seems absent minded.

For some time after accident could not read letters or figures unless he traced them with his fingers. At the same time there was evidently some disorientation. He was continually getting lost.

(Medical Case Sheet, 26 Feb 1917)

In 1880, William Mahlon Davis graduated with the first class from the Royal Military College in Kingston. He ranked fourth among the original eighteen cadets. Davis was born on 26 May 1857 in Malahide Township, Canada West. A member of the militia since his schooldays in 1876, Davis organized the 24th (Grey’s Horse) Regiment in 1908.

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The Anti-Bolshevik

Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Warden, D.S.O.
102nd (Warden’s Warriors) BattalionWarden

Left my batt. & France for England. 8 am, this is the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. I have the best Batt. in France, there never were men tougher, braver more loyal, more capable, more loved by CO, the finest fighters. It just about broke my heart, I could not say goodbye to a single one. God, how I loved them.

(Warden Diary, 8 Jan 1918)

Born on 8 November 1871 in Baywater, New Brunswick, John Weightman Warden was a British Columbia broker and veteran of the Boer War. He was among the first to enlist after the declaration of war in August 1914. Describing his experiences fighting with the 7th Battalion in the trenches, he explained, “The Boer War was nothing compared with this war. I had been in South Africa, but I found that I knew nothing about war at all.”

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