Lt. Col. Holmes

Lieutenant Colonel W.J.H. Holmes
48th (British Columbia) Battalion
Holmes

He did not salute, so immediately after passing I stopped, turned back and asked him “what’s the matter. Why didn’t you salute?” He swiftly looked at me without taking his hand out of it pocket … His manner appeared to be so insubordinate that I asked him for his paybook … I then ordered him under close arrest.

(Court martial of Pte. Parents, 4 Jan 1919)

William Josiah Hartley Holmes was a graduate of the Royal Military College, a British Columbia land surveyor and first commanding officer of the 102nd Rocky Mountain Rangers. He was born on 28 May 1871 in St. Catherines, Ontario but moved to Victoria with his family. In 1910, Holmes was part of an expedition to explore Crown Mountain. Although he had retired to the reserve militia list in 1912, he was appointed commander of the 48th Battalion after the outbreak of the First World War.

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Lt. Col. Hulme

Lieutenant Colonel J.H.D. Hulme
62nd (Hulme’s Huskies) Battalion
Hulme

But, in relinquishing the command of the first troops to leave Vancouver, Colonel Hulme, commanding the Sixth, was actually self-sacrificing, and logical. Major McHarg had had war experience in South Africa as a sergeant; Colonel Hulme had no war service at all, and at that time, and to soldiers especially, war service was considered far more essential to command than later, when all manner of business men rose to high military station and rank.

 To let Major McHarg take the first body of men to the front was proper to a logical mind. But it brought unkind thought, and some criticism from the less thoughtful.

(Major J. S. Matthews, Early Vancouver, Volume V, 1945, 136)

John Herbert Donaldson Hulme was a British Columbia lawyer with thirty years of service in the militia. He was born in Belleville, Ontario on 14 July 1867. He had settled in Vancouver in 1904 after travelling west to the Yukon during the gold rush. As the commanding officer of the 6th Regiment, Hulme was expected to lead his militiamen to Valcartier in August 1914 to join the First Contingent. To the surprise of his second-in-command, Hulme appointed Major W. Hart-McHarg to lead the battalion overseas in his stead. Continue reading

Lt. Col. Vicars

Lieutenant Colonel J.R.O. Vicars
172nd (Rocky Mountain Rangers) Battalion
Vicars

The duty of all Canadians is to shed their last drop of blood in defence of the dear old Motherland. But why ask such a question? Is there a cur with a drop of British blood in his veins who doubts his duty? As for myself and Rangers, we are ready. Only let Colonel Sam. [Hughes] give the word. I speak for my men. They know me, and I know them.

(Vicars to Montreal Daily Star, 3 Aug 1914)

Too bad they broke us up for had they not we would have been in Berlin by this time or all in Heaven …  Although the latter place has already many of our poor fellows and every day adds to the number.

(Vicars to Kamloops Standard-Sentinel, 21 Sept 1917)

Despite his enthusiastic offer to volunteer on the outbreak of war in August 1914, sixty-year-old John Richard Odlum Vicars did not receive authorization to raise an overseas battalion until January 1916. Vicars was a British Columbia land surveyor and commanding officer of the 102nd Rocky Mountain Rangers. Born in Dublin, Ireland on 16 April 1855, he immigrated to Canada with his family in 1858 and moved west in the 1880s.

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Lt. Col. Milne

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Milne
158th (Milne’s Men) Battalion

Milne

When the boys go marching through that mud, filth and slime under their pack, singing with that forced and indefinable gaiety which is the spirit of the troops, a lump comes into my throat and I can’t talk about it. I think that the devil when he sees it must laugh with glee and the angels weep tor sheer pity.

 (Milne’s interview, Vancouver World, 12 Sept 1917, 1)

Charles Milne was a gentleman militia officer with the 6th Duke of Connaught’s Own Regiment. Born in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on 25 September 1866, he had served several years in the Gordon Highlanders before moving to Canada. In January 1916, he was authorized to raise the 158th Battalion from Vancouver.

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Maj. Coote

Major A. Leslie Coote
47th (British Columbia) BattalionCoote

Objecting to being relegated to duty in a safety zone while men he had recruited were “in the line”, Col. Coote entered a strenuous protest but militia trained senior officers were a drug on the market in England just then while juniors and men for the ranks were badly needed. This being the case, while hundreds of other Majors returned to Canada, Col. Coote resigned his commission, enlisted in the King Edward Horse as a trooper…

 (Chilliwack Progress, 29 Apr 1920, 1)

Born in Tynemouth, England on 9 February 1868, Andrew Leslie Coote was a farmer and senior officer in the 104th Regiment. As second-in-command to Lieutenant Colonel W. N. Winsby in the 47th Battalion, Coote often assumed responsibility for the unit on the front when his superior was away at brigade conferences and headquarters meetings.

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Lt. Col. Taylor, M.P.

Lieutenant Colonel James D. Taylor, M.P.
131st (New Westminster) BattalionTaylor

Mr. Chairman, there is poison gas disseminated in connection with this war from other quarters than the trenches in the German line, and there is sniping equally disastrous to the cause of the war as that of the German sharpshooters. I am one of those colonels, commanding officers, of which the hon. gentlemen who act the part of political snipers in Canada speak so contemptuously in this House and through their press.

 (J. D. Taylor, Debates, 6 Feb 1917, 565)

 James Davis Taylor was a journalist and publisher in Ottawa and British Columbia and Conservative MP for New Westminster (1908—1917). He was born on 2 September 1863 in Abenaqui Mills, Canada East. During the Northwest campaign, he fought as a private with the Ottawa Sharpshooters at the battle of Cut Knife on 2 May 1885. After the Rebellion, he bought the Canadian Militia Gazette and later organized the 104th Militia Regiment in 1904. He led the 131st Battalion to England before returning to Canada in early January 1917.

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Lt. Col. Urquhart

Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Urquhart, D.S.O.
43rd (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) BattalionUrquhart

There remains but to refer lightly to the characteristics typical of the Canadian soldier in that crisis which probed into the innermost recesses of character. This is not to claim that the Canadian possessed merits not shared by his comrades in arms everywhere; the soldierly virtues is the birthright of the true fighting man in all lands. But the soldiers of the Dominion exhibited those instincts in their own way. They were hidden under an exterior of independence, which sometimes misled the casual observer as to the soldierly spirit, potent in its strength, lying beneath this mask.

 (Urquhart, History of the 16th Battalion CEF, 1932, 332)

A native of Scotland, Hugh McIntyre Urquhart was born on 13 August 1880 and immigrated to Canada in 1909. He originally enlisted with the 16th Battalion at Valcartier in August 1914. In recognition for his courage in the field, he was awarded the Military Cross and the Distinguished Service Order.

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Lt. Col. Powley

Lieutenant Colonel A. Bruce Powley
143rd (B. C. Bantams) Battalionpowley

…it has never appeared that the Commanding Officer was capable of a full and practical appreciation of the value of any branch of training.

 Has shown little professional knowledge, energy or executive. Is inclined to say much of what he has done and what he intends to do, but to fall short in practice.

(OC No. 11 Military District to Militia Council, 9 Feb 1917)

Wounded at Festubert in May 1915, Alan Bruce Powley returned to recover and raise a new overseas battalion. Inspired by the 35th Bantam Division in the British Army, a number of British Columbia men below the minimum height requirement had petitioned Ottawa to create a similar unit. In November 1915, Powley was authorized to raise the 143rd Bantam Battalion consisting of volunteers under 5’4.

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The Son of a Bitch

Brigadier General J. A. Clark, D.S.O.
72nd (Seaforth Highlanders) Battalion
JAClark

“My Brigadier, the son of a bitch, is still alive— I’ll kill him if I see him.”

(Capt. W. G. Little, P.P.C.L.I., 1964)

Born in West Flamborough, Ontario on 8 June 1886, John Arthur Clark was a Vancouver barrister and militiaman. A major in the 72nd (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) Regiment, Clark was appointed to command the 72nd Battalion, one of the few CEF units to perpetuate its militia designation. Commenting on the tremendous responsibility of a commanding officer one of his men observed that the twenty-nine year old colonel “looked forty.”

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