The Spy

Lieutenant Colonel Rhys Davies, D.S.O.
44th (New Brunswick) BattalionDavies

Women are good as spies because men will talk to women. Men under tremendous strain and responsibility want an outlet and the finest and strongest willed of them like to boast to some woman.

(Davies, “Spies in War and Peace,” Milwaukee Sentinel, 12 Dec 1938)

Perhaps fittingly for a self-described British secret agent, much of Reginald Danbury Rhys Davies’ early life is ambiguous. He was born in England on 9 July 1882. According to one account, he was a veteran of the Boer War and member of the Special Intelligence Branch in Egypt and Sudan. Another claimed he had served in India during the Chitral Expedition and gathered intelligence while stationed on the German-Dutch at the outbreak of the Great War.

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The Old-Fashioned

Lieutenant Colonel F. V. Wedderburn
115th (Wedderburn’s Warriors) BattalionWedderburn

On the other hand the tactics of his enemy, Col Wedderburn, were considered by military experts at the front as decidedly clever. A less practical and inexperienced man could not have given Col. McLean the fight he did.

It was evident that Col. Wedderburn had laid his plans well, but the fact that he had burned Moncton and that if victorious he might mete out the same treatment to St. John and the other surrounding towns, field the hearts of the defending soldiers with one determination—to win or die.

(St. John Daily Sun, 8 Jul 1905)

Frederick Vernon Wedderburn was a New Brunswick barrister and militiaman born in St. John on 16 April 1861. After graduating with a law degree from the University of New York in 1882, he joined the 8th Princess Louise Hussars.

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The Silent Member

Colonel Harry McLeod, M.P.
12th Battalion
McLeod

Colonel Harry McLeod has also been taken away since last we met here.

His interests were perhaps, as much in the military field as in the political field. He was a student of military tactics and military matters generally, and attended manoeuvres in this and in other countries for purposes of study—and, indeed, in the late war served in the fields of Europe.

(PM Meighen, Debates, 15 Feb 1921, 4)

Born on 17 September 1871, Harry Fulton McLeod was a New Brunswick lawyer, member of Orange Lodge No. 20 and Conservative politician. He was mayor of Fredericton (1907—1908), member of the legislature (1908—1913), and federal MP for York (1913—1917) and York—Sunbury (1917—1921). As colonel of the 71st (York) Regiment, he was appointed to take the 12th Battalion overseas when the First Contingent assembled at Valcartier in August 1914.

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The Superhuman

Lieutenant Colonel A. E. G. McKenzie, D.S.O. †
26th (New Brunswick) BattalionMcKenzie

…he followed the immediate centre of his Battalion, and seeing his men held up by most destructive fire of all kinds, he pushed forward to personally lead them and was killed while so doing. On the way, prior to his death, he showed an extreme coolness and an almost superhuman courage.

(Capt. McGillivray to 5th Brigade O.C., 26th Bn. War Diary, Aug 1918, 32)

Archibald Ernest Graham McKenzie was a New Brunswick lawyer, Liberal Party campaigner and militia officer. He was born 21 January 1878 in Campbellton, McKenzie served as second-in-command with the 26th Battalion when it arrived in France in September 1915. By May 1916, he had replaced an ill Lieutenant Colonel James L. McAvity as commander of the battalion.

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The Americanist

Lieutenant Colonel P. A. Guthrie, M.P.P.
236th (Sir Sam’s Own) BattalionGuthrie

I do confess to be a Christian, but I must confess that when the time comes and we have the chance to even up old scores, I want to see their [German] towns leveled with the earth; I want to see their farmhouses in smoke; I want to see their land laid waste and desolate; and I want to see them fleeing before fire, sword and hate…

If I can but see this and help it on its way I will be happy to fall in the rush of victory…

(Boston Globe, 6 Jan 1918, 15)

Born on 20 June 1884 in Oromocto, New Brunswick, Percy Albert Guthrie was an Orangeman and Conservative member of the provincial legislature. He was one of the first volunteers to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force and sailed to England with Lieutenant Colonel Harry McLeod’s 12th Battalion. He fought with the 10th Battalion at Second Ypres and was seriously wounded by a shell explosion at Festubert on 25 May 1915.

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The Marksman

Lieutenant Colonel W. E. Forbes
145th (Kent—Westmorland) Battalion
Forbes

Shooting constituted one department in which the 145th Infantry Battalion excelled. Its subsequent success in sniping derived largely from the painstaking effort of Lt. Col. Forbes, who was—as has been noted earlier—a notable marksman, and twice a member of Canada’s Bisley Rifle Team.

So Lt. Col. Forbes offered his Battalion the benefit of more experience in musketry than the average Officer Commanding possessed.

(Pte. V.E. Goodwin , Memories of the Forgotten War, 1988, 34)

Born on 8 August 1868 in Richibucto, New Brunswick, William Ellis Forbes was a merchant and farmer with seventeen years’ experience in the 73rd Regiment. In national and international rifle contests he demonstrated excellent marksmanship abilities and competed at the Bisley shooting ranges in England.

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The Accountant

Lieutenant Colonel Walter R. Brown, D.S.O.
26th (New Brunswick) BattalionWRBrown

I see in my mind many bright, cheery figures, some of the best of our county’s stock, soldiers every inch of them—how sorry I am they are not returning with us today, and how I feel for their people. But though they are sleeping in some military graveyard in France or Belgium, I know they are not forgotten…

(Brown to People of N.B., St. John Telegraph, 1919)

A member of the 62nd Fusiliers and Boer War veteran, Walter Richard Brown enlisted with the 26th Battalion in February 1915. He was born on 3 June 1872 in London, England. After the removal of Lieutenant Colonel James L. McAvity in May 1916 and the departure of Lieutenant Colonel A. E. G. McKenzie to an officer’s course in summer 1917, Brown assumed command of the battalion.

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The Diarist

Lieutenant Colonel Lewis H. Beer
140th (St. John’s Tigers) Battalion

I forgot to mention that Gen. Seeley [sic] comes back on Tuesday the 10th. Well I have made up my mind to not stay when he returns. I am quite sure I would only get into trouble and would never feel easy under his command knowing he is not to be trusted. He is the kind of man who pats you on the back and at the same time knifes you. I want nothing to do with him. I have discovered him now in several lies not only about me but about other people. I have applied to return to England at the same time if humanly possible. I am going to make every effort to secure another place in France.

(L. H. Beer, Diary, 8 July 1917)

Lewis Herbert Beer was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on 12 December 1873. He was a member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 614, worked in insurance and belonged to the 36th P.E.I. Light Horse. In October 1914, Beer joined Lord Strathcona’s Horse as a lieutenant. He served in England and France until 29 December 1915 when he returned to Canada in order to raise the 140th Battalion from New Brunswick.

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The Ringleader

Lieutenant Colonel James L. McAvity
26th (New Brunswick) BattalionMcAvity

“Actual demonstration of the wonderful ability of the Overland cars in the rear of the trenches of the allied nations caused me to buy an Overland.” said Colonel McAvity, 26th Battalion, St. John, N.B., Just after one of the new Overland models was delivered to him by J. A. Pugnley, Overland dealer at St. John. Colonel McAvity recently returned home on a short furlough, and in order to get the most out of his, brief leave of absence purchased a motor car.

(Ottawa Journal, 26 August 1916, 13)

James Lupton McAvity was born on 8 October 1867 in Saint John, New Brunswick. He began his career with the family manufacturing business, T. McAvity & Sons Ltd. in the mid-1880s. His position as a company manager and representative took him to western Canada, Chicago and New York. During the gold rush of 1897, he traveled to Alaska and the Yukon in search of his fortune.

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