Lieutenant Colonel W. Rhoades, D.S.O., M.C.
5th Canadian Mounted Rifles
Up to this time the Colonel’s cheery voice had always been heard, whenever a shell or bomb burst very near, calling “Are you all right. Captain?” — and I would answer, ”Yes, Sir, are you?” I was not badly hurt and called out, “Are you all right. Sir?” Getting no answer, I felt over for the Colonel, and found him lying unconscious, but breathing faintly. I cannot attempt to tell you how we got our dearly loved Commanding Officer out of the fire trench.
(Rhoades to Lt.-Col. Baker’s sister, 4 June 1916)
William Rhoades was a twenty-one year veteran of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. Born in Nottingham, England on 15 September 1874, he immigrated to western Canada in 1893. He served with the Yukon Field Force during the Klondike gold rush and fought in the Boer War. On the formation of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles in 1915, Rhoades enlisted at the rank of captain.
Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Blondin, M.P.
258th (Canadien-Français) Battalion
Sir Wilfrid Laurier: I cannot give him a better answer than this: Mr. Blondin took off his coat—
Sir Sam Hughes: Pardon me, Colonel Blondin.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier: I stand corrected. There are so many colonels in this country that I had forgotten one. I am blessed with a pretty good memory, but there is a limit even to counting, and I do not know whether the ex-minister himself knows how many honorary colonels he has appointed. But let that pass.
(Debates, 18 June 1917, 2400)
Pierre Édouard Blondin was Conservative MP for Champlain and prominent French-Canadian minister in the Borden Cabinet. He was born on 14 December 1874 in St-François du Lac, Quebec. First elected to parliament in 1908, he became Minster of Revenue in 1914 and Secretary of State in 1915 before being appointed Postmaster General.
Major Ian Sinclair, D.S.O., M.C.
13th (Royal Highlanders of Canada) Battalions
I thought my nerves might give if I ever ran into an affair of that sort, but something seemed to change in me and I saw without any particular sensation things happen, which in my previous state of mind would have driven me mad. One of my men actually did go crazy this morning after we got out. Every battalion in the division suffered about as much and the whole is pretty wrecked.
(Sinclair, 13th Bn., to Mother, 28 Apr 1915)
Ian MacIntosh Roe Sinclair sailed for England as a subaltern with the 13th Battalion in October 1914. Over four years later, he returned to Canada at the head of the battalion. Though wounded in the fighting at the second battle of Ypres, he was promoted to company commander. After Lieutenant Colonel Eric McCuaig was elevated to the 12th Brigade on 14 September 1918, Sinclair became temporary commanding officer.
Lieutenant Colonel H. J. M. R. DesRosiers
163rd (Canadien-Français) and 22nd Battalions
I do not believe a more competent O.C. than Lieutenant Colonel DesRosiers could be found in the C.E.F. The breaking up of the battalion would demoralize us. If allowed to go to the front as a unit, we will try our best to be a source of pride to our race and credit to Canada.
(Maj. Asselin to Arthur Mignault, Nov 1916)
Henri Joseph Marie Romeo DesRosiers was born in Vaudreuil, Quebec on 11 July 1880. A prewar member of the 65th Regiment, DesRosiers enlisted with the 14th Battalion in August 1914. A veteran of Second Ypres, DesRosiers was recalled to Canada in early 1916 to take command of a new French-Canadian battalion.
Major Georges Vanier, D.S.O., M.C.
22nd (Royal French Canadians) Battalion
I need not tell you that after the shock of losing a leg and the consequent inaction I am not in good condition.
I am happy at the thought that I had the courage to return to my boys in 1916 and that God gave me the strength of body and mind to do my duty under fire. It is a tremendous consolation that will comfort me until my dying day.
(Vanier to Mother, 13 May 1919)
Georges-Philéas Vanier was one of Canada’s most well-known veterans of the First World War. He became a high-ranking military officer, diplomat and 19th Governor General of Canada. Born in Montreal on 23 April 1888, Vanier was a graduate of Université Laval and a lawyer. In early 1915, he helped organize the 22nd Battalion under the command of F. M. Gaudet. After four years in the trenches, he had been shell shocked, multiple times wounded and lost his right leg.
Brigadier General Tommy Tremblay
22nd (Royal French Canadians) Battalion
I am confident that the French Canadians will defend all their trenches with fierce vigour and will hold on at any price, even the price of death. Let us not forget that we represent an entire race and that many things—the very honour of French Canada—depend upon the manner in which we conduct ourselves. Our ancestors bequeathed to us a brave and glorious past that we must respect and equal. Let us uphold our beautiful old traditions.
(Tremblay, Diary, 1916)
Thomas-Louis Tremblay would prove to be the 22nd Battalion’s most famous commanding officer. Notorious for his strict discipline, he was determined to prove the only all French-Canadian unit serving in the field was the finest in the CEF. Born in Chicoutimi, Quebec on 16 May 1886, he was a graduate of the Royal Military College, a civil engineer and member of the 1st Canadian Field Artillery.
Lieutenant Colonel Onésime Readman
167th (Canadien-Français) Battalion
As to Col. Readman, he thought he was sincere and a man who had a clear past. Colonel Readman was a man who had offered to do his bit for his country and this should be weighed in the sentence, and if he had not received what was due him, he should get it from the Government and he hoped he would be given full justice.
(Quebec Telegraph, 22 Apr 1918, 1)
In August 1914, Onésime Readman enlisted to defend King and Country; after charges of corruption and forgery four years later, he was forced to fight against the Crown in a Quebec courtroom. Born on 4 June 1877, Readman was a flavouring extracts manufacturer and militia officer. Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, he assumed command of the 4th (Chasseurs Canadiens) Regiment.
Brigadier General Eric McCuaig, D.S.O.
13th (Royal Highlanders of Canada) Battalion
One night, too, the officers staged a concert in the local theatre, all the talent being drawn from their own roster. By sacrificing his moustache, Lieut-Col. McCuaig scored a tremendous hit in a charming female role…
(The 13th Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada, 1925, 203)
George Eric McCuaig assumed command of the 13th Battalion after an explosion killed Lieutenant Colonel Victor Buchanan and many of his senior officers. A native of Toronto, McCuaig was born on 2 September 1885. He graduated from McGill University, worked in Montreal as a stockbroker and belonged to the Black Watch.
Lieutenant Colonel R. A. de la B. Girouard
178th (Canadien-Français) Battalion
There is a fine fibrillary Tremor of hands & tongue on Exam.
Insomnia with frequent migraine over left side & is all the time “nervous.” Is unable to walk a mile at ordinary Military rate. Says he notices he is very irritable at times & has “fits of depression.”
(Medical History of Invalid, 24 Apr 1919)
René-Arthur de la Bruère Girouard traced his family linage to the earliest French settlers in the 17th Century and was a direct descendant of Governor Pierre Boucher (1622—1717). A native of Quebec City, Girouard was born on 29 January 1882. He joined the Royal Leister Regiment at eighteen but left the army to work as a civil engineer and supervise track construction of the Pacific Railway in British Columbia.
Lieutenant Colonel F. A. deL. Gascoigne, D.S.O.
60th (Victoria Rifles of Canada) Battalion
My own future is uncertain, but I can only hope that some day, we shall be together again, and I would ask for nothing better than to have you all back under my command but whatever comes, I shall never forget the many happy and glorious days I have spent with the old 60th Battalion.
(Gascoigne’s Farewell Address, 60th Bn. War Diary, 29 Apr 1917, 8)
A native of England, Frederick Arthur DeLong Gascoigne was born on 2 April 1866. After immigrating to Canada, he worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Quebec. In 1886, he enlisted as a private with the 3rd (Victoria Rifles) Regiment. After nearly thirty-years’ service in the militia he became commanding officer in 1914. Although illness prevented him from joining the First Contingent, in April 1915 Gascoigne was authorized to raise the 60th Battalion from Quebec.