Lt. Col. Alexander

Lieutenant Colonel R.O. Alexander, D.S.O.
24th (Victoria Rifles) Battalion

Born on the island of Ceylon on 7 August 1888, Ronald O’Keden Alexander was a soldier with the 3rd Regiment, Victoria Rifles and the Royal Canadian Regiment. He served with the 24th Battalion and succeeded Lieutenant Colonel J. A. Gunn in command on 1 November 1916.

After one month, Alexander was evacuated from the field with influenza and appendicitis in December 1916. Doctors determined that Alexander “Had long service at Front and requires rest.” He did not resume command of the 24th until after the battle of Vimy Ridge on 14 April 1917. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and three times mentioned in the dispatches. From October 1917 to demobilization, he was attached as a staff officer to the 2nd Canadian Division.

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Lt. Col. Swift

Lieutenant Colonel “Dolly” Swift, D.S.O.
2nd and 259th (Canadian Rifles) Battalions


The Vics took the first three games and looked like certain winners, but Stocking and Watson kept their team together and are mainly responsible for enabling Swift and Scott to tie the score and then get one ahead. Swift rallied his home and made a steady forward rush, when Grant lifted the puck, which struck “Dolly” Swift under the ear and knocked him out. This involved another fifteen minute delay.

(Toronto Globe, 31 Jan 1898, 8)

Albert Edward “Dolly” Swift was a Boer War veteran and professional soldier with twenty-years’ experience in the permanent militia. Born in Quebec City on 30 January 1866, Swift had also been an amateur hockey player in his youth. He played one season with the Montreal Victorias and thirteen with the Quebec Hockey Club during the 1880s and 90s.

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Lt. Col. Bowen

Lieutenant Colonel F.C. Bowen
23rd (Westmount Rifles) Battalion

This officer as a result of damp and exposure in the trenches developed Lumbago. Continued at duty but had to go sick on 6 Nov. 1916. He has still a deal of pain, is sleepless, debilitated and has lost weight.

(Proceedings of Medical Board, 30 Nov 1916)

Frederick Chamberlain Bowen was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec on 8 July 1876. He had been commanding officer of the 53rd Sherbrooke Rifles and served as second-in-command with Frank Fisher’s 23rd Battalion. After Fisher joined the 14th Royal Montreal Regiment on the front, Bowen assumed command of the 23rd, which became a reinforcement unit in England.

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The Cashiered

Lieutenant Colonel Tancrède Pagnuelo
206th (Canadien-Français) Battalion

I know I deserve to be punished for a breach of discipline, but all I ask from you, gentlemen, is not to be prevented from doing what I wanted to do, namely, going to the Front. If you dismiss me from the service it will be quite impossible for a commanding officer to join the ranks as a private.

(Court martial of Lt. Col. Pagnuelo, Dec 1916)

Born in 1870, Tancrède Pagnuelo was a Montreal barrister and Conservative Party activist. He had unsuccessfully contested the riding of St. James in the 1900 federal election. A reserve officer with the 85th Regiment, Pagnuelo was appointed to raise the 206th Battalion from the districts of Beauharnois, Laprairie and Terrebonne in early 1916. He would prove to be one of the more unfortunate choices.

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Lt. Col. Cantlie

Lieutenant Colonel G.S. Cantlie, D.S.O.
42nd (Royal Highlanders of Canada) Battalion

Col Cantlie, long before he died, had become a living tradition. Not only was the past in him made real; the values of life, which the past enhances for the sake of the future, found in him their gracious embodiment.

(Montreal Gazette, 31 Aug 1956, 8)

A native of Montreal, George Stephen Cantlie was born on 2 May 1867. He was gentleman militia officer with the Royal Highlanders of Canada (The Black Watch) since 1885. He was commanding officer of the regiment during the Quebec Tercentenary of 1908. He commanded the 42nd Battalion in France as part of 7th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division.

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Lt. Col. Bickerdike

Lieutenant Colonel R. Bickerdike, D.S.O.
87th (Canadian Grenadier Guards) Battalion


But I speak feelingly on this question, as I have a son, two grandsons and seven nephews at the front–that is, I had seven nephews at the front, but two have been killed and two badly wounded.

 (Robert Bickerdike, Sr., House of Commons Debates, 2 May 1917, 1015)

Robert Bickerdike Jr. was a graduate of McGill University and a Montreal civil engineer. Born on 30 September 1869, he was the son of Robert Bickerdike Sr., Liberal MP for St. Lawrence (1900—1917). The elder Bickerdike was a leading philanthropist, humanitarian and outspoken opponent of the death penalty. During the conscription debate of 1917, the elder Bickerdike broke with long-time friend Wilfrid Laurier in support of the Military Service Act.

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Lt. Col. Ewing

Lieutenant Colonel Royal Ewing, D.S.O., M.C.
42nd (Royal Highlanders of Canada) BattalionEwing

They were looked on as a necessary evil. War diaries were presumably for the benefit of historians, if you will, and were prepared as carefully as could be under the circumstances.

 (Ewing’s testimony at Currie Libel Trial, 25 Apr 1928, 1)

 Royal Lindsay Hamilton Ewing enlisted in the 42nd Battalion as a subaltern, rose from platoon leader to adjutant, and returned home as the commanding officer in 1919. Born in Montreal on 12 November 1878, he was a real estate agent and member of the Black Watch regiment. Having served with the 42nd throughout the war, Ewing was twice mentioned in dispatches, received the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, and won the Military Cross.

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Lt. Col. Gunn

Lieutenant Colonel J. A. Gunn, D.S.O.
24th (Victoria Rifles) BattalionGunn

I would like to sound this note of warning. This war has united the soldiers into the most powerful force for good or evil in this country. If we use this force to promote our own selfish purposes we will have forgotten the high ideals for which we fought.

(Gunn, Toronto Globe, 18 Mar 1919, 9)

 A native of Toronto, John Alexander Gunn was born on 5 August 1873.  He had first joined the Queen’s Own Rifles in 1897 but transferred to the Victoria Rifles when he moved to Montreal in 1901. In October 1914, Gunn was appointed to command the 24th Battalion. At a reception before he departed overseas with his unit, Gunn defended the war as a just cause: “It means the triumph of honor, or of dishonor; the preservation of centuries of progress or a reversion to brutal militarism with its battle cry of iron and blood– in fact the whole future of the human race is at stake.”

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Lt. Col. Perry

Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Perry, D.S.O.
13th and 87th BattalionsKPerry

An engineer by profession, he took up his duties as a soldier at the front with courage and enthusiasm, with the result that as the casualties thinned out the ranks of the senior officers he gradually rose, until from a lieutenant he became major and then eventually commanding officer of the 13th…

(Montreal Gazette, 1 Apr 1919, 4)

Kenneth Meikle Perry was born McLeod, Alberta on 7 November 1884. His father, Aylesworth Bowen Perry (1860—1956) was an original graduate of RMC and Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The younger Perry graduated from McGill University, worked in Montreal as a civil engineer and belonged to the Black Watch. He was four times wounded in action and received the Distinguished Service Order and two Bars.

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Lt. Col. Rhoades

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.

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