The Redeemed

Lieutenant Colonel C. C. Harbottle, D.S.O
75th (Mississauga) BattalionHarbottle

This deplorable affair has ruined him absolutely, and his character has been taken from him forever. His family and mother are heart-broken. For two years, since these things began, he has lived in a hell of torture, and whatever term he has to do he will be more than amply punished.

(Defence counsel Mr. Robinette, Toronto Globe, 9 May 1908, 4)

Colin Clark Harbottle assumed command of the 75th Battalion on 16 April 1917. He proved himself a dedicated leader through the last year and a half of the war and won the Distinguished Service Order for his “fine example of personal gallantry and determination.” Ten years, earlier Harbottle had been a disgraced fugitive from justice and convicted criminal.

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The Queen’s Own

Major General Malcolm Mercer †
3rd Infantry DivisionMercer

It is now fully believed here that General Mercer is dead.

Nothing whatever has been heard of him since and it is now considered almost certain that his body lies in the shell torn area where the former front trenches were, but are now practically obliterated.

(Montreal Daily Mail, 6 June 1916, 1)

Malcolm Smith Mercer was the highest ranked Canadian officer killed in the First World War. He was born on 17 September 1859 in Etobicoke, Canada West. While a student at the University of Toronto, he joined the Queen’s Own Rifles in 1881. He became commanding officer of the Regiment in 1911 and was posted to the 1st Infantry Brigade when the First Contingent assembled at Valcartier in August 1914.

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The Retiree

Colonel Septimus J. A. Denison
4th Infantry Brigade DenisonS

… I am afraid we have had in the past, officers placed upon the general staff in time of trouble who are a long way better fitted to carry a constituency or empty a bottle of good Canadian rye in the morning.

(Denison, Lecture, Feb 1898)

Born in Toronto in 1859, Septimus Junius Augustus Denison was the brother of Colonel George Taylor Denison III and member of Canada’s most prominent military family. A graduate of the Royal Military College, he served for twenty-five years with the Royal Canadian Regiment and was aide-de-camp to General Lord Roberts during the Boer War. Continue reading

The Engineer

Lieutenant Colonel Walter A. McConnell
256th (Toronto Railway Construction) BattalionMcConnell

This battalion should be very popular, as a very small amount of drill is necessary, and the work of laying railways behind the lines will be particularly interesting.

(Toronto Star, 5 Jan 1917, 16)

Born on 28 September 1878 in Muskoka, Ontario, Walter Adam McConnell was a railway engineer and graduate of the Engineering Corps of the School of Science. In January 1917, he was authorized to raise the 256th Railway Construction Battalion. McConnell and the majority of his recruits had belonged to the 109th Regiment, the Home Guard unit organized by Lieutenant Colonel W. T. Stewart two years earlier. Including the volunteers in the 256th, by 1917 the 109th Regiment had provided a total 200 officers and 5,000 men for overseas service.

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The Imperialist

Major General A. H. Macdonell, D.S.O.
Royal Canadian RegimentAHMacdonell

Theirs was not a spectacular adventure.

Modern warfare had lost that glamour which in centuries past stirred the imagination of peoples. When whole nations are aligned on the battle fields in a long mass of muddy burrows, war becomes horribly monotonous, yet officers and privates faced the same dangers and they shared the same fate.

(Macdonell, Speech at War Memorial, St. John, N.B., 10 June 1925)

Born in Toronto on 6 February 1868, Archibald Hayes Macdonell was a decorated professional soldier and veteran of multiple British imperial adventures in Africa. He had fought in the Boer War, the Aro Expedition and military operations in Nigeria with the West African Frontier Force. During the South African campaign, he had briefly been taken prisoner by Boer General Christian De Wet and earned the Distinguished Service Order.

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The Labourer

To mark the one year anniversary of this website, today’s post features an ordinary private soldier, my great-great uncle, G. W. Barrett.

Private “Bill” Barrett
208th and 102nd BattalionsGWBarrett

Over 80 per cent of the men in my battalion, and at least 80 per cent of the men in any battalion, are workingmen, who should really be the last class to be called upon. The average workingman slaves night and day to get a bare living for his wife and family, but it is the workingman who is giving lustre and glory to the name of Canada.

(T. H. Lennox, Toronto Globe, 6 Nov 1916, 4)

George William Barrett was born in Peterborough, England on 5 November 1897. He immigrated to Canada with his family in 1907 and worked as a labourer in Toronto. Standing only five-foot-three, George volunteered with the 208th Irish Fusiliers, commanded by York North MPP Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lennox on 5 April 1916. Several weeks later, his underage brother Harry Barrett enlisted with the 204th Beavers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William Herbert Price, another Toronto MPP.

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The Shame Monger

Lieutenant Colonel George C. Royce
255th (Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada) Battalion  Royce_G

GIVE US HIS NAME
Nearly everyone knows of ONE MAN who should be in khaki to-day. We ask you to give us his name so we can call upon him and give him this opportunity to join an Overseas Battalion—

Doing this does not imply any slur upon the man you name…
That man whose name you give us may be just waiting for this chance…
Take this duty seriously. Do not send us unsuitable or “spite” names…

(255th Advertisement, Toronto Globe, 30 Nov 1916, 5)

Authorized in late 1916, the 255th Battalion was to provide reinforcements for the 3rd Battalion fighting on the frontlines France. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel George Cooper Royce quickly realized the dire recruitment situation in Toronto. Having already provided multiple battalions, and with many more units still trying to enlist men, the Ontario capital had nearly exhausted its reserve of suitable soldiers.

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The Old Timer & The Whippersnapper

Lieutenant Colonel Wellington WallaceWallace&
Major William Otter Morris
Morris234th (Peel) Battalion

Born in 1854 in Tipperary, Ireland, Wellington Wallace immigrated to Canada in 1878. He was a bank manager, militiaman and veteran of the Northwest Rebellion. He fought with the Queen’s Own Rifles against Cree Chief Poundmaker at the battle of Cut Knife on 2 May 1885. The son of a North West Mounted Police Inspector, William Otter Morris was born in Fort Battleford on 24 May 1885 and named after the Canadian commander at Cut Knife, Colonel William Dillon Otter. The thirty-year old Wallace and the two day old Morris were both present in Battleford when Poundmaker and the Cree surrendered on 26 May 1885. Over thirty years later, Morris succeed Wallace as commander of the 234th Battalion.

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The Prisoner

Major A. J. E. Kirkpatrick
3rd (Toronto Regiment) BattalionAJEKirkpatrick

With ammunition gone, bleeding and bent,
With hunger, thirst, and weariness near spent,
With foes in crowds on every side to hem
Them in, to capture these, God pity them.

Their day was done, their suffering still to come.
They were to know the full and total sum,
Wearily marching to captivity,
How long? God knows! An eternity

(A. E. Kirkpatrick, Toronto Globe, 22 Apr 1931, 4)

A native of Toronto, Arthur James Ernest Kirkpatrick was born on 29 April 1876. He was a graduate of Upper Canada College, twenty-one year member of the Queen’s Own Rifles and married to the daughter of prominent Liberal Party leader William Mulock. Kirkpatrick fought at Second Ypres as second-in-command of the 3rd Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rennie.

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The Legacy

Lieutenant Colonel G. T. Denison †
2nd Division Cyclist CompanyDenison

Lieut.-Col. Denison’s death is a great personal loss to me as an old friend. It must be a splendid satisfaction to his family to know he upheld the traditions of the first military family in Canada. As to the loss to Col. Denison, I can only say that when I left him this morning he was bearing his grief like a Christian gentleman and a soldier.

(Crown Attorney Seymour Corley, Toronto Star, 15 May 1917, 2)

On 8 May 1917, George Taylor Denison IV was killed in action at the battle of Fresnoy. His father, Toronto police magistrate Colonel George Taylor Denison III (1839—1925) was a long-time Conservative militia leader, imperialist activist and patriarch of one of the city’s most influential Loyalist families. When the death of Denison was announced during a session of his father’s police court, the elder judge sat motionless before quietly exiting to his chambers. He was later heard to remark, that his son “would wish no better death than to die for his country.”

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