Lieutenant Colonel R. K. Barker
95th (Toronto) Battalion
Man looks unwell.
Complains of weakness, loss of weight, loss of sleep, loss of nervous control. Accounts for this by loss of food and sleep.
(“Medical History of an Invalid,” 7 November 1923)
Rybert Kent Barker was a military instructor in Toronto and veteran of the Boer War. Born on 21 September 1869 in Kingston, Ontario, he had served with the Queen’s Own Rifles from 1880 to 1910 and commanded “C” company in South Africa. Prior to being appointed commander of the 95th Battalion, he was a cadet drill instructor with the 2nd Military Division.
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Burton
216th (Toronto Bantams) Battalion
The Bantam Battalion is no mere novelty, but will prove to be a real fighting unit, and the bantam’s motto might well be, Multum in Parvo [Much in Little], for they are every inch soldiers in breadth as well as height, and Gulliver would find them very tough Lilliputians to handle.
(Toronto Globe, 25 Feb 1916, 6)
Frank Lindsay Burton was born on 12 February 1876 in in Barrie, Ontario. After graduating from Upper Canada College he joined the 35th Simcoe Foresters. When he moved to Toronto, he served as a militia officer with the 9th Mississauga Horse. In 1915, he enlisted as a senior major with Lieutenant Colonel Sam Beckett’s 75th Battalion.
Lieutenant Colonel W. B. Kingsmill, D.S.O.
123rd (Royal Grenadiers) Battalion
Feeling very confident that the Battalion will carry on in the future as it has done in the past, I wish one and all, A Happy New Year, and trust that it will please God to see our task completed, and that we will be back in Canada with those we Love in the not far distant future.
(Kingsmill, 123rd War Diary, 1 Jan 1918, 51)
Born in Toronto on 6 May 1876, Walter Bernard Kingsmill was a graduate of the Royal Military College and Osgoode Hall. He joined the 10th Royal Grenadiers in 1898 and became commanding officer of the militia regiment. In November 1915, he received authorization to raise the 123rd Battalion from Toronto.
Lieutenant Colonel B. H. Brown
220th (12th York Rangers) Battalion
Lieut.-Col. B. H. Brown of the 220th (York County) Battalion played the role of Santa Claus last evening when the two battalions in question celebrated Christmas.
(Toronto Globe, 22 Dec 1916, 6)
Benjamin Hinchcliffe Brown was the son of retired Colonel F. M. Brown, a leading Orangeman, long-time member of the 12th (York Rangers) Regiment and veteran of the Riel Rebellion. A member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 142, B. H. Brown was born on 15 October 1878 in Toronto. He worked as a printer and publisher with his brother, Francis Frederick Middleton Brown, who was born on 20 August 1885, and named in honour of their father’s commanding general in the 1885 Rebellion.
Major General Robert Rennie, M.V.O.
3rd (Toronto Regiment) Battalion
As a candidate, I seek election not on my personal record so much, but on that of those who were associated with me in the great war. I am now more a civilian than a soldier, but—and please let there be no frills about this—if war should threaten again, I am ready to offer my services.
I stand on a Liberal platform because I am a Liberal and always have been. I believe in the great principles of Liberalism…
(Rennie’s speech, Toronto Globe, 21 Nov 1921, 1)
Robert Rennie was a Toronto seed merchant and thirty-four year member of the Queen’s Own Rifles. He joined as a rifleman in 1880 and rose to become lieutenant colonel by 1914. Born on 15 December 1862 in Markham, Canada West, Rennie was an expert marksman, respected businessman and prominent sportsman, with a specialty in curling.
This site normally profiles majors, colonels and generals—but for Remembrance Day, I focus on a private soldier, my great-great uncle, H. J. Barrett.
Private Harry John Barrett
204th and 3rd (Toronto) Battalions
Whist in the act of firing his Lewis Machine Gun during Military operations in the vicinity of UPTON WOOD, Private Barrett was shot by a bullet from the rifle of an enemy sniper and instantly killed.
(H. J. Barrett, Circumstances of Death, 30 Aug 1918)
Harry John Barrett was born in Peterborough, England on 31 March 1900. He immigrated to Canada with his family in 1907 and worked as a labourer in Toronto. Despite being only one month over sixteen, Harry enlisted in the CEF on 26 April 1916. Claiming to be eighteen years old , he joined the 204th Beavers commanded by Parkdale MPP, Lieutenant Colonel William Herbert Price. Harry’s older brother, George William Barrett, had signed up earlier in April with the 208th Irish Fusiliers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lennox, another Ontario MPP.
Lieutenant Colonel Dick Greer
180th (Sportsmen) Battalion
But the English and Canadians and Australians fight in a different way. They make a sport of fighting.
The German soldier has no sport. He is a machine; he is rigidly in his place. He can’t understand the idea that fighting is sport to the British. That long line of men charging, laughing and kicking a football along ahead terrifies him.
(Greer to Fosdick Commission, Toronto Globe, 18 June 1917, 9)
As president of the Sportsmen’s Patriotic Association, Richard Haliburton Greer proposed to raise a battalion of athletes from Toronto. Born on 19 October 1878 in Toronto, Greer was an Ontario Crown attorney and one of the city’s leading sportsmen. In his youth, Greer played amateur and semi-professional baseball. As a member of the University of Toronto ball club in the late 1890s, he was regarded as “one of the best short-stops in Canada.” In the 1898 UofT yearbook, Greer cited as his chief ambition in life: “To play the game.”
Lieutenant Colonel E. W. Hagarty
201st (Toronto Light Infantry) Battalion
I saw a mock funeral to day up to the 201 Batt they are being split up tomorrow, their Col. lost his job as they have less than 600 men. They dug a grave and buried a dummy representing their Col. They hated him, he was a whiskey soak, so on top of the grave they put a cross, a whiskey bottle, cig or some branches for flowers. Some reporters took a picture of it so likely it will be in the papers.
(L. E. Johns, 161th Bn. to Mother, 20 Sept 1916.)
Edward William Hagarty was principal of Harbord Street Collegiate from 1906 to 1928 and member of Orange Order Lodge No. 344. He was born on 7 September 1862 in Brantford, Canada West. He served four years with the Queen’s Own Rifles while an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. An influential figure in the cadet movement for twenty-five years, Hagarty was selected to raise the 201st Toronto Light Infantry in January 1916.
Lieutenant Colonel F. F. Clarke, D.S.O.
127th (12th York Rangers) Battalion
“We hold the record for railway building in France. We had a very difficult piece to build, because it was in full view of the German lines in daylight for about 1½ miles across a valley.
When the air cleared on Thursday the Germans saw the railway track from their observation balloon and started to shell it, and, after sending over about 200 shells, they broke a rail, which was repaired in a few-minutes. This line can only be used at night, without light or noise
(F. F. Clarke, Railway Age Gazette, 1918, 404)
Frederick Fieldhouse Clarke was an engineer and surveyor in northern Ontario. Born on 22 August 1878 in Hamilton, Clarke had moved north during the mining rush around Cobalt. He served for three years with the Royal Canadian Regiment and nearly twenty with the 12th York Rangers. Through his work with northern railway development, Clarke helped to found the town of Kapuskasing in 1911
Lieutenant Colonel W. T. Stewart
84th (Toronto Depot) Battalion
…the genial silver-haired Irishman who commands the regiment, and who is the originator of the Home Guard movement of Canada, a movement that to-day has over 160,000 men in its train. The chief characteristic of this commander is that when he wants anything he gets it.
(Brantford Expositor, Dec 1915, 16)
A native of Killarney, Ireland, William Thomas Stewart was a twenty-five year member of the Canadian militia, serving in the 13th (Hamilton), the 66th (Princess Louise) and 100th (Royal Canadians) Regiments. One month after the outbreak of the First World War, Stewart began organizing the Home Guards from Toronto.