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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The Cadet Instructor

Lieutenant Colonel R. K. Barker
95th (Toronto) Battalion Barker

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.

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The Little Fellow

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Burton
216th (Toronto Bantams) BattalionBurton

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.

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The Grenadier

Lieutenant Colonel W. B. Kingsmill, D.S.O.
123rd (Royal Grenadiers) BattalionKingsmill

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.

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