Brigadier General Huntly Ketchen
6th Infantry Brigade
Gather round, boys, I want to have a little talk with you. You’ve been under my command about nine months now, and I’ve always been proud of you, and now you are going up the line, and I want to say this to you: Don’t go up with any idea that you are going to be killed—we want you all to take care of yourselves and not expose yourselves recklessly.
And remember a dead man is no use to us, we want you alive, and when we want you to put your heads up, we’ll tell you! And I’ve no doubt that you will only be too eager.
(Ketchen’s Speech, quoted in Pte. Jack O’Brien, Into the Jaws of Death, 1919, 54)
The son of an Indian Army officer, Huntly Douglas Brodie Ketchen was born in Sholopore, India on 22 May 1872. After graduating from the Royal Military College in Sandhurst, England, Ketchen moved to Canada, joined the North West Mounted Police in 1894 and fought in the Boer War. He was appointed to lead the 6th Infantry Brigade in May 1915.
Lieutenant Colonel Fred Hamilton
126th (Peel) Battalion
I am quite sure that the officer commanding the Peel battalion, Colonel Hamilton, who has returned home, never thought that the breaking up of his battalion was any stain upon his military record. It was a policy adopted for military reasons, and a great many battalions had to come under the rule.
(Blain, Debates, 13 Jul 1917, 3377)
Frederick John Hamilton was a municipal politician, member of Orange Lodge No. 163 and militia major. Born on 14 July 1869 in Port Credit, Ontario, he was a six-term town alderman with twenty years’ experience in the 36th Regiment. In early 1916, he was authorized to raise the 126th Battalion from Peel County.
Honorary Colonel W. F. Cockshutt, M.P.&
Lieutenant Colonel M. E. B. Cutcliffe
125th (38th Regiment Dufferin Rifles) Battalion
The voluntary system as carried out, I think, has been a great credit to our people.
If it failed in any place, it failed because it was not pushed with sufficient vigour by the natural leaders of the people. And who are those leaders? The members of this House. The man who represents a constituency in this House is the first citizen in his riding, and he is the man who should have taken responsibility for recruiting in that riding.
(Cockshutt, Debates, 22 Jun 1917, 2601)
Authorized in November 1915, the 125th Battalion was initially to be raised by William Foster Cockshutt, Conservative MP for Brantford (1904—1908, 1911—1921). Recognizing his own limitations and lack of military experience, the sixty year-old parliamentarian turned over leadership to Captain Mostyn Elton Bluett Cutcliffe, senior officer of Dufferin Rifles.
Lieutenant Colonel A. Bruce Powley
143rd (B. C. Bantams) Battalion
…it has never appeared that the Commanding Officer was capable of a full and practical appreciation of the value of any branch of training.
Has shown little professional knowledge, energy or executive. Is inclined to say much of what he has done and what he intends to do, but to fall short in practice.
(OC No. 11 Military District to Militia Council, 9 Feb 1917)
Wounded at Festubert in May 1915, Alan Bruce Powley returned to recover and raise a new overseas battalion. Inspired by the 35th Bantam Division in the British Army, a number of British Columbia men below the minimum height requirement had petitioned Ottawa to create a similar unit. In November 1915, Powley was authorized to raise the 143rd Bantam Battalion consisting of volunteers under 5’4.
Lieutenant Colonel Jesse Wright
169th (109th Regiment) Battalion
“Vote for King,” shouted a man.
“There is a friend over there that says he is going to vote for Mr. King,” said Col Wright, pointing to a man in the hall. “But one King is enough for Canada. That is his majesty King George and not Mackenzie King who claims his ancestry from a man who was a blooming traitor” and Col. Wright sat down amid a storm of cheers and jeers.
(Toronto Star, 3 Dec 1921, 9)
Born on 9 July 1877 in Collingwood, Ontario, Jesse Green Wright was a Toronto druggist, member of Loyalist Orange Lodge No. 900 and militiaman. He had belonged to the Queen’s Own Rifles and the 12th York Rangers. After outbreak of the Great War, he joined the new 109th Regiment organized by William Thomas Stewart. In January 1916, Wright received authorization to raise the 169th Battalion from Toronto.
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 John P. Girvan
15th (48th Highlanders) Battalion
He personally attacked and captured an enemy machine gun, shooting the gunner and turning the gun on the enemy. He went on and assisted in capturing Chapel Corner and the village of Marquion, and then gained his final objectives. His courage and dash were a fine example to his command.
(Bar to D.S.O., 4 Oct 1919, 12218)
Born in Kingarth, Scotland on 27 November 1887, John Pollands Girvan was a champion rower and mail sorter in the Toronto general post office. He enlisted with the 15th Battalion as a private and rose through the ranks to end the war as a major and second-in-command.
Lieutenant Colonel Billy Marshall, D.S.O. †
15th (48th Highlanders) Battalion
The list of honors for the second battle of Ypres was out and my name had been omitted.
I was pleased, however, to see that Major Marshall, my second in command whom I had recommended for “mention in dispatches,” had received a D.S.O. He was a professional soldier and this meant much more to him than it did to me. He was later to fall in the front line trenches the victim of a German sniper. A great athlete, a splendid soldier, a universal favorite, Canada and the Empire could ill spare such a man. His solicitude for his men was such that I have known him to give his clothing to some ailing private. He was one of the bravest, truest and kindest of Canadians.
(Currie, The Red Watch, 1916, )
William Renwick Marshall was an amateur athlete and Boer War veteran with over twenty years’ service in the militia. Born in Hamilton on 20 March 1875, he played cricket while a student at Upper Canada College and toured the United States and Britain with the Canadian Zingari between the 1890s to the 1910s. He fought bravely at the second battle of Ypres and shortly thereafter assumed command of the 15th Battalion.
Lieutenant Colonel A. T. Thompson
114th (Brock’s Rangers) Battalion
The ancestors of these men fought for Great Britain in every battle on the Niagara frontier in the War of 1812, and were with General Brock in large numbers when he fell at Queenstown Heights. To this day they venerate his memory, and the name for which I ask, Brock’s Rangers would greatly add to our prestige with them, and gratify them exceedingly.
(A.T. Thompson to Militia Department, 25 Mar 1916)
Andrew Thorburn Thompson was editor of the Canadian Military Gazette and Liberal MP for Haldimand and Monck (1900—1904). Born on 27 May 1870 in Indiana, Ontario he belonged to a prominent Ontario Liberal Party. His father had been a provincial politician and his grandfather had fought in the War of 1812. A member of the 37th Haldimand Rifles since 1893, Thompson took command of the 114th Battalion after the death of the original colonel, E. S. Baxter on 15 February 1916.