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