The Clerk

Major John P. Girvan
15th (48th Highlanders) Battalion

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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.

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The Cricketer

 

Lieutenant Colonel Billy Marshall, D.S.O.
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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.

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The Bespectacled

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bent
15th (48th Highlanders) Battalion
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Lt.­Col. Bent’s fighting qualities, his proverbial coolness under fire and his great popularity with all ranks had inspired confidence and respect in the Battalion for three years. His guiding hand and figure at their head had come to be an accepted thing, especially in action.

(Beattie, 48th Highlanders of Canada, 1932, 333)

 Born in Pugwash, Nova Scotia on 2 January 1880, Charles Edward Bent was a customs collector with seventeen years’ experience in the militia. He enlisted with the 17th Battalion at the rank of captain and led a reinforcing draft to the front after the 15th Battalion was decimated at Second Ypres. He was soon appointed second-in-command.

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Colonel Runaway

Colonel Jack Currie, M.P.
15th (48th Highlanders) Battalion
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As was the case to be in many Canadian battalions, Lt.-Col. Currie was an M.P. and very much more of a politician than an officer.

 He was one of the type of civilian-soldier who is simply worshipped by the poorer element among the ranks, but to serve under whom, for an officer, is sheer misery.

(Lt. Ian Sinclair, 13th Bn. personal diary)

The conduct of John Allister Currie at the second battle of Ypres in late April 1915 was the subject of much controversy and insinuation. According to some of his men in the 15th Battalion, he had fought “like a hero” with rifle and bayonet. However, by most accounts, Currie remained in a dugout well behind the lines, shell shocked and possibly drunk during the German gas attack on his unit at St. Julien.

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The Undead

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph A. Dansereau
69th (Canadien-Français) Battalion

I made Lieutenant Dansereau my acting adjutant. He was my scout master and signalling officer, and when I went into the trenches either he or one of the other young rascals would step up smartly and start a conversation when I was passing a dangerous spot. I noticed that these escorts always got between me and the German lines so that if a bullet came they would get it first. This touched me very deeply but I made them stop it. No commanding officer was ever served more devotedly by his officers than I have been.

(J. A. Currie, The Red Watch, 1916, 176)

Born on 15 November 1890 in Montreal, Joseph Adolphe Dansereau was the son of Clément-Arthur Dansereau (1844—1918), influential Liberal journalist and editor of La Presse. A graduate of the Royal Military College and member of the Corps of Guides, the twenty-five year old Dansereau was one of the youngest CEF colonels when he was appointed to raise the 69th Battalion from Montreal in July 1915.

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