Brigadier General Jack Stewart, D.S.O.
Major J. B. L. Macdonald, D.S.O.
239th (Railway Construction) Battalion
Stewart ran up railways with a rapidity that astounded the authorities… If I had been Prime Minister, he would have found a seat in the British House of Peers, the only recognition adequate to his vast services to the Empire in her worst hour of peril.
(T.P. O’Connor- Irish-Nationalist MP for Liverpool Scotland)
Responding to the critical Allied need for rail support in France, the Canadian government authorized the creation of several battalions designated for railway construction. In May 1916, noted Vancouver railway builder, John William Stewart began recruiting for the 239th Battalion. Born on 12 December 1865 in Sutherland, Scotland, Stewart moved to Canada in 1882. Rising from a poor immigrant labourer, Stewart became a very successful railway manger and contractor in western Canada and Montana.