The Clerk

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

girvan

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.

Continue reading

Colonel Runaway

Colonel Jack Currie, M.P.
15th (48th Highlanders) Battalion
CurrieJA

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.

Continue reading

The Redeemed

Lieutenant Colonel C. C. Harbottle, D.S.O
75th (Mississauga) BattalionHarbottle

This deplorable affair has ruined him absolutely, and his character has been taken from him forever. His family and mother are heart-broken. For two years, since these things began, he has lived in a hell of torture, and whatever term he has to do he will be more than amply punished.

(Defence counsel Mr. Robinette, Toronto Globe, 9 May 1908, 4)

Colin Clark Harbottle assumed command of the 75th Battalion on 16 April 1917. He proved himself a dedicated leader through the last year and a half of the war and won the Distinguished Service Order for his “fine example of personal gallantry and determination.” Ten years, earlier Harbottle had been a disgraced fugitive from justice and convicted criminal.

Continue reading