Lieutenant Colonel Francis Leach
231st (Seaforth Highlanders) Battalion
Before very long you will be going overseas–an event to which I know you have all been anxiously looking forward, and you will then have the honour of taking your place beside the brave lads who have preceded you.
(Lt. Col. Leach, January 1917)
Francis Easton Leach was a graduate of the Royal Military College and a veteran of the Boer War. A native of Montreal, he was born on 24 November 1875. After doing survey work in South Africa, he was employed as a railway engineer in British Columbia. He joined the 72nd Regiment after the outbreak of the Great War and was eventually authorized to raise the 231st Battalion from Vancouver in 1916.
Brigadier General J. A. Clark, D.S.O.
72nd (Seaforth Highlanders) Battalion
“My Brigadier, the son of a bitch, is still alive— I’ll kill him if I see him.”
(Capt. W. G. Little, P.P.C.L.I., 1964)
Born in West Flamborough, Ontario on 8 June 1886, John Arthur Clark was a Vancouver barrister and militiaman. A major in the 72nd (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada) Regiment, Clark was appointed to command the 72nd Battalion, one of the few CEF units to perpetuate its militia designation. Commenting on the tremendous responsibility of a commanding officer one of his men observed that the twenty-nine year old colonel “looked forty.”
Lieutenant Colonel W. Rae, D.S.O.
4th (Central Ontario) Battalion
A battalion of infantry is a chameleon, ceaselessly changing its colour to suit the changing complexions of its commanding officers. The Fourth Canadian Battalion followed the rule.
But the madness of the Fourth appears to have been an intermittent fever. Birchall engendered it, Colquhoun advertised it, Rae damped down the fire. For with the coming of Rae we first discern another element creeping in, which seems as difficult to mix with the rugged abandon of the early days as oil with water—the element of cold discipline.
(Lieut. Pedley, Only This, 1999, 18)
A native of Scotland, William Rae was born on 15 January 1883 in Aberdeen. He immigrated to Canada in 1907, moved to British Columbia and joined the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders Regiment. At the outbreak of the Great War, the five-foot-six Scotsman enlisted with the 16th Battalion. Rae fought at Second Ypres during the German gas attack and was the only company commander in the 16th to survive the battle. By June 1916, he had transferred to the 4th Battalion in order to take command from Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Colquhoun.