The Accountant

Lieutenant Colonel Walter R. Brown, D.S.O.
26th (New Brunswick) BattalionWRBrown

I see in my mind many bright, cheery figures, some of the best of our county’s stock, soldiers every inch of them—how sorry I am they are not returning with us today, and how I feel for their people. But though they are sleeping in some military graveyard in France or Belgium, I know they are not forgotten…

(Brown to People of N.B., St. John Telegraph, 1919)

A member of the 62nd Fusiliers and Boer War veteran, Walter Richard Brown enlisted with the 26th Battalion in February 1915. He was born on 3 June 1872 in London, England. After the removal of Lieutenant Colonel James L. McAvity in May 1916 and the departure of Lieutenant Colonel A. E. G. McKenzie to an officer’s course in summer 1917, Brown assumed command of the battalion.

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The Manly Man

Lieutenant Colonel A. H. Borden, D.S.O.
85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders) BattalionBorden

Oh, wha is foremaist and a’ and a’,
Oh, wha does follow the blaw, the blaw,
Colonel Borden, the king o’ us a’ hurra’,
Wi’ his hundred Pipers and a’ and a’,
His bonnet and feather he’s wavin’ high,
His prancing steed maist seems to fly.
He’ll lead us to Berlin across the Rhine,
Wi’ his 85th Highlanders bonny and fine.

(Songs of the 85th Battalion, 1917, 16)

In September 1915, Allison Hart Borden raised the 85th Nova Scotia Highlanders, nicknamed with the Gaelic motto Siol na Fear Fearail (The Breed of Manly Men). Encouraged by rapid recruitment in the province, Borden proposed a four battalion Highlander Brigade from the Maritimes. The battalions (the 85th, 185th, 193rd, 219th) departed Canada in October 1916. After arriving in England, the Brigade was broken up to the dismay and confusion of many citizens and politicians in the province.

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The Steeplechaser

Lieutenant Colonel L. H. Nelles, D.S.O.
4th (Central Ontario) BattalionLHNelles

Colonel Nelles never became the popular idol that Thomson had been; but as the months went by and he showed that in addition to this bent for smartness he had tactical ability far beyond the average, a sense of justice, and (more important still) his full share of personal bravery a better feeling grew.

(Lieut. Pedley, Only This, 1999, 18)

Lafayette Henry Nelles was the last commanding officer of the 4th Battalion. He was born on 5 December 1890 in London, Ontario. In November 1914, the twenty-three year old enlisted with 12th Reserve Battalion. When an enemy sniper killed Lieutenant Colonel A. T. Thomson on 20 November 1917, Nelles took charge of the 4th Battalion. Nelles received the Distinguished Service Order in June 1918 and remained in command until demobilization.

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The Unforgotten

Lieutenant Colonel A. T. Thomson, D.S.O., M.C. †
4th (Central Ontario) Battalion Thomson

The fourth will not forget him
Although his stay was short,
For he proved to be a soldier
Far above the average sort.
His ways were very quiet
But in action he was strong;
He was absolutely fearless
And his judgment was seldom wrong.
To the men he was a leader
Whom they were proud to serve,
Never say a word against him
Or you’ll regret that word.
He is gone but not forgotten
By those who knew him best,
For we know that safe in heaven
He has found eternal rest.

(4th Bn. Scout Section, 1917)

Born on 27 February 1888 in Port Credit Ontario, Alexander Thomas Thomson was a member of the 36th Peel Regiment. He was assigned to the 10th Battalion at the rank of lieutenant when the First Contingent assembled at Valcartier in August 1914.

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The Lil’ Colonel

Lieutenant Colonel W. Rae, D.S.O.
4th (Central Ontario) Battalion Rae

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.

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The Hometown Hero

Colonel Mac Colquhoun, D.S.O.
4th (Central Ontario) BattalionColquhoun

People here have quite a different opinion of the Canadians now. They want to have the Canadians in the fighting all the time. We are classed now among the very best troops.

(Colquhoun to Wife, Apr 1915, History of Brant County, 1920, 451)

Born in Mulmur, Ontario on 13 April 1869, Malcolm Alexander Colquhoun was a Brantford contractor and captain with the 38th Dufferin Rifles. In August 1914, he enlisted in Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hodgetts Labatt’s 4th Battalion. In command of “B” Company at Second Ypres, he was one of the only officers in the entire battalion to emerge unwounded from the battle. Describing the fighting to his wife, Colquhoun wrote, “To put it plainly, it was a perfect hell.”

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The Fearless

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Birchall †
4th (Central Ontario) Battalion Birchall

A few years ago it was thought that a soldier was a machine, and should never be allowed to think for himself; the South African War altered all that, as far as our Army was concerned; the soldier is now taught to use his brains and to take advantage of ground and cover, with results which have been amply justified during the present war. In other words, our men are regarded as intelligent human beings.

(Birchall, Rapid Training of a Company for War, 1915, 29)

Arthur Percival Dearman Birchall was one of three CEF colonels killed in action during the second battle of Ypres in April 1915. Born on 3 July 1877 in Gloucester, England, Birchall was a professional soldier and fourteen-year veteran with the British Army. Before the World War, he participated in an officer exchange program with the Canadian militia and relocated to western Canada. As a military instructor, he attempted to transform citizen militiamen into effective soldiers prepared for war.

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The Pensioner

Lieutenant Colonel R. H. Labatt
4th (Central Ontario) Battalion
Labatt

He was prominent in all manly sports, and for years a member of the champion Tiger football team. A successful oarsman and canoeist, Chairman of the Hamilton Club, an organization of outstanding ability, both in military life and in sport. His passing will be regretted by a very large circle. Personally he was the soul of honour and loved by all his friends.

(Trinity College School Record, 1919, 33)

Born on 24 Feb 1864 in London, Canada West, Robert Hodgetts Labatt was a member of the famous Canadian brewing family. A long time militiaman, he had volunteered as a private during the 1885 Northwest Rebellion. In August 1914, he was appointed commander of the 4th Battalion when the First Contingent assembled at Valcartier.

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The Animal Lover

Lieutenant Colonel R. C. Andros, D.S.O.
1st Canadian Mounted RiflesAndros

His nervous condition is only fair he has been in trenches steadily for 33 months and is tired physically and mentally. Treatment in this country will not improve this man’s condition. The Board therefore recommends – Invaliding to Canada.

(Medical Board Report, I.D.O.E. Hospital, 1 June 1918)

Born on 7 February 1871 in Port Hope, Ontario, Ralph Craven Andros was a former North West Mounted Policeman and member of the 20th Border Horse Hussars. After his tour of duty in the NWMP, Andros moved to Montana and built a horse ranch near Fort Benton. He retired in 1910 and moved to British Columbia. In November 1914, he enlisted with the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifle Battalion.

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The Unionist

Major Richard C. Cooper
7th (1st British Columbia) BattalionRCCooper

People’s thoughts are now turning to memorials to perpetuate the memory of our fallen, but unfortunately, their thoughts are turning to stone and iron to perpetuate flesh and blood. That is wrong. It is not worthy of the men who gave their lives that we might be free. I suggest that there is a greater, nobler, finer memorial to be erected to our fallen. I suggest that education is the only possible, adequate method of perpetuating the memory of the “immortals.”

(Cooper, Debates, 10 Mar 1919, 340)

Born in Dublin, Ireland on 31 December 1881, Richard Clive Cooper was a police constable in Rhodesia and South Africa where he was associated with the imperial projects of Cecil Rhodes. After serving in the Matabele War and the Boer War, he immigrated to British Columbia in 1906. Cooper enlisted in Lieutenant Colonel Hart-McHarg’s 7th Battalion in September 1914. He fought at Second Ypres before being recalled to Canada in order to aid training and recruitment efforts.

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