Major General Malcolm Mercer †
3rd Infantry Division
It is now fully believed here that General Mercer is dead.
Nothing whatever has been heard of him since and it is now considered almost certain that his body lies in the shell torn area where the former front trenches were, but are now practically obliterated.
(Montreal Daily Mail, 6 June 1916, 1)
Malcolm Smith Mercer was the highest ranked Canadian officer killed in the First World War. He was born on 17 September 1859 in Etobicoke, Canada West. While a student at the University of Toronto, he joined the Queen’s Own Rifles in 1881. He became commanding officer of the Regiment in 1911 and was posted to the 1st Infantry Brigade when the First Contingent assembled at Valcartier in August 1914.
Lieutenant Colonel C. T. van Straubenzee †
Royal Canadian Dragoons
It was the C.O.’s intention to ride with “B” Sqdn. Whilst he was walking to his horse from a point where he had been reconnoitring, he was killed by a shell.
(R.C.D. War Diary, 9 Oct 1918, 9)
Born on 17 June 1876 in Kingston, Ontario, Charles Turner Van Straubenzee was a professional soldier and veteran of the Boer War. In 1897, he joined the Royal Canadian Dragoons as a lieutenant and distinguished himself in numerous battles during the South African campaign. He was promoted to major in 1911.
Lieutenant Colonel Frank Creighton †
1st (Western Ontario) Battalion
On arrival of the H.Q. Staff of the 8th Battalion at Lt. Col. Creighton’s dugout, a very large calibre shell completely demolished the H.Q. Dugout burying Staffs of both regiments. Lt. Col. Creighton received wounds from which he never recovered consciousness. In this the Division lost a good Officer who had done valuable work that day.
(Gen. Lipsett, 2nd Brig. War Diary, 15 June 1916, 24)
Frank Albro Legion Creighton was born on 6 February 1875 in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. At the outbreak of the Great War, he was a civil engineer living in Winnipeg. He enlisted in the 1st Battalion as a lieutenant and was promoted to second-in-command in the field. After Lieutenant Colonel F. W. Hill took over the 9th Infantry Brigade, Creighton assumed command of the Western Ontario battalion on 24 January 1916.
Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Stewart, D.S.O. †
Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry
The letters from the regiment after his death read, “The men would follow him anywhere; he seemed to bear a charmed life.” Yet what was his life until the War gave him his chance? A life of adventure wearing down into plain middle-aged failure.
(Charles Ritchie [nephew], My Grandfather’s House, 1987)
Born on 14 December 1874 in Halifax, Charles James Townsend Stewart was a North West Mounted Police constable, sportsman, soldier, womanizer and all-round lovable scoundrel. After being expelled from the Royal Military College for gambling in 1892, he moved back to Halifax before joining the NWMP in 1896. After he was kicked out of the police for bullying and bad behaviour, he drifted throughout the Northwest and the Yukon. A veteran of the Imperial Yeomanry during Boer War, Stewart joined the P.P.C.L.I. as a lieutenant in August 1914.
Lieutenant Colonel A. E. G. McKenzie, D.S.O. †
26th (New Brunswick) Battalion
…he followed the immediate centre of his Battalion, and seeing his men held up by most destructive fire of all kinds, he pushed forward to personally lead them and was killed while so doing. On the way, prior to his death, he showed an extreme coolness and an almost superhuman courage.
(Capt. McGillivray to 5th Brigade O.C., 26th Bn. War Diary, Aug 1918, 32)
Archibald Ernest Graham McKenzie was a New Brunswick lawyer, Liberal Party campaigner and militia officer. He was born 21 January 1878 in Campbellton, McKenzie served as second-in-command with the 26th Battalion when it arrived in France in September 1915. By May 1916, he had replaced an ill Lieutenant Colonel James L. McAvity as commander of the battalion.
Lieutenant Colonel Harry Baker, M.P. †
5th Canadian Mounted Rifles
It has been the lot of other nations to have their legislators, their parliamentarians, even their kings put on the uniform of soldiers and go forth to battle and meet a patriot’s death, but so far it has been the lot of Canada only once.
(Arthur Meighen, Debates, 3 Mar 1924, 49)
George Harold Baker was the only sitting Canadian Member of Parliament killed in action during the First World War. Born in Sweetsburg, Quebec on 4 November 1877, Baker was Conservative MP for Brome (1911—1916) and commanding officer of the 13th Scottish Light Dragoons. He died in the battle of Sanctuary Wood on 2 June 1916. He is commemorated with a life-sized bronze statue in the Centre Block of the House of Commons.
Lieutenant Colonel W. W. Stewart †
86th (Machine Gun) Battalion
The cost of this tremendous war cannot be stated in terms of the Stock Exchange, for life and happiness mean infinitely more than dollars and cents.
Who can assess the value of a genial disposition, a kindly, sympathetic nature, a forceful personality, a large heart, a noble, earnest spirit?
(The Canadian Machine Gunner, June 1917, 12)
Born on 1 June 1871 in Covington, Kentucky, Walter Wilson Stewart immigrated to Canada with his family as a boy. He pursued a career in architecture, working in Hamilton and Cleveland, Ohio. In the Canadian militia, he served for two years with the 13th Regiment and twelve years with the 91st Highlanders. Beginning in 1915, he organized the 86th Battalion based in Hamilton with former 4th Battalion commander Robert H. Labatt.
Lieutenant Colonel Sam Sharpe, D.S.O., M.P. †
116th (Ontario County) Battalion
But it is awful to contemplate the misery and suffering in this old world & were I to allow myself to ponder over what I have seen & what I have suffered thro the loss of the bravest & best in the world, I would soon become absolutely incapable of “Carrying on.”
(Sharpe to Muriel Hutchison, 21 Oct 1917)
Samuel Simpson Sharpe was a militia major and Conservative Member of Parliament for Ontario North (1908—1918). Born on 13 March 1873 in Zephyr, Scott Township, Ontario, he was a graduate from the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall. During his university days, he was a champion tennis player and became a prominent solicitor in Uxbridge.
Lieutenant Colonel J. V. P. O’Donahoe, D.S.O. †
87th (Canadian Grenadier Guards) Battalion
You, Officers and men of the 87th have lost a gallant leader. And I have lost a trusted and dear friend. The whole Canadian Corps has lost a tried and able soldier.
(Brig-Gen. Odlum’s eulogy, 87th Bn. War Diary, 12 May 1918, 30)
On 8 May 1917, James Vincent Patrick O’Donahoe succeeded Major H. LeR. Shaw as commander of the 87th Battalion. Born on 27 May 1881 in Brockville, Ontario, O’Donahoe had served as a major with the 60th Battalion in France. In January 1917, he assumed command of the 199th Battalion for a tour of Ireland following Harry Trihey’s controversial resignation.
Birchall, Hart-McHarg & Boyle
The more details I learn of the battle before Ypres, the greater to me does the resourcefulness and bravery of brigadiers, battalion commanders, and individuals become apparent.
(General Horace Smith-Dorrien, Apr 1915)
The Canadians had many casualties, but their gallantry and determination undoubtedly saved the situation.
(Lord Kitchener, April 1915)
This week marks the one hundredth anniversary of the second battle of Ypres, the first major action of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The battle saw 5,000 Canadian soldiers wounded and nearly 1,000 killed including three battalion commanders. On 23 April 1915, Arthur Birchall (4th Battalion) was struck down leading his men armed only with his cane. On 24 April 1915, William Hart-McHarg (7th Battalion) was shot and killed while on a reconnaissance operation. On 25 April, Russell Boyle (10th Battalion) died of severe wounds and loss of blood at a clearing hospital. All three had belonged to the 2nd Brigade under the command of Brigadier General Arthur Currie.