The Fatalist

Lieutenant Colonel E. W. Jones, D.S.O. †
21st (Eastern Ontario) BattalionJones

I have a presentiment that I am going into this fight probably to be killed.

(Lieut.-Col. Jones to W. R. Givens, Renfrew Mercury, 6 Sept 1918)

Elmer Watson Jones was killed in action on 8 August 1918 during the first day of the battle of Amiens. He had succeeded Brigadier General W. S. Hughes as commander of the 21st Battalion on 18 July 1916. A native of Brockville, Jones was born on 23 March 1874. He had served for eight years in the 41st Regiment and joined the 21st Battalion in charge of “A” company. He received a field promotion to second-in-command in January 1916.

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The Polo Player

Lieutenant Colonel Bart McLennan, D.S.O. †
42nd (Royal Highlanders of Canada) BattalionMcLennan

His death is an irreparable loss, not only to the Battalion, which he loved, and for which he rendered such brilliant and devoted service, but also to the Brigade and Division. All ranks who had the privilege of serving under his command had learned to love him as a friend and counsellor, and to admire him as a brilliant and gallant soldier and gentleman.

(42nd Bn. War Diary, 3 Aug 1918, 4)

Bartlett McLennan succeeded Major S.C. Norsworthy as commander of the 42nd Battalion on 6 April 1917. Born on 10 November 1868, McLennan was a graduate of the Royal Military College and president of the Montreal Transportation Company. He advanced philanthropic initiatives in the city and promoted amateur sports as a means of social progress. An enthusiastic sportsman, McLennan was an accomplished equestrian, hunter and polo player.

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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 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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Father Christmas

Lieutenant Colonel G. B. Laurie
1st Battalion, Royal Irish RiflesLaurie

I used to be up at cockcrow when a small child on Christmas Day, to see what Santa Claus had brought me, and I shall be up early enough to-morrow in all conscience too, but for a different reason—standing to arms—so that I shall not get my throat cut.

Best of love to you for Christmas. Whilst you are in church I shall be in the trenches, but both doing our rightful duty, I trust.

(Lt-Col. Laurie to Wife, 24 Dec 1914)

On 25 December 1914, George Brenton Laurie described the Christmas truce in No Man’s Land as “English and German, begin to swarm out to meet each other.” Suspicious, Laurie initially held his men back before going to investigate himself. The Germans complimented the colonel on his battalion’s marksmanship and were eager to learn if the Canadian Division had arrived yet. The armistice held for two days until both sides resumed the fighting.

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The Rifleman

Lieutenant Colonel W. Hart-McHarg †
7th (1st British Columbia) BattalionHart-McHarg

There was much gloom and sorrow among the British Columbians that night for they all loved their colonel and they knew that there was very little hope for him. He died the following day at Poperinghe. Thus died one of the bravest of the Canadians, a splendid soldier, the champion sharpshooter of America, for that matter of the world. He had always displayed great coolness and daring, and British Columbia will always cherish and revere his name.

(Col. Currie, 15th Bn. The Red Watch, 1916, 233)

William Frederick Richard Hart-McHarg was one of three CEF colonels killed in action at the second battle of Ypres on 24 April 1915. A veteran of the Boer War, he was serving as second-in-command of the 6th Regiment at the outbreak of the Great War. The militia colonel, J. H. D. Hulme, stepped aside in order for Major Hart-McHarg to organize the 7th Battalion at Valcartier. Puzzled why Hulme would miss “the chance of a lifetime,” Hart-McHarg reasoned, “But with me it is different. I have only a couple of years to live in any case.”

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The Private

This site normally profiles majors, colonels and generals—but for Remembrance Day, I focus on a private soldier, my great-great uncle, H. J. Barrett.

Private Harry John Barrett
204th and 3rd (Toronto) BattalionsHJBarrett

Whist in the act of firing his Lewis Machine Gun during Military operations in the vicinity of UPTON WOOD, Private Barrett was shot by a bullet from the rifle of an enemy sniper and instantly killed.

(H. J. Barrett, Circumstances of Death, 30 Aug 1918)

Harry John Barrett was born in Peterborough, England on 31 March 1900. He immigrated to Canada with his family in 1907 and worked as a labourer in Toronto. Despite being only one month over sixteen, Harry enlisted in the CEF on 26 April 1916. Claiming to be eighteen years old , he joined the 204th Beavers commanded by Parkdale MPP, Lieutenant Colonel William Herbert Price. Harry’s older brother, George William Barrett, had signed up earlier in April with the 208th Irish Fusiliers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Lennox, another Ontario MPP.

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The Unlucky

Lieutenant Colonel Victor C. Buchanan, D.S.O. †
13th (Royal Highlanders of Canada) BattalionBuchanan

We then start to dig in where Col. Buchanan and Maj. Peterman had been buried but find their dead bodies. They must have died instantly. Apparently something must have exploded the gasoline and the shock brought in the weakest part of the dugout.

(Lieut. H.A. McCleave, 13th Bn., Diary, 28 Sept 1916)

During heavy German bombardment on the evening 26 September 1916, a shell struck the 13th Battalion headquarters. The explosion killed several senior officers including Lieutenant Colonel Victor Carl Buchanan. It was his forty-seventh birthday.

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The Berserker

Major Axel “Rass” Rasmussen †
97th (American Legion) BattalionRasmussen

Rasmussen was a big, handsome man; fearless in war and pitiless to four-flushers anywhere, any time.

(J. W. Pegler, Evening News, 26 June 1918, 2)

“But so far I’ve always found that a man has time to get down to avoid the fragments— if he moves fast. If it’s got your initials on it— well, no one but a prime so-and-so wants to live forever!”- Maj. Rasmussen

(E. S. Johnston,  Americans vs. Germans: the First AEF in Action, 1942, 33)

Axel Thorvald Rasmussen was one of the American Legion’s most famous members. The thirty-eight year old, Danish-born resident of Oregon was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. During the Mexico Revolution, he fought in support of General Obregón’s army. Regarding his previous fights as “mere skirmishes,” in 1916, Rasmussen traveled to Canada in order to join Lieutenant Colonel Wade Jolly’s 97th American Legion.

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The One-Eyed

Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Buller, D.S.O. †
Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Buller

The question of the command of the battalion is now, I am glad to be able to tell you, admirably settled in the appointment of Buller with the temporary rank of Lieut.-Colonel. Although Farquhar can never be replaced, Buller will make a splendid commanding officer. He has, as of course you know, the absolute confidence of us all and is eminently qualified for the arduous duties which lie before him.

(Maj. Gault to Sam Hughes, 20 Apr 1915)

Hebert Cecil Buller succeeded Lieutenant Colonel F. D. Farquhar as commander of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry on 21 March 1915. The son of British Admiral Alexander Buller, he was born in 1881 in England. He joined the Rifle Brigade in 1900 and later became aide-de-camp to Governor General of Canada Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. In August 1914, Buller joined P.P.C.L.I. as the battalion adjutant.

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