Honorary Captain J.H. Burnham, MP
Lieutenant Colonel T.J. Johnston
93rd (Peterborough) Battalion
I think that, as one who spent six months in England and a few days in France, I am called upon to say something on behalf of the soldiers…
Knowing humanity as I do–and I have lived quite a few years now; and I may tell you that I was connected with the 93rd Battalion from its inception and was with it in England until it was dispersed and sent to France—a more sober, orderly, upright, and thoroughly decent lot of men I never saw, even amongst the politicians
(J. H. Burnham, Debates 26 Apr 1917, 817)
Born on 12 January 1861 in Otonobee, Canada West, Thomas James Johnson was a militia officer with nearly forty years’ experience in the 3rd Prince of Wales’ Canadian Dragoons. In November 1915, he was authorized to raise the 93rd Battalion from Peterborough. Conservative MP John Hampden Burnham acted as honorary captain to assist with recruiting. A graduate of the University of Toronto with a Masters’ of Arts, Burnham was nicknamed “the philosopher” by colleagues in the House of Commons.
Lieutenant Colonel Armand Lavergne
61st (Montmagny) Rifles
As you already know, I am and have always been opposed to Canada taking part in the wars of the empire. I cannot assume the responsibility of asking Canadians to take part in a war that is not for the defense of Canada…
Let me repeat that I consider it unwise and more than criminal to place Canada in danger from a war in which we have not had, have not and will have any control…
(Lavergne to Sam Hughes, 6 November 1915)
Armand Lavergne had been Liberal MP for Montmagny (1904—1908) and, early in his political career, was a follower of Wilfrid Laurier. Born on 21 February 1880 in Arthabaska, Quebec, he was also rumored to be Laurier’s illegitimate son. In 1907, Lavergne broke with the Liberal Prime Minister and was expelled from the party caucus. A passionate defender of French language rights, he became lieutenant to Nationalist leader Henri Bourassa. From 1908 to 1916, Lavergne sat as a Ligue nationaliste canadienne member for Montmagny in the Quebec legislature.
Despite his Nationalist ties, Lavergne was active in the militia and a strong advocate of home defence. When the First World War broke out, he was the commanding officer of 61st (Montmagny) Rifles. In 1915, Militia Minister Sam Hughes offered a commission in the CEF to command a French Canadian battalion but Lavergne steadfastly refused out of principle. He nevertheless conceded that as a solider he would obey his superior’s orders if compelled to fight. However, Hughes respected his friend’s conviction and even defended him in parliament.
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Beaubier
181st (Brandon) Battalion
Dave Beaubier had a genius for friendship, and a love of all classes and creeds, which bespeak that broad-minded type of charity, religion and friendship which enriches life.
(R. J. Manion, Debates, 13 Jan 1939, 7)
David Wilson Beaubier was born in St. Mary’s, Canada West on 21 May 1864. He was an early pioneer to Manitoba in the 1880s and established himself as a farmer. A captain with the 99th Manitoba Rifles, Beaubier assumed command of the 181st Battalion after the death of Lieutenant Colonel G. W. Bruce, who had succumbed to injuries from an accident in April 1916.
Lieutenant Colonel G.W. Fowler, MP
104th (New Brunswick) Battalion
There is often a vast difference between the stories they tell in Canada, as to their achievements in France, and the stories that are told of them here. There have been cases where such Officers have, in consequence of the skillful manner in which they have trumpeted their own achievements (which were really of a very minor character) obtained advancement, much to the annoyance and disgust of men whose services have been far more valuable, but who have remained steadily on the job.
(Fowler to Robert Borden, 6 Sept 1916)
Born on 24 February 1859, George William Fowler was Conservative MP for King’s and Albert (1900—1908, 1911—1917) and senator for New Brunswick (1917—1924). A graduate of Dalhousie University and Boston College, he was a lawyer and Grand Master in the provincial Orange Order.
Lieutenant Colonel W.R. Smyth, MP
238th (Canadian Forestry) Battalion
Am extremely sorry that certain cables crossed and I inadvertently accepted nomination. I wired Robb withdrawing my acceptance … Please convey this to electorate at first opportunity. I depend on all loyal Canadians to support the Union Government and thereby help win the war. We need men and must have them.
(Smyth to G.B. Nicholson, Nov 1917)
William Ross Smyth was a lumber tycoon, Conservative MPP in the Ontario legislature (1902—1908 and federal MP for Algoma East (1908—1917). He was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland on 3 January 1857. He was one of several sitting MP selected to recruit an overseas battalion.
Lieutenant Colonel G.V. White, MP
224th (Lumbermen) Battalion
We cannot be too generous in our treatment of our sailors, soldiers and airmen. I take it that this measure will recompense fairly generously the men and women who have served their country well. I believe the people of Canada will wholeheartedly endorse this very important legislation.
(Senator White, Debates, 11 Aug 1944, 452)
Gerald Verner White was Conservative Member of Parliament for Renfrew North. Born on 6 July 1879 in Pembroke, Ontario, he was the son of Peter White (1838—1906), a lumber tycoon and former Speaker of the House of Commons. After his father’s death, the younger White won a by-election for Renfrew North in 1906. A militia officer with the 42nd Regiment, White enlisted as senior major with J. F. De Hertel’s 130th Battalion in November 1915. By February 1916, he transferred to the 224th Foresters as second-in-command to Alexander McDougall. Continue reading
Lieutenant Colonel H.B. Tremain, MP
112th (Nova Scotia) Battalion
I would appeal for a greater measure of co-operation between the two great parties during the grave crisis through which our Empire is passing. When victory of democratic communities is achieved over the forces of autocratic despotism, represented by Kaiserism, then and not till then, let our political warfare again be waged…
(Tremain, Debates, 8 Mar 1915, 827)
Hadley Brown Tremain was a barrister and Conservative MP for Hants (1911—1921). He was born in Port Hood, Nova Scotia on 23 October 1874. He attended Windsor Collegiate and Kings College before receiving a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1899. He defeated Liberal MP Judson Burpee Black in the 1911 election. After the outbreak of the Great War, Tremain endorsed a party truce, arguing that after the crisis there would “be time enough to re-engage in part recrimination and strife in this country.”
Lieutenant Colonel James Arthurs, M.P.
162nd (Timber Wolves) Battalion
But they wanted to go. One member of this House, Col. Arthurs—I read the most touching letter I have seen for many a day—is in the trenches. He had reduced his rank and gone over in spite of his son’s remonstrance from the trenches ordering his dad to get out.
(Sam Hughes, Debates, 6 Feb 1917, 574)
James Arthurs was a hardware merchant, self-styled gentleman and Conservative MP for Parry Sound (1908—1935). He was born on 3 October 1866 in Toronto. He raised the 162nd Battalion from his home county and proceeded to England in November 1916. Despite age restrictions on senior officers, the fifty-year old Arthurs reverted to captain and joined the 1st Battalion on the front in February 1917.
Lieutenant Colonel James D. Taylor, M.P.
131st (New Westminster) Battalion
Mr. Chairman, there is poison gas disseminated in connection with this war from other quarters than the trenches in the German line, and there is sniping equally disastrous to the cause of the war as that of the German sharpshooters. I am one of those colonels, commanding officers, of which the hon. gentlemen who act the part of political snipers in Canada speak so contemptuously in this House and through their press.
(J. D. Taylor, Debates, 6 Feb 1917, 565)
James Davis Taylor was a journalist and publisher in Ottawa and British Columbia and Conservative MP for New Westminster (1908—1917). He was born on 2 September 1863 in Abenaqui Mills, Canada East. During the Northwest campaign, he fought as a private with the Ottawa Sharpshooters at the battle of Cut Knife on 2 May 1885. After the Rebellion, he bought the Canadian Militia Gazette and later organized the 104th Militia Regiment in 1904. He led the 131st Battalion to England before returning to Canada in early January 1917.
Lieutenant Colonel George H. Bradbury
108th (Selkirk) Battalion
I confess frankly that at the moment when I was informed that my battalion was to be broken up and that my men were to be taken from me to go to the front, I felt hurt; I felt it was an injustice to myself and to my battalion.
Slurs have been thrown across the floor by more than one hon. gentleman opposite regarding the colonels how have gone overseas. I should like to say to some of these gentleman that they would occupy a much higher position in this country than they occupy if they had done what some of these returned colonel have done.
(Bradbury, Debates, 13 July 1917, 3384)
George Henry Bradbury was a Manitoba manufacturer and veteran of the Northwest Rebellion. Born on 25 June 1859 in Hamilton, Canada West, he had belonged to the Ottawa Dragoons as a young man and enlisted with the Boulton’s Scouts during the 1885 Rebellion. In 1908, he was elected MP for Selkirk. In November 1915, he became a growing number of Conservative MP authorized to raise a battalion.