Lt. Col. Ripley

Lieutenant Colonel Blair Ripley
1st Canadian Railway Troops


“Whatever do you want to write about me for?” asked a tall man with benign expression, his kind eyes glinting humorously behind glasses. “I’m retired.”

(Interview with Gwen Cash, Time Colonist, 22 Jan 1950)

Blair Ripley was a Canadian Pacific Railway civil engineer born in Oxford, Nova Scotia on 28 August 1880. He worked on railways across the west and designed the Lethbridge Viaduct. By the outbreak of the war he was completing the North Toronto Grade Separation. In June 1916, he was assigned to take his railway and bridge building expertise to the front when appointed to raise No. 1 Construction Battalion.

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Lt. Col. Sutherland

Lieutenant Colonel D.H. Sutherland
No. 2 Construction Battalion


Lieut.-Col. D.H. Sutherland, O.C. of the battalion, speaking for recruits, mentioned the excellent discipline the colored men already enlisted had shown, and commended them for their soldierly appearance … Many colored men, he said, were dissatisfied because they had been refused at the beginning of the war. This, he said, had been due merely to prejudice on the part of a few officers, and was not general throughout the Dominion.

(London Advertiser, 20 October 1916)

Born in Pictou, Nova Scotia on 10 September 1880, Daniel Hugh Sutherland was a railway contractor who enlisted as a private with the 193rd Battalion. In June 1916, he received a commission and promotion to lieutenant colonel to recruit No. 2 Construction Battalion, the only segregated Black battalion in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Except for Honorary Captain Reverend William A. White, all the officers were white.

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