Brigadier General Huntly Ketchen
6th Infantry Brigade
Gather round, boys, I want to have a little talk with you. You’ve been under my command about nine months now, and I’ve always been proud of you, and now you are going up the line, and I want to say this to you: Don’t go up with any idea that you are going to be killed—we want you all to take care of yourselves and not expose yourselves recklessly.
And remember a dead man is no use to us, we want you alive, and when we want you to put your heads up, we’ll tell you! And I’ve no doubt that you will only be too eager.
(Ketchen’s Speech, quoted in Pte. Jack O’Brien, Into the Jaws of Death, 1919, 54)
The son of an Indian Army officer, Huntly Douglas Brodie Ketchen was born in Sholopore, India on 22 May 1872. After graduating from the Royal Military College in Sandhurst, England, Ketchen moved to Canada, joined the North West Mounted Police in 1894 and fought in the Boer War. He was appointed to lead the 6th Infantry Brigade in May 1915.
Lieutenant Colonel W. C. Bryan
191st (Bryan’s Buffalos) Battalion
The province of Alberta owing to its cosmopolitan population is hard to police, alien settlements being scattered all over it. These people, banded together as they are, and in a good many instances retaining the customs and mode of life they lived in their own countries before coming to Canada, are not as yet educating themselves with regard to the laws of this country, it is impossible to obtain evidence from them, and they are too prone to look upon any policeman as an enemy instead of a friend.
(W. C. Bryan, APP Annual Report, 1921)
Willoughby Charles Bryan was a western cowpuncher whose adventures took him from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and the Mexican army of Porfirio Díaz to the Texas Rangers and the Northwest Mounted Police. A native of Nottingham, England, Bryan was born on 17 December 1866 and immigrated to Manitoba in 1883.
Brigadier General Victor Williams
8th Infantry Brigade
The whole front was a tangled mass of ruins. Only a few isolated posts were alive. General Mercer was dead. And General Williams, leg broken and spine twisted, yet fighting gamely against odds, with only a wooden wiring-stake for a weapon was being clubbed into submission by the butt-end of a Mauser in the hands of a German infantryman.
(Toronto Globe, 2 Jun 1928, 17)
Victor Arthur Seymour Williams was the most senior Canadian officer taken prisoner during the First World War. He was captured at the battle of Mont Sorrel on 2 June 1916, incidentally his forty-ninth birthday.
Lieutenant Colonel G. E. Sanders, D.S.O.
2nd Pioneer Battalion
I would sooner see a man go around and murder people outright than have him peddling this sort of thing [cocaine]. It is apparently the greatest danger and menace against which we must contend. Once addicted to the habit, a man is never cured and is no longer a human being but a beast.
(Sanders, Calgary Herald, 15 Jan 1913, 12)
Born in Yale, British Columbia on 25 December 1863, Gilbert Edward Sanders was a graduate of the Royal Military College and a Calgary police magistrate. A former Northwest Mounted Police inspector, he was also a veteran of the 1885 Rebellion and the Boer War, where he won the D.S.O. Notorious for his harsh sentences, corporal punishment and blatant bigotry, Sanders once remarked, “the cells were the proper abode for many of the coloured men.”
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 G. R. Pearkes, D.S.O., M.C., V.C.
116th (Ontario County) Battalion
What kind of war must we be prepared to fight? With the introduction of nuclear weapons and the anticipated production of long-range ballistic missiles, it is obvious that the methods of waging any future war have clearly changed from those of World War II. Looking into the future is at best a risky business, but our military advisers must plan ahead, and it is their present opinion that a third world war would commence with a sudden ferocious thermonuclear attack of great intensity…
(Pearkes, Debates, 5 Dec 1957, 1900)
George Randolph Pearkes was a solider, politician, and winner of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the British Empire. He was born on 28 February 1888 in Watford, Hertfordshire, England and immigrated to Alberta in 1906. He joined the North West Mounted Police and fought with the 2nd and 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles. Pearkes began his military career as a private; he retired as major general.
Lieutenant Colonel Robert Belcher
138th (Edmonton) Battalion
I have in mind a man who has served for many years, first in the British Army, and afterwards in the Northwest Mounted Police and then in the South African war. Finally he was authorized to raise a battalion at Edmonton. On strength of his military experience and on the strength of his personal standing, he did raise a battalion without any serious difficulty. Surely such a man with such a battalion, raised under such circumstances—surely it would be right and proper that that battalion should go to the front intact under such leadership.
(Frank Oliver, Debates, 23 Jan 1917, 76)
Criticizing the breakup of the Canadian battalions, Frank Oliver, Liberal MP for Edmonton, alluded to the experience of Colonel Robert Belcher. Born on 23 April 1849 in London, England, the sixty-seven year old soldier and policeman was “one of the real old-timers in the west.”
Lieutenant Colonel J. B. Mitchell
100th (Winnipeg Grenadiers) Battalion
His figure is as erect as of yore in defiance of his 88 years. He embodies the spirit of those Scarlet Riders who brought law and order to the plains, brought joy to law-abiding folk and spread dismay among the lawless. This picturesque personality is Col. J. B. Mitchell, clear-eyed, soft-spoken, alert as becomes those who are still interested in current events and “tomorrow.” His long service in military and civilian life has not drooped those massive shoulders, nor bowed the finely-posed head. Lacking but two inches of six feet, he is so well sot up that an observer would scarcely suspect his weight to be 200 pounds. That’s what athletic training and outdoor life will do for a busy man.
(Col. G. C. Porter, Winnipeg Tribune, 30 Nov 1940, 36)
James Bertram Mitchell was Architect and Commissioner of School Buildings and Supplies in Manitoba from 1892 until his retirement in 1928. Born on 14 October 1852 in Gananocque, Canada West, Mitchell was an adventurer, policeman and civic leader. At the age of fourteen, he volunteered as a bugler in the militia and participated in the Fenian Raid of 1866. During the second Fenian invasion scare in 1870, he guarded the Welland Canal at Cornwall. In 1874, he joined the North West Mounted Police.