Lt. Col. W.A. Munro

Lieutenant Colonel W.A. Munro
90th (Little Black Devils) Battalion


Heart disease, which originated in the first gas attack at Ypres in 1915, resulted in the death last night of Lieut.-Col. W.A. Munro, D.S.O., a prominent figure in the active militia in Western Canada.

 (Winnipeg Tribune, 2 Feb 1927, 2)

A native of Toronto, William Aird Munro was born on 12 June 1872. He joined the newly formed 48th Highlanders in 1891 before moving to Winnipeg three years later. At the outbreak of the Great War, he had twenty-years’ service with the 90th Winnipeg Rifles (The Little Black Devils). The regiment’s nickname dated back to the Métis resistance of 1885. A captured rebel remarked, “The red coats we know, but who are those little black devils?” referring to the 90th soldiers’ rifle green uniforms.

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The Aphasic

Lieutenant Colonel Jack Mersereau, D.S.O.
25th (Nova Scotia Rifles) BattalionMersereauCJ

He talks spontaneously but with deliberation at uncommon words he pauses an instant for he has to visualize the word before he can say it. He tends to displace words or syllables. If he wants to say ‘tomorrow’ he will often say \yesterday’ and sometimes he will not recognize the mistake. He mixes up the person or verbs, he will say ‘he’ instead of ‘she’ or ‘we’ instead of ‘they.’ At times will say damn in place of another word.

(Medical consultant report on Lt. Col. Mersereau, 9 July 1919)

While carrying a message to Brigadier General Arthur Currie during the Second Battle of Ypres, Major Chalmers Jack Mersereau was struck in the head by a piece of shrapnel. Although he managed to make the delivery to headquarters, he slipped into unconsciousness. Hospitalized for the next two months, he found that he had lost his power speech. Fluent in English and French with some German before the war, he struggled to regain basic vocabulary, which remained partially impaired for the rest of his life.

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Lt. Col. Robinson

Lieutenant Colonel C.W. Robinson
187th (Veterans) Battalion

I have offered to take up the story where I left off two years ago, and go over in command of a Company as a Major. There seems to be lots of Colonels in England.

 (Col. Robinson letter, Red Deer News, 21 Mar 1917, 3)

Charles Wilson Robinson was a veteran of the Boer War and original officer with Lieutenant Colonel Boyle’s 10th Battalion at Second Ypres. Born in Loftus, England on 2 February 1877, Robinson was a central Alberta farmer and member of the 15th Light Horse. During the heavy fighting at the battle of St. Julien in late April 1915, Robinson suffered a broken arm and shattered ribs. During the same action, his commanding officer, Russell Boyle was killed in action. Robinson returned to Canada in fall 1915 to join the 89th Battalion before receiving a command appointment to the 187th. Continue reading

Colonel Runaway

Colonel Jack Currie, M.P.
15th (48th Highlanders) Battalion

As was the case to be in many Canadian battalions, Lt.-Col. Currie was an M.P. and very much more of a politician than an officer.

 He was one of the type of civilian-soldier who is simply worshipped by the poorer element among the ranks, but to serve under whom, for an officer, is sheer misery.

(Lt. Ian Sinclair, 13th Bn. personal diary)

The conduct of John Allister Currie at the second battle of Ypres in late April 1915 was the subject of much controversy and insinuation. According to some of his men in the 15th Battalion, he had fought “like a hero” with rifle and bayonet. However, by most accounts, Currie remained in a dugout well behind the lines, shell shocked and possibly drunk during the German gas attack on his unit at St. Julien.

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The Fundraiser

Brigadier General Eric McCuaig, D.S.O.
13th (Royal Highlanders of Canada) BattalionMcCuaig

One night, too, the officers staged a concert in the local theatre, all the talent being drawn from their own roster. By sacrificing his moustache, Lieut-Col. McCuaig scored a tremendous hit in a charming female role…

(The 13th Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada, 1925, 203)

George Eric McCuaig assumed command of the 13th Battalion after an explosion killed Lieutenant Colonel Victor Buchanan and many of his senior officers. A native of Toronto, McCuaig was born on 2 September 1885. He graduated from McGill University, worked in Montreal as a stockbroker and belonged to the Black Watch.

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The Mink Breeder

Lieutenant Colonel William A. Lowry
82nd (Alberta) BattalionLowry

The Colonel narrated some tales of the battlefields and described conditions in the trenches and in the billets at the front-which were intensely interesting. In conclusion, he made a strong appeal for every man who was able to join the ranks in order to insure the safe return of the boys who were now going to the front.

(The War Cry, 27 Nov 1915, 6)

In September 1914, William Arthur Lowry enlisted as an officer in Lieutenant Colonel Russ Boyle’s 10th Battalion at Valcartier. Born on 19 July 1878 in Wellington County, Ontario, Lowry was a veteran of Strathcona’s Horse in the Boer War and a member of the Corps of Guides since 1912. He was wounded in the second battle of Ypres and witnessed Boyle’s death in hospital on 25 April 1915.

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The Exonerated

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Morley, M.C.
144th (3rd Winnipeg Rifles) BattalionMorley

The trenches, too, have their lighter side. There are no more cheerful people connected with this war than the boys in the trenches. They make jokes about everything, especially the German shells. The officers are not excluded from their jokes. I recall one day in the trenches, when the word was passed among some of my own Tommies that some staff officers were coming down the trenches.

“Staff officers in the trenches!” exclaimed one of the boys, “Peace must have been declared!”

(Col. Morley, Canadian Club of Winnipeg, 8 Oct 1915, 86)

Arthur William Morley was a Manitoba lawyer and legislative clerk born on 9 August 1880 in Huntsville, Ontario. He moved west to study law in 1901 and set up a practice in Winnipeg after graduation in 1904. A member of the 90th Rifles since relocating to Manitoba, he volunteered with the 8th Battalion September 1914.

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The Poultry Farmer

Lieutenant Colonel T. G. Delamere
110th (Perth) Battalion
T. G. Delamere

He was thrown down and rendered unconscious for about an hour by shell explosion. He had no wounds but there was marked tenderness and pain over the splenetic area.

His nerves were thoroughly shaken and he was troubled with nightmare. He is suffering from insomnia and is easily upset, tires easily and has lack of concentration, and he is recommended to be allowed to proceed to Canada and back for a change.

(Proceedings of A Medical Board, 1 July 1915)

Thomas Gillmor Delamere was a poultry farmer, veteran of the Boer War and member of a prominent Upper Canadian military family. Born in Toronto on 13 July 1883, he was the son Colonel Joseph Martin Delamere and grandson of Colonel George T. Denison II. In September 1914, he enlisted as a captain with the 1st Battalion.

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The Anti-Bolshevik

Lieutenant Colonel J. W. Warden, D.S.O.
102nd (Warden’s Warriors) BattalionWarden

Left my batt. & France for England. 8 am, this is the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. I have the best Batt. in France, there never were men tougher, braver more loyal, more capable, more loved by CO, the finest fighters. It just about broke my heart, I could not say goodbye to a single one. God, how I loved them.

(Warden Diary, 8 Jan 1918)

Born on 8 November 1871 in Baywater, New Brunswick, John Weightman Warden was a British Columbia broker and veteran of the Boer War. He was among the first to enlist after the declaration of war in August 1914. Describing his experiences fighting with the 7th Battalion in the trenches, he explained, “The Boer War was nothing compared with this war. I had been in South Africa, but I found that I knew nothing about war at all.”

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The Veteran

Lieutenant Colonel Dr. W. W. Nasmyth
89th (Alberta) BattalionNasmyth

Another Calgary battalion has departed on its way to do its ‘bit’ for the Empire under the command of Lieut.-Col. W. W. Nasmyth, veteran of South Africa and hero of St. Julien. And amid the cheers of thousands who crowded the depot to see them off, the 89th battalion pulled away from Calgary, en route to the battle front in Flanders.

(Strathmore Standard, 31 May 1916, 8)

Born on 5 January 1866 in Mount Forest, Canada West, William Wylie Nasmyth was a Youngstown, Alberta physician and veteran of the Boer War. In September 1914, Nasmyth and his younger brother James volunteered as officers with the 10th Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Russ Boyle. Fighting together at St. Julien during the second battle of Ypres on 22 April 1915, the brothers found themselves surrounded by the German attackers. Dr. Nasmyth suffered a gunshot wound in the lung while his brother was killed.

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