Colonel Runaway

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

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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The Americanist

Lieutenant Colonel P. A. Guthrie, M.P.P.
236th (Sir Sam’s Own) BattalionGuthrie

I do confess to be a Christian, but I must confess that when the time comes and we have the chance to even up old scores, I want to see their [German] towns leveled with the earth; I want to see their farmhouses in smoke; I want to see their land laid waste and desolate; and I want to see them fleeing before fire, sword and hate…

If I can but see this and help it on its way I will be happy to fall in the rush of victory…

(Boston Globe, 6 Jan 1918, 15)

Born on 20 June 1884 in Oromocto, New Brunswick, Percy Albert Guthrie was an Orangeman and Conservative member of the provincial legislature. He was one of the first volunteers to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force and sailed to England with Lieutenant Colonel Harry McLeod’s 12th Battalion. He fought with the 10th Battalion at Second Ypres and was seriously wounded by a shell explosion at Festubert on 25 May 1915.

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The Ypres Three

Lieutenant Colonels
Birchall, Hart-McHarg & BoyleYpres3

The more details I learn of the battle before Ypres, the greater to me does the resourcefulness and bravery of brigadiers, battalion commanders, and individuals become apparent.

(General Horace Smith-Dorrien, Apr 1915)

The Canadians had many casualties, but their gallantry and determination undoubtedly saved the situation.

(Lord Kitchener, April 1915)

This week marks the one hundredth anniversary of the second battle of Ypres, the first major action of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The battle saw 5,000 Canadian soldiers wounded and nearly 1,000 killed including three battalion commanders. On 23 April 1915, Arthur Birchall (4th Battalion) was struck down leading his men armed only with his cane. On 24 April 1915, William Hart-McHarg (7th Battalion) was shot and killed while on a reconnaissance operation. On 25 April, Russell Boyle (10th Battalion) died of severe wounds and loss of blood at a clearing hospital. All three had belonged to the 2nd Brigade under the command of Brigadier General Arthur Currie.

The Commander

Brigadier General G. S. Tuxford, D.S.O.
5th (Tuxford’s Dandies) BattalionTuxford

On the 24th [April 1915] Major Hilliam, my adjutant, called me out about 4 o’clock in the morning to witness a huge wall of greeny, yellow smoke that was rolling up the hillside. We had no idea what it was, but thought it might have something to do with the reported gas attacks of the preceding day. We were not long left in doubt.

(Tuxford, “After Action Report,” 10 Mar 1916)

Born in Wales on 7 February 1870, George Stuart Tuxford was a Moose Jaw homesteader, rancher and militiaman. In August 1914, he received authorization to raise two mounted units from the West. He later explained, “In the one battalion I placed the 12th, 16th, 27th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 35th (Light Horse) and Corps of Guides. This battalion became the 5th Canadian Infantry Battalion, and later on being asked to select a name for the battalion, I could think of no better than that of Western Cavalry, and as such they remained the 5th Battalion, Western Cavalry.”

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