The Northman

Lieutenant Colonel R. A. Gillespie
226th (Men of the North) BattalionGillespie

An ardent lover of outdoor life and successful participant in many manly sports, a natural leader of men, understanding thoroughly the life and character of the Western man, the Colonel with his splendid military knowledge, especially in machine gun and musketry, is eminently fitted to command any Canadian Battalion, but particularly one containing so large a percentage of Western men as the 226th.

(226th Overseas Battalion, C.E.F, 1916, 3)

A native of Winnipeg, Robert Alexander Gillespie was born on 24 January 1881. He was a trained druggist and chemist. In 1912, he had helped to organize the 106th Winnipeg Light Infantry. Gillespie joined the 61st Battalion as junior major until he received authorization to raise the 226th from northern Manitoba in November 1915. Dubbed the “Men of the North,” the 226th officers considered their volunteers “physically superior” to the other battalions

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Another Sportsman

Lieutenant Colonel Peter E. Bowen
202nd (Sportsman’s) BattalionBowen

This officer is well developed. Complains of pain inch above umbilicus at times. Has vomiting of coffee ground and even pure blood. Has passages of large amount of black blood by bowel. When these attacks come on he feels very weak, and breaks out in cold sweats.

(Medical History of Invalid, Edmonton MCH, 26 Sept 1917)

Born on 14 February 1874 in Metcalfe, Ontario, Peter Edwin Bowen was a well-known Alberta hunter, trapper and marksman. An insurance broker in civilian life, Bowen also belonged to the 19th Alberta Dragoons. In August 1914, he enlisted as a captain in the 9th Battalion before transferring into the 2nd Battalion. While fighting at Langemarck during the second battle of Ypres on 23 April 1915, Bowen was shot in the head. Although he only suffered a scalp wounded, he was eventually forced from the field after the battle of Festubert in May due to nearly fatal gas poisoning.

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The Sportsman

Lieutenant Colonel Dick Greer
180th (Sportsmen) Battalion

But the English and Canadians and Australians fight in a different way. They make a sport of fighting.

The German soldier has no sport. He is a machine; he is rigidly in his place. He can’t understand the idea that fighting is sport to the British. That long line of men charging, laughing and kicking a football along ahead terrifies him.

(Greer to Fosdick Commission, Toronto Globe, 18 June 1917, 9)

As president of the Sportsmen’s Patriotic Association, Richard Haliburton Greer proposed to raise a battalion of athletes from Toronto. Born on 19 October 1878 in Toronto, Greer was an Ontario Crown attorney and one of the city’s leading sportsmen. In his youth, Greer played amateur and semi-professional baseball. As a member of the University of Toronto ball club in the late 1890s, he was regarded as “one of the best short-stops in Canada.” In the 1898 UofT yearbook, Greer cited as his chief ambition in life: “To play the game.”

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