Who's Who                       
      
  Only some of the following people are mentioned in the Battlefields section of this web site, but all have an important place in Canada's history in the Great War. Many are also mentioned in the six-part documentary series For King and Empire.  
      
 
     Sir Robert Borden
Sir Samuel Hughes
Sir Julian Byng
Sir Arthur Currie
Sir Douglas Haig
Sir Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook
Canon Frederick George Scott
Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught
Princess Patricia
Hamilton Gault
Major Talbot Papinpeau
Agar Adamson
Will Bird
Dr. John McCrae
 
      
      
     
      
  Sir Robert Borden Sir Robert Borden was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1896 as a Conservative party member and became leader of the Conservative opposition in 1901. He was elected prime minister in 1911 and is regarded today as one of the most successful politicians of the 20th century.

During World War I, Borden's ministry maintained vigorous support of the efforts of the Allies and obtained, for members of the Commonwealth of Nations, a voice in British policymaking. Largely through Borden's efforts, Canada secured independent membership in the League of Nations. In 1917 Borden sponsored the Military Service Act instituting conscription, which he considered necessary to the war effort. The measure was opposed by the French-Canadians and contributed to the growing antagonism between the French- and English-speaking Canadians. Borden formed a coalition government in 1917 and remained prime minister until ill health forced him to resign in 1920. As prime minister, Borden took part in the Imperial War Conference in London in 1917 and in the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. He also represented Canada at the Washington Conference on naval disarmament in 1921-22.
 
      
     
      
   Major General Samuel Hughes Major General Samuel Hughes was minister of Militia and Defense from 1911 to 1916, and therefore was responsible for moving Canadian troops to Europe at the beginning of World War I .

On one hand, Hughes was an able politician and a loyal supporter of the prime minister, Sir Robert Borden, but on the other he was boastful and unpredictable. In fact, many viewed Hughes as deranged. While he managed to raise, train, and arm 33,000 Canadian soldiers within three months of the start of war, he also insisted the Canadian troops use the Ross Rifle. This rifle was faulty; it frequently jammed in the field and it cost many men their lives. It was eventually replaced with the more reliable Lee Enfield.

Hughes' meddling with the British chain of command, and his disregard of explicit instructions given him by the prime minister, resulted in his dismissal in September 1916. As one of Hughes' Cabinet colleagues remarked, "the nightmare is removed."
 
      
     
      
  Sir Julian Byng Sir Julian Byng was commander of the British and Canadian Corps during the Great War. As commander of the Canadian Corps in France, he was responsible for one of the most famous Canadian victories in the Great War, the capture of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917. Byng "Bungo" to his friends, taught Canadians that training and careful staff work saved lives.

As commander of the British 3rd Army (from June 1917) he conducted the first large-scale attack by tanks in history at Cambrai Nov. 20, 1917. His army broke the German Hindenberg Line on Sept. 27, 1918. Byng was promoted to full general in 1917 and was made a field marshal in 1932. After World War I he served as governor-general of Canada (1921-26) . In 1925 Byng's wife, Evelyn, donated the Lady Byng Trophy, the NHL's award for sportsmanship combined with excellence.
 
    
   
    
   
   
  Sir Arthur Currie Sir Arthur Currie was the first Canadian commander of Canada's overseas forces in World War I. While Currie did not look the part of a professional soldier, he is generally thought by historians to be the best military commander that Canada has produced.

Curries was given command of a battalion in the first Canadian contingent sent to assist Britain in 1914, in spite of his then minimum experience. He advanced steadily, winning distinction at the battles of Ypres and Saint-Julien in Belgium and at the battle of Vimy Ridge in France. Within three years (in 1917) he became lieutenant general and commander of the four divisions of the Canadian Corps, succeeding the British general Sir Julian Byng. He lead the Canadian troops at Passchendaele, as well as other major battles. Currie was knighted in 1918. After the war he served as inspector general of the Canadian militia and became the first general in the Canadian Army. In 1920 he accepted the position of principal and vice chancellor of McGill University, Montreal, and retained this post until his death.
 
   
  
   
   
   
  Sir Douglas Haig Sir Douglas Haig was British field marshal, commander in chief of the British forces in France during most of World War I. His strategy of attrition (tautly summarized as "kill more Germans") resulted in enormous numbers of British and Canadian casualties but little immediate gain in 1916-17. This made him a subject of much controversy.

On the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Haig led the 1st British Corps to northern France, and, early in 1915, he became commander of the 1st Army. On December 17 of that year he was promoted to commander in chief of the British Expeditionary Force and again promoted, this time to field marshal late in 1916.

Throughout July-November 1916, Haig committed great masses of troops to an unsuccessful offensive on the Somme River, which cost 420,000 allied casualties. Again in the resulting battles at Passchendaele (July-November 1917, also called The Third Battle at Ypres) the total number of casualties shocked the British public - as the Somme death toll had done. But, although Haig failed to reach his objective - the Belgian coast - he did weaken the Germans and helped prepare the way for their defeat at Passchendaele by the Canadians.
 
   
  
   
      
   
Lord Beaverbrook By the time the First World War began, Max Aitken had transformed himself from a man of humble background (he was born in New Brunswick) to a wealthy newspaper baron, living in London, and with considerable influence in the highest levels of English politics and society. A member of Parliament in Britain since 1910, Aitken returned to Canada in September 1914 to offer his services to the Canadian government. He secured for himself an appointment as "Canadian Eye Witness," with responsibility for reporting the activities of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to the public in Canada, and for superintending whatever records the CEF generated. Aitken established what eventually became known as the Canadian War Records Office in London, and before long, news of Canadian efforts were printed in Canadian and British newspapers. Aitken also established the Canadian War Memorials Fund, which produced a collection of war art by the finest artists and sculptors in Britain and Canada (for a more in-depth look at this Fund and what it produced see Culture and the Great War). He also organized a three-volume series Canada in Flanders, which chronicled the achievements of Canadian soldiers in the field. Aitken had a close relationship with Canada's Minister of Militia and Defence, Sam Hughes. Hughes' dismissal in 1916 put an end to Aitken's tenure as military representative and he shifted his attention back to British politics.

Lord Beaverbrook's legacy to historians of the First World War is considerable. He was responsible for the thousands of feet of film, hundreds of paintings and drawings, millions of pages of text, and thousands of photographs which have taught Canadians much about the Great War.
 
      
     
      
    
    Canon Frederick George Scott was the padre of the 1st Division of the Canadian Corps and the confidant, friend and spiritual guide to many generals, officers and enlisted men during the war. When he returned from the war he continued to be revered by thousands. In 1934 he published The Great War as I Saw It, a memoir of his experiences. He is also known as a poet of religious, inspirational and patriotic poetry. During the Quebec Conference, held in the summer of 1943, Canon Scott was invited by Churchill and Roosevelt to a private meeting where he read some of this poetry.  
   
    
   
   
  The Duke of Connaught The Duke of Connaught was Queen Victoria's third and youngest son and favourite child. He was appointed governor general of Canada in 1911 and brought a glamour and pedigree to the position not before seen. He retained this position until 1916, and aroused controversy during the Great War by intervening in Canadian military affairs. He married Princess Louise Marguerite of Prussia in 1879. Their youngest daughter was Princess Patricia (see below).  
   
  
   
   
  Princess Patricia Youngest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, she accompanied her parents to Ottawa when her father served as governor general. The Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was named in honour of the princess, who agreed to be its colonel-in-chief. Much was made of the fact that she designed and embroidered a banner for the regiment to take with them into battle. She also designed the crest for the cap and collar badges of the regiment. This consisted of a single daisy, in hour of Hamilton Gault's wife, Marguerite.  
   
  
   
   Sir Hamilton Gault Founder of the the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Gault was a 33-year-old Montreal millionaire who had served with the Canadian Mounted Rifles in South Africa. He was committed to starting an elite military unit composed of men who had already seen active duty in other wars. When the Princess Pats were formed he served as the senior major. Other prominent members were Agar Adamson and Talbot Papineau.  
      
     
      
  Major Talbot Papinpeau Talbot Papineau was born into a privileged and famous family (his grandfather was Louis-Joseph Papineau, leader of the patriote rebels in 1837), and was a 31-year-old Montreal lawyer when war broke. He immediately joined the regiment that his friend Hamilton Gault had formed, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. As a member of the Princess Patricia's he fought at St. Eloi and Bellewaerde Ridge. He received a Military Cross for bravery during a trench raid at St. Eloi.

Papineau was well connected both in Canada and in England. In Canada his reputation as a promising politician was secure. He engaged in debates with his cousin Henri Bourassa over French Canada's role in the war. While in London these connections provided him with a safe job working for Max Aitken as an Eyewitness for the Canadian War Records Office in the summer of 1916.

Papineau rejoined the Princess Patricia's for the Battle at Passchendaele, well aware that death was the likely result. He was uncomfortable watching from the sidelines as the Princess Patricia's fought at Mount Sorrel and the Somme and were successful at Vimy. Papineau also knew that he needed to rejoin the regiment and be involved in one more big battle, in order to be successful in politics after the war.

On October 30, 1917 the Canadians made their first attack in their efforts to secure Passchendaele Ridge. Minutes later Papineau was killed by a direct hit from a German shell. He is commemorated by name only on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres.
 
 
  
 
   
   
  Agar Adamson Agar Adamson joined the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in 1914 as captain - even though he was 48 years old and blind in one eye. He served continuously overseas with the PPCLI until the end of the war. Adamson commanded his regiment a number of times owing to casualties among his superiors. In October 1916 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and commanding officer of the PPCLI, and successfully and skillfully led his regiment at both Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele.

Adamson wrote daily to his wife, Mabel Cawthra, while serving in France and Belgium. These letters are unique in their detail of events, personalities and of day-to-day life at the front. Quoted frequently in the Battlefields section, they give us one of the most thorough accounts in existence of the Canadian soldier's experience in the Great War.
 
   
  
   
   
   
  Will Bird When war broke in 1914 Stephen Bird, Will's younger brother, immediately enlisted, and made sure that Will's application to enlist was turned down. When Stephen was killed in a mine explosion near Ypres in October of 1915, Will enlisted in the 193rd Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders. The 193rd was a locally raised battalion, the men were all from the same area in Nova Scotia. When Will arrived in France he and members of his battalion were sent to reinforce the 42nd Battalion, The Black Watch of Canada, in the front lines. Will fought at Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens, Arras and Cambrai. He was awarded a Military Medal for bravery in the capture of Mons, on the last night of the war.

His memoir, Ghosts Have Warm Hands, was first published in 1930 under the title And We Go On. As Norm Christie writes in his preface to Ghosts Have Warm Hands: "It is remarkable how Will Bird has recorded his war in such exceptional detail, and how the characters of his comrades shine. His story reflects the power of the camaraderie felt by the soldiers of the First World War, specifically their loyalty to each other and their pride of being in the trenches.

Will wrote in the preface of And We Go On that the book was an effort to reveal the psychic or supernatural effects war had on its participants. The visions of his dead brother Stephen, who visits him on many occasions during the war, and in fact saves his life on a number of occasions, makes for fascinating reading.
 
   
  
   
      
   Dr. John McCrae Dr. John McCrae graduated from the University of Toronto and joined the faculty of McGill University in 1900. He had been a doctor for years (and had served in the South African War) when the Great War broke out. McCrae is the author of the most famous poem penned during the Great War, In Flanders Fields.

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, McCrae had treated injured men for days after the Second Battle of Ypres, in May of 1915. One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on May 2, 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the small cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station, McCrae vented his anguish by composing In Flanders Fields. He had by this time authored only medical texts, just dabbling in poetry. The poem was an instant hit after appearing in the December 8th issue of Punch.

LTC John McCrae continued to serve until he died of pneumonia on January 28, 1918, at age 45.
 
      
     
      
      
      
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