1915 Battlefield Commissions For Two Future RMR CO’s

Wednesday, May 12, 1915

In billets, Bailleul (Le Nouveau Monde)

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Battn. inspected by Brig.-Gen. Turner, V.C., who expressed himself satisfied with reorganization and refitting.  Commissions as Lieutenants granted to Company Sergt.-Major C.B. Price, and Sergts. Worrall and Leighton”. [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY:  It is worth noting here that two of these newly commissioned officers went on to command the The Royal Montreal Regiment with distinction – Lt.- Col. Dick Worrall (1918-1919) and Lt.-Col. C. Basil Price (1920-1924 & 1927-1929).

In 1914 Charles Basil Price was an officer of the Victoria Rifles, who relinquished his commission in order to accompany the 14th Battalion proceeding overseas. Appointed Regimental Sergeant-Major, he learned that J. M. Stephenson, a regular soldier with wide experience, was serving in another unit as a sergeant.  Price realized how valuable to the new Regiment Stephenson would be as R.S.M., and therefore relinquished his post and became a colour sergeant to permit Stephenson’s appointment. Colour Sergeant-Major Price was quickly promoted to Company Sergeant-Major and from that rank was commissioned on the field of battle on May 12, 1915.  He achieved ever increasing rank in the army throughout a long and distinguished career, including two terms as Commanding Officer of The Royal Montreal Regiment.

In the Second World War Colonel Price re-enlisted and was posted to England. As a major-general, he commanded the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division from 14 March 1941 until 7 September 1942, when he became the Overseas Commissioner of the Canadian Red Cross Society. In that post, which he held until the war ended, he strove to ensure that all Allied prisoners of war received equal benefits, including one large Red Cross parcel per month containing the best food available (white-flour biscuits; butter instead of oleomargarine, etc.). In 1944 he joined John Bracken’s team as the Progressive Conservative candidate in Saint Antoine -Westmount, and lost to the Liberal incumbent Douglas Charles Abbott by just 60 votes in the 1945 federal election. Later he retired and moved to Knowlton, Quebec and died there in 1975.

– o – o – o – o – o –

Dick Worrall, christened Dick, not Richard, was born at Woolwich, England.  At age 18 he enlisted in the Dorsetshire Regt. and served eight years in many parts of the world.  Prior to WW1, the United States  had disputes with Mexico and it looked like there might be fighting.  Hearing of chance to get into action, Worrall got a discharge from the Dorsets, crossed the Atlantic and enlisted in the American Army.  On the outbreak of the First World War, Worrall was stationed at an American Army post on an island off the Atlantic coast. Desiring to fight for the British, he and two British comrades escaped barracks, swam ashore, and jumped freight trains for Canada.  At a bridge crossing the two companions were swept from the train, and presumably killed.  Worrall continued on alone.  After arriving in Montreal, he presented himself for enlistment at the 1st Regt. Grenadier Guards.  Their initial reaction was to reject him but he pleaded to show his abilities with a squad of men.  The officers of the Guards were impressed and hired him as a recruit, making him a Sergeant on the spot.

Worrall was part of the draft from the Grenadier Guards transferred to the 14th Battalion on its formation.  He demonstrated leadership, initiative and courage during the second Battle of Ypres, April 1915.  After 12 days of fighting when Regiment was withdrawn for reorganization, Worrall, Price and Leighton were paraded before remnants of the 3rd Brigade and granted commissions for conspicuous gallantry in the field.  Worrall was also awarded the Russian Cross of St. George, one of the few Russian decorations bestowed during the first Great War.

He steadily gained promotions and in June 1917 was promoted to Lt.-Col. taking command of the 14th Battalion later that year.  In the meantime he had already been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Bar as well as the Military Cross and Bar.  At the end of the war he led the Battalion back to Montreal in April 1919 and died there in February 1920, at the age of 29.  He was buried with full military honours in Mount Royal Cemetery.

– o – o – o – o – o –

Sergt. Gordon Ernest Leighton was born in London, England in 1887 and came to Canada prior to the First World War.  He subsequently enjoyed successful careers both as a journalist and a member of the armed forces. He became a war correspondent and in 1914 enlisted from the Victoria Rifles as a private in the 14th Battalion, the Royal Montreal Regiment, rising to the rank of major. Between the wars, he was general manager of The Calgary Albertan from 1928 to 1936, moving to Regina to become manager of the now-defunct Regina Star until 1940.  Following the outbreak of the Second World War, he held positions with the defense department and adjutant- general’s department, and was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (Personal Services) in 1942. Col. Leighton was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Belgian Croix de Guerre for his services in the First World War and the Order of the British Empire for his work at defense headquarters.  He resumed his journalistic career in Ottawa and Winnipeg after his retirement from the armed services, retiring in 1960’s. He died at London, Ontario, in 1974 at the age of 87.   [3]

PRIVATE C. D. B. WHITBYAbout this time, readers of The Gazette in Montreal learned that Private C.D.B. Whitby a member of the battalion, was now listed as “wounded and missing.”  His several letters home, containing news of the  battalion had been published by The Gazette.  Several of these appear in earlier blogs on March 30 & 31, April 6 & 7 and April 21.

[1]  War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, May 12, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa,http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089732.jpg
[2]   R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pg. 53.
[3]  Lethbridge Herald, Monday, January 7, 1974, pg. 5.


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