Adams Brothers: Story of Two RMR Majors

Friday, June 11, 1915

Rest Billets, Bethune

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for the day: “Lt. Johnston arrived from England and taken on strength.  Men bathing and making great use of canal for water sports.” [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY:  The Battalion history elaborates on these ‘water sports’  – “On the day of the first water sports, a native gallery gathered to watch the fun, the good women of the town taking a frank interest in events, though puzzled by the embarrassment of the swimmers, who had counted on absence of clothing to keep the women away.  That night the Battalion Headquarters emphasized its modesty by ordering all swimmers in future to wear adequate bathing suits.  Bathing suits on active service!  The men were dismayed, for nothing of the kind was obtainable, but soon some enterprising individual cut holes for his legs in a sandbag and the problem was solved.”   [2]

Lieutenant William Doiglas Adams, 14th CEF (RMR)
A Canadian officer, Lieut.W.D. Adams, of the 14th Battalion,
Preparing to turn in after the strenuous days at Langemarcke and Ypres,
where they saw nothing like a bed for three weeks.

Lieut. William Douglas Adams and his brother Lieut. James Fellows Adams were born at St. John, New Brunswick, sons in a large and affluent family.  After attending school at Rothesay Collegiate, the family moved to Toronto.  William entered R.M.C. while James finished his schooling at Upper Canada College. They were one pair of at least twenty one pairs of brothers to enlist in the 14th Battalion in 1914.

MAJOR WILLIAM DOUGLAS ADAMS, M.C., M.E.I.C.“Major W.D. Adams died at the Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto, on 8 June 1960 [sic; s/b 30th June 1960], after a lengthy illness. He entered R.M.C. [No. 720] from Rothesay in 1905 and was awarded his diploma of graduation in 1908.  He was a Sergeant in his graduating year and an outstanding track and field athlete.  He twice won the Silver Bugle and once stroked the winning war canoe in the R.M.C. Regatta.  He took his commission in the Militia with the Victoria Rifles.  He entered engineering in 1909 with the Grand Trunk Railway.  He joined the active force on the outbreak of War and served with the Victoria Rifles* overseas.  In April 1917 he was made Brigade Major with the First Infantry Brigade.  He also held other staff appointments such as that of G.S.O.2 with the Fifth Canadian Division.  He attended the junior Staff courses at Cambridge in 1918.  He won the M.C. and was twice mentioned in Despatches.  On his return to Canada in 1919 he became a partner with Adams Brothers, but later joined the Toronto Transportation Commission. He became associated for a few years with Walter Francis & Company of Montreal, and A. Bentley & Sons of Toledo.  In 1939 he joined the Algoma Steel Corporation.  He was a piling engineer for this firm at the time of his retirement in 1957.  In the Second World War he commanded the 23rd Reserve Company of the Veteran’s Guard.  He was a life member of the E.I.C. and the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario.”   [4]

* Note:  Although he had served four years with the Victoria Rifles of Canada, at the outbreak of the First World War then Lieutenant Adams was part of that Regiment’s contribution to the formation of the 14th Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment with which he proceeded overseas and served until late 1915 when he moved on to various Staff appointments.

MAJOR JAMES FELLOWS ADAMSJames Fellows Adams, was born at St. John, New Brunswick in 1889 received his early education at Rothesay Collegiate, Rothesay N.B.  After his family moved to Toronto, in Sept 1906 at the age of 16 he entered Upper Canada College.  Upon graduation he enlisted as a Lieutenant with the Corp. of Guides, Toronto District.  When the First World War commenced James joined his brother William in enlisting for overseas service with the 14th Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment. He took part in the operations at Ypres, Festubert and Givenchy in 1915 and was promoted Captain in September of that year. He was wounded on August 1st 1916, following which he held a number of Staff appointments.  In September of 1918 he went to Siberia as Intelligence Officer, G.S.O. 3 as part of the Canadian contribution of over 4,000 men to the nine month Allied intervention there.  He returned to Canada in June 1919 with the last party to leave Vladivostok, and receiving his discharge in September of that year.  Following the War he ran an engineering equipment business in Toronto under the name of Adams Brothers.  He died in 1949 and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Kirkfield, Ontario.   [5]

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, June 11, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa
[2]   R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pp. 61-62.
[3]    The Saskatoon Phoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Friday, June 11, 1915, pg. 1, col.5.
[4]   Royal Military College of Canada - Review Yearbook , Kingston, Ontario, 1961, pg. 207 .
[5]   With information from “The Roll of Service 1914-1919/ The War Book of Upper Canada College,” Upper Canada College, Toronto, Ontario, 1923, pg. 84.


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