Soldiers Vote Bill Passes in 1915

Wednesday, April 14, 1915

Billets, Cassel

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Lieut. G.W. Stairs arrived from England”. [1]

14 April 15_ATHIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: Lieutenant George William Stairs was born at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, on Aug. 25, 1887. He was educated in Halifax, graduating from Dalhousie University in 1908. At the time of his enlistment in with the 14th Bn. in August of 1914, he had already served five years with the 66th Regiment, Princess Louise Fusiliers. He was a manufacturer’s agent by vocation. An “original” with the 14th, he was left behind in England as “surplus to the establishment” when the battalion moved to France. Arriving from England on this day, April 14th, to re-join the 14th Battalion in the field, his life was tragically cut short just nine days later when he was killed in action at St. Julien on April 23rd, 1915. His body was never recovered and his name is inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres. This is a sad reminder of just how short life expectancy was for junior officers at the front in the First World War.

In news of the day, the first hurdle in the process to give the vote to Canadian soldiers was passed in the House of Commons as told in this press report:

14 April 15_B“(Special Leased Wire) Ottawa, April 14 – The Commons today gave third reading to the Soldiers’ Votes Bill after a number of amendments had been dealt with. Among the amendments submitted by the Minister of Justice and adopted, was one providing that soldiers may be sworn, another that if a volunteer’s name is left off the list he may vote after taking the oath. It also provided that the men shall have time and opportunity to vote, and the two parties are empowered to name agents or scrutineers.

Two amendments by Hon. Wm. Pugsley which had been defeated in committee, were moved again and met the same fate. One made the permission of Lord Kitchener a necessary preliminary to putting the Bill into effect, and the other provided for a civilian commission instead of officers to take the vote.” [3]

[1]   War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, April 14, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa,
[2]   “Soldiers Vote Bill Passed at Ottawa,” The Quebec Telegraph, Quebec, Quebec, Friday, April 14, 1915, pg. 10, col. 2.
[3]   Ibid

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