William Charles Gordon Armstrong (1866 – 1951)
The founder of the Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel William Charles Gordon Armstrong, was a true western pioneer. He was born in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England in 1866 and apprenticed as a tea-tester before coming to Canada in 1892 due to health reasons. He had married Evelyn Eddy in 1887, and their child William Frances accompanied him to Canada. The climate agreed with him, and he spent many years surveying northwest of the young new city of Calgary, and eventually became employed by the Imperial Life Insurance Company of Canada. He was engaged in numerous other enterprises, investing largely in real estate and erecting the Armstrong block in 1904.
From 1902 to 1904, Armstrong served as a City Councillor, and his work on the street numbering system and electrical lighting system is felt to this day. According to the City of Calgary’s official website, the city “is also indebted to him for the beginning of municipal ownership.”
Militarily, he joined the Canadian Mounted Rifles in 1903 – a Militia unit – and later joined the 15th Light Horse. Not satisfied, he petitioned and was ultimately responsible for the raising of the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles, and toasted his new regiment on the 1st of April 1910.
In 1914, he helped recruit five hundred men for the newly formed 10th Battalion, and he later raised the 56th Battalion CEF, going overseas in March 1915. In mid 1918, Armstrong was invalided home. He commanded the 103rd until 1916.
According to the City of Calgary website: “Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong’s post-War endeavours included a directorship for several years at the Calgary Building Society; the ultimate result of which was the Armstrong Block which the Colonel had built himself. He also served as Vice-President with Alberta Financial Brokers Limited. In the 1940’s, he was President at the Calgary branch of the Alberta Motor Association for seven terms and continued to be involved in it’s organization up until the end of that decade. As a pioneer motorist, he did much to promote the improvement of Provincial roads.”
Other endeavors included being Vice President of the Calgary Building Society, Vice President of Al-Azhar Building Company, Vice President of Alberta Financial Brokers Limited, Secretary-Treasurer of Woodcraft’s Limited, a member of the Board of Trade, Secretary of the Alberta Provincial Rifle Association, Secretary of the Liberal Association, the founded of the Municipal Lighting Company, and Chairman of the fire, water and light committee.
Armstrong died on the 6th of February 1951.
William Ashton Cockshutt
William Ashton Cockshutt was born in 1892, the eldest son of a long standing member of the Canadian Parliament from Brantford, Ontario. James Cockshutt, his uncle, was the founder of the famous western Canadian Cockshutt Plow Company.
Ashton was diagnosed with serious asthma; at age fourteen, he was not expected to live past the age of twenty and doctors recommended he move to Western Canada. A move to a farm near Calgary, improved his health, and the went on to attend Western Canada College, where, according to the Calgary Highlanders Museum website, “he was introduced to the values of a military lifestyle.”
In 1909, he entered the Calgary office of the family business while also joining the 103rd Calgary Rifles as a private. He was later commissioned as an officer, and in 1914 went to Camp Valcartier with the first contingent of volunteers for the newly forming 10th Battalion.
Ashton saw much action in Europe, fighting at the first major Canadian battle (Second Ypres in April 1915), then Festubert and Givenchy, where he was wounded. He was returned to Brantford, Ontario where he joined the 125th Battalion and was promoted to Captain, proceeding overseas again with the 125th and being promoted major.
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The Calgary Highlanders Museum tells us: “In the fall of 1918, he returned to the Calgary office of the Cockshutt Plow Co. and rejoined the 10th Battalion. Ashton was one of three Officers who assisted in the formation of the Calgary Highlanders. Cockshutt remained a Highlander until 1922, when he was transferred to Edmonton with the Cockshutt Plow Co.. He held senior positions within the company and with other large corporations. William Ashton Cockshutt was one of the few Officers to serve in all three Regiments which perpetuate the Calgary Highlanders. He lived to be ninety-seven, a remarkable feat for a boy not expected to live past the age of twenty.”
Private Donald Fraser
Private Fraser in 1916
Private Donald Fraser, of the 31st (Alberta) Battalion tells us in his journal of at least one NCO of the 103rd who served overseas:
The way our old soldiers, physical drill instructors, bayonet fighting instructors disappeared under the stress of battle to realms of easier work was a great disappointment to us. To instance a few cases. When the 31st became a battalion, the Regt. Sgt.-Maj. was a man named B__. He was one of the mainstays of the 103rd Calgary Rifles and naturally interested in military work. He was very insistent that we smarten up and be soldiers. His part of soldiering, however, was spent in England. He took good care to stay on the safe side of the Channel. As Sgt.-Maj. of our company–a hero of a hundred fights you would fancy him to be if you listened to his conversation–he wore four ribbons for service in Africa, Egypt and the Sudan and was a faddist on bayonet fighting. In England, he used to tap his side gently and remark that this, alluding to his revolver, was for N.C.O.s who refused to go over the top. I only saw this fire-eater pay a visit to the trenches once. I gave him the periscope to look through. He was very uneasy and had a half-hearted glance through it, slinking back to H’Qrs. a few minutes afterwards. This seasoned warrior obtained a commission and in addition managed to get back to Canada. I noticed his picture very nearly the central figure in a group of War Veterans, taken before their quarters on 9th Ave., Calgary.
Sergeant William Dalton Buck
Other men of the 103rd Calgary Rifles served in Canada as prison guards. William Dalton Buck was born on the Isle of Wight, Southampton, England on the 12th of December 1859 and married in January 1878, aged eighteen. His wife, Augusta Emma Jesse, aged 21 at the time of their wedding, bore him ten children. Both his father and father in law were tailors, but Buck worked as a plumber, spending his spare time painting seascapes and also taking to the stage as a comedian and singer. He came to Canada two or three years before the outbreak of the Great War with his wife and family, excepting his eldest son who stayed in England.
After the outbreak of war, Buck became a Sergeant in the 103rd Calgary Rifles, at the age of 57 he was too old for war service. Instead, he became assigned to a prison camp set up near Castle Mountain in the Rockies. This was a tented camp for both enemy prisoners taken in action in France and Flanders, as well as internees (largely of Ukrainian heritage) taken from the civil population in Canada. In winter, the prisoners were moved to warmer barracks near Banff. When the prisoners were moved to Kapuskasing, Buck moved with them (taking his wife along).
Sergeant Buck left an interesting photographic record of his experiences in the camp, though other details of life has not been documented either by guards or prisoners, and is a chapter of Canadian history largely unwritten. It is not known how many other soldiers of the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles) were employed in local internment and prison camps.
Buck’s photos can be seen in the book In My Charge: the Canadian Internment Camp Photographs of Sergeant William Buck © 1997 Lubomyr Y Luciuk and Borys Sydoruk ISBN 1-896354-14-9 A copy of the album is also kept in the collection of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff, Alberta. Information and image in this section found at http://www.infoukes.com/history/internment/booklet03/
Sergeant Walter Elliott Murray Goodfellow
One of the first volunteers for overseas service among the 103rd Calgary Rifles was Walter Goodfellow. Serving as an NCO in 1914, by the time of the St. Julien fighting, he was a sergeant in the 10th Battalion.
According to the battalion historian, Daniel Dancocks, about a dozen men were never found after the fight at Kitcheners’ Wood on 22-23 April 1915. Sergeant Goodfellow was among them, and his name is inscribed on the Menin Gate, a tribute to 55,000 dead Commonwealth soldiers who have no known grave.
Goodfellow had been born, like many of the initial volunteers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, in the United Kingdom, specifically Edinburgh, Scotland. He listed his date of birth as 12 June 1893, making him just shy of 22 years of age when he was killed. His prewar occupation was carpenter, and his next of kin lived at 130 Garden Crescent in Calgary. His attestation was dated 23 September 1914, and was signed by “Lt Col R L Boyle, OC 10th Batt”