Turner and The Royal Canadian Legion

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It was blustery and cool with showers on the day Canadians gathered at the War Memorial in Ottawa on Vimy Day in 2010 to honour the passing of the last Canadian First World War veteran, George Babcock. A snow shower just before the ceremony was a modest reminder of the snow and sleet the soldiers endured in the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917. As a central part of the ceremony, Babcock’s descendants passed the flame of remembrance to the leaders of the Army and Navy Veterans (ANV) and the Royal Canadian Legion, as the representatives of the veterans who sacrificed for Canada in its wars. The establishment of the Legion was Turner’s final major service to Canada by acting first as the figurehead and then actual leader in unifying the fragmented major veterans organisations, but one, into the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League and later the Royal Canadian Legion.

By 1925, the veteran’s movement has split into multiple camps that ranged from broad-based organisations that aspired to universal representation to ones with restrictive membership, such as blinded veterans. The result was a disjointed movement with little political power or influence, habitually strapped for funds, and that could not effectively represent veteran’s interests. Despite repeated attempts at unification and amalgamation, the Canadian veterans movement was on the brink of collapse and irrelevance because of the fragmentation of veteran’s organisations - a fate not unwelcome to the Government.

Before the war, other than a few regimental associations, the ANV was the sole representative of veteran’s interests and any veteran of service in the British or Canadian service could join. During the war, the first new veteran’s organisation...

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... Winning the Second Battle: Canadian Veterans and the Return to Civilian Life, 1915-1930: 197.

Jack Jarvie and Diana Swift, The Royal Canadian Legion, 1926-1986 (Toronto, Ont., Canada: Discovery Books, 1985), 27.

Cook, The Madman and the Butcher: 314.

Great War Veterans Association Minute Book, 30 June 1925, MG 28 I298 v1, LAC.

Report of Proceedings of the National Unity Conference and Draft Constitution, File 44, MG 28 I298 v43, LAC.

"Ontario Veterans to Meet," Montreal Gazette, 15 April 1926.

Ltr. Griesbach to Currie, 21 December 1925, File 4, MG 30 E100 v27, Currie Fonds; LAC.

Currie, the Principal at McGill Unversity, was in ill-health at this time and his correspondence was answered by a McGill University official. Ltr. Turner to Currie, 3 June 1928; Ltr. Acting Principal to Turner, 5 June 1928w, File 69, MG 30 E100 v19, Currie Fonds; LAC.

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