Obituary of General Sir Arthur Currie
The (London) Times
Friday, December 01, 1933
Transcribed by: marc
SIR ARTHUR CURRIE
General Sir Arthur Currie, Principal of McGill University, Montreal, whose death the age of 57 we announce to-day, will be chiefly remembered as Commander of Canadian Corps in France during the last months of the Great War. Like Sir John Monash, the Australian Commander of the Australian forces in the field, Currie rose to high rank by sheer merit and hard work, and his administrative capacity as well as his leadership brought out all the best that was in the troops under his command. He was a big man, well built, and looking every inch a soldier. Though he had seen no active service before the War, he had been long before an energetic member of the Militia force in the Far West of Canada, and it is largely through his enthusiasm that the volunteer movement gained a popularity in the city of Victoria on Vancouver island that it did not have in some the larger cities of the Dominion. All the time that he could spare was given to the work of recruiting and drilling his Militiamen and studying tactics, and in examinations for promotion he always came out with high honours.
Currie became Commander of the Canadian Corps in France in the summer 1917, succeeding Sir Julian Byng, later Lord Byng of Vimy and Governor-General of Canada, who was then promoted to the command of the Third Army. It was the proud boast of the Canadians after Currie took command tat they never failed to take a single objective and were never driven out of a single position which they had once consolidated. From August 8, 1918, when they attacked from Amiens alongside the Australians - the day which Ludendorff admitted was the turning point in the War – right up to the last moment of the fighting on November 11, the Canadian push vas irresistible. Each new position gained was but the launching point for another drive. The forcing of the switch line, Queant-Drocourt, broke the Hindenburg line and made possible the ending of the War before winter set in. Beyond that the Canadians pushed on through Valenciennes, and finally, just as he last hour of fighting came, they reached the town of Mons, the scene of he gallant stand by the "Old Contemptibles" in August, 1914. It was a race against time to reach Mons, but Currie did so by the hour of the Armistice, preferring, like the Americans, to take no chances before hostilities actually ceased. Thereafter Canadian troops formed part of the Army of Occupation, and Currie was in command at Bonn till he came to London to superintend the demobilization.
Arthur William Currie was born on December 5, 1875, at Napperton, Adelaide Township, in Middlesex County, Ontario, the son of William Garner Currie and his wife, Jane Patterson, both of whom were Canadian born, their forebears having migrated from Scotland and Ulster. He spent his boyhood and early youth on his father's farm, attending the local public school and the Strathroy Collegiate Institute, and at 18 years of age he secured certificates as a school teacher. In 1894 he left Ontario to seek his fortune in the West; after two years as schoolmaster at Sidney, Vancouver Island, he accepted a position in the public schools of Victoria, B.C., where he taught for three and a half years.
It was during this period, on May 6, 1897, that he enlisted in the Militia as a gunner in the 5th Regiment, Canadian Garrison Artillery. He received his first commission in January, 1901, in the same regiment, was promoted captain in 1902, major in May, 1906, and lieutenant-colonel commanding, September, 1909, to November, 1913. While energetically interested in every kind of artillery work, his hobby was rifle shooting, and he became president of the B.C. Rifle Association in 1907; in 1912 and 1913 his regiment led the Garrison Artillery of Canada in both general efficiency and target practice. In November, 1913, he took a leading part in raising the 50th (Gordon) Highlanders in Victoria, and was placed in command ; he simultaneously attended the Militia Staff Course and qualified in March, 1914. The whole trend of his civil career had meanwhile been entirely altered in 1900, when hi abandoned the teaching profession and opened an insurance business, which hi expanded after seven years to include rea estate and brokerage.
When the War broke out he was one o the first to volunteer, and was given command of the 2nd Infantry Brigade in the first Canadian contingent, which crossed to this country in October, 1914 When General Alderson gave up the command of the 1st Canadian Division Currie succeeded him, and held that position till in June, 1917, he was appointed Commander of the Canadian Corps. He took part in that terrible battle at Ypres in 1915 when the Germans launched the first poison gas attack. Under Curry the Canadians stood manfully to the positions, and by their resolute resistance helped to avert a defeat to the British armies which would have given the Germans command of the Channel ports. He was again prominent in the offensive on the Somme and Vimy Ridge, where the Canadians won deathless fame. Currie's capacity at leadership attracted attention everywhere and decorations were showered on him. When he returned to Canada he was received with high honour. He was promoted to the permanent rank of General and appointed Inspector-General of the Forces in Canada, and for a year was chiefly occupied with the reorganization of the Militia.
A few months later, in 1920, Currie was chosen Principal of McGill University. There he was welcomed as the most representative Canadian of the War. Many felt that his lack of experience in university affairs might be a handicap to him, but he soon showed that his power of organization and his understanding men, especially young men, more than made up for that disadvantage. That administrative ability which was the basis of his leadership in the War he turned easily to the service of his new responsibilities. With no professional bias, he had a natural faculty for choosing. the best advisers, and he brought from the Army the habit of loyally supporting his staff. Under him the great Canadian university prospered anew, materially as well as intellectually, and a campaign which was launched for further endowments to the amount of a million dollars was successful within a week's time.
General Currie was created a C.B. after “Second Ypres,” 1915; K.C.M.G. after Vimy, 1917 ; K.C.B. for his leadership at Passchendaele towards the close of the war; and G.C.M.G. at the end of the war. He was mentioned nine times in
dispatches, and received numerous foreign orders. Honorary degrees were conferred on him by many British and American universities, and he was a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation. He married, in 1901, Lucy Sophia, daughter of Mr. William Chaworth Chaworth-Musters, of Nottingham, and had a son and a daughter.
In Currie has passed a great Canadian whose service to Canada and the Empire was conspicuous and will never be forgotten. As a soldier he won high distinction, not for himself alone, but for the Canadian Corps under his command. I was brought into intimate touch with him during the agony of that conflict, and my high regard deepened into sincere affection and warm admiration. Since the peace his service has also been notable as Principal of a great University. Not only in achievement and example, but in penetrating thought devoted to his country's welfare and couched in eloquent expression, he has given of his best to Canada and the Commonwealth. Deeply and sincerely he will be mourned by all true Canadians, but especially by those who on the plains of France and Flanders learned to know the true meaning of comradeship and sacrifice.
The Prime Minister, Mr. Bennett, alluded to Sir Arthur Currie's distinguished record as a soldier whose successes marked him as one of the outstanding generals of the Great War, and to his concern after the War for returned soldiers and their dependents. He said:
Currie proved himself a courageous and resourceful commander, possessed of great initiative and confidence in his troops, coupled with an uncanny grasp of the real factors of strategic situations, which enabled him to achieve great successes. It might be said that ht exemplified and interpreted the War-time genius of the Canadian people.
After referring to the thoroughness which characterized Sir Arthur Currie': principalship of McGill University, which won him a high place among educationists, Mr. Bennett alluded to his efforts as a protagonist of world peace Throughout the Empire, which was ever in his thoughts, he would be deeply mourned.