Birth of a Regiment


Lt Col A. Hamilton Gault, DSO

Lieut- Colonel A. Hamilton Gault, DSO[i]
[ii]Jeffery Williams, First in the Field, Chapters 1-6
[iii]Ralph Hodder-Williams, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry 1914-1919 Vol 2, 72

Andrew Hamilton Gault was born at Margate in Kent on August 18th, 1882, the son of a very wealthy Montreal cotton manufacturer. His mother, who had difficulties in childbirth had been sent to London to be with her mother during her pregnancy.

Montreal was the commercial centre of Canada at the time. Young “Hammie” was exposed to all that wealth and position could provide. He was raised as a Victorian gentleman, traveling with his parents to London and New York, and enjoying the best of music and literature. But most of all, he grew to love the great Canadian wilderness. From an early age, he learned to shoot and ride and at thirteen was sent to Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville, south of Montreal. There he joined the school cadet corps and had his first taste of military life. By the eve of the Boer war, Gault was a six foot tall, handsome, eighteen and a subaltern in the 5th Royal Scots, the local militia regiment. Late in 1901, when the opportunity arose, he volunteered for service in South Africa with the newly formed 2nd Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles. His tour of duty, although largely uneventful, confirmed his interest in the army. After an unsuccessful attempt to gain a commission in a British cavalry regiment, he returned to Montreal and the Royal Scots. In the 1904, after a brief romance, he married Marguerite Claire Stephens the beautiful daughter of another wealthy Montreal family. Both were at ease on horseback and enjoyed the outdoor life. Although a capable businessman, Gault sought out adventure to break the boredom of the office. There were canoe trips into the wilderness of Quebec, a big game safari in Kenya and frequent travels in Europe and the United States. When he finally gained full control of his large estate at age 30, he had an estimated net worth of $1,750,000 or almost $40 million in 2010 dollars[i]. He was now a respected Captain in what was now The Royal Highland Regiment of Canada (Black Watch). At the pinnacle of Montreal society, the Gaults had entertained the Duke and Duchess of Connaught during their visits to Montreal and had been guests at Government house in Ottawa.[ii]

On the formation of the Regiment in August 1914, Hamilton Gault was promoted Major and appointed Senior Major (Second in Command). He was first wounded at St. Eloi on February 28, 1915. Gault rejoined the battalion on April 27, 1915 shortly before Lieut-Colonel Buller was wounded. He commanded the Patricia’s during first part of the battle of Frezenberg until he too was wounded. When he rejoined in October 1915, he brought with him reinforcements from the University Companies.  He was wounded for a third time and lost a leg at Sanctuary Wood (Battle of Mount Sorrel) June 2, 1916. The strain of war had other costs as well. Gault would divorce Margeurite over awhat he suspected was an affair with a young Patricia officer recovering from wounds. Margeurite always claimed it was nothing more than a harmless flirtation and many who knew her well agreed. Gault was unsuccessful in his divorce proceedings before the Senate (the only recourse open to Quebec residents at the time). Ultimately their divorce was settled in the much more lenient French courts. The name of his wife of course remained prominently displayed in the Margeurite daisy of the Patricia’s hatbadge until well after the war.
Despite the loss of a leg, Gault returned to France where he was initially seconded as Aide de Camp to G.O.C. 3rd Can. Div.  Later he commanded the 3rd Canadian Division Reinforcement Camp (CCRC) with local rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel PPCLI on March 28, 1918 but remained seconded with CCRC.  Finally, he rejoined his Regiment on November 21, 1918, and commanded the Patricia’s until demobilization. He was awarded the DSO, the Russian Order of St. Anne (Third Class with Swords). the Belgian Ordre de Leopold and was four times Mentioned in Despatches.[iii]

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