Three famous Quebec City Generals in World War I

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Photo: from Wikimedia Common Domain

Lieutenant General Sir Richard Turner

As we approach Remembrance Day, and having recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the people of Quebec City should remember that three members of the English-speaking community were generals who played an important role in the First World War. Two of these men even commanded divisions at Vimy, a unique honour for our city.
Lieutenant General Sir Richard Turner was 21 years old when he joined the local militia cavalry regiment, the Queen’s Own Canadian Hussars. He participated in the Boer War where he earned not only the Distinguished Service Order medal (DSO) but also the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest military decoration for bravery in the British Empire. On his return from South Africa, he went back to his civilian occupation in the family business, Whitehead and Turner, a wholesale grocery and lumber entreprise located at the intersection of Rue Dalhousie and Rue Saint-André.
At the start of WWI, he was among the first to volunteer for service in Europe. He commanded the Third Brigade during most of 1915. Promoted to Major General, he then led the Second Army Division. Subsequently advanced to Lieutenant General, he was transferred to London where he had charge of the Canadian Forces overseas until the end of the war. Turner died in Quebec City in 1961 at age 89, and he was buried in Mount Hermon Cemetery. A street in Sainte-Foy, near the CHUL, bears his name. 
 Major General Sir Henry Edward Burstall was born at the Domaine Cataraqui in Sillery in August 1870. He studied at Bishop’s College in Lennoxville and at Royal Military College in Kingston. He received a commission as artillery officer in 1889, served with the Yukon Force during the Klondike Gold Rush and joined the first contingent of volunteers who fought in the Boer War in South Africa.
In September 1914, Burstall was part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force which left the Port of Quebec to fight in Europe. He then received command of the artillery in the First Canadian Division. In December 1916, he was placed at the head of the Second Division and led it later on at Vimy. After the war, he settled in England where he died in 1945. The town of Burstall in Saskatchewan and Mount Burstall in Alberta were named after him. 
Major General Sir David Watson was in command of the Fourth Canadian Division at Vimy. Watson was born in Quebec City in February 1869. At age 22 he became a journalist with the Quebec Morning Chronicle. Ten years later he helped form a printing company which acquired the paper. He then assumed the role of managing director.
An excellent athlete, Watson was among the star hockey players of Quebec City for many years. In 1889, Watson joined the Royal Rifles of Canada, the English-speaking militia regiment of the city. Starting as a private, he ended up in command of the unit. In 1914, he volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was given command of a battalion. He was promoted to Brigadier in August 1915 and Major General the following April. 
On his return to Canada, Watson returned to journalism and became the majority owner of the Quebec Chronicle. He served on many company boards and was named president of the Quebec Harbour Commission.
He died in February 1922. Some 20,000 people lined the streets as the funeral cortege made its way from Chalmers Free Presbyterian (now Chalmers-Wesley United) Church to Mount Hermon cemetery. 
Quebec City can indeed be proud of these three men and of their major contribution to the victory of 1918.
Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War. 
 
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Major General Sir Henry Edward Burstall Photo from Canadian National Defense/Library and Archives
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Major General Sir David Watson   Image from Wikimedia Common Domain