Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
November 2004

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia




CURRIE, General Sir Arthur William, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., LL.D. (Honorary: Cambridge, McGill, Toronto, Acadia, New York, Edinburgh, Pennsylvania and Princeton ). - Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University, Montreal ; Director, Bank of Montreal. Born Napperton, County of Middlesex , Ont., Dec. 5; 1875, son of William Garner Currie (deceased) and Jane (Patterson) Currie. Educated: Public School; Strathroy Collegiate Institute and Strathroy Model School . Went to Victoria , B.C., in 1894, from Ontario. Began the profession of teaching at Sidney , British Columbia, where he remained for two years. In 1896, accepted a position, public schools, Victoria, practising [sic] his profession for three and a half years, after which he became associated with Mr. J. S. H. Matson in Insurance work, continuing this association until 1906. In 1909, General Currie extended his insurance business to include Real Estate, etc., a business which he successfully conducted till the war broke out in 1914. Began his military career by joining the 5th Regiment, Canadian Garrison Artillery (Active Militia of Canada) as a gunner in the early months of 1897. Received his commission in this regiment in 1900, passing through all ranks until he was given the command of the regiment, Sept., 1909. He held this command until Nov., 1913, when he left the Regiment and assisted in the formation of the 50th Regiment, Gordon Highlanders of Canada. During the time he was in command of the 5th Regiment it attained a very high standard of efficiency, winning in 1912 and 1913 all the first and second prizes in Garrison Artillery competitions conducted under the auspices of the Dominion Artillery Association. On the outbreak of the war he volunteered for overseas service, and was offered the command of, an Infantry Brigade. On the formation of the first Canadian Division at Valcartier, was given command of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade, which at that time comprised the 5th Battalion, recruited principally in Saskatchewan; the 6th Battalion from Manitoba; the 7th Battalion, from British Columbia, and the 8th Battalion, from Winnipeg and surrounding districts. Before the Brigade crossed to France , in Feb., 1915, the 10th Battalion, composed principally of men from Manitoba and Alberta, was substituted for the 6th. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in January, 1915, and to Brigadier-General in March, 1915. This brigade took part with the 1st Canadian Division in the Battle of Ypres, April, 1915, the first occasion on which the Germans used poison gas: For his work in connection with this battle, Gen. Currie was awarded the C.B. by His Majesty the King, and the Legion d'Honneur Commandeur by the President of France. Commanded his Brigade through the battles of Festubert, Givenchy, and succeeded General Alderson in the command of the 1st Canadian Division in September, 1915. Remained in command of the 1st Division until June, 1917, taking part in the battle of Mont Sorrel in June, 1916, the Somme in September and October, 1916, Vimy and Arleux in April, 1917, and Fresnoy, May 3, 1917. On June 8, 1917, General Byng was promoted to the command of the 3rd British Army, leaving vacant the position to command the Canadian Corps, and it was the splendid work of the 1st Canadian Division during these battles under General Currie that won for him the promotion to the command of the Canadian Corps. He remained in command until it was broken up by demobilization on the close of the war. During these two years the Corps took part in all the principal battles of the British Army, and enjoyed the reputation of never failing to take its objective, never losing a gun, or of being driven from an inch of ground once consolidated. The principal battles fought during General Currie's tenure of command of the Corps were Hill 70, in August, 1917; Passchendale, October and November; 1917; Amiens, 8th August to 22nd August, 1917; Arras, August 26th-September 2nd, 1918; Cambrai, Sept. 27, to Oct. 12, 1918; Valenciennes, Nov. 1, 1918; Mons, Nov. 11, 1918. It was the battle of Amiens which initiated the British Offensive in 1918, an offensive which did not close until the enemy admitted defeat (General Ludendorff in his writings had declared August 8th, to be the black day for the German Army). The battle of Arras was the one in which the Hindenburg Line was first definitely pierced and. broken, the final system of that line being the Queant-Drocourt Switch which was broken through on Sept. 2, 1918. The battle of Cambrai broke through the last German defences, and after it their retreat became continuous and disorderly. After the armistice two divisions of the Canadian Corps were sent to form part of the British Force holding the bridgehead, and during December, 1918, and January, 1919, General Currie commanded this force, with- headquarters at Bonn, Germany, In June, 1917, General Currie was awarded the K.C.M.G., which honor of knighthood was conferred by His Majesty the King in the old ruined town of Albert. In Nov., 1917, the French awarded him a Croix de Guerre with palms, and the Belgians conferred the Grand Officer de I'Ordre de la Couronne and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. In January, 1918, he was awarded the K.C.B., which order was conferred by His Majesty the King at the old Red Chateau in Villers Brettoneux. In January, 1919, he received the G.C.M.G. and the American Distinguished Service Medal. Mentioned in despatches nine times. In 1919, the University of Cambridge conferred the honorary degree of LL.D. On his return to Canada he was promoted to the rank of General; on Dec. 10, 1919, assumed duties, in Ottawa, of Inspector, Military Forces of Canada and Principal Military Counsellor to the Government of Canada; resigned, July 31, 1920; August lst, 1920, assumed Principalship of McGill University, Montreal; appointed Principal and Vice-Chancellor, on resignation of Sir Auckland Geddes. Married Lucy Sophie Chaworth Musters, 1901; has one son, Garner Ormsby Currie, arid one daughter, Marjorie Chaworth Musters Currie. Clubs: Pacific and Union, Victoria, B.C.; Vancouver, Vancouver; Toronto, Toronto; Mount Royal; St. James's, and University of Montreal; Marlborough, London, Eng. Societies: A.F. & A.M., Vancouver, and Quadra No. 2 Lodge of Victoria, and Zetland Lodge of Toronto. Anglican. Residence: 595 Sherbrooke Street W., Montreal.


Source: Prominent People of the Province of Quebec, 1923-24, Montreal, Biographical Society of Canada, Limited, undated and unpaginated. Correct French spelling and accents have been restored.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College