Victor Howard McWilliams

The Canadians found a lone German soldier, prancing about in no man’s land, waving a tin cup. “The Germans have a sense of humour.”

A trained physician used to helping others, Victor Howard McWilliams was forced to become a discipliner in the First World War. He was usually a kind man but when he did get mad, the soldiers took it to heart.

“I cussed him good and plenty and the other men told me afterwards that he cried when I went out of the room,” he wrote in a letter to his sister Millie about being forced to upbraid a man under his watch for repeated infractions.

“He would have but the same amount of a call from another officer roll off him like water off a duck, but he said that I must be grievously annoyed when I lost my temper as I was usually so good and kind to the men,” he continued in the letter home to Peterborough, Ontario, dated May 1916.

McWilliams enlisted on July 20, 1916 from Camp Borden, Ontario at age thirty-nine. He also spent stints at Port Said in Egypt and in France as a captain with the 16th Field Ambulance. In his letters, he recalled the odd moments of humour that occurred amidst the horrors of war. On one occasion in 1916, he and his men heard a commotion from the German line. Thinking it might be a raid, the Canadians rushed to their trench lines, only to find a lone German soldier, prancing about in no man’s land, waving a tin drinking cup in the air.

“The Germans have a sense of humour,” McWilliams wrote wryly to Millie in May 1916. The Canadians would have the last laugh, launching a barrage of artillery on the German position. On some of the shells, McWilliams’ men had written the insignia of their regiment.

In December 1919, McWilliams joined an expeditionary force sent to Siberia to support the White Russian forces during the Russian civil war. The White Russians were eventually be defeated by the Communist forces, and McWilliams returned on the Empress of Russia on May 29, 1919.

His obituary stated that, “During his armed service, he was a great friend to the boys in the ranks.” He enjoyed bowling, rugby and golfing.

He was married to Josephine Sheppard McWilliams. He was born November 30, 1877 in Peterborough, Ontario and he died in March 1931, at age 54.

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