Major General Malcolm Smith Mercer, CB was born on the Peel – York County boundary on 17 September 1859, son of Thomas Mercer and Mary Smith. His family were large landowners in Peel County.
Malcolm Smith Mercer was raised in Delmer, near Tillsonburg, Upper Canada, and in St Catharines, where he attended the Collegiate Institute. He was at the University of Toronto from 1881 to 1885, graduating in philosophy. He entered Osgoode Hall in the latter year and graduated, near the middle of his class, three years later. Called to the Ontario bar in Michaelmas term, 1888, Mercer practised law in Toronto with Samuel Hugh Bradford; subsequent partners included Fernando Elwood Titus and John King, the father of William Lyon Mackenzie King. Although both Bradford and King served as instructors at Osgoode Hall, Mercer did not play an active public role in his profession. Nor did he marry. His private life was described in an obituary as “quiet and unobtrusive. He avoided publicity, moved little in society and in his legal practice preferred to keep his clients out of court, if he could.”
Mercer’s first love, however, was the military. Six feet tall and of athletic build, with a heavy, drooping moustache, Mercer would have been an attractive recruit, and, apart from an amateur enthusiasm for painting, he found the chief outlet for his energy and talent as a member of the Queen’s Own Rifles .As a young man he had served with the QOR in the 1885 North-West Rebellion. In October 1903 he led a contingent of 75 men and 3 officers along with other militia and regular infantry to quell a riot of unpaid workers of the Consolidated Lake Superior Corporation in Sault Ste. Marie. He stayed with The QOR and by the outbreak of the First World War he was a Colonel in command of the Regiment.
He was created a Brigadier General on 29 September 1914 and a Major General on 22 November 1915. He became the Officer Commanding the 3rd Canadian Division on 24 December 1915 and was awarded the Companion of the Order of the Bath in that same year. He was mentioned in despatches on at least three occasions.
As General Officer Commanding, Mercer was killed in Flanders on 2 June 1916 , in Armagh Wood near Observatory Ridge at the outskirts of a village called Zillebeke. He remains to this day the highest-ranked Canadian officer to be killed in action.
Mount Mercer in Sundance Range Park, Alberta is name after him.
For a much more detailed description of the career and death of General Mercer, see this archived article in the from the Canadian Military Journal by Gordon MacKinnon.
You can view his complete CEF Service File at: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/cef/6001-7000/6121-45.pdf
- 1882 – Enlisted with “K” Company, Queen’s Own Rifles as a Rifleman
- April 28, 1885 – Appointed Provisional 2nd Lieutenant
- October 26, 1886 – Confirmed 2nd Lieutenant
- April 7 , 1887 – Promoted Lieutenant
- October 16, 1891 – Promoted Captain
- February 19, 1892 – Appointed Adjutant
- July 3, 1897 – Resigned Adjutancy
- 1902 – Awarded Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal
- December 29, 1902 – Promoted Brevet Major
- September 29, 1903 – Commanded QOR detachment rushed to Sault Ste Marie to quell a riot
- April 10, 1906 – Promoted Major
- 1911 – Passed Milita Staff Course
- March 7, 1011 – Promoted Lieutenant Colonel and appointed Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion, QOR
- 1911 – Completed Militia Staff course
- April 10, 1912 – Appointed QOR Commandant
- 1913 – Selected to accompany party of Canadian Officers to England for Army Manoeuvers
- September 22, 1914 – Mobilized as a Lieutenant Colonel with 3rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force and travels with them to Valcartier, Quebec for training
- September 29, 1914 – While in Valcartier, promoted Temporary Brigadier General and appointed Brigade Commander, 1st Infantry Brigade
- October 4, 1914 – Sails from Quebec on the SS Laurentic
- February 4, 1915 – Confirmed as Brigadier General
- June 22, 1915 – London Gazette – Mentioned in Dispatches
- November 20, 1915 – Promoted Temporary Major General and appointed to command of Canadian Corps Troops
- February 21, 1916 – Appointed as General Officer Commanding 3rd Canadian Infantry Division