Mercer, Malcolm Smith

Major General Mercer in the uniform of a junior officer with the Queen’s Own Rifles

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.

The original grave of Major General Mercer

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

Service Record

  • 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
Circumstances of Death Registers, First World War, Microform 31829_B016772
The current gravestone of Major General Malcolm S Mercer
Major General Malcolm Smith Mercer, CB – Ninth Commanding Officer, 1912-1916 – Killed in action at Zillebecke, 4 June 1916. The original Carl Ahrens oil on canvas painting (Mercer was also a significant Ahrens patron) is 40″ high and 32″ wide and hangs in the Queen’s Own Rifles Officers’ Mess.
Photo by Christopher Lawson, June 17, 2010.

14 thoughts on “Mercer, Malcolm Smith”

      1. Yes, Malcolm Smith Mercer was related to the Mercers who helped settle Hoggs Hollow. He was the great-grandson of Thomas Mercer, a loyalist who was granted land in York Mills in 1796.

      2. Thanks so much Christine! I have since seen evidence that his father’s name was also Thomas. Would you know of a middle name or middle initial for his father? There were a lot of Thomas Mercers back then!
        Thanks, Scott
        PS: This is for my third book on the farms of North York; this one dealing with the farms of York Mills; so if there is any other information anyone would like to see included about the Mercers, please let me know.

      3. Hi Scott!

        This is really a bizarre coincidence, but I am actually in the middle of reading your Toronto Local History 3 book bundle (and enjoying it very much)!

        I have done some research the Mercer side of my family and am happy to help any way I can and am of course, always looking for new information as well.

        I do not currently have a middle initial for Thomas Mercer, however I believe (via research done by other descendants) that he was the oldest child, born 1812, of Samuel Mercer and Nancy “Ann” Anderson. He was married to Mary Smith.

        Christine

      4. Hi Christine. Wow! The power of the internet…I didn’t have e-mail until two years ago and now, of course, I wonder how I lived without it. Thanks for picking up the three books, though I’m afraid the only Mercers you’ll find will be in the St. John’s book. I have already asked Dundurn if they want to go ahead with the York Mills book and am currently awaiting their reply.
        I could send you my chapter on the Mercers, if you would like to have a read-through and offer your two-cents worth. (It is mostly finished but still contains some notes to myself and an un-answered question or two.) I guess I would need your proper e-mail address for that, since I don’t know if I could attach the file to this forum.
        Thanks!
        Scott

  1. Most of his relations lie buried in cemeteries in Etobicoke. Well, some of his relations still living are in places out west, and in Windsor, Ontario.

  2. Malcolm Smith Mercer was my 1st cousin, 4 times removed (the grandson of my fourth great-grandfather). I am proud to say that I am related to him.

    Christine Mercer

  3. When I grew up in Etobicoke the Mercer Family Farm was corner of Burnhamthorpe and #27 Highway. There was an old Miss Mercer and many fruit trees despite most of the land being sold to developers. The old village there was called Eatonville. Puts his home squarely in Etobicoke about a mile from the Mississauga border.

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