Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Godfrey Peuchen was born in Montreal on April 18, 1859, son of Godfrey E. Peuchen and Eliza Eleanor Clarke, and educated in several Ontario and English private schools.
Peuchen joined The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada at the age of 17; he was promoted second lieutenant in 1888, captain in 1894, and major in 1904. In 1911 he was the marshalling officer in charge of the Indian cavalry in London during the procession for the coronation of King George V.
With an interest in forestry and chemistry, Peuchen became the first person in the British Empire to make acetone directly from wood. Acetone was an important constituent of the explosive cordite and, as such, was much sought after by the British Government.
In 1897, Peuchen and William Mackenzie organised the Standard Chemical Company to manufacture acetone in large quantities. The company owned and operated lumber mills, factories and refineries throughout Ontario and Quebec with additional refineries in England, France, and Germany. With business interests on both sides of the Atlantic, Peuchen crossed the Atlantic on numerous occasions.
For his return trip from England in the early spring of 1912, Peuchen bought a first-class ticket for several thousand dollars on the maiden trip of the White Star Line’s wondrous new liner RMS Titanic where Peuchen was assigned to cabin 104 on “C” deck. When the ill-fated craft struck the iceberg late in the evening of April 14, Peuchen, who was a talented yachtsman and active member of Toronto’s Royal Canadian Yacht Club, was ordered into lifeboat number six to help row as there was only one other seaman aboard. Almost a dozen people in the boat, including the “unsinkable” Molly Brown, were eventually rescued by the Cunard liner Carpathia. Peuchen testified before the American commission on the Titanic tragedy in which 1523 were lost out of a total passenger and crew manifest of 2228.
Following his return to Toronto, where for a short time he was regarded as a hero, Peuchen soon became the victim of a questioning public: “Why had he survived when so many women and children perished?”
Peuchen was promoted on 21 May 1912 to Lieutenant Colonel and appointed Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, QOR. He also received the Volunteer Officers’ Decoration. When World War I began, Peuchen retired from Standard Chemical to command the Home Battalion of the Queen’s Own Rifles. He relinquished command in 1915.
Peuchen eventually retired and moved to Alberta. He died in Toronto at the age of 70 on December 7, 1929 and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
In 1987 his wallet was recovered from the wreck of the Titanic; inside were his business card and some streetcar tickets.