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Canadian officer in Leinster Regiment...

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Hi all,

I am hoping to find any extra information of Oliver Macklem Denison (1874-1925), Leinster Regiment.

Especially it's puzzles me what medals he had entitled to in total and also did he saw any form of service during the Great War.

So far I have mainly information of his famous family linage but not so much of him. Any help and advice would be greatly appreciated.

Oliver Macklem Denison (7 August 1874 – 22 November 1942)
Lieutenant, 1st Battalion
Prince of Wales' Leinster Regiment

Oliver was born as a son of Colonel George Taylor Denison (31 August 1839 – 6 June 1925) and Helen Mair Denison (1865 – 1939). His father was President of the Royal Society of Canada, member of the Toronto city council. From the first he took a prominent part in the organisation of the military forces of Canada, becoming a lieutenant-colonel in the active militia in 1866. He saw active service during the Fenian raids of 1866, and during the North-West Rebellion of 1885. Owing to his dissatisfaction with the conduct of the Conservative ministry during the Red River Rebellion in 1869-70, he abandoned that party, and in 1872 unsuccessfully contested Algoma in the Liberal interest. Thereafter he remained free from party ties. In 1877 he was appointed police magistrate of Toronto.

Colonel Denison was one of the founders of the Canada First movement, which did much to shape the national aspirations from 1870 to 1878, and was a consistent supporter of imperial federation and of preferential trade between Great Britain and her colonies. He became a member of the Royal Society of Canada, and was president of the section dealing with English history and literature. The best known of his military works is his History of Modern Cavalry (London, 1877), which was awarded the Czar of Russia Prize in an open competition in 1879, and has been translated into German, Russian and Japanese. It remains one of the definitive works on the subject. In 1900 he published his reminiscences under the title of Soldiering in Canada.

He was a public defender of Upper Canada College, and was also known for virulent Anti-Americanism; after a proposal was made to erect a statue of George Washington in Westminster Abbey, he threatened that if it were built, he would go there to spit on it. Following the attempts by the Fenian raiders to "liberate" Canada between 1866 and 1871, Denison claimed a Yankee sword from the battlefield for a poker on his fire.

Nowadays there is a Canadian Forces “Lieutenant-Colonel George Taylor Denison III Armoury”, commonly known as “Denison Armoury” facility located at 1 Yukon Lane in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Armoury is the headquarters of 4th Canadian Division (formerly Land Force Central Area), Joint Task Force Central, and the 32 Canadian Brigade Group. It is also home to several units of the brigade.

Oliver’s uncle was also well known figure in Canada history - Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Charles Denison CMG, MP (November 22, 1846 – April 15, 1896) was a Canadian militia officer, lawyer, and Member of the Canadian Parliament for West Toronto.

His military experience began in 1865, when he joined the Canadian Militia. In 1868 he was made a lieutenant, in 1872 captain; four years later major; and in 1884 was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Denison saw active service during the Fenian raids in 1866 and in the Red River Expedition of 1870, as aide-de-camp to Lord Wolseley.

He was an alderman from St. Stephens ward on the Toronto City Council from 1878 to 1883. In 1881, he was elected chairman of the executive committee. From 1884 to 1885, Denison went to Egypt in command of the Canadian Voyageurs on the Nile employed by the Imperial Government in the Sudan Campaign. He distinguished himself during this war, and was not only given prominent mention in the dispatches but received a medal with two clasps. In 1885 he was made a companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.

He won the West Toronto Conservative nomination for the 1887 federal election over three other candidates, including incumbent parliamentarian James Beaty, Jr..He subsequently won a narrow victory over his Liberal opponent in the general election. He was re-elected in 1891, and died of stomach cancer while still in office in 1896.

LG 24 June 1898
The Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians), Sergeant Oliver Macklem Denison, from the South Staffordshire Regiment, to be Second Lieutenant, on augmentation. Dated 25th June 1898.

On retired pay - 14 Nov 1900 (Harts annual Army List 1908)



Lieutenant (retired)
Prince of Wales' Leinster Regiment
Second son of Colonel George Taylor Denison of Heydon Villa, Toronto. 
George Taylor Denison (1839 - 1925)
Caroline Denison (1842 - 1885)
Elsie Margaret Denison (____ - 1890)**
Mary Anne Denison Dunsford (1864 - 1941)*
Caroline Adelaide Kirkpatrick (1865 - 1947)*
Julia Ann Denison Nattress (1867 - 1956)*
George Taylor Denison (1869 - 1917)*
Oliver Macklem Denison (1874 - 1942)

Saint Johns Cemetery on the Humber 
Toronto Municipality
Ontario, Canada



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Hi Noor......

The following is from FMP and it looks like you will have to go to national archives.....


First name(s) Oliver Macklem
Last name Denison
Rank Lieutenant
Regiment The Prince Of Wales's Leinster Regiment
Year 1903-21
Archive The National Archives
Archive reference WO 374/19184
Series WO 374
Series description Wo 374 - Officers' Services, First World War, Personal Files
Record set British Army Service Records
Category Military Service & Conflict
Subcategory Regimental & Service Records
Collections from Great Britain, UK None


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I am happy to say I am the new steward of these medals, thanks to fellow GMIC user Noor. 

I have done much research in the past couple of months and have learned some interesting information which I will post here as time allows. While the Denison family is well documented and celebrated - the search was difficult as Oliver Macklem Denison is not mentioned in any literature on the family that I could see. When digging deeper there were bits and pieces of information regarding him in newspaper clippings and archival holdings, yet after 1904, he all but disappears and newspaper articles go so far as omitting any trace of his existence, using terms like "both sons" when speaking of Col George T Denison III's boys, though he had three sons. When he dies in Toronto in 1942, no death notices, obituaries of burial information appear in any local newspapers, unlike the full page spreads when other Denisons die. I contacted numerous archivists and consulted family websites with no information on the man or what happened.



The Hidden Denison: The Story of Lieutenant Oliver Macklem Denison.

Part 1.

Oliver Macklem Denison was born 7 August 1874 at Heydon Villa, Toronto, Ontario - second son of Col George T Denison III, a prominent figure in Canada's military history. His other brothers would famously serve in the South African and Great Wars.

From 1884 to 1891, Denison attends the prestigious Upper Canada College in keeping with family tradition.

After graduating, Denison is commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Canadian Militia's 7th Battalion London Fusiliers, and attends the Royal School of Infantry at London, Ontario.




Denison, promoted to Lieutenant, serves in the 7th Fusiliers until 1895. For Queen Victoria's 76th birthday, Denison participates in the Grand Military Review held in London, Ontario that same year.




Suddenly, Denison resigns his commission and "pluckily" enlists as a private in the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, arriving in England in September 1895. His new battalion sailed to India for two years service at the Wellington station, then to Rangoon, Burmah for another two year posting (A History of the South Staffordshire Regiment p.114).





Denison, having progressed to the rank of Sergeant in the 2nd South Staffs, is made 2nd Lieutenant on augmentation to The Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians) - a British Army regiment originally raised in Canada but since relocated to Ireland as part of the Cardwell and Childers Reforms.




In July 1898, Denison joins the 1st Leinsters at the Halifax station, in Nova Scotia. It will be the last infantry unit in the British Army to garrison Canada. Denison is likely one of the last (if not the last) Canadian-born officers of the Regiment.



(Officers Group - 1st Bn Leinster Regiment, Halifax, ca. 1900 - Library and Archives Canada)


Col. Whitton's regimental history picks up the story:

"It is a vulgar error to associate Canada with perpetual frost and snow; as a matter a fact summers are hot and while at Halifax the thermometer touched 98°. There was plenty of tennis and cricket ; excellent fishing and delightful sailing both on the harbour and the North West Arm. And in more serious work the musketry camp on McNab's Island was extremely pleasant."

They got along well with sailors in the port city...

"We had, on the other hand, great friends in the Navy, and many were the cheery nights on board ship or in the mess-room at Wellington Barracks, where the two Services fraternized and ragged. 'Jacky' Fisher was the admiral, and under his regime there was no shortage of dancing becoming a lost art. His flagship, the Renown, was known as the House of Lords from the fact that among its officers were six scions of the peerage. These cheery entertainments would have been productive of enormous bills had it not been for the amazing cheapness of food and liquor. 'If memory serves aright, a small whisky and soda was about 5 cents or 2-1/2d. Eheu Fugaces."

Later documents would describe Denison as "practically a Teetotaller", so it's not clear if he would have partaken in the above antics. Aside from the Navy, the young officers would got along well with Halifax's inhabitants as well:

"In the winter there were, of course, skating, ice-hockey, sleighing and tobogganing, and the Battalion went in for ice-hockey to a great extent. These sports brought the officers in touch with the inhabitants a good deal and, in more than one archive consulted, there i an allusion to a custom extremely popular with detrimental subalterns by which, 'having settled on your particular charmer, it was customary to pair off for the season. There was no question of an engagement. It was quite customary to be asked out to dinner together, nor would there be any censorious criticism of little picnics 'a deux'. This camaraderie as between sexes was very delightful and all to the good.'"

These care-free times, however, would not last.


To be continued...



Edited by SemperParatus

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I just sent you his comprehensive service file that  got. This explains why he retired, why there is no trace of him and why his family forgot him. Very very sad story...

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A traditional 'black sheep'?  Perhaps even a reverse remittance man - sent off to the 'mother country' to expiate his sins and paid to stay there?


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I imagine he was a bit of a black sheep to begin with, havent found any explanation as to why he lefy and joined the british army as a ranker... 


Thanks Noor I splurged and did the same - used the copying service from National Archives UK and received his Service File a little while back. Please keep everyone in suspense if you will. 


Cheers all

Edited by SemperParatus

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On 14/01/2019 at 12:09, SemperParatus said:

Please keep everyone in suspense if you will. 

Okay, it's ten days later. The suspense is killing me.

Cheers, Dan.

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Sorry this will have to roll out slowly, not much free time these days.

The majority of information is gleaned from Whitton's History of the Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment (Gale & Polden Ltd, 1924 ), and the quotes are those of Frederick Ernest Whitton.




Part 2: A Taste of War


After war was declared in South Africa, the Leinsters monitored the unfolding events with much hand-wringing. Confusing and contradictory orders came and went and the weeks and months dragged on. Denison's frustration increased upon reading aout his uncle, Major Septimus Denison, whose service with the Royal Canadian Regiment was circulating in the Canadian press. Major Denison
would later have the distinction of serving as Lord Robert's Aide-de-Camp. 

Denison's uncle Septimus pictured in the Souvenir Album of the Toronto Contingent to South Africa. Toronto Printing Co. 1899.

Finally, in March 1900, the Leinsters received long-awaited orders that they were destined for the Cape. On March 25th 1900, Canadian troops permanently took over the Halifax Garrison, and the Leinsters sailed to England to reorganize. From there, they left Southampton on April 18th on the SS Dilwara. About the 10th of May the convoy arrived at Cape Town, but left again on the 12th, and the troops disembarked at Port Elizabeth the following day. Denison and his men set off for Bloemfontein, where on the 28th of May, 
"We attended the Queen's Birthday Parade (and at the sports in the afternoon won the tug-of-war, physical drill, and some other events), and the Proclamation of the Orange River Colony."


"Soldiers of an Irish regiment during military exercises at Bloemfontain in the Orange Free State, now South Africa, during the Boer War. 28 May 1900." © Hulton Getty

From there, they set off for Hammonia to join the 16th Brigade under Major General Barringon Campbell (comprised also of the 2nd Grenadier Guards, 2nd Scots Guards, and the 2nd East Yorkshire Regiment. The 16th Brigade served in General Sir Leslie Rundle's VIIIth Division. The men got their first real taste of the war when passing through Senekal: "...six days after the Guards' fight at Biddulphsberg. There were many wounded in the hospital and they were a horrid sight as the grass had taken light and many of them were horribly burned. "

Wounded men lying on the floor of a British Field Dressing Station. © IWM Q82958.

"On 8th June we started again, with a convoy nearly three miles long, for Klip Nek and we came under fire for the first time as the Boers sniped at the rear guard".The initial phase of Boer invasions and pitched battles seemed to be over. A new phase of "constantly-waning organized resistance on the part of the Boers had now taken its place". In early June 1900, While the Boer capitals were occupied by Lord Roberts' Army, the 8th
Division was tasked with preventing a Boer breakout south through to Senekal-Klip Nek-Hammonia -Ficksburg line, and the Division spent most of its time marching up and down the line holding those places. On "most days" the Leinsters skirmished with Boer troops, now believed to have a strength of 10,000 troops in the area north of Klip Nek near Rooikranz. 

British troops (fellow Irishmen of the Dublin Fusiliers) defending a piquet. © IWM Q72298.

By late June, the Leinsters were camped on a plateau outside of Rooikranz, in pursuit of the Boers in miserable conditions. "...at first there was a good deal of firing at [Major Stavert's] picquets, and few days passed without sniping. The Boers apparently could not resist the temptation of firing at men trying to change their clothes or do some washing in some of the pools of water among the rocks of the plateau, and as we had no tents and this had to be done in the open a man without his clothes, or with little on, made a good  target. As we always slept in our clothes, with our rifles at hand, and could often change nothing for more than a week at  time, and as the veldt seemed actually to swarm with vermin, we were all at times covered with these pests. A bath was an impossibility except at long intervals and so there was no means of getting entirely rid of them and it was a horrid experience."

Two British soldiers cooking their rations. © IWM Q72206

The 8th Division was now known as "The Starving Eighth"... "At this date we, for a time, only got one biscuit or a little flour each day and had no sugar or salt and very little tea. We were supposed to be living on the Country, according to General Rundle, but we were nearly

Enduring these conditions, they were about to set off for their first major battle...


To be continued...

Edited by SemperParatus

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Note that in the photo of Maj SJA Denison, he is wearing a Staffordshire Knot badge on his cap rather than the badge of the RCRI. As a young man, after leaving RMC, Denison went to England and was commissioned into a militia battalion, the 1st Staffordshire Regiment which, after the Childers reforms, became the 4th Bn, The South Staffordshire Regiment. He eventually rose to the rank of Major.

Denison went to South Africa as an officer with the RCRI, however it looks like when he was taken on as an ADC to Field Marshal Roberts, he re-badged himself to his militia battalion, the South Staffs. From what i can see from his record, he was in the British Army militia and the Canadian militia concurrently. Major was the highest rank Denison achieved in the British Army.

Cheers, Dan.


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