Visit this blog for regular posts about records at the Archives of Manitoba that date from the time of the First World War. Visit the Archives of Manitoba to see the records in person.

August 2017 Posts:

14 August 2017

Closer to the action: Lt.-Col. R. M. Dennistoun, Deputy Judge Advocate General in France

The 8 August 2017 blog featured R. M. Dennistoun and his diary entries written from the safety of London. In September 1917 Dennistoun found himself much closer to the action when he travelled to France on army business. Dennistoun writes of shelling, bombing and aeroplane fights, some very close to him.

Dennistoun 3 September diary entry
enlarge (3 images)
Archives of Manitoba, Robert Maxwell Dennistoun family fonds, Diary (volume 8) – London, England 20 March 1917 – 30 April 1918, P7905/8.

On 3 September he records:

“while I was dressing this morning heavy long range shells began coming over my billet. One hit a house at the corner near me and demolished it. Casualties unknown.”

While in France, Dennistoun also had the opportunity to see Vimy Ridge and he writes of machine gun shelters that were 60 feet deep and 700 yard tunnels.

“The front line here is most extraordinary and cannot be described.”

Dennistoun also went for several horse rides and had a number of lunches and dinners with dignitaries including members of the French Royal Family. Not the experience of every Manitoban in France at that time!

After the war R. M. Dennistoun was appointed a judge in the Manitoba Court of Appeal. Dennistoun served as a Court of Appeal judge for 28 years until his retirement in 1946. He was well-respected and is remembered today, perhaps mostly in connection with his first Winnipeg home which has recently been demolished after attempts to save it by the heritage community. Dennistoun kept a diary from the start of the First World War until just before his death in 1952.

The R. M. Dennistoun records held at the Archives of Manitoba were recently featured in a CNN/HLN production exploring the genealogy of some of its presenters; CNN analyst Ashleigh Banfield is a great-granddaughter of Robert Maxwell Dennistoun.

Search Tip: Search “Dennistoun” in Keystone to find out more about Robert Maxwell Dennistoun and his First World War diaries.

Feedback (0)

E-mail us at archiveswebmaster@gov.mb.ca with a comment about this blog post. Your comments may be included on this page.

back to top

8 August 2017

A different perspective – Lt.-Col. R. M. Dennistoun, Deputy Judge Advocate General, C. E. F. HQ, London

Many of the First World War records at the Archives of Manitoba are letters and diaries written by young Manitoban men who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, trained in camps in England and served in the trenches in France and Belgium. They were men who had just finished school or were just starting careers, were single and without dependents. They provide different but similar views of the First World War experience of Canadian soldiers.

The records of Robert Maxwell Dennistoun provide a different perspective of the war. Dennistoun was 49 years old when he enlisted. He was a lawyer who had moved to Winnipeg in 1907 from Ontario. Dennistoun was first given a commission as Captain in the Fort Garry Horse (FGH) and after the FGH was disbanded, he returned to Canada to raise the 53rd Battalion. In 1917 he was appointed Deputy Judge Advocate General, a position at Canadian Expeditionary Force headquarters in London.

Dennistoun had a wife and five children. His two oldest sons also enlisted and served in France. His son Jack was killed in action, shot down behind enemy lines in 1916. His wife Mildred and two young daughters went to England with Dennistoun for the duration of the war.

Dennistoun kept a diary throughout the First World War and his entries in the volumes are mostly summaries of military action, prisoners taken, losses, victories – all seen from the distance and relative safety of London. He also records more personal losses including the death of his son and the deaths and injuries of other relatives and acquaintances.

Excerpt from diary
enlarge
Cover of diary
enlarge
Archives of Manitoba, Robert Maxwell Dennistoun family fonds, Diary (volume 8) - London, England 20 March 1917 - 30 April 1918, P7905/8.

Search Tip: Search “Dennistoun” in Keystone to find out more about Robert Maxwell Dennistoun and his First World War diaries.

Feedback (0)

E-mail us at archiveswebmaster@gov.mb.ca with a comment about this blog post. Your comments may be included on this page.

back to top