The Soldier-Bankers at Regina Trench

Canadian Bank of Commerce logo from “Letters From the Front”.

On These Days: October 8 & 9, 1916

During the Great War more than 1,700 employees from the Canadian Bank of Commerce enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The Bank was proud of its record and in 1920 the first of a two volume record of service about their staff in the Great War was published. Both editions, the second published in 1921, are entitled, “Letters From the Front”. Within the book’s pages are portraits of several of its soldier-bankers, individual service records, honours and awards and many reprinted letters from the front as written by their staff.

Of the Bank’s many enlistments 265 of their employees were killed during the Great War. Among them two officers of the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) who lost their lives at Regina Trench, Somme, France, October 8-9, 1916.

Aerial View of Regina Trench.

Captain David Hunter Bell M.C.

David Hunter Bell M.C.

On October 8, 1916, Captain Bell served in Number 4 Company as second in command to Major George David Lynch who together with Piper Richardson and Sergeant Mackie moved forward. However, Bell did not make the initial advance with Major Lynch, as Bell was directed to take over the second line of the Company during the attack.

Major Lynch was killed in the attack on October 8, 1916 and Piper James Cleland Richardson would be posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Sergeant William Dalrymple “The Big Train” Mackie was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Captain “Davie” Bell was also killed during the attack on October 8, 1916. “This officer was with his company, during the attack on REGINA TRENCH. They had advanced behind one barrage and Lieutenant (sic) Bell was looking at his watch waiting for the next barrage to lift, when he was hit in the head by an enemy bullet and instantly killed”. (C.E.F. Burial Registers).

Prior to the Great War “Davie” Bell worked at the Vancouver Branch of the Canadian Bank of Commerce but with the outbreak of war joined the 16th Battalion August 5, 1914 as a Private. Subsequently commissioned, this native of Edinburgh, Scotland, was previously awarded the Military Cross , “For conspicuous leading during an attack. He personally disposed of 8 of the enemy. A very brave and  efficient officer.”

“Davie” Bell was buried at Adanac Military Cemetery, Miruamont, France. He was 32 year old and was married to Edith Davidson (formerly Bell).

Captain Henry Aulus Duncan

Captain Henry Aulus Duncan

Captain Duncan was the son of the Collingwood Branch, Canadian Bank of Commerce manager, Captain Horace Clark Duncan, who also served with the C.E.F.

Henry Duncan commanded Number 2 Company during the attack on Regina Trench. He was born in Seattle, Washington in 1892 and educated in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. He was a member of the Hamilton Branch of the Bank and joined the C.E.F. on August 4, 1914 having had prior service with the 91st Regiment (Canadian Highlanders).

Captain Duncan was reported missing in action and subsequently killed in action October 9, 1916. His body was never recovered for burial and as a result he is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial. Henry Aulus Duncan was 22 years old.

A fellow officer stated, “He was an excellent officer, intelligent and alert in all conditions of warfare, much loved by his fellow officers and men, his men placing in him that confidence which they only give to an officer of proven efficiency.” (Letters From the Front. Volume II, page 128).

A lenghty letter penned by Henry to his father was reprinted in Letters From the Front, Volume I and dated May 13, 1915. The letter describes the actions by the 16th during the Battle of Langemarck when they re-captrured three 4.7 inch guns and “in the words of Sir John French, ‘saved the day’ for the Allies.” (Pages 14-17).

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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