The History Department of Western University is celebrating its centenary in 2017. One of the events the department is putting on for the occasion is a Greatest (Dead) Canadian Competition. I’ve entered the competition to champion Milton Fowler Gregg for the reasons below.
Pro Patria – For Country – is the motto of the Royal Canadian Regiment. My nomination for Greatest (Dead) Canadian, Milton Fowler Gregg, exemplified this creed. He was a war hero, veterans’ advocate, politician, diplomat, and educator who is fondly remembered by small segments of Canadian society and largely forgotten by the rest.
Gregg owes his original claim to fame to the First World War. He earned the Military Cross & Bar and then the Victoria Cross as a lieutenant and platoon leader in the Royal Canadian Regiment.
In the interwar years, Gregg worked as a veteran’s advocate for the Soldiers Settlement Board and became Sergeant-at-Arms in the House of Commons from 1934 until the eve of another conflict in 1939.
He began the war serving overseas as 2IC of the Royal Canadian Regiment and then as commander of the West Nova Scotia Regiment. But Gregg’s calling was as a trainer of soldiers. In 1942 he was promoted colonel and returned to Canada to command army officer and infantry training schools, preparing young men for the grim task that awaited them overseas. He retired as a brigadier in 1944.
With the war nearing its end, many servicemen and women used higher education to re-enter civilian life. As President of UNB from 1944 to 1947, Gregg oversaw this effort in his home province of New Brunswick. He was known affectionately by students, staff, and faculty alike as “the Brigadier.”
Next, Gregg found his way back to Ottawa as a Member of Parliament, serving in the cabinets of William Lyon Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent, including two years as Minister of Veteran’s Affairs.
He finished the last decade of his career in various diplomatic posts, helping build on the Golden Age of Canada’s Foreign Relations. He was the United Nations envoy to Iraq, UNICEF’s envoy to Indonesia, and the Canadian representative to the United Nations – though not all at once. As a capstone to his career, Gregg was awarded the Order of Canada near the time of his retirement in 1968.
This great Canadian passed away on March 13, 1978, at 85 years of age. Milton Fowler Gregg is fondly remembered every year at a small Remembrance Day service in Snider Mountain, New Brunswick. The Royal Canadian Regiment sends a small detachment from CFB Gagetown, and the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at UNB usually sends a representative. Last year it was my honour to be there.
In war and peace, Milton Gregg exemplified the value of service to his country and the world. I hope our honoured judges will give him due consideration as the Greatest (Dead) Canadian, and that everyone will take some time to remember the Brigadier as I will this Remembrance Day.