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Frank Rockland

Characters > Historical

Lieutenant-General Willoughby Garnons Gwatkin
Chief of the Canadian General Staff

General staff officers tend to be unsung hero’s. None more so than Willoughby Garnons Gwatkin the Chief of the Canadian General Staff during WW1.

Gwatkin first came to Canada in 1905 for a three year tour of duty which got extended an extra year at the Canadian government’s request.

Under the command of Lieutenant-General Percy Lake he had been tasked to help transform the militia into an army. After his tour ended he returned to England where he served for two years as a staff officer with the British Army’s Eastern Command.

In 1911 he became Major-General Colin Mackenzie’s second-in-command. One of his assignments was to develop plans for mobilizing the militia against a possible attack from the United States, which he considered remote, and an expeditionary force to defend the Empire in case there was a war with Germany which he considered more likely.

While there was some questions as to why Colonel Sam Hughes, the Minister of Militia and Defence, appointed him a year prior to WW1. Gwatkin happened to have been an excellent choice since he was determined to transform the Canadian permanent force and active militia into an effective fighting force. He was well know for his steadiness and his clean desk policy which meant he worked very long hours. Also, Hughes’ penchant for doing things his own way may have added additional stress.

Military Service


He was educated at Shrewsbury School, King's College, Cambridge, and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.

Sources and further reading


Biography – GWATKIN, Sir WILLOUGHBY GARNONS – Volume XV (1921-1930) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Sir Willoughby Garnons Gwatkin - The Canadian Encyclopedia

Willoughby Gwatkin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Commander of the Canadian Army - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chief of the Defence Staff | National Defence | Canadian Forces