Saturday, October 28, 2017

Æmilius Jarvis & the First World War: Remembering a Forgotten Hero – by Ashley Newall

Admiral Jellicoe (left), head of the Royal Navy, Æmilius Jarvis (centre), Toronto Mayor Tommy Church (right), and Admiral Sir Charles Kingsmill (far right), head of the Naval Service of Canada. (1919) [Photo via Toronto Archives]

Part I: War Story

At the outset of the First World War, Æmilius Jarvis was a leader in the Canadian business community, a world-renowned yachtsman, and a champion of Canada’s Imperial connection. He was from a prominent Toronto family with Loyalist roots, and at fifty-four years old he was the father of three sons, two of whom were of age to fight. During the war, he contributed substantially to the infant Royal Canadian Navy, and dedicated his talent and energy to the war effort. Today, however, he is little-known outside of Toronto and Hamilton sailing circles. To understand why, we must look at how the Great War transformed his life and times.

Commodore Jarvis was the winningest and most famous sailor on the Great Lakes in his day, twice winning the venerable Canada's Cup, in 1896 and 1901. He was a seven-time Commodore of Toronto's Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and was made honorary Commodore-for-life by the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club, the latter of which he helped found. Æmilius' countless business interests included the Steel Co. of Canada (ie. Stelco), which he co-founded, several railways –including TTC forerunner Toronto Railway Co.–, and the King Edward Hotel (which he co-founded with his Toronto Hotel Co. partner George Gooderham). He was also a Director & co-owner of Arena Gardens, later known as the Mutual St. Arena, forerunner to Maple Leaf Gardens and the present-day Scotiabank Arena.

[Click image to enlarge & for slideshow.] Recognizing the dire need in Toronto for upscale lodgings, and encouraged by Senator George Cox, Æmilius Jarvis spearheaded the founding of the King Edward Hotel. [Postcard circa 1913.]
This iconic WWI Navy recruitment poster specifically
advertises Æmilius Jarvis' 103 Bay St. recruitment centre.
[Library & Archives Canada]
Skippadore' Jarvis (as Toronto Mayor R.J. Fleming once dubbed him) recruited sailors in WWI for the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve (R.N.C.V.R.) from his Æmilius Jarvis & Co. office building, located at 103 Bay St. in Toronto. Jarvis had personally petitioned Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier in 1909 for the formation of a Canadian naval reserve, and a provision for said was ultimately placed in Laurier's 1910 Naval Services Act. Æmilius recruited for the Royal Canadian Navy's first two ships, the Rainbow and the Niobe, and became the first President of the Navy League of Canada's Ontario Division in 1917 (later becoming President of the Halifax-based Navy League of Canada itself). Jarvis was prominent in a 1918 campaign supporting Navy League sailors and their families, helping to raise an astronomical $1 million ($14 million in today's dollars) for the cause. Ultimately, the Commodore recruited over 2000 men for the Canadian and British navies in WWI, fully one quarter of all Canadian sailors recruited.

He not only recruited men for the war effort, however; he also procured vessels, buying luxury steam yachts from well-heeled Americans and flipping them to the burgeoning Canadian Navy to be converted for military service. With the U.S. officially neutral early in the war, extreme measures were sometimes required to secure these yachts. In one instance, when a sale had been finalized but the U.S. Government had blocked the exchange last-minute, Jarvis slipped across the border with a ready crew and personally 'liberated' the vessel in the dead of night, navigating her back to Canada himself. [1] (While Jarvis is known to have purchased two U.S. steam yachts on behalf of the Royal Canadian Navy in 1915, Columbia and Waturus, my research points to Columbia as having been the yacht that Jarvis heisted. She was subsequently renamed HMCS Stadacona, and went on to become a flagship of the Royal Canadian Navy.) 

Æmilius Jarvis utilized his 103 Bay St. office bldg. as a recruiting station for the burgeoning Canadian Navy in WWI. On the fourth day of recruiting in 1914 “the police had to close off Bay St. because the throng was so great." (Newmarket Express-Herald)

The following spy mission tale comes from a story told in Jarvis' own words in his auto-biography/biography, “Æmilius: The Last Viking”, co-written and otherwise assembled by his grandson Robert Æmilius Jarvis...

Æmilius Jarvis, President Canadian
Locomotive Co. (Kingston, ON).
[Canadian Courier magazine, 1912.]
On a business trip to England in early 1915, Æmilius was asked to a meeting with the British Ambassador to Russia, Sir James Buchanan. The Commodore would be journeying on to Petrograd (renamed from St. Petersburg in 1914) imminently, selling locomotives in his capacity as President of the Canadian Locomotive Co. (Kingston, ON), and so with a ready-made and genuine cover story, opportunity for deployment on a covert mission was ripe. There were reportedly rumours picked up by British Intelligence indicating that Russia's Tsar Nicholas II might be vulnerable to the sway of his German Empress, Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as that of other German members of his Imperial Court, some of whom were apparently pressuring him to declare a ceasefire with Germany. (This would of course reduce Germany's war from two fronts to one, negating a major advantage for the British and their allies on the western front.) The Ambassador subsequently asked Jarvis if he'd be willing to relay a message to Tsar Nicholas II on behalf of the Tsar's cousin, King George V himself. (Such written communications at that time were vulnerable to interception -and even manipulation- along their route, hence the employment in this case of a messenger. The specific worry was that the message could be intercepted by the very anti-war proponents in the Tsar's court who were of concern.) Since Jarvis already had two sons fighting in the war, he reckoned he could surely pitch in and be put in harm's way himself: he accepted the perilous mission without hesitation. The message he was tasked to deliver was, at it's heart, quite simple – it was a direct personal plea by King George V for Tsar Nicholas' Russia to stay in the war! [2]

[Further evidence that British Intelligence were concerned about undue pro-German influence in the Tsar's court has emerged in the 21st century: it has been theorized from the known evidence of Rasputin's assassination that a British agent played a key role, the motive being grave concern over Rasputin's opposition to the war and -relatively- his dangerous influence over the German-born Tsarina.] [3]

The mission, at first, seemed to go off without a hitch. Jarvis successfully conveyed the message to the designated intermediary, one Pheonella Korotherovich (a spy for the Brits herself), without incident. Her task was then to deliver the message directly to the Tsar (bypassing his courtiers), as she evidently had access. On his way back to England, on a train and pulled into a station, Pheonella passed Jarvis in the train corridor, shooting him a look that said, 'I don't know you.' Jarvis played along in a split-second decision, and her assassins were, alas, in tow. She was shot and killed seconds later on the train station platform. [2]

Toronto Argonauts QB William 
Dummer Powell (Bill) Jarvis.
Toronto Argonauts 'rugby football' quarterback Bill Jarvis was a Lieutenant in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.). Further to pro football, he was also a champion yachtsman, a pro hockey player dabbling in the European leagues, and an amateur boxer, topping the fight bill at Toronto's Arena Gardens. In late April 1915, while his father was in England (having just returned from Petrograd), Bill fought in the Battle of St. Julien, part of the “Second Battle of Ypres” which itself comprised of four separate battles, infamous for being the first time the Germans unleashed poison gas on a large scale. (Also, it was during the Second Battle of Ypres that John McCrae composed his famous poem, "In Flanders Fields".) After two acts of heroism -retrieving a fallen comrade, and maintaining communications between units while under heavy fire-, Bill was witnessed by his mates being shot and wounded. He didn't go down. He was seen being shot again, went down, and was subsequently presumed dead. After the battle his body could not be found, and he was thus deemed Missing In Action, a status which ultimately endured. [2]

Bill and his father were very close. A distraught Æmilius couldn't accept that his prodigal son was dead, and -pushing his status as a Navy recruiter- forcefully traveled to the war zone himself to search for Bill! The desperate exercise proving futile, having found no trace of his fallen son, he returned to England and proceeded to lock himself in a lodging room at a friend's club for five days. When the staff finally broke down the door, they found he'd badly mangled his hands punching holes in the walls.

Thereafter, his zeal for business deals began to wane, and in subsequent years he'd spend more and more time away from his Toronto office in favour of his Aurora, Ont. farm, Hazelburn. [2] He ceased to properly mind his shop Æmilius Jarvis & Co. with an eagle eye, leading to catastrophic results later on.

Aemilius Jarvis Jr., 
awarded a Military Cross in 1918.
Another son, Lieutenant Aemilius Jarvis Jr. of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, was awarded a Military Cross in 1918. (He too was a pro athlete, like his big brother Bill, and starred for Brussels in winning a Belgian hockey championship in 1912.) Aemilius Jr. performed the valiant act of bravery which won him the esteemed decoration acting as a cable runner. The reasoning for the award, from the citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. In the attack, volunteering to organize and maintain communication between the attacking troops and the quarry on the northern side of the wood, he personally ran out a wire, despite the intense machine gun fire and rifle fire, and acted as a telephone operator, thus enabling covering machine gun fire to be accurately maintained. His skillful and most fearless action contributed in a marked degree to the success of the attack.”
-Library & Archives of Canada

The Commodore was himself awarded a medal, a Special Service Decoration (S.S.D.), personally presented to him by Admiral Jellicoe, head of the Royal Navy. The award was specifically for Jarvis' contributions in the all-important Atlantic Q-boat patrol. Q-boats (better known as Q-ships) were decoy vessels, sometimes known as 'mystery ships'; they were heavily armed merchant ships, brandishing concealed weapons. These ships were employed to lure German U-boats into making surface attacks, thereby giving the Q-boats opportunity to fire and sink the unsuspecting submarines. Jarvis was one of only two Canadians presented with an S.S.D. in WWI, the other being Sir John Eaton.

* * * * *
Part II: Aftermath

After the war, many public grievances –which had been put on hold for the greater good during wartime– resurfaced, and soldiers returning to poor job prospects rose up. The most famous case of this was the 1919 Winnipeg General strike, but such social unrest was in fact taking place all over the country. As a result, the rich were beginning to become vilified. Having fame to go along with his fortune, Jarvis was about to become a ripe and opportune target in the political arena. Via his Æmilius Jarvis & Co., he made a deal with the United Farmers of Ontario (U.F.O.) provincial government in 1920 to buy back war bonds from Britain at extraordinary savings. A freelancer named Andrew Pepall (brother of Æmilius Jarvis & Co. manager Harry Pepall) had spotted an opportune window to buy, whilst the bond prices happened to be depressed. The payment rate for Jarvis' services was set and ultimately kept to the letter (the terms being dictated by the Province), and he put up his own money, at his own risk, to purchase the bonds to then flip to the Ontario Government under the agreement.

A streetcar is overturned in 1919 in the Winnipeg General Strike in front of the old city hall building on Main Street.

This would lead to the Ontario Bond Scandal. Jarvis would find –four years after the deal was done– that there was little sympathy for him on the part of a war-weary public, regardless of his hefty and hearty contributions to Canada's war effort, not to mention his sacrifice.

Ontario Premier (1919-23), 
Ernest Drury.
The U.F.O. Government –lead by Premier Ernest Drury, and which rose to power in 1919 on the wave of social discontent– fell in 1923, partly due to the brewing bond scandal, and partly due to their attempt to bring in proportional representation. (The contentious Prohibition issue also played a key role in the 1923 provincial election.) The new Conservative government, previously stung by U.F.O. barbs while in Opposition (particularly those levied at their leader, Howard Ferguson), wanted to stick a fork in the old U.F.O. one. And stick it to them they did; the U.F.O. Treasurer (ie. Finance Minister), MPP Peter Smith, was the main target, and Jarvis got caught in the politically-motivated dragnet. (Smith was also simultaneously embroiled -charged and ultimately convicted- in the infamous and parallel Home Bank Scandal.) Military Cross awardee Aemilius Jr., who worked at Æmilius Jarvis & Co., was also charged with theft and conspiracy to defraud the government, and stood trial alongside his father.

The Commodore refused to take the stand in his own defense. Had he done so, he would almost certainly have been acquitted. He took the stand in the separate/belated trial of another accused, Andrew Pepall, and subsequently proved his own innocence beyond a doubt. (This presumption/conclusion was by all accounts, excepting of course the dogged position maintained in perpetuity by the Ontario Government and it's prosecutors.) In his own trial, however, Æmilius the elder was ultimately found guilty, and he and Peter Smith were jointly fined 600K, an astronomical sum in 1924 ($8.5 million in today's money), and the largest such fine ever to that point in the entire British Empire! Jarvis was sentenced to six months in jail, and further was not to be released until the fine had been paid. He appealed the latter portion of the ruling, arguing that it –in effect, being such an insurmountable sum– amounted to a life sentence, and the fine was ultimately lowered to 200K. The predominant theory as to why he refused to take the stand was, having already lost one son (Bill) in WWI, he wanted to protect Aemilius Jr. and thus took the fall himself, being the bigger fish that the prosecution and Premier Howard Ferguson's government would prefer to land anyways. (And, like a dutiful Captain, he went down with the ship.) Aemilius Jr. was alas found innocent of the charges.

Former Ontario Treasurer Peter Smith & 
Æmilius Jarvis convicted of conspiracy to defraud 
the government on Oct. 24, 1924. [Toronto Star]
I won't re-litigate the trial here (I'll save that analysis for someone better versed in Canadian law), however I will relate one shocking in-trial occurrence that may have tipped the scales. At the apex of the proceedings, when the jury reported they were deadlocked in deliberations -seeing no evidence of a conspiracy between the men on trial-, the judge (Chief Justice of Ontario, Richard M. Meredith) instructed them that the accused need not have spoken or written of such a conspiracy, they only had to think it! In other words, actual proof in this case, insofar as the judge was concerned, would not be required to convict.

The postwar climate contributed significantly to Jarvis' prosecution, both in terms of the pervasion of anti-rich sentiment, as well as some indifference felt towards our war heroes in certain cases. (I classify Jarvis as a war hero based on the risking of his life in delivering a message to the Tsar, his intermediary having been assassinated, and based on his having been decorated by Admiral Jellicoe of the British Royal Navy for his vital contribution to Canada's war effort.) Thus, beyond (and perhaps largely because of) losing a son in WWI, Jarvis was further an after-the-fact casualty of the war: in taking his eye off the ball at Æmilius Jarvis & Co. from the grief of loss and allowing even a faint appearance of malfeasance to creep in (dealing within the fickle political arena as he was in this case), his business was smashed and his reputation left in tatters.

Canadian General Sir Arthur Currie 
attending his libel trial vs. a Port Hope 
newspaper in 1928 (Cobourg, ON). 
[Photo via Toronto Archives]
This was all front page news at the time, a political trial-of-the-decade, and Jarvis was alas a well-known public figure, both as a champion sailor, and as an enthusiastic and tireless Navy recruiter. Many have said that Canadians (as a whole) didn't always honour all our WWI heroes as we should've, and the ultimate one of those –General Sir Arthur Currie– himself wound up in court, having to sue a newspaper for libel. The General's war record was harshly pilloried by a Port Hope (Ontario) newspaper owned by a known British critic of Sir Arthur's, specifically regarding the eleventh-hour attack on Mons, an assault which he was under strict orders to make. (The Armistice was imminent, but not yet secured, at the time of the Mons attack.) The General's health deteriorated as a result of that 1928 trial, and he consequently died five years later. Æmilius Jarvis was no Arthur Currie, to be sure, but the point is that neither deserved to become targets, their opponents egged on or otherwise enabled by sour or otherwise indifferent public sentiment. Granted, the public was -as previously mentioned- understandably war-weary. However, as a secondary note, we Canadians tend to be too modest to accept too much success on behalf of one or another of our countrymen or women, much less to celebrate it. Heaven forbid! (If either of these men had been American, they would rather have been fêted and lionized to the moon, which of course is a bit extreme going in the other direction.)

Jarvis' reputation was little impacted by his conviction in terms of those who knew him. (Even much of the contemporaneous general public eventually sided with him, seeing the trial as blatant political retribution, and the verdict as unjust.) Tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton, on whose 1920 America's Cup team Jarvis had substantially contributed, publicly stood by him, visiting him at the jail farm where he was serving his sentence and suggesting to the press that Jarvis could be in line to skipper Lipton's next America's Cup challenger. Over fifty of Æmilius' fellow Canadian businessmen, the most prominent in the country including names such as Southam, Sifton, Gooderham, Pellatt, Flavelle, and Rogers, all signed a forceful and detailed petition pleading Æmilius' innocence and denouncing his wrongful conviction to the Ontario Government. The petition surely helped Jarvis' reputation in certain quarters, but it did not ultimately help his case for a retrial.

Æmilius Jarvis horse-jumping in 1936, age 76. 
[Photo via Toronto Archives]
Æmilius soldiered on, continuing yacht racing and horsejumping right up until he died in 1940 at the ripe old age of 80. He was co-Master of Foxhounds with Lady Eaton in the 1930s at the Toronto Hunt Club's Aurora outpost, which adjoined his beloved Hazelburn farm. In business, he notably spearheaded the consolidation of the British Columbia salmon canning industry, culminating in the 1928 founding of British Columbia Packers Ltd. (of which he became President and later Chairman), selling under the iconic brand name we still buy today, Clover Leaf.

Upon the occasion of his 80th birthday, Jarvis explained his perseverance to the Toronto Star. Keep punching,” he reflected. “It sounds like a platitude to say that into all lives some rain must fall – but it's true. Trouble with some folks is that a little rain in their lives is considered permanent.”

The Commodore fought for his conviction to be overturned for the rest of his life, reportedly spending millions in the effort, but was pipped at the post repeatedly by petty politics. (This was namely by successive Ontario Conservative provincial governments, who'd had him charged in the first place. Federal governments, on the other hand, under both Prime Minister MacKenzie King and R.B. Bennett were highly sympathetic –clemency was on the table–, but such initiatives were blocked from action by an Ontario government protest which the Province refused to withdraw.) Due to this conviction, I believe, the city-builder, nation-builder, and war hero Commodore Æmilius Jarvis has been all but erased from various histories in which he played substantial roles, and is hence only remembered in the aforementioned Toronto and Hamilton sailing circles, where he remains a vital Legend to this day.

Æmilius Jarvis on the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (Toronto Island) launch wearing his WWI Special Service Decoration (S.S.D.), awarded as a result of his procurement of ships for Britain's Q-boat patrol (ie. anti-submarine warfare waged by stealthily armed merchant ships). (Circa 1919) [Photo via Toronto Archives]
*Photo essay continued below.

[1] “Great Canadian; Aemilius Jarvis Passes” The Express Herald, 23 December 1940.

[2] “Æmilius: The Last Viking” by Edward Æmilius Jarvis & Robert Æmilius Jarvis [Canada, 2014]

[3] “British spy 'fired the shot that finished off Rasputin'” by Karyn Miller, The Telegraph [2004]

*If you're interested in the many aspects of the Æmilius Jarvis story, you can follow my Twitter feed @AemiliusJarvis.

Æmilius Jarvis toured so much giving
recruitment presentations, & was so well 

known for it, that he became the subject of 
1917 newspaper advertorial for the 
Willys-Knight Coupe.
[Image via Library & Archives Cda]
W.D.P./Bill Jarvis fell at St. Julien on April 
24, 1915 during the 2nd Battle of Ypres. 
He is commemorated at the R.C.Y.C., in
Toronto's historic St. James Church, & 
the Menin Gate. 
[Library & Archives Cda]

Bay St., Toronto, looking north from King St., ca 1914. Jarvis Building, housing Æmilius Jarvis & Co. (brokers), front right.

Æmilius Jarvis recruited sailors in WWI for the Royal Canadian Navy's first two ships; the Rainbow, & the Niobe. He ultimately drafted over 2000 sailors for the R.N.C.V.R.
Æmilius Jarvis was a co-founding Director of Arena Gardens (aka "the Arena", later known as the Mutual St. Arena), home to Toronto N.H.A. then N.H.L. hockey, and forerunner to Maple Leaf Gardens and the present-day Scotiabank Arena. Regarding the political rally depicted, Jarvis had personally petitioned Liberal Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier in 1909 for the formation of a Canadian naval reserve, and a provision for said was subsequently placed in Laurier's 1910 Naval Services Act. Upon defeating Laurier in the 1911 election, Conservative PM Robert Borden introduced an opposing "Emergency" Naval Aid Bill, which chose to fund British dreadnaughts instead of forming a Canadian Navy. Borden's contentious bill passed in the House of Commons on May 15, 1913, but was defeated by the Liberal majority in the Senate two weeks later. As a result, Laurier's Naval Services Act prevailed. [Image via Canadian Courier magazine, 1913]

HMCS Stadacona, presumed to be the steam yacht (previously named Columbia) heisted by Æmilius Jarvis from a U.S. shipyard in WWI, later to become a Royal Canadian Navy flagship. 
The Senior Argonaut Rugby Football Team, with William Dummer Powell (Bill) Jarvis at quarterback, went on to win the Interprovincial Union Championship in 1911. [Photo via Canadian Courier magazine – Nov. 4, 1911 ed.]

Æmilius Jarvis spearheaded the establishment of the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club (which opened in 1890). [National Monthly of Canada, 1903]

"The Zahra at the left, one of Æmilius Jarvis' splendid yachts, here shown in the George Cup race." [Maclean's magazine, Jan. 1913]

  Æmilius consolidated the British Columbia salmon canning industry twice, ultimately culminating in the formation of British Columbia Packers Ltd. in 1928. He was President of the company at inception, and later became Chairman (in 1930). [Advert from Maclean's magazine, 1931]

Æmilius Jarvis co-founded the Steel Co. of Canada (ie. Hamilton, Ontario's Stelco). [Photo 1918, via Library & Archives Canada]
Cheque from the Province of Ontario to Andrew Pepall for expenses incurred on trip to England with Æmilius Jarvis to buy back war bonds at the government's behest (to then sell back to the Province). The expenses were later deemed extravagant when a new governing party took power, & the Ontario Bond Scandal investigation was subsequently launched. [Photo via Toronto Archives]

Æmilius Jarvis w/ 2nd wife May née Read (following the passing of his 1st wife, Augusta) at Woodbine Racetrack, 1930s. [Photo via Toronto Archives]

Æmilius' beloved Hazelburn farm in Aurora, ON (1923). Aemilius Sr. is 3rd from the left, & son Aemilius Jr. is 2nd from the left. The "Toronto & North York Hunt", a Toronto Hunt Club satellite, operated next door at Beverly Farm (now Beacon Hall Golf Club), first owned by George Beardmore, and later by Æmilius (Sr.). [Photo via Toronto Archives]
Æmilius' 80th birthday at Hazelburn Farm (Aurora, ON), 1940. At his left is Lady Eaton. On the wall can be seen portraits of some of his sometimes illustrious, & sometimes controversial ancestors. [Photo via Toronto Archives]

W.D.P./Bill Jarvis is commemorated on the Royal Canadian Yacht Club memorial (pic'd), as well as on the Menin Gate Memorial (Ypres, Belgium), & at Toronto's historic St. James Church. [Photo by Ashley Newall]

Æmilius Jarvis (1860-1940), circa 1920. [Photo via Toronto Archives]

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