b. 25/07/1871 Quebec City, Canada. d. 19/06/1961 Quebec City, Canada.
Sir Richard Ernest William Turner (1871-1961) was born on 25th July 1871 in Quebec City, Canada, the son of Richard Turner, and worked at his father’s grocery and lumber business before turning to the military. As a Lieutenant in The Royal Canadian Dragoons, Canadian Army, he was sent to South Africa during the Second Boer War. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) with effective date 29 November 1900 for his actions at the Vet River on 6th May 1900. Following action at Leliefontein near the Komati River on 7th November 1900, Turner was one of three men from his regiment who were subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.
On that day, when the Boers again seriously threatened to capture the guns, Lieutenant Turner, although twice previously wounded, dismounted and deployed his men at close quarters and drove off the Boers, thus saving the guns.
He received the VC from the Duke of Cornwall and York (later King George V) during a grand military review in Quebec 17th September 1901, the second day of the visit to Canada of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York during their Commonwealth Tour.
Promoted to brigadier general just after the outbreak of war on 29th September 1914, Turner was given command of the 3rd Brigade in the 1st Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His Brigade Major was Colonel Garnet Hughes, son of Sam Hughes, the bombastic Minister of Militia and Defence in Robert Borden’s government.
The 1st Division spent the winter of 1914–15 training in England, and were sent to France in February 1915. After a period of indoctrination about the realities of trench warfare, they took control of a section of trench in the Ypres Salient on 17th April 1915. Turner was replaced as brigade commander by R. G. E. Leckie on 12th August 1915. His subsequent promotion to divisional command was opposed by Alderson, who considered him to be incompetent. However, the well-connected Turner had the support of Sam Hughes and other Canadian politicians, and Alderson was overruled.
Turner was subsequently appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the King’s Birthday Honours of June 1915, and promoted to major general in September 1915, and given command of the 2nd Division when it arrived in France. However, the division suffered heavy losses during the battle of St. Eloi in September 1916 when Turner lost communication with his division and did not form a clear picture of where they were on the confused battlefield. In addition, due to a miscommunication, his men were decimated by their own artillery, suffering 1,600 casualties. Turner was subsequently relieved of field command on 5th December 1916 and shunted into administrative duties, becoming commander of Canadian forces operating in Britain and the Canadian government’s chief military adviser.
Turner was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in the King’s Birthday Honours of June 1917, and promoted to lieutenant general on 9th June 1917. On 18th May 1918, he became the Chief of the General Staff, Overseas Military Forces of Canada. In addition, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec Palme and the Legion d’Honneur from the French government, and the Russian Order of the White Eagle with Swords.
Following his retirement, he re-settled in Quebec, and he lived to the grand age of 89, when he passed away in St Foy Veterans Hospital in Quebec City on 19th June 1961. He was buried in Mount Hermon Cemetery in Quebec City. His medals are held by the Royal Canadian Dragoons Museum, Petawawa, Ontario, Canada.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: RCD ARCHIVES, CFB PETAWARA, ONTARIO, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: MOUNT HERMON CEMETERY, SILLERY, QUEBEC, CANADA. SECTION U.
Bill Mullen – Image of the Turner VC Grave in Mount Hermon Cemetery, Sillery, Quebec.
RCD Archives – Image of the Turner VC Medal.