Capt. Beecher Doran Poyser MC, was a fair-sized man of five foot nine, 170 pounds, and of "good physique", according to his enlistment papers.


Beecher Poyser, was a fledgling teacher prior to being sent overseas. Born on the 22nd of April, 1897 in Delta, Ontario as Beecher Doran Poyser (his middle name perhaps a tribute to nearby Doran Bay), Poyser was brought up as a Methodist. By the time of his enlistment in 1916, his father was no longer alive, leaving only his mother, Eva Charlotte Poyser with whom he lived in Iroquois, Ontario, on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Poyser himself was not married, although that was hardly surprising given his age.


The young man had already joined the militia (the 56th Lisgar Rifles), but was, in fact, still completing his studies at the Ottawa Normal School (later obtaining a class II teachers certificate) when he enlisted in the 228th Battalion on the 15th of January, 1916. By March he had been appointed as a lieutenant in the battalion. When he was declared fit for active duty, on the 29th of that month, he was just shy of his nineteenth birthday.


A succession of courses and training followed and it was only on the 25th of September, 1916 that Poyser set sail for Europe onboard the SS Laconia. He was to remain in England for the remainder of 1916 and early 1917. On the 26th of April, 1917, he was transferred to the 4th CMR. A day later, in France, he was taken on strength. In the wake of the Canadian Corps attack at Vimy Ridge, Lieutenant Poyser was one of the 4th CMR's new reinforcements, and he joined 'B' Company.


By the fall of 1917, the Canadian Corps had been tasked with the assault on the Flemish village of Passchendaele and its Ridge. On October 26th the 4th CMR was sent into action on the left of the Canadian front. The battalion was to protect the flank of the attack, and it almost immediately turned into fighting that the Official History would later characterize as "bitter". After the failure of an adjoining Imperial division to keep up, Poyser's 'B' Company succeeded in closing a dangerous gap. They held this position throughout the day and into the evening in the face of shelling, small-arms fire and counter attacks.


The regimental history writes this, of the company, its commander Major Hart, and Lt. Poyser:

"It is impossible to speak too highly of Major M.M. Hart's part in this battle... Lieutenant B.D. Poyser, also of B Company, ably assisted Major Hart and was awarded the M.C."


The formal announcement of Poyser's Military Cross for "gallantry and distinguished service in the field" came on the 15th of January, 1918 in the London Gazette. Shortly, thereafter, on March 23rd, the Gazette also announced that Poyser had been promoted to temporary captain, although his field promotion dated back to December 27th, 1917.


By the summer of 1918 the Corps was readying itself for offensive operations and the 4th CMR was sent north to the Ypres Salient and Kemmel Hill, as part of an elaborate deception to mislead the Germans where the real attack was to come. Holding the line, in La Clytte sector, on the early morning of August 3rd, 1918, a shell exploded on 'B' Company headquarters. Poyser was wounded and his company commander, Capt. Thomas Dixon MC, was killed.


Poyser soon found himself at an Australian Casualty Clearing Station, with a gashing wound to the left side of his face and scalp. He was moved to a hospital in England, and discharged little more than a month later on the 10th of September - "fit for general service" in the words of his discharge report. He was, however, left with a scar, as his later medical papers would make clear, and he spent the next month at a Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp. He only rejoined the 4th CMR on the 2nd of November, nine days before the Armistice.


As part of the general demobilization, Captain Poyser sailed for home from Southampton, England on the SS Olympic, on the 17th of March, 1919. Two weeks later, he was discharged from active service on the March 29th, less than a month shy of his twenty-second birthday. Of his life thereafter we know little, except that he lived - in peace.






The above biography is with thanks to Darrell Duthie, who has authored a novel, Malcolm MacPhail's Great War, in which both Capt. Beecher Poyser MC and Capt. Thomas Dixon MM MC appear. The book will be available through Amazon.com and and Amazon.co.uk, in e-book form and paperback, from November 14th, 2017.