The First World War
Officers of The Royal Canadian Regiment

Major William Gordon Peterson, D.S.O.

Soldiers of the First World War database entry - W.G. Peterson


First World War Mention in Despatches:

Silhouettes of Mars

In Oct 1918, the volume of sketches, Silhouettes of Mars written by Maj Peterson was published. This volume may be read on the internet archive site His closing paragraphs read as follows:

We knew them well out there, but often could scarce bear to look upon their faces so brightly shone these young eyes, beneath the steel helmets, amidst the surrounding darkness of the world. Say not that their light is quenched, but rather that with the lifting of the cloud it has mingled with the brightness of the sun, brought back once more by them.

We shall never forget them, but shall hear their footsteps always, growing fainter perhaps down the corridors of time, but never lost, the myriad footsteps of the mightiest and the most gallant armies that have ever moved through history.


The Connecting file, Vol. IX, No. 4, October, 1930
(The regimental journal of The Royal Canadian Regiment)

Lieut. Colonel W. G. Peterson, D.S.O.

It is with deepest regret that we have to record the death of Lieut. Colonel W. G. Peterson, D.S.O., who was accidentally shot in the Gun Room of the University of St Andrews on the 3rd October, this year, and died within a few hours after being removed to the hospital. Colonel Peterson served with this Regiment from 1912 until the close of the Great War, when he retired from the Permanent Force.

While serving he always took a keen interest in the welfare of the Regiment and was esteemed by all ranks. When this journal was first published he accepted the post as Overseas Representative. He was one of the first to join the Old Comrades' Association and had just recently become a Life Member.

The Regiment and all Old Comrades will mourn the loss of one more gallant soldier, genial comrade and faithful friend.

The following Obituary notice is an extract from the "Times", Saturday, October 4th, 1930:


Lieutenant-Colonel W. G. Peterson, D.S.O., lecturer in English at the University of St. Andrews, died in hospital at St. Andrews, at the age of 41, as the result of an accident in the gunroom of the University O.T.C., of which he was commanding officer.

Since the War, in which he distinguished himself, he had made the social welfare of the students of St. Andrews his principal concern. He was Warden of Chattan House, the men's hostel, and was beloved by all his students. In addition to the command of the O.T.C., he was lieutenant-colonel commanding the 4/5th Battalion, The Black Watch (T.A.), and at one time occupied the unique position of being the only officer on the active list commanding two battalions simultaneously.

William Gordon Peterson was the eldest son of the late Sir William Peterson, Principal of McGill University, Montreal, and was born at Dundee on November 8, 1888. He was educated at Eastbourne College and McGill University, where he graduated with first-class honours in classics in 1906. Afterwards, he went up to Trinity College, Oxford, as an exhibitioner, and took his degree in 1910 (M.A., 1917) with a second class in Lit. Hum. He was also Thayer Fellow of Harvard University.

In 1910 he was commissioned as lieutenant in the 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada, and in 1912 transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment (Permanent Force). He served in the War, being promoted major, 73rd Battalion, R.H.C and was wounded, mentioned in despatches, and awarded the D.S.O. in June, 1918. After the War he spent his gratuity in buying books and continued his studies at Christ's College, Cambridge, where he was admitted M.A. ad eundem, in 1919; at University College, London; and at the University of Paris. In his rooms at Cambridge, books overflowed everywhere, even in the passage. Colonel Peterson was the author of "Silhouettes of Mars," and of various stories and papers. He was a witty and delightful speaker, and was interested in games, books, numismatics, and travel, but especially in Territorial and O.T.C. soldiering.

Date of Birth - 8 Nov 1886