Monday, January 9, 2017

England's Ireland troubles shakes up the Irish Canadian Rangers: Henry Judah "Flip" Trihey resigns as commander of the Irish Canadian Rangers

On this day in 1917, Col. Henry Judah "Flip" Trihey resigned as commanding officer of the Irish Canadian Rangers, the 199th Canadian Expeditionary Force, in protest of rumored British plans to break the unit up and use its mean as reinforcements rather than commit them to action under his command as a single unit and in frustration with the general situation involving the Irish in the British Empire in general.  

 This recruiting poster had an image on it that was almost certainly Trihey's who was well known from his hockey days.

The resignation wasn't a mere "I quit". Trihey accused the Canadian government of deception in his resignation on the basis that he understood the 199th was to be deployed as a unit, not piecemeal.  Indeed the Irish Canadian patriot had seen his unit shipped overseas under the Latin motto Quis Separabit?, who can separate us, in an appeal to drawing Catholic and Protestant Irish to the unit, although most of Quebec's Irish were Catholic.

While it would seem fairly obvious now, somehow some of the Ranger's recruiting platforms also began to apparently have a sour taste in Trihey's mouth when the unit arrived in Ireland.  As noted in the earlier post on this unit, it was sent there to flesh out it ranks as it was not able to draw sufficient numbers of Canadians prior to going overseas.  The unit had adopted as a recruiting platform the motto "Small nations must be free" and the irony of that impacted Trihey upon his arrival in Ireland which, of course, was still in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rebellion.  While Ireland itself had contributed thousands of soldiers to the British Army, recruiting on the basis of small nation independence was obviously rather off the mark.

A Rangers recruiting poster that probably would have made more sense for the Irish Republican Army than the Irish Canadian Rangers.

While he was reacting to rumors, rather than fact, in part, the impact of them must have been severe as the unit had only barely arrived in Ireland.  The result was, however, that he went home by his own choice.  Mere weeks after having arrived in Ireland.

 Trihey as a hockey star, before his days a mustachioed colonel and lawyer.

His hasty departure was noted and not appreciated.  The unit was not immediately disbanded or absorbed into any others but instead was sent around Ireland in a recruiting drive with the hope of fleshing out hte Irish Canadian ranks with Irishmen from Ireland.  At one point this had achieved sufficient success that it was felt that the unit could be assigned to the Canadian 5th Division which started being formed in February 1917 in Britain.  When that occurred Canadian Minister of Justice Charles Doherty appealed for Trihey's reinstatement, but Canadian High Commissioner George Perley rejected the proposal and in fact termed Trihey's departure a “desertion” and condemned Trihey for his departure on the basis that he “left without consulting or saying goodbye to his officers.”  Doherty continued to campaign for Trihey but by that time Trihey was calling for Irish independence from the United Kingdom and he went on to oppose conscription in Quebec.  His experiences had clearly converted him from an Irish Canadian Empire patriot to a Canadian opponent of English rule in Ireland,if not the Empire itself, which would have probably reflected the views of the common Irish in Canada and the United States, the exception being that he was a public figure and now very vocal. Suffice it to say he was not restored to command, and indeed, in the context of the era, he wouldn't have been a suitable commander at that point, and may well not have been from the very first instance.

He wasn't the only one to resign, at the time he did, it should be noted.  Major W. P. O’Brien, his second in command, likewise did.

The unit itself would not actually be absorbed into another until May.  His position was assumed by Col. James Vincent Patrick O’Donahoe who would die in action, in command of a different unit, that following May.  The Canadian 5th Division suffered a similar fate and even though it was formed, it was not deployed as a unit, and its constituents were used as replacements for other units.

Trihey had been instrumental in raising the regiment for which he had taken leave from his law practice.  Prior to that he had been a legendary hockey player and he was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame posthumously.  Following his resignation from the service he returned to practicing law in Montreal.  He died in 1942 at age 64.  He's an interesting example of conflicting Irish views within Canada, all within a single individual.


Note:  Some of the above is based upon the excellent entry here, at:

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