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A veteran of two wars, Colonel John William George Rhoades was born on 15 September 1874 in Nottingham, England. He came to Canada in 1893 and homesteaded near Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, before beginning a long and distinguished career with the Canadian military. On 24 August 1894 he enlisted with “B” Squadron of The Royal Canadian Dragoons in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he earned the nickname “Dickie” for whistling. From 1898 to 1899 he served with the Yukon Field Force (YFF), a special force of two hundred men sent to the Yukon to assist the Northwest Mounted Police during the gold rush. The YFF battled the muskeg and bugs of the Teslin Trail to reach Teslin Lake and then continued to Fort Selkirk by water. Although the YFF was based at the Fort, Rhoades was part of a detachment sent to help the Mounted Police manage Dawson City. In 1899 the force was recalled and Rhoades left the Yukon.
From the Yukon, Rhoades went to Toronto where he was posted with “A” Squadron of the Royal Canadian Dragoons at Stanley Barracks. In 1900 he was sent to South Africa to fight in the Boer War until its end in 1901. Rhoades then returned to Toronto where he remained until he was sent to the Royal Military College in Kingston in 1910. In 1912 he was appointed the Riding Master at the College with the honorary rank of Lieutenant.
At the outbreak of World War I Rhoades decided to go into action once again and was posted to the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) as Adjutant with the rank of Captain. He was promoted to Major in 1916 and Lieutenant Colonel in 1918 when he was appointed to command the 5th CMR. Rhoades remained with the unit from 1914 to 1919 and saw action at the Somme, Vimy, Ypres, and Passchendale. He received a number of decorations and medals for his service, including the bar for the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross.
In 1919 Rhoades returned to Canada where he became acting Adjutant and Quarter Master General of the Toronto Military District. Upon retirement in 1929 he was granted the rank of Colonel and worked with the Soldiers’ Aid Commission in Toronto and the Corps of Commissionaires. Rhoades passed away on 2 September 1955 in Toronto leaving behind wife Ethel Alice (Winter), and daughters Tannis, Frances, and Peggy.
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Fonds consists of diaries and notebooks; printed programmes, books, and newspaper clippings regarding Col. William Rhoades or the regiments with which he served, including the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles. Fonds also contains miscellaneous papers related to his career.
The diaries and notebooks document Rhoades’ activities while posted in the Yukon, South Africa, and Europe during World War I. Some of the notebooks also contain hand drawn maps of battle fields.
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