Lieutenant-Colonel H W Niven DSO MC

Hugh Wilderspin Niven was born on 22 May 1876 in London. He joined the PPCLI in August 1914 as a lieutenant and was appointed adjutant. He was wounded on 19 Mar 1915, and again on 2 June 1916. The regimental record states that he was signed off the strength on 26 Nov 1917 and he had reached the rank of major. He was awarded the MC, DSO and bar, and mentioned 3 times in despatches.

A news item in the Calgary Daily Herald of 18 Jan 1918 gives him the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and refers to a short time he spent on leave to get married to a Scottish girl, regretting the fact that he would not have time to visit his home town of Calgary. The paper had to be content with quoting a previous article in a Toronto newspaper in which Lt-Col Niven said that all the high ground in the Western Front was now in Allied hands. That from Passchendaele which was taken in Oct 1917 they can see the Belgian plains for 20 miles. He said that the Canadian troops are held in high esteem by the British. The article stresses the fact that Hugh Niven joined the Patricias as a private soldier but by Oct 1917 was leading the regiment:

'In the fight for Passchendaele Ridge, Col Niven led into battle some 600 of his regiment, and when his objective was reached there remained but 180 still effective. They were prepared to hold on in face of any attack which the enemy might make, and before this fragment of a regiment, 400 Huns, under two of their officers, held up their hands in surrender.'

The Canadian Great War Project gives his rank as major, his next of kin as Marie E Niven of Stewartlea, Ayr in Scotland, his trade as a hardware wholeseller, and that he survived the war. The photo shows him in the uniform of the Patricias with the rank of lieutenant-colonel on his cuffs, There are two gold braid wound stripes on his left sleeve, and the medal ribbons are for the DSO and MC. He had not received his war and victory medals at this stage.

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by Stephen Luscombe