Mercer, Malcolm Smith
Major-General Malcolm Smith Mercer, CB was a general, barrister and art patron who practiced law in Toronto and led the 3rd Canadian Division during the first two years of the First World War before he was killed in action at Mount Sorrel in Belgium.
Mercer was an experienced militia commander and had demonstrated a great flair with training and organising the raw Canadian recruits during the opening months of the war. He also demonstrated courage under fire, visiting the front lines on numerous occasions at the height of battle and personally directing his forces in the face of poison gas attacks and heavy shellfire.
Mercer remains the most senior Canadian officer ever to die in combat and was unfortunate to be killed at the opening engagement of the largest battle of his career, when he was trapped by shellfire during a front line reconnaissance and overrun during the subsequent German attack. The division Mercer created and trained remained one of the best units of the Canadian army under his successor Louis Lipsett and Mercer was remembered by the men under his command, many of whom attended his funeral in the aftermath of the Battle of Mount Sorrel.
On the 21 June a Canadian burial party found 30 bodies in a sector of trench, amongst them General Mercer's remains, only recognisable by his uniform decoration. Mercer was buried in a military grave at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, later surmounted with a Commonwealth War Grave headstone. Mercer's funeral was attended by many men of his Division and from his old regiments as well as numerous Canadian and British officers who had worked alongside him. Mercer was posthumously mentioned in dispatches for his courage under fire, the third time he had been so mentioned