Brian Tennyson is a graduate of the University of Toronto (Hons BA and MA) and the University of London (PhD). He has taught in the Department of History at Cape Breton University for many years, rising to the rank of Professor and since 2003 Emeritus Professor. He has also lectured at universities in England, Scotland, the United States and South Africa. His broad field of study is imperial history with a focus on Canada’s involvement in the First World War, but he has also written extensively on Nova Scotian and Cape Breton history.
He has published sixteen books, among which are Guardian of the Gulf: Sydney, Cape Breton and the Atlantic Wars (2000), Percy Willmot: A Cape Bretoner at War (2007), Merry Hell: The 25th (Nova Scotia) Battalion 1914-1918 (2013), The Canadian Experience of the Great War (2013), Canada’s Great War: How Canada Helped Save the British Empire and Became a North American Nation (2014), and Nova Scotia at War 1914-1919 (2017), which won the Atlantic Book Award. His biography of Sir William Hearst, who was Premier of Ontario during the First World War, is currently with the publisher.
He has also published many articles and book reviews in scholarly journals such as the Canadian Historical Review, the American Historical Review, Canadian Military History, Ontario History, Acadiensis, Nova Scotia Historical Society Journal, The Round Table, Journal of Caribbean History, The Northern Mariner, Journal of Contemporary History and the British Journal of Canadian Studies, as well as entries in The Canadian Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of the Home Front (Santa Barbara, 2007) and the Canadian Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
He has been honoured with a number of awards, including CBU’s Common Purpose Award (2000), the CBU Alumni Association Award for Excellence in Teaching (2003), the Canadian Bureau of International Education’s Outstanding Leadership Award (2003), and has been listed in the Canadian Who’s Who since 2004.
The Betrayal of the 185th
Cape Breton men responded enthusiastically to the call for volunteers during the First World War. When the 85th was created and designated a Highland battalion, the response not only in Cape Breton but throughout the province was dramatic. It met its quota so quickly that its lieutenant colonel, Alison Borden, ambitiously proposed a Highland Brigade. That meant raising three more battalions: the 185th, 193rd and the 219th. The 185th was raised entirely in Cape Breton and aroused enormous enthusiasm and pride.
The 185th was betrayed twice. The first was the appointment of Frank Parker Day as its commanding officer. He had no connection with Cape Breton, as opposed to the man most responsible for raising the battalion, George Harrington, the popular mayor of Glace Bay. The second time was when the 5th Division, of which it was part, was broken up in February 1918.