Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

XI
The remarkable adventures of Colonel J. Wesley Allison

VERY little information came back from the front and most of that was half hidden behind censorship and communiqués. One unfailing, fully visible source of news was Sam Hughes.

In the early months of the war Hughes had created a munitions buying and manufacturing complex called the Shell Committee. Characteristically he put it under the direction of a handful of honorary colonels.

Hughes's most favored honorary colonel was not a member of the Shell Committee but a sort of free-lance commission agent. J. Wesley Allison had come to Canada from Ohio as a contractor. He had done well in many things, but in none so well as in making a friend of the editor from Lindsay, Ontario. With Sam's sponsorship behind him, Allison went into the buying of arms with a status resembling that of a Chosen Instrument.

The Shell Committee's chief job was to obtain munitions, mostly from Britain, in Canada and the United States. On some, if not all, of the half billion dollars' worth of orders he placed, Allison collected commissions. Everything he did was within the law, and was made much simpler by the prevailing air of confusion and subterranean haste.

Finally, in the second year of the war, the Liberal opposition got wind of Allison's activities and launched a massive assault against him.

The ground was well prepared by a former Laurier cabinet minister, William Pugsley, and two fellow M.P.s, Frank B. Carvell and G. W. Kyte. They had not only found out where the body was buried; they had seen it. Carvell accomplished this by going to

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