General A.G.L. McNaughton was born in Moosomin, Saskatchewan, on 25 February 1887 and studied at McGill University. In May 1919 he was commissioned a Provisional Lieutenant and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1910. That same year he was appointed Lieutenant in the 3rd Montreal Battery, Canadian Field Artillery.
In 1911 he was promoted Captain and represented the Canadian Field Artillery in Britain. On return to Canada he resumed his studies, gaining a Master of Science and Electrical Engineering degree. He lectured at McGill in hydro-electrical subjects during 1912-13, later entering private practice. On 28 May 1913 he was promoted Major and appointed to command the 3rd Battery.
In September 1914 he was appointed to command the 4th Battery and embarked for England, arriving in France on 9 February 1915. In April he was wounded during the second battle of Ypres and invalided to England. In October he transferred to the 2nd Division Artillery returning to the front in January 1916 with the 6th Howitzer Brigade. He subsequently commanded the 21st Howitzer Battery was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and given command of the 11th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery.
In July 1916 he was seconded to the Canadian Corps Headquarters as Counter-Battery Officer – his work in devising innovative techniques, new equipments and the use of aircraft to locate enemy guns was recognized with the award of the Distinguished Service Order. His near perfect barrage at Valenciennes incorporating the well-planned use of smoke, the accurate use of counter-fire and with particular care taken to reduce damage to civilian life and property, remain to this day a classic example of the gunners’ art. He was credited with the invention of the “Box Barrage”, although he professed it to be more the result of evolution rather than invention. For these and other actions he was thrice Mentioned-in-Dispatches and appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath.
During the final months of the war, at the battle of Soissons he was again wounded. On return to Canada he was appointed to the Permanent Force.
In 1919 he was a member of the Committee for Reorganization of the Militia, appointed Brevet Colonel and to the General List. He became Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff in 1923 and in 1928 was appointed District Officer Commanding Militia District 11.
He was promoted Major-General and appointed Chief of the General Staff on 1 January 1929. Subsequently he was seconded as President of the National Research Council. At the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, he was appointed to the Canadian Army Special Force in the rank of Major-General and as General Officer Commanding 1st Canadian Division.
As the Canadian Army grew he moved on to command the Canadian Corps and the 1st Canadian Army in the rank of Lieutenant-General. In February 1944, at age 58, he returned to Canada and was promoted General.
On 1 November 1944 he was placed on the Retired List and later that same month was sworn in as Minister of National Defence. He was offered the Governor-Generalship but refused the honour believing he could, given the anticipated impending crisis over conscription, be more use to Canada as minister. He remained in this portfolio until August 1948.
Among his long and exceptional listing of accomplishments in the service of his country as a citizen soldier, scientist and statesman are the development of the Cathode Ray Direction Finder, the co-development of the Vickers Vedette fluing boat, the building of Trans-Canada Airways, the development of the discarding sabot round, the establishment of the National Aviation Museum, the establishment of unemployment relief camps and service as President of the United Nations Security Council. He was keenly interested in conservation and was among the first to plead for the preservation of Canada’s energy resources.
General McNaughton was a remarkable Canadian whose legacy is felt by all citizens. His entire life was one of service; men of his calibre are rare national treasures. The Gunners of Canada are privileged to count him, “One of Ours”.