Monday, April 1, 2013

Victor Wentworth Odlum

For the last three entries, I have told you about the death of Janet Smith. I wonder if there would have been such a turmoil if the newspaper the Vancouver Star and its publisher, Victor W. Odlum, had not gotten involved. So today, I want to look at Victor Oldum.

Victor was the son of noted historian Edward Odlum (there is street here named after Edward Odlum) and born in Coburg, Ontario on October 21, 1880. At the age of six, Victor and his family moved to Japan. After a four-year stint in the 'Land of the Rising Sun', the Odlums moved to Vancouver.

When World War I broke out, Odlum became a major of the 7th Battalion of the First Canadian Division of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In April of 195, his battalion was moved to the front lines and not long after subjected to the first gas attacks on the Western Front, heralding the Second Battle of Ypres. Odlum lost a brother in this battle.

Odlum's abilities were noted by General Arthur Currie and he was promoted regularly, attaining the rank of Brigadier General by the end of the war. Odlum was also a teetotaller and insisted on non-alcoholic substitutes for his troops' daily ration of rum, which was not a popular move with his men. However, Odlum was often in the front lines with his men, personally leading attacks and being wounded three times.

When Odlum returned to Vancouver, he founded the investment firm Odlum Brown with Colonel Albert 'Buster' Brown. Odlum also served as a member of the Provincial Legislature from 192401928. It was in 1924 that he returned to the world of journalism by purchasing the newspaper the Vancouver Star.

As I related in my previous three posts, Odlum used his newspaper and 'yellow journalism' to inflame the citizens of Vancouver and fan the fires of racism.

Odlum was anti-Bolshevik and anti-union. When his employees unionized and refused to accept a pay cut, Odlum shut down the Star. In the 1930s, he helped train and coordinate Special Constables hired to break a strike on Vancouver's waterfront.

When the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was formed in 1936, Odlum served on its board of governors until the outbreak of World War II.

In 1919, Odlum had left the military and resigned his commission in the militia in 1924. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Odlum wanted to be involved. So he lobbied the government for a position and with the help of a friend of his who was in the federal cabinet of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Ian Mackenzie, Odlum was promoted to the rank of Major General and command over the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. Over several permanent force officers.

Unfortunately, instead of preparing his men for the upcoming battles, Odlum spent his time organizing regimental brass bands and arm patches as well as other trivial duties. This prompted General Alan Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, to write to General Andrew McNaughton and stated the Odlum was 'too old...too set ... to adapt his ideas' for war.

In order to remove Odlum from command, he was appointed high commissioner to Australia from 1941 to 1942. He was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to China. In 1947, he was appointed Canada's first "Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Turkey where he served until 1952.

Odlum was an avid reader and donated his collection of 10,000 books to the University of British Columbia in 1963. On April 4, 1971, Victor Wentworth Odlum died the age of ninety.

Thanks goes to for the information.

On Good Friday, we had to say goodbye to former Vancouver mayor Art Phillips who died at the age of 82 and to former Calgary mayor and Alberta premier, Ralph Klein. Klein was seventy years old. Rest in peace.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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