Colonel Vince was born in Woodstock, N. B., on April 14th, 1887, the second son and youngest child of Colonel Donald McLeod Vince, KC, VD, Lld, and Melicent Adeline Nevers. He received his early education here, and on graduation from high shool was awarded the Governor-General’s medal. He matriculated to the University of New Brunswick where he studied civil engineering and furthered his knowledge at the School of Military Engineering, Chatham, England.
Colonel Edward Raban Vince, MC, MEIC, JP, UE, RCE (ret’d), was the military engineer who carried the responsibility for planning, siting and constructing those encampments, fortifications and aerodromes which defended the Atlantic Coast cities of Canada during World War II.
He enlisted in his father’s Company, the Brighton Engineers, as a bugler on June 1st, 1895, at the age of eight, and eventually rose through all its ranks, including Company Sergeant Major, and was appointed to his commission by H. M. King Edward VII on July 1st, 1906. In the course of military service he took his oath of allegiance to five sovereigns, including Queen Victoria.
Before 1914, as a civil engineer, he helped survey the Toronto-Sudbury line of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He travelled abroad, was attached to the Royal Engineers in the United Kingdom, and after his father’s death was associated with his elder brother, the late Colonel Neville Vince, DSO, the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, in the family law office here. The outbreak of war in 1914 prevented his taking final examinations for the New Brunswick bar.
On August 3rd, 1914, when the 1st (Brighton) Field Company, Canadian Engineers, was ordered out to guard railway bridges in the Woodstock area, Captain E. Raban Vince commanded the detail. On August 13th, the company was mobilized for active service. On August 20th the company, 138 strong, Major W. W. Melville commanding, entrained at Woodstock for Valcartier Camp to join the 1st Canadian Division, Canadian Expeditionary Force. There the late Colonel reverted to rank of Lieutenant, took command of No. 1 section, 1st Field Coy., CE, Canadian Expeditionary Force and sailed for England, October 3rd.
Between 1915 and 1918 Colonel Vince participated in 17 general engagements and innumberable local actions on the Western Front in France and Flanders. He commanded 1st Field Coy., CE, 5th Army Troop Coy., CE, and 8th Bn., CE, was decorated with the Military Cross for gallantry, mentioned in despatches “for gallant and distinguished services in the field,” and was wounded.
After the Armistice, Colonel Vince remained in the Permanent Force to command Canada’s only regular Engineer Company. He served also in Engineer and Intelligence staff appointments in Halifax, Saint John, Kingston, London, Ont., Toronto and in England where he attended the Senior Officers’ School at Sheerness, Kent, and was also present in the Abbey for the Coronation of H. M George VI. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1938 and intended to retire in 1939.
World War II found him in Halifax as District Engineer Officer, a post he had coveted and loved. He had previously originated and was then directing the restoration of the Halifax Citadal. Modern defence works now absorbed him. Under his supervision and responsibility, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Greenland were provided with aerodromes, harbour fortifications and camps. In conjunction with the late Air Marshal Harold Edwards, Colonel Vince sited and superintended the construction of HMCS Shearwater Naval Air Station, and airfields at Dartmouth, Yarmouth, Sydney, Stanley, Debert, in Newfoundland and in Labrador. He was responsible for the harbour fortifications of Halifax, Sydney, Louisbourg, Canso, Shelburne, Yarmouth and Goose Bay; the huge camps of Debert and Windsor, and scores of smaller installations.
Despite the vital national importance of this task, — undertaken at first with but one other Engineer Works officer — Colonel Vince felt he should do more. Although over age he continously sought to go overseas in command of fighting troops. Finally, in 1941 with the main defence works of the East coast virtually completed, the aerodromes surfaced, and the vast camps construction program organized and past its spring tide of effort, his wish was granted. The late Col. J. L. Ralston, then Minister of National Defence, personally appointed him CRE of the newly organized 1st (later 5th) Canadian Armoured Division. Proceeding to Petawawa, he organized and trained the Divisional Engineers and led them overseas in December, 1941.
Once abroad, the inexorable age regulations soon terminated his cherished appointment. Refusing to remain overseas in a non-fighting appointment, he returned to Canada bitterly disappointed at being so denied the high privilege of again leading troops into battle. Returning to Halifax, he served briefly as DAQMG and then retired to pension effective January 21st, 1944. His years of retirement were spent at his farm on the River Road where he indulged his love for gardens and flowers, children, birds and books.
He was twice married. He and his first wife, Agnes Gertrude Haugh, of Portumma, County Galway, Ireland, were married in St. Joseph’s Church, Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, on March 6th, 1919. She was the mother of his children and predeceased him in September 1939. His second marriage was with Margaret Madeline Belyea, of Woodstock, at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Woodstock on November 17th, 1951.
Colonel E. Raban Vince died at Woodstock on June 19th, 1955. He was survived by his wife, his two children, Donald and Margaret, Miss Lucretia Nevers Vince, of Woodstock, and Mrs. Guy A. Fisher, of Summerland, B. C. His elder brother, Colonel A. Neville Vince, was killed in action March, 1918, while commanding the 12th Bn., the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment.
Military engineering handbooks, military texts, personal journals.