James Layton Ralston

James Layton Ralston, lawyer, politician (b at Amherst, NS 27 Sept 1881; d at Montréal 21 May 1948). A WWI battalion commander with a reputation for bravery and competence, Ralston was twice minister of national defence, 1926-30 and 1940-44.

Ralston, James Layton
Minister of National Defence with Canadian troops, December 1940, England (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/PA-132649).

James Layton Ralston, lawyer, politician (b at Amherst, NS 27 Sept 1881; d at Montréal 21 May 1948). A WWI battalion commander with a reputation for bravery and competence, Ralston was twice minister of national defence, 1926-30 and 1940-44. Intense, scrupulously honest, and an able representative of the political interests of the Maritime provinces, he was a stalwart in Prime Minister Mackenzie King's WWII Cabinet, serving briefly as minister of finance, 1939-40, before becoming defence minister. Despite a tendency to become mired in administrative detail, he was a fine judge of generalship and a devoted defender of Canada's fighting men. King forced Ralston's resignation in 1944 because of his outspoken support of overseas conscription.


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