return to Biographies

 

Biography

MGen Jack Leslie Summers 

 

 

Lieutenant Jack Summers, Maresfield Camp  He is seen here wearing the black denim coveralls
which were standard armoured corps working dress during the war and after. SAR ARCHIVES

Jack Leslie Summers, 1919-1994, was born in Saskatchewan and began a life-long career as a soldier in Wilkie in 1934 when he joined the local cadet corps #634 Wilkie Cadet Corps. During the Second World War he went on active service in 1942 with the Royal Canadian Regiment, later transferring to the South Alberta Regiment. He served throughout the remainder of the war, and received the military cross. Following his return to civilian life he completed a graduate degree in pharmacy and taught at the University of Saskatchewan until 1987. He had a distinguished career and served with many pharmaceutical organizations. He was also an avid student of military history and published two books, Military Uniforms in Canada, 1665-1970. - Ottawa : National Museums, 1981, with Rene Chartrand; and Tangled Web : Canadian Infantry Accoutrements, 1855-1985. - Ottawa : Canadian War Museum, 1992. He toured and charted the battlefields of the 1885 Riel Rebellion (North West Rebellion) in the 1950s. He retired from the militia in 1973 with the rank of Brigadier General. He and his wife, Phyllis, had two children, David and Margaret.

deceased in 1994

(source: Glenbow Archives )

SUMMERS, Jack Leslie, Lieutenant - Military Cross - Armour (29th Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment [the South Alberta Regiment]) - awarded as per Canada Gazette dated 10 November 1945 and CARO/6193 dated 12 November 1945. Originated as a recommendation for a periodic award, 11 June 1945; with Headquarters, 10 Canadian Infantry Brigade, 16-17 June 1945; with Headquarters, 4 Canadian Armoured Division until 21 June 1945; with Headquarters, 2 Canadian Corps, 5-19 July 1945; with Headquarters, First Canadian Army, 20-30 July 1945.

Lieutenant Summers has fought with 29 Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment in every major action since the regiment landed in Normandy. At all times he has led his troop with distinction and courage. During the Falaise Gap battle this officer was in command of a troop fighting in the vicinity of St.Lambert-sur-Dives. For three days the trapped German army made repeated thrusts at his position in an attempt to break out of the trap. On each occasion Captain Summers commanded his troops so skilfully that the enemy was driven off with heavy losses. During this period his troops accounted for approximately 25 wheeled vehicles, three enemy tanks, over 150 prisoners of war, and many enemy dead. In April 1945 the regiment was advancing on the right flank of 4 Canadian Armoured Division from Varrel Busch to Oldenburg, Germany. No Engineer support was available and Captain Summers was ordered to form a bridge troop from echelon personnel. Under his command this ad hoc group, working with improvised equipment, built twelve bridges and filled more than 25 craters. In many places the craters were heavily mined and this officer personally supervised his men in clearing these dangerous areas. His courage, ingenuity and leadership in the performance of this task inspired his men in their effort to speed the successful advance of the regiment. In these, and all the other operations in which he has participated, Captain Summers has displayed devotion to duty and bravery of the highest order. His loyalty and complete disregard for personal safety has been a splendid example to all ranks in the regiment.

NOTE: The following obituary for Brigadier J.L. Summers, CMM, MC (1919-1994), written by Donald Graves, was printed in the Spring 1994 issue of The Cannon's Mouth/Par la Bouche de nos Canons (Canadian Military History Group):

It is my sad duty to record the passing of Jack Summers in Saskatoon on 26 January of this year, after a long struggle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Phyllis, his son, David, and daughter, Margaret, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Jack was a life-long soldier whose career began in Wilkie, Saskatchewan in 1934 when he joined the local cadet corps and lasted in its active phase until 1973 when he retired with the rank of Brigadier General.

In 1942 Jack volunteered for active service, enlisting first in the Royal Canadian Engineers but later being commissioned in the South Alberta Regiment (29 Canadian Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment), 4th Canadian Armoured Division). He served with them throughout the war and, during the struggle to close the Falaise Gap in August 1944, while Major David Currie with one squadron of the regiment fought a notable blocking action at St.Lambert-sur-Dives, Jack commanded a troop fighting in the immediate neighbourhood that struggled to support Currie.

In April 1945, Jack's early training as a Sapper was called into use when no engineer personnel were available and he was ordered to form and command an ad hoc bridge troop from rear echelon personnel. Under his command, this troop built twelve bridges for the South Albertans, enabling the regiment to speed up its advance into Germany, filled craters and dealt with mined obstacles. Jack's performance of these tasks and his combat record from July 1944 to the end of the war brought him the award of the Military Cross in July 1945.

Following his return to civilian life Jack entered university and completed a Bachelor's Degree in Pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan in 1949 and a Master's Degree at the University of Iowa in 1952. He then joined the faculty of the College of Pharmacy at the University of Saskatchewan where he remained until 1987.

Jack enjoyed an outstanding career in his chosen profession. He was the first Director of Pharmaceutical Services at the University Hospital in Saskatoon, he was the only person to serve as the president of the three pharmacy organizations - the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists, the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association, and the Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada - and from 1961 to 1981, he edited The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy. Jack was the first non-American to receive Honorary Life Membership in the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists and also served as Acting Dean and Assistant Dean of the College of Pharmacy and as Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Drug Plan.

As if his military and professional life did not keep him busy enough, Jack made a strong contribution to other public service organizations. He sat on the boards of the Saskatchewan Branch of the Royal Life Saving Society, the Corps of Commissionaires, and the Saskatoon Police Commission. In his last years, his role as Honourary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Saskatchewan Dragoons and Honourary Colonel of the North Saskatchewan Regiment brought him much enjoyment.

For most of the readers of the Cannon's Mouth, however, Jack Summers will be known for his many contributions to Canadian military history, particularly for his many publications on soldiers' uniforms and equipment, subjects that fascinated him throughout his life. He once told me that he reckoned that he had worn every major uniform type in the Canadian Army from 1900 to 1985 as so much of the items issued to him as a cadet and militiaman in the late 1930s were obsolescent gear dating back to the First World War and before. His interest was expressed in numerous articles on Canadian military dress and equipment published in various journals and in two books: Military Uniforms in Canada, 1665-1970 (National Museums, 1981) which he co-authored with Rene Chartrand, and Tangled Web: Canadian Infantry Accoutrements, 1855-1985 (National Museums, 1992).

But Jack's contribution to the study of Canadian military history went deeper than most readers may realize. In the 1950s he toured and charted the battlefields of the 1885 Rebellion, later using them as examples of small unit actions for "staff rides" he conducted for the various militia units under his command. In this way, he gained much important new knowledge and insight into these activities which he freely passed on to later historians. At the University of Saskatchewan, although a professor of pharmacy, Jack was often call on to sit as outside examiner of boards examining masters' theses in military history because of his specialized knowledge. He was also instrumental in identifying and encouraging those whom he regarded as talented to pursue the study of Canadian military history and this author, at least, owes the beginnings of his professional career to Jack's personal encouragement.

Always joyful, ever helpful, Jack Summers was a fine soldier,an outstanding teacher and a good friend. He will be sorely missed.