Ruthven Colquhoun McNairn served in the Second World War with the Algonquin Regiment. Born in Toronto on 24 August 1914, to William Harvey McNairn, a professor at McMaster University and Hester (Wilson) McNairn. He was the third of four brothers, with Robert and Norman proceeding him, and Ian following. The family relocated to Hamilton in 1930 when the University did.
In February 1933, after finishing high school, McNairn hitchhiked to travel to California and travelling around before being jailed on a charge of vagrancy. His father bailed him out and McNairn made his way home by June.
He began his studies at McMaster University, beginning in Mathematics and Physics, and then transferring to General Arts. He enjoyed being part of the Dramatic Society and appeared in a number of plays. He also was part of the literary society. He graduated in 1938, and did some more travelling before returning to Hamilton.
On 1 November 1940, he began military training with McMaster’s COTC and part time militia with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He completed his training in 1941 and hoped to join the Navy, which his younger brother also hoped to join. With no offers forthcoming, he formally enlisted 11 May 1942, and was sent for training at Gordon Head, BC. He would join the Algonquin Regiment in 1943 and shipped to Europe in early summer.
He was part of the operation to attempt to closed the ‘Falaise Gap’ and would then carry on towards Belgium, the Netherlands, and finally into Germany. Throughout this time he kept his own diary, as well as helping to write the regiment’s war diary when the official diarists were busy. He would carry on this work and though he died before the official history was published, he is credited with doing much of the work on Warpath.
Returning home, McNairn had aspirations of writing, either as a journalist or in longer form. Unfortunately, in June 1946, he was diagnosed with an especially virulent form of TB, tuberculous empyema. Likely contracted while still in Europe, he was transferred to Hamilton’s Mountain Sanatorium for care, but would never recover. McNairn died 5 September 1946 and was buried in Grove Cemetery, in Dundas.