#100DaysofVimy – February 20, 2017

Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour:

General Andrew George Latta McNaughton, CH CB CMG DSO CD PC

A young Andrew George Latta McNaughton in 1912.
Credit: Notman and Son/Library and Archives Canada/PA-034151.

Andrew McNaughton of Moosimin, Northwest Territories (present-day Saskatchewan), was a professor of engineering at McGill University.  In 1914, he took command of the 4th Battery of Canadian Field Artillery and arrived in France in February 1915. McNaughton’s engineering background enabled him to have a profound impact on the development of gunnery during the war. In preparation for the Battle of Vimy Ridge, McNaughton improved the concepts of “flash-spotting” and “sound-ranging”. These methods used the flash of firing guns and their explosive report to mathematically triangulate their location on the battlefield, providing targets for counter-battery. This enabled the Allied artillery to effectively neutralize nearly all  German artillery positions prior to the launch of attack on 9 April 1917.   By the end of the war, McNaughton held the command of all the Canadian Corps Heavy Artillery and Counter-Battery units. McNaughton’s work in counter-battery led to his invention of the cathode ray direction finder, an early form of RADAR. He sold the rights of the invention to the Government of Canada for just $1. McNaughton remained in the Permanent Force after the war, achieved numerous commands again during the Second World War, and fulfilled roles as a diplomat and public figure for two decades until his death in 1966.

A 6-inch naval gun fires at night over the Canadian lines at Vimy Ridge in May 1917. Muzzle flashes such as this were used by McNaughton to develop the method of spot-flashing for locating enemy artillery.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-001879.

 

See Line 221 – The McNaughton family registered in Assiniboia East, Moosomin, on the 1906 Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Credit: Courtesy of Ancestry.ca