Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 48th Highlanders of Canada
13 April to 1 October 1945
Lieutenant Colonel JRO “Jim” Counsell, DSO was the last Commanding Officer of the wartime 1st Battalion 48th Highlanders. Having been Adjutant in England, before leaving for Sicily he joined the newly formed D Company and served with them as Company 2IC, Company Commander from Pachino until the end of the Italy Campaign. He was awarded an immediate Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his gallant and aggressive style of leadership in the battle for the Hitler Line. He became Battalion 2IC in April 1945. Forced into command following the death of LCol Don Mackenzie. Commander 1 CA Inf Bde – Brigadier Des Smith arrived at the Highlanders Battalion Headquarters to announce that would be no outsider coming to take over the Highlanders and that LCol Jim Counsell had been confirmed as Commanding Officer effective 13 April 1945.
He brought them home on 1 October 1945 and led them down University Avenue and back the Armoury where the 1st Battalion was born six years prior. In front of the VIPs, family and previous generations of Highlanders gathered, he took the podium to reply to the remarks by the Mayor and said:
“Let us not forget the men we left behind in Sicily, in Italy and Holland,” he said. “Had it not been for them, you would not be giving us this great reception. Their courage and sacrifice has let us come home, just as they have preserved our wonderful civilization for us.” He then stepped down to stand in front of the Regiment. (Dileas: page 782)
Colonel Counsell’s contributions are well told on the pages of Dileas. Lesser known is a contribution he made to the ethos/nature of the modern post-war Regiment. When questions of perhaps maintaining some distinguishing elements on uniforms worn by 1st Battalion/2nd Battalion Highlanders, during communications between himself and the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, Counsell was resolute that his Battalion would have none of that type of thing and that once he dismissed him there would be no such distinctions (A Highlander is a Highlander). This set the tone for a strong post war Regiment.