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Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson celebrates contributions of Canadian soldiers at a ceremony in Toronto, Saturday.

Michelle Siu/The Globe and Mail

The man who commanded the storied Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry for part of the First World War created an unsurpassed record of life at the front lines through his letters to his wife, said former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson in celebrating the contributions of Agar Adamson at a ceremony on Sunday.

Lieutenant-Colonel Adamson, part of a prominent Ontario family, was honoured at memorial plaque dedications in Mississauga as part of the Princess Pats' trek from Edmonton to Ottawa to mark their centennial as well as the 100th anniversary of the Great War.

The colourful former civil servant, who was nearly blind in one eye and enlisted at age 48, was commanding officer of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry for nearly two years, leading the regiment during the battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. All the while, he sent near-daily letters to his wife Mabel that his son eventually found stashed in an attic and were later published.

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"I don't think there's a better account of the First World War – ever – than his letters because he saw the whole war," said Ms. Clarkson, who is the PPCLI's colonel-in-chief. "He was quite extraordinary."

Sunday's commemoration was part of the Princess Pats' efforts to celebrate some of its so-called Originals, largely British-born Canadians with previous military service who volunteered to join the privately financed new regiment in August of 1914.

"We're keen to know that the service that he gave is more widely appreciated," said his grandson, Jeremy Adamson.

After giving up command of the Princess Pats in March of 1918 and suffering delayed shell shock, Lt.-Col Adamson struggled to re-integrate back into Ontario life and came to an "understanding" with his wife and moved back to Britain, his grandson said. He died in London in 1929.

Ms. Clarkson and other dignitaries also participated in a wreath-laying at a memorial service to honour fallen Princess Pats at Queen's Park on Saturday.

A team of soldiers from the PPCLI, now based in Edmonton and Shilo, Man., is making a 23-stop trek that includes the carrying of a memorial baton holding the names of the 1,866 Pats who died in service. The trek will arrive in Ottawa, where the regiment first assembled, on Sept. 18 and end next May in Frezenberg, Belgium, where the Princess Pats faced their first severe test of the Great War.

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