Born in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, October, 1906, Lt.-Col. Forbes spent the early years of his life and received his public and high school education there. Then, having decided not to follow his father into the pulpit, he turned towards business and enrolled in a Business School in Halifax.
His association with the army began when he was very young. On Sept. 1, 1921, Col. Forbes enlisted in the Colchester and Hants Regiment (N.P.A.M.) as a bugler and the following year found him promoted to the rank of corporal. Commissioned in December, 1922, he served with this unit until 1937 when he transferred to the Cape Breton Highlanders as a captain.
The outbreak of the war found him leaving his General Insurance Brokerage in Sydney, Nova Scotia and assuming full time duty as adjutant of the Cape Breton Highlanders. When the North Nova Scotia Highlanders were reformed in 1940 and included in the order of battle of the third division, he transferred to the new battalion as adjutant, which appointment he held until May, 1941, when he became a company commander.
After the many weary months in England, Lt.-Col. (then Major) Forbes was chosen as one of the party of Canadians to be attached to the British First Army in the Tunisian Campaign. The two months tour of duty there passed very quickly and he soon found himself back in England and in July 1943, was appointed second in command of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders.
Lt.-Col. Forbes was in the thick of the fighting from D-Day onwards and on Aug. 5, 1944, was promoted to Lt.-Col. and appointed to command. He commanded the unit throughout the campaign in North West Europe with the exception of the period between Dec., 1944 and 18 Jan., ’45 when he was out with a broken ankle. In recognition of his work, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in the fall of 1944 and the bar to the D.S.O. in January, 1945.
The cessation of hostilities in Europe did not signify that the task was finished so Lt.-Col. Forbes immediately volunteered for occupational duty and on June 5, 1945, was appointed to command the 3rd Battalion, North Nova Scotia Highlanders. Despite overwhelming difficulties, he has succeeded in building up a well-knit unit which has been a tribute to his organizing ability. Fair and just in all situation, he is admired by all who have come into contact with him. The successes of the 1st Battalion in action and the 3rd Battalion in the occupation have been mainly due to Lt.-Col. Forbes’ untiring work and his ability to develop a spirit of unselfish co-operation within the units.
(This article first appeared in Vol. 1, No. 18, of THE MAYFLOWER on Sunday, January 27, 1946. THE MAYFLOWER was the overseas newspaper of the Nova Scotia Highlanders.)