Every war produces mysterious characters, some good, some bad, and some swashbuckling adventurers.
One such man was Joseph Whiteside Boyle, born in 1867 in Toronto. At the age of 17, he went to sea for three years. Later on he was among the first to travel the White Pass route to the Klondike where he laid claim to a huge stretch of the Klondike River, and, as a result of his gold mining activities, he became quite rich. He organized a hockey team, the Dawson City Nuggets, who travelled by sled, train, and boat to Ottawa to play the Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup. At the outbreak of WWI, at his own expense, he equipped a machine gun company, even making their insignia in gold. In today’s market these insignia would be priceless.
Being too old for active service, he was made an honorary Lt.Col. He made his way to Britain where he eventually went to Russia and was appointed to Kerenski to help re-organize their railways which were in total chaos. He found there were 10,000 rail cars of supplies waiting to go to the front and in order to get things moving, he had whole trains, which were blocking the movement of the rail cars, pitched over an embankment to get them out of the way. This enabled the other supply trains to be on their way to the front allowing Russia to keep 300,000 men in the front line. In cooperation with a British agent he was involved in operations against both the Germans and the Bolshevik forces.
During this time he ran a network of 450 British agents in Russia. In the spring of 1918 he rescued several high ranking Romanians being held by the revolutionaries. The Romanian government, anxious to get back from Moscow with their paper money, gold, archives and possibly the Crown Jewels which had been placed there for safe keeping. He arranged for a train to move these items to Romania. A stationmaster en route would not allow the train to proceed so Boyle arranged a concert to get people out of the way, then served the stationmaster tea spiked with rum and then forced the driver of the locomotive at gun point to carry on. This, in the eyes of the Romanians, made him a national hero. As a result of this he met the Queen of Romania, who was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
During the peace conference in Paris in 1919, he helped the Romanians get $25 million credit from Canada. As a result of his many actions on behalf of Romania, he was given the title of “Saviour of Romania”. He became a close friend of the Queen of Romania who was born in Britain and was Marie of Edinburgh. His relationship with the Queen was a mystery and much speculation as to how close they were persisted. He died in 1923 and every year on the date of his death, a woman in black put flowers on his grave. The Queen died in 1938, after which no woman appeared and the flowers no longer came.
In 1983, his daughter arranged to have his body returned to Woodstock, Ontario for burial.