A continuation of another sometime series, where we meet a few of those who served – seven of the eight men in this post fought with the Canadian Expeditionary Force – and were lucky enough, although you’d have to have asked them for confirmation of that, to survive their Great War experience, only to suffer later ailments necessitating hospitalisation.
These two triptychs each show a sergeant, in the centre, flanked by two privates; five of them were infantrymen and one, the sergeant in the first group, an artilleryman. The three men pictured immediately above were infantrymen with, from left, 4th Bn., 2nd Bn. & 116th Bn. C.E.F., and you can call them Frank, Warner & George. Because those were their names. Frank would die, aged 57, in June 1937, and if you read the extract from his medical card (below), you can see that he had had frequent operations on a gunshot wound of his left hip joint, sustained on 8th October 1916, which contributed to his death.
Frank was probably wounded on the Somme, and Warner (centre picture) certainly was.
He too received a hip wound – left hip again – which would later become septic. He must have recovered well enough, however, as he would not be discharged from the army until March 1919, by now a sergeant with three and a half years’ service. He did, apparently, have a slight limp, but by the time he was hospitalised in 1930, this had become far worse, with now his right arm & leg chiefly affected, according to his medical report. Diagnosed as possibly suffering from the onset of disseminated sclerosis, he would eventually die in hospital in 1958 in his mid-sixties. And on the right, George, who served for three and a half years and was not discharged from the army until May 1919, despite his diagnosis, also of disseminated sclerosis*, stating ‘onset said to be Jan. 1918’. I do know he left hospital after three years or so – let’s hope he was recovering, but I have my doubts.
*disseminated sclerosis, a chronic progressive disease of the nervous system, appears far from infrequently in hospital registers of the post-war years.
The man on the left, who was born in 1878, had been a private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry between 1895 & 1898, a trooper in the 7th Dragoon Guards in the war in South Africa between 1899 & 1902, and then returned to the colours in 1914 in his mid-thirties with the Canadian Engineers with whom he served throughout the war. He was an engineer by profession, and probably emigrated to Canada – his sister still lived in Enfield, North London, into at least the 1940s – at some point after his South African experiences, returning to the U.K. post-war. You will be pleased to know that the last I can tell you of him is that in September 1940, by now in his sixties, he was deemed well enough to be discharged from hospital and go home. And lastly, on the right, Private Harry Augustus Mason, 1st Bn. South African Infantry, in later years. Harry was born in July 1884, although I am unsure exactly where. It may be that he was British-born, and was in South Africa, for whatever reason, when he enlisted (certainly this was the case with a considerable number of men who enlisted in both Australia & Canada early in the war), although I have no evidence of this, and his occupation, given on the hospital card below, of storeman, was hardly in such demand as, let’s say, the British miners who went to work the South African mines both before and after the war. Who knows.
Nonetheless his brother lived in East Croydon, an old stamping ground of yours truly, and Harry was living in the U.K. at the time of his hospitalisation in 1929. He had enlisted in June 1915, and had been diagnosed with disseminated sclerosis in late 1916. Which means he may very well have fought at Longueval & Delville Wood on the Somme in mid-July 1916. The South African Brigade, of which 1st Bn. was, of course, part, most certainly did, suffering some 2,350 casualties out of a force of 3,150 before they were relieved. As you can see from the form, Harry would die, still hospitalised, in 1938, aged 53.
Remember the men who came home.
My granny’s brother Tom Sutherland was in SA and fought in Natal with the rangers. His grandson has medals anyway he returned briefly to Brora to be included in 1911 census as a railway clerk which is why he went to SA as far as I can make out. Emigrated first to USA and crossed border where siblings were settled He joined CEF and became a Captain no less I have a photo of him in uniform. He survived and had his own business in Vancouver. Died 1949 from memory. Dreaded alcohol rather than physical wounds. His brother George also has interesting treatment by CEF but that is a different story.
Hello Morag! Interesting. I wonder if there’s a book about such things?
Good afternoon. My post grad diaspora course involved much family research. Notes on all the emigrants are in folders on my laptop. Family members aware of history. Doubt much public interest really. Greetings on shortest day my Granny Sarah birthday in 1889. Her brothers had interesting lives
My missus awaits this day with glee – she doesn’t like the short days, so from now on they get longer…….. Happy birthday Granny Sarah.
Very interesting article, thanks. These people gave – and lost – so much. I hope they managed to find some peace in their lives. RIP
Thank you Michael. Well said.
Poor devils, it really wasn’t much of an existence for some of these chaps post war, was it. some of those medical cards make very sad reading.
The common diagnosis of Disseminated Scoliosis seems odd. From what I understand, its the same thing as MS. Interestingly some of the symptoms of MS would not be dissimilar to some you might associate with shellshock; muscle spasms, cognitive difficulties, mobility problems and issues with speech to name but a few.
I think its one of the finest ideas you’ve had on here MF, remembering those that came home, and I take my hat off to your for it.
Thanks mate. I think it’s quite an important series too. I appreciate that it is appreciated. Yes, DS seems to be MS, doesn’t it. And there are other illnesses of the time – the encephalitis lethargica epidemic for example – that they still don’t know the cause. I have often wondered whether gas might have been the cause, but your shellshock theory is good too.
It did also occur to me that gas exposure might involved, though you’d think that would have been listed in their medical history somewhere. Certainly couldn’t rule it out.
Yes, it probably would be on their medical record, you are right. Shan’t rule it out, but prefer your idea, I think.
Something most of us probably don’t think about are the men that came home and the sort of lives they then had. Thank you M for this research it makes give some thought to those who returned.
I agree M, thus I am doing my little bit.