Our Boys Where Certainly No Angels



“Examination of early war photographs show that in Canada, the universal Maple Leaf cap badge and collar badges were worn by soldiers assigned to Military Police duty. As Battalions and Corps adopted their own badges, Military Police added their own insignia to indicate their status. Often, the only insignia identifying a Military Policeman was an MP brassard worn on the jacket cuff.” Source: http://mpmuseum.org/ww1badge1.html


The role of an Assistant Provost Marshal is basically the Chief of Police for a military unit or encampment. Keeping control of the approximately 15,000 troops from all branches of the Army in the 2nd Division was a very real challenge. The “boys” being young, many far from home, but conversely many native born Britons, close to home which led to temptation of going home and visiting family and relatives. Meanwhile the inevitable search for experiences outside the realm of their previous home life would lead soldiers to experience drink, drugs and prostitution. The Provost Marshal War Diary is a fascinating look at the social fabric of the Canadian soldier when they weren’t being particularly martial. They certainly where no angels and the Imperial Force Officer establishment found dealing with the “colonial” forces a challenge. Canadian and ANZAC private soldiers’ respect for military authority and comportment (such as saluting and addressing officers by their Christian names) reflected the freedom from the social constrictions of the Home country and its strong stratification between the classes        [i].

The “boys” of the 2nd Contingent were mostly from the British Isles but their emigration to Canada and exposure to the distance from the cradle of Imperial culture and social influences had an effect on their attitudes and behaviour. Returning to the home country would be an interesting experience and the distance from family and familiar surroundings coupled with the intensified machismo of male military life would combine to create some challenging situations for the civilian and military police. The Canadian units had their problems with military and civilian law and the temptations of youth.

The 18th Battalion was no exception.

One example that stands out is the number of soldiers absent from the battalions of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Canadian Brigades, 2nd Canadian Division. The Assistant Provost Marshal records on July 15, 1915, 2-and-a-half months after arriving in Britain that the following soldiers were missing:


From this simple graph one can see, quite clearly, that the 18th Battalion was subject to the highest number of soldiers on record on that date. The bar graph offers a basic overview and some might note that the 19th Battalion, part of the 4th Brigade to which the 18th belongs, has no soldiers absent.


The pie chart gives a good overview of the proportion. The 4th Brigade lead the absentee rate with a total of 58 soldiers absent, while the 5th Brigade had 37 absentees, and the 6th 51. The chart shows graphically the proportion absent within the brigade and in total for the sample.

From the time of the 2nd Contingent’s arrival in Britain to the training environment in the many camps surrounding Folkestone until it was transferred from this sheltered training environment to active service on the line in September 1915, the types of incidents would be shaped by the geographic environment of the Kent countryside and urban areas. The soldiers found the many inns, bars, hotels places of libation and camaraderie. The seashore was a temptation to bath (or as we would now say, swim), and several external forces, such as prostitutes, “hawkers” and others would serve as further influences to for the Canadian soldiers to step outside the bounds of military comportment and risk involvement with military justice.

Their names obscured by time as five soldiers of the 18th Battalion were absent without leave and on June 1, 1915 the Provost Marshal War Diary records: “Five absentees reported from the 18th Battalion; descriptions sent to A.P.M., London and to the Head Constables of the towns in which their next of kin reside, notifying to arrest and detain.”[ii] As there is no digital war diary before June of 1915 one can assume that this type of absenteeism was not unusual and this was the typical response by the Canadian Military Police in trying to track down the men and return them to their units.

From the tone of the war diary entries it appears that the role of being a police force for the troops was not a role the Assistant Provost Marshal (A.P.M.) was familiar with in civilian life and the resources allotted to this role were not complete, even after the 2nd Contingent had been in the Folkestone area since April, 1915. Even as late as June 1, 1915 the A.P.M. was being issued with more horses and being assigned men from the battalions of the 2nd Contingent to fulfill the compliment required to police the Canadian soldiers. It is not known if this increase in resources was due to an increase in incidents or from a lack of resources being addressed over time.

Regardless, the A.P.M. was a busy man. He relates a typical day of arriving at his office at 8:30 a.m. and addressing a volume of correspondence to and from various sources. Then, typically, the A.P.M. would address various administrative and legal matters throughout the day and then, almost religiously, would make the rounds by car to Hythe, Saltwood, Sandling Junction, Westernhangar, and Otterpool returning from his tour as late as 11:30 p.m. before his duty day ended. Keeping track and control of a group of young Canadian soldiers was hard work. Some of the men of the 18th Battalion did not make it any easier.

One of the gravest concerns the A.P.M. was the “wastage” or loss of men due to unnecessary accidents and other influences. One of the most common diseases to impact the Canadian Expeditionary Force was venereal disease:

          “Canadians had their share of infamous accomplishments. The most notorious of these was the record level of VD in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). It was the highest among the troops in the Western theatre. (Cassel 1987: 122)

The statistics indicate that 66,083 cases of VD occurred and of that total 18,612 with the balance of the other cases being gonorrhea. The impact to the infrastructure of the army was significant. As one example the service record of an 18th Battalion soldier who contracted syphilis, identified in his service record on October 8, 1917 was not cured and discharged until July 8, 1918. This soldier was not available for duty for 305 days and did not return to combat duty, eventually being discharged in England on May 28, 1919.

This case illustrates the cost in time, money, and medical resources for one soldier. The A.P.M. would have concerns for the soldiers in his area of responsibility and Mary Needham was one such threat to the well being of the soldiers of the 2nd Division. The A.P.M. classed this woman as “a syphilitic, from Folkestone” who is attributed to having given “the disease” to eight men who were now in the Temporary Hospital. He had her photo and description and made sure to forward her description to the local police and medical authorities.

Mary Needham will pop up again in the A.P.M.’s sights later in the diary.[iii]

The range of incidents reflected society and all its faults to some extent and the A.P.M. reports certain incidents with a neutral detachment that accentuates the potential drama behind the event being reported: “Matter of Pte. Brooker, 21st Battalion, found by Sgt. Lunnie in a private house, Hythe, with Mrs. Thorton, wife of Pte. Thorton of the 21st.”[iv] History does not record the outcome of this situation but the A.P.M. indicates that the Battalion investigated and referred the matter up the chain of command to the commanding officer of the 4th [Canadian Infantry] Brigade “for action.”

The Boys if the 18th and the A.P.M.

The Assistant Provost Marshal’s war diary does not focus on only the men of the 18th Battalion. He was responsible for recording the significant events that occurred in the diary and used other reports, such as daily crime sheets, to report the activities of the Canadian Military Police under his command. In addition, each unit would have its own method of recording the defaults of the soldiers under its command and meting out appropriate punishments, without necessarily involving the military police.

All the same a summary of the A.P.M.’s war diary focusing on the men of the 18th is instructive – and typical – of the experiences of the other battalions and units of the 2nd Canadian Division.

On June 2, 1915 Private Cassell, reg. no. 53554 is recorded that[v]: “The Head Constable at Banbury[vi], reported that Pte. Cassell, 18th. Battalion had been apprehended. Escort detailed and returned at mid-night with prisoner, placing him in the Guard Room of the 11th Battalion, the await escort from the 18th. Battalion.” Private Cassell’s transgression is not formally recorded in his service record so it would appear that the Battalion decided to affect no punishment or a punishment that would not reflect on his service record. Private Cassell was visiting his wife in Horton, Banbury. Sometime between the date of his enlistment on October 26, 1914 and this event he was married, though an examination of his service record does not reflect this event. His attestation papers list his father as his next of kin and it is later in his service record that he assigns $12.00 pay per month to his wife, a Mrs. S. Cassell of the Cooperative Stores in Banbury.

Private Cassell survived the war, albeit suffering from shell shock and a G.S.W. to the stomach.

On June 16, 1915 the A.P.M. records: “Received report that Pte. Jackson[vii], absentee from the 18th. Battalion had been killed in the Carlisle wreck.” As it would come to light our Private Jackson survived the Quintinshill rail disaster, the worst rail disaster in British history.

A Sergeant Smith[viii] of the 18th Battalion was brought on charges on June 17, 1915 for an incident on the 15th. He was charged with neglect of duty and drinking while on duty. On the 17th he was further charged with conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline. The A.P.M. felt so strongly about this soldier and the charges that he wrote “a special letter” asking for a full report of the incident. Yet, given his opinion of the gravity of the charges it is recorded on the June 19, 1915 that the charges were dropped.

Another soldier, Private Robinson[ix], is found to be absent without leave and needed to be escorted from Windermere. This can be identified with a high level of confidence as being Private Thomas Hartley Robinson, reg. no. 54252, as he listed his next-of-kin as Underwood Robinson of Crown Villa, Bowness-on-Windermere[x]. Private Robinson was later wounded on October 3, 1915 and appears to have survived the war.

A mystery is recorded on July 2, 1915 as to the 18th Battalion Paymaster which was of concern to the O.C. 18th Battalion. Captain Stover (the A.P.M. diary has name as Stovel) went missing[xi] for several days. It eventually came to pass that this Officer went missing for over a month and a Board of Inquiry was convened later in July 1915 to determine the circumstances surrounding this disappearance.[xii]

A Private Hilton[xiii] (Private John Hilton, reg. no. 54161) is recorded on July 13, 1915 to be apprehended by the A.P.M. London and this soldier states that the reason for his desertion was he had venereal disease and in his desire to be cured he left the Battalion in search of a cure, leading him to London. The 2nd Canadian Division A.P.M. requested his return to his unit. Later, on August 12, 1915 the A.P.M. wired a Major Shaw to be on the look out for Private Hilton as he was discharged from the Rochester Hospital after his treatment.[xiv]

On the same day the previously reported Private Jackson who was purported to have been killed in the Carlisle train wreck is alive. So alive that he has been reported arrested and then had the temerity to escape from the Scotch Police[xv]. Later, on August 2, 1915, the A.P.M. records that Private Jackson awaiting a court martial, escapes from the 18th Battalion guard room[xvi]. One has to admire Private Jackson’s industriousness with is ability not to be held by the police.

A forgery case that occurred in the 18th Battalion some time previous is referred to Scotland Yard on July 23, 1915. The forgery a Postal Note of the value of 30 Shillings required that the note and the signatures of all the soldiers that slept in, or had access to Private Clark[xvii]’s hut were forwarded to the Yard for expert examination.[xviii] Later, the A.P.M. was able to deduce from the examination at Scotland Yard that the signature was that of Private Clarke [sic]. This information confirmed the suspicions of the A.P.M. as to the originator of the signature.

In regards to absentee soldiers, the 18th Battalion reports to the A.P.M. that the Battalion is having an “unusually large number of absentees…” which reflects the A.P.M.’s previous notations and reports pervious to this July 25, 1915 diary entry.[xix]

The tone of the A.P.M. War Diary changes in August. The Division is getting more fit militarily and the ability and experience of the Military Police, coupled with better Battalion level discipline, brings down the incidents being reported by the A.P.M. though his concerns for maintenance of general military discipline is readily evident by the war diary entries. Specific soldiers from other battalions are recorded and there are the continued concerns regarding prostitution, drug[xx] and alcohol abuse, theft, and a sundry of criminality that would be experienced in any society.

There is also, very likely, a realization by all the soldiers of the 2nd Contingent that the time for training was soon to be over and that they would be transported from the summer fields of England (and how beautiful they are) to the mire and muck of the front line and all that it holds for them. The third week of August found the men of the 2nd Division on a divisional exercise, a final rehearsal be the King’s review of the Division before it embarked for France.

The Military Police also became more adapt at their duties as their experience grew.

Notable Incidents from the A.P.M. War Diary

The A.P.M. also had do deal with a wide range of behaviours, some juvenile and some dangerous, that needed a fatherly hand of guidance to insure the safety and proper comportment of the troops:

  • On June 2, 1915 the A.P.M. recommends a picquet[xxi] to patrol the road in an attempt to prevent soldiers from going to an Inn 1.25 miles west of New Inn Green [sic] as “a great many soldiers congregate here in the evening.
The MetroPole Hotel, Folkestone, Kent. 1915 Post card via Mike Dugdale.

The MetroPole Hotel, Folkestone, Kent. 1915 Post card via Mike Dugdale.

  • Two Officers of the 4th Brigade Canadian Field Artillery were investigated by the A.P.M. June 14, 1915 for being “…under the influence of liquor, insulting two ladies,” at the Metropole Hotel. The nature of the “insult” is not recorded, and interestingly, neither were the names of the officers.
  • A complaint was received from the O.C. 24th Battalion indicating that some men were arrested by civilian authorities and were subsequently tried and “let off too easily, not example being made.”[xxii]
  • On June 18, 1915 the A.P.M. records that: “Instructions have been given to all police and to be published in orders that only one rider was to be carried on a motorcycle.
  • A complaint from the Range Warden, Hythe, that soldiers were “bathing” in a danger zone at the sea-front and that orders needed to be created informing soldiers of safe places to bath. The A.M.P., for some reason, considered it “dangerous” to post any guard to prevent this behavior.[xxiii]
  • The Pathe Animated Gazette was given tentative authority to take photographs and moving pictures of 2nd Canadian Division troops.[xxiv]
  • Another officer, this time of the 3rd Sussex (Imperial) was arrested for drunkenness at the Metropole Hotel.[xxv]
  • The 1st Canadian Division A.P.M. “…remarked re. slackness of 2nd Division troops and officers in saluting. Stopped all men who failed to salute in the forenoon and out of 31, only one was 2nd. Div.” In, perhaps a fit of pique, the 2nd Division A.P.M. suggested to the 1st Division A.P.M. to take the names of soldiers to verify if they were, indeed, 2nd Division soldiers so they could be dealt with.[xxvi]
  • The case of the lost horses in which it was determined that the horses were not properly tagged and documented and got mixed up with other units.[xxvii]
  • Attended to the moral and entertainment of the soldiers of the Division by visiting with a Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis wished to establish a motion picture tent in one of the camps which would “…offer strong inducements to the men to stay in camp.”[xxviii]
  • The Metropole Hotel continues to be a problem with another officer, Lieutenant Melville Greenshields, 42nd Battalion,[xxix] and Lieutenant Duclos, 24th Battalion, being investigated for drunkenness.

General Steele

  • The officers of the 24th Battalion were at it again at the Metropole Hotel. The A.P.M. alleges Lieutenants Duclos and Hastings were drunk again and that Lieutenant Hastings saluted General Steele (of Northwest Mounted Police fame) with his hat off.[xxx]
  • An apparent rivalry between the Canadian Training Depot Police when one of the men of the 2nd Canadian Military Police contingent, a Corporal Martin, was “molested” while traveling through Shornecliffe having papers and his badge taken from him. A.P.M. dealt directly with C.T.D.P and secured items.[xxxi]
  • A representative of a West Sandling brewery, Leney’s Brewers, reported the loss of 30-gallon barrel of stout and an 18-gallon of beer on evening of July 9, 1917. The barrels were later found. Empty. No drunks were reported in the battalion area and this ‘rendered the investigation more difficult.’[xxxii]
  • Concerns regarding an “epidemic” of absenteeism. The A.M.P. notes that many of the cases are soldiers overstaying their leaves and are not intentionally deserting as much as, once their leave is over and the have not reported back to camp, are now absent from leave. Several soldiers voluntarily report to the local police station and are taken into custody for return to their units.[xxxiii]
  • “A Moving Picture Theatre with a seating capacity of 900 erected by Mr. Thomas at New Inn Green [Newingreen].”[xxxiv] Later in August the proprietor of the Moving Picture Theatre reports to the A.P.M. that it is not “a paying proposition” and the A.P.M. states that it should be as it is a “very good one and well managed” and decides to contact the Officers Commanding of the Battalions and make “this theatre known to the men.”[xxxv]
  • A potential spy[xxxvi] was reported by Captain Taunton of the 27th A notation in the diary on July 23, 1915 indicates that a German Jew who resides on the Golf Links near Hythe, was seen with a flashlight and it appears he was signalling out to sea. As a follow up on the next day of this report, the A.P.M., with Captain Taunton and Major Parsons went to the house on the Golf Links in order to search it. The construction of the lower floor was noted as being concrete and the owner, Sir Wilfred Cohen (as previously noted – a German Jew) was not home but it is felt that the house was to be “…closely watched and his movements noted.”
  • “The Naked Man Mystery” which started on July 27, 1915[xxxvii] continued to perplex the efforts of the A.P.M. to get to the bottom of the mystery. Two civilians claimed to have found a naked soldier bound and gagged in an opening of a hedge “that borders Herrings Lane [possibly Harringe Lane], near Sellindge.” Sergeant Dent and Corporal Holland were allocated in an attempt to solve the mystery but as of July 30 no definitive information or leads were found.
  • The first case of civilians selling liquor to soldiers was reported August 1, 1915 and the A.P.M. intended to discourage this behaviour by meting out the maximum punishment of 20 English Pounds or 6 months in jail.[xxxviii]

As noted previously, when August arrived the tone of the A.P.M.’s war diary is more serious and relates a range of military justice matters. The small and petty incidents of the soldiers of the 2nd Division appear to diminish in frequency though the average number of arrests per day stays a consistent 5 per 24-hour period with some exceptions where the arrests numbers are greater than 5.

The issue of absenteeism continues to frustrate the efforts of the A.P.M. and several cases of interference from the 1st Canadian Division Provost Marshal Corp add to the problems of managing the troops returning from being absent. The 1st Canadian Division involved itself in the administration of these soldiers and it appears that this division’s communication with higher authority is either more efficient or it is given preference over the 2nd Canadian Division.

The 2nd Division becomes involved with a divisional level exercise and the Canadian Military Police comport themselves very well by establishing picquets and patrols to contain the troops of the Division as they move about Kent during the exercise.

On August 30, 1915 the A.P.M. receives notice that all leave is being cancelled and all men on leave are to be recalled immediately.

The 2nd Division is preparing to move to the Continent.


Note on Sources

The A.P.M. War Diaries for the 2nd Canadian Division can be found here:

  1. June 1, 1915 to February 29, 1916.
  2. March 1, 1916 t0 May 31, 1917.


[i] See Marwick, Arthur. “The Impact of the First World War on British Society …” Vancouver Island University. JSTOR, 29 Dec. 2008. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.

[ii] Acting Provost Marshal, 2nd Division War Diary, June 1, 1915.

[iii] See A.P.M., 2nd Canadian Division War Diary for dates July 11 and 12, 1915. The A.P.M. details the arrest, trial and outcome of same. He notes that the punishment is no were long enough to cure the accused of her disease.

[iv] Ibid, June 8, 1915.

[v] Ibid, June 6, 1915.

[vi] Banbury is North-west of London, England approximately 153 miles from Saltwood, Kent. It is an approximate 3-hour train trip.

[vii] This could be Sergeant C.J. Jackson, reg. no. 54145 or Private A.H. Jackson, reg. no. 53349. Check service records.

[viii] This is possibly Sergeant Chester Philip Smith, reg. no. 53651.

[ix] A.P.M., 2nd Canadian Division War Diary, June 30, 1915.

[x] This location is in the Lake District on the West coast of England and is approximately 350 miles from the Sandling Camp area.

[xi] A.P.M., 2nd Canadian Division War Diary, July 2, 1915.

[xii] At the time of this article the particulars of this case are unknown and the service record for Captain Charles Bowen Stover has not been digitized.

[xiii] Acting Provost Marshal, 2nd Division War Diary, July 13, 1915.

[xiv] The treatment report is available at his Soldier’s Page.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Acting Provost Marshal, 2nd Division War Diary, August 2, 1915.

[xvii] Possibly either Private Benjamin Clark, reg. no. 53549 or Private Robert Henry Clark, reg. no. 54012. An examination of their service records may determine if one of these soldiers is the man who is the object central to the forgery investigation.

[xviii] Ibid, July 22, 1915.

[xix] Ibid, July 25, 1915.

[xx] See Acting Provost Marshal, 2nd Division War Diary, August 28, 1915. “I have reason to believe that someone is peddling cocaine among the troops camped at Dibgate.

[xxi] Military spelling of picket. A picket was a patrol of soldiers, usually on the periphery of a military area or encampment used to protect a larger body of soldiers.

[xxii] Acting Provost Marshal, 2nd Division War Diary, June 15, 1915.

[xxiii] Ibid, June 19, 1915.

[xxiv] Ibid, June 23, 1915.

[xxv] Ibid, June 26, 1915.

[xxvi] Ibid, June 28, 1915.

[xxvii] Ibid, July 3 and 4, 1915.

[xxviii] Ibid, July 4, 1915.

[xxix] Captain Greenshields did not survive the war dying on June 3, 1916.

[xxx] Acting Provost Marshal, 2nd Division War Diary, July 7, 1915.

[xxxi] Ibid, July 5, 1915.

[xxxii] Ibid, July 10, 1915.

[xxxiii] Ibid, July 19, 20, 21, 1915.

[xxxiv] Ibid, July 21, 1915.

[xxxv] Ibid, July 17, 1915.

[xxxvi] This is not the only concern with German espionage noted in the A.P.M. War Diary and the other incidents make fascinating reading.

[xxxvii] Ibid, July 27, 1915.

[xxxviii] Ibid, August 1, 1915.

Summary November 1916 18th Battalion War Diary

Link to November 1916 War Diary Transcription

November found the 18th Battalion approximately 50 kilometers from the hell that was the Somme. Now located in the Lens Sector in the vicinity of Bully-Grenay the Battalion was able to find relative rest and recuperation after the actions of September and October.

The first part of the month the Battalion was in Brigade Reserve and was able to exercise the inevitable bureaucratic activities of a clothing and pay parade along with a foot inspection. This activity also included an inspection of all non-commissioned officers by the General Officer Commanding 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade and an inspection of the newly issued Lee-Enfield SMLE rifles by the Battalion armourer.

The Battalion relieved the 20th Battalion on November 4, 1916 unit November 10. During that tour the Battalion had some minor occurrences with 1 other rank accidentally wounded and some soldiers reporting sick. Corporal Hunt, a Battalion sniper, claimed one German dead and patrols coving the Battalion frontage reported “all quiet”.

The Battalion was able to enjoy a relief in Brigade Support from November 10 to 16 and the War Diary reflects in the entry for November 11, 1916: “Battalion in Brigade support. Rifle inspection by Company Commanders. 2 o.r. admitted to hospital.” The men of the 18th had no way of knowing that this date was to be the date of the Armistice 2 years hence but one could imagine that if they could wish it the war would end instantly.

From November 16 to 22 the Battalion was in the line and the War Diary reflects a more aggressive posture of the C.E.F. when in the line. Patrols were active (sadly there are no reports in the appendices of the War Diary relating the patrol experience. See the 19th Battalion War Diary for documentation in this regard) with 4 patrols being active on the night of November 21, 1916.

Members of Pancho Villa's American Legion of Honor. Source: Wikipedia

Members of Pancho Villa’s American Legion of Honor. Perhaps Lieutenant C.J. Jackson is in this picture. Source: Wikipedia

In Brigade Reserve from November 22 to 28 the Battalion attended to instructional, pay and clothing parades and Sergeant C.J. Jackson, reg. no. 54145 was promoted to Lieutenant. The now Lieutenant Jackson had the unusual distinction of having served with the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa in the 1st Battalion. It appears this American’s prior military experience in Mexico gave him the experience to rise in the ranks and become an officer.

From November 28 to 30 the Battalion was in Brigade support.

Overall, the month of November was characterized by a more assertive stance with night patrols into No Mans’ Land with the intent of gathering intelligence and inderdicting German patrol activity and preventing the Germans gathering intelligence on the Canadian forces. These patrols appear to be successful as no major action occurred and the Battalion suffered only two soldiers who died during the month of November.


Private George Wellington Belfry, reg. no. 643576 of “D” Company, 18th Battalion, Western Ontario Regiment.

Private George Wellington Belfry, reg. no. 643576  of “D” Company, 18th Battalion, Western Ontario Regiment died of wounds on November 8, 1916. He suffered a G.S.W. to the chest on September 16, 1916 in the Somme sector and was transferred from the No. 4 Casualty Clearing Station and transferred on October 1, 1916 to the No. 6 General Hospital in Rouen, France where he would eventually succumb to his wounds.

Private David Gray 18th Battalion, Canadian Infantry Western Ontario Regiment November 23, 1916

Private David Gray 18th Battalion, Canadian Infantry Western Ontario Regiment November 23, 1916

Private David Gray, reg. no. 124644, 18th Battalion, Western Ontario Regiment also died of wounds:

“David was seriously wounded at the Somme, September 15th and was reported at No. 13 Stationery Hospital at Boulogne on September 16th with gun shot wounds to his right ear, lips, and right cheek. He was also hit in the right thigh and had a compound fracture of the femur. By October 5th his condition had worsened. He was transferred to Manor Court Hospital at Folkstone, England by October 19th, where he died of his wounds on November 23, 1916 at the age of 41 years and 7 months. David is buried at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery, Kent, England. Two of David’s nephews, Roy Gray and Jack Imrie were able to be on hand for the funeral.

Two of David Gray’s nephews also died as a result of the war.  Sgt. Ronald Maxwell Gray #124654 died on February 11, 1917 from wounds received that same day, and is buried at Aubigny-en-Artois, Pas-de-Calais, France. Captain James Roy Gray M.C. #53114 survived the war but died from the ‘Spanish Flu’ on Feb 18, 1919. He is buried in Brookwood Cemetery, London, England.”


These deaths, the result of the action of the Somme, give some idea of the continued impact to the men of the 18th. Regretfully, after a relatively uneventful month of action the War Diary did report the following: ‘Position as yesterday. Routine. 8 o.r.s. previously reported Wounded now reported “Wounded and Missing.”.

The Luff Brothers of Chatham

The Luff Brothers[i] of Chatham, Ontario took the approximate 115-kilometer trip to St. Thomas, Ontario to enlist in the 91st Battalion. They joined on the same day on December 6, 1915 and were give sequential regimental numbers. George was the oldest by one year over Harry and had obtained the age of 20 years and 11 months to Harry’s 19 years and 11 months when they enlisted. Both were farmers with George recording he was living in Mull, Ontario, a former railway hamlet just east of Chatham and north of Leamington, Ontario. Harry lived in Chatham.


158 Murray Street, Chatham, Ontario. It is unknown if this is the original Luff residence.

Both brothers were able to serve together being transferred to the 186th Battalion which took them back to their home in Chatham were their parents lived at 158 Murray Street. It was only a 8 minute walk from the Armory[ii] to the Luff home and one can imagine the bothers going home when off duty to relax or help with chores. It would be a wonderful comfort to be so close to home as they prepared to be shipped overseas.

The 186th Battalion shipped over to England in late March 1917 and was used as a reinforcing draft for the Canadian battalions in action on the Continent. George and Harry’s service replicated each others’ with being assigned to the same units on the same dates until their eventual destination of the 18th Battalion.

Canadian Rest Camp at Villers-au-Bois. David B. Milne. June 2, 1919.

Canadian Rest Camp at Villers-au-Bois. David B. Milne. June 2, 1919.

The brothers arrived while the Battalion was in billets behind the lines at Villers Camp, Villers Aus Bois in the Marne area. It was a rest camp and the brothers were to enjoy the benefits of being off the line with a Battalion Sports Day on September 8 with baseball, running and jumping competitions, the winners being able to represent the Battalion at a Divisional Sports Day in the future.

It was not until the early morning of September 14, 1917 that the brothers would have passed over the ridge at Vimy to be placed in their positions at AVION. The Battalion had to march in the dark over the top of the ridge so the Germans would not see them and then attempt to interdict the reinforcements with shell fire.

Sadly, Harry was present in the Battalion on November 11, 1917 when his brother George was killed. We do not know if he was actually present when this happened but the War Diary gives good indication of the severity of the fighting. One long entry was made for the dates November 9 to 12, highly unusual for the War Diary[iii]:


British troops attempt to rescue mules caught and trapped in a sea of mud. Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/untold-story-of-the-million-horses-sent-93663

Owing to the bad weather and the continual shelling of the enemy, the front line and supports[iv] were in poor condition., the mud and water in many places being waist deep.

During the whole of this tour, the Officers and men held this part of the line under the most severe conditions possible. Great difficulty was experienced in the evacuating of casualties from the front line to R.A.P.s [Regimental Aid Posts] and dressing stations. Front line trenches were subjected to frequent barrages and the rear country was also heavily shelled and bombed.

The supports on the front were reached by a series of tracks, being trench mat walks, and rations had to be carried in my mules up these tracks. Each track being subjected to continual shellfire, the transport and ration parties were fortunate in escaping with the loss of 3 men and 1 mule which fell off the duckboard track and owing to the depth of the mud, had to be shot. Splendid work was done by the Battalion Stretcher bearers in tending and evacuating the wounded…

The total casualties for this tour approximately being:
Killed in Actin – 45 other ranks.
Wounded – 6 Officers. 60 other ranks.
Gassed – 1 Officer. 25 other ranks.

One can imagine the thoughts and feelings of the Luff brothers and perhaps they were able to console and comfort each other up until Private Harry Frank Luff was hit in the back by enemy shrapnel and killed in action. The Circumstances of Death register is quite clear on the events involving his death but Private Luff’s body was lost to the morass of war and he is memorialized on the Vimy Memorial.

Private George Luff survived the war, probably reflecting on the anniversary of his brother’s death, the irony that the Great War would end 1 year to the day his brother Harry died. George lived until 1972 and his grave is marked with a military headstone, perhaps indicating how strongly he felt about his service.

Grave stone of Luff, George Walter: Service no. 189561

Grave stone of Luff, George Walter: Service no. 189561. Source unknown.

Service Summary

George Walter Luff Harry Frank Luff
Enlisted December 6, 1915 December 6, 1915
Transferred to 186th Bn. February 28/16 February 28/16
Embarked Halifax via S.S. Lapland March 25/17 March 25/17
Arrived Liverpool April 4/17 April 4/17
T.O.S 4th Reserve Battalion, Bramshott, England April 4/17 April 4/17
2nd Canadian Infantry Base Depot. Etaples France August 25/17 August 25/17
T.O.S. 18th Battalion September 5/17 September 5/17
Discharged December 6/19
Death 1972 11/11/17 Killed in Action


Attestation Information

George Walter Luff Harry Frank Luff
Service No. 189561 189560
Unit 91st then 186th  Bn. then transferred to the 18th 91st then 186th  Bn. then transferred to the 18th
D.O.B. January 12, 1895 February 17, 1896
Born Sussex, England Meadhurst, England
Address at Enlistment Mull, Ontario Chatham, Ontario
Name of Next of Kin Mrs. Frank Luff

158 Murray Street

Chatham, Ontario

Mrs. Luff

158 Murray Street

Chatham, Ontario

Relation Mother Mother
Trade Farmer Farmer
Marital Status Single. Single
Military Experience No No
Apparent Age 20 years 11 months 19 years 11 months
Height 5”3.5” 5’8”
Chest Measurement 34” 37”
Chest Expansion 3” 2.5”
Complexion Medium Medium
Eyes Gray Brown
Hair Brown brown
Distinctive Marks Small scar on left knee.
Religious Denom. Church of England Church of England
Sight NA NA
Hearing NA NA
Attested St. Thomas, Ontario St. Thomas, Ontario
Date December 6, 1915 December 6, 1915

[i] There is a Luff, Edward Gordon:  Service no. 54140, also of the 18th Battalion but it has yet to be determined if there is any family connection.

[ii] The Armoury is now a catering venue for special events.

[iii] Transcription using paragraphs for clarity. The original text is one paragraph.

[iv] Support lines.

The Hallam Brothers

The Hallam brothers were from Grantham, Lincolnshire, England and were born 6 years apart. The eldest, Ernest had amassed a wealth of life experience having served in the Imperial Army in South Africa, the Sudan and Egypt and then taking is fortunes to the colonies and establishing himself in Port Arthur, Ontario where he continued his military interest by being involved in the local regiment. He then moves to London, Ontario taking up a post as an insurance broker and is involved with the local militia regiment.

Cyril, the younger ended up in Canada as well, and it appears he followed his brother with a martial career initially being involved with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry for 5 years and then then going to Canada. Living in the Port Arthur area as he notes on his attestation papers he was a member of the 96th Lake Superior Regiment. His affiliation with his brother was stronger than that to his unit as he moved to London to first join the 8th Canadian Mounted Rifles. Yet the dash and daring of the cavalry arm was not enough to hold him to that unit as he was transferred from that unit to the 18th Battalion on January 20, 1915.

From that moment their service, but not their destinies, were tied together. We do not know if Cyril served in the same company as his brother Ernest. Being a Captain and with his Imperial service would have made him a valuable officer to the Battalion, perhaps leading to a Company command. The brothers were bound by blood and service and shared the experiences training in London, Ontario and then in West Sandling. Perhaps they took leave to Folkestone together and shared a cigarette looking out over the Channel hearing the dull rolling thunder of the guns at the front only 75 miles away?

On September 15, 1915 they both disembarked for France and arrived to the front lines in Belgium.

The sudden shock of Captain Hallam being shot, most probably by a sniper, when his head was exposed above the parapet would have had ramifications for the entire Battalion. Captain Hallam was the first soldier of the 18th Battalion to be killed in action, and as such, this information along with its significance must of positively rushed through the Battalion grapevine with unprecedented speed. The Medical Officer’s War Diary and the Battalion War Diary mentions the death in the entry for the September 29, 1915. The Battalion War Diary also notes Private Logan’s death, the first of a private soldier for the Battalion (Ironically, my Grandfather was the first 18th Battalion soldier to be wounded on September 21, 1915).

One cannot imagine the shock to Private Cyril Hallam in the death of his brother. Perhaps he witnessed it. It was a significant enough event to warrant a news story in the Toronto Star making mention that Captain Hallam was the first casualty of the entire 2nd Contingent and though no record of the funeral service has yet been found, one can assume, it was a significant event for the Battalion.

It was certainly for Private Hallam. His service record shows he established a Will October 7, 1915 leaving the bulk of his estate to his parents. That document is signed with the appellation of “Scout” indicated that Private Hallam’s military prowess was very high as scouts were considered to be highly regarded for their skills as scouts and often worked, later, with snipers.

The now Lance-Corporal Cyril Hallam stayed on with the 18th Battalion until approximately a year later when he was separated to the Imperial Forces to become an officer cadet with the Machine Gun Corp.

Bureau of Pensions Advocated document. Cyril Hallam would have been 83 when this document was created, if he was still alive.

Bureau of Pensions Advocates document. Cyril Hallam would have been 83 when this document was created, if he was still alive.

We have lost “touch” the Cyril Francis Hallam. We do know as a postscript to his experiences with the 18th Battalion that he made application to the Bureau of Pension Advocates in London, Ontario on November 8, 1974 for a “Claim of Nervous Condition.” It had been 21,599 days since the death of Cyril’s brother and the memories of the trenches, the scouting missions, and that of the death weighed heavily on a now 83-year-old man felt it important to have official recognition for his pain.


Cyril Ernest
Enlisted 20/01/15 26/10/14
Embarked Halifax 17/10/16 04/18/15
Arrived Avonmouth 29/04/15 29/04/15
Disembarked in France 15/09/15 15/09/15
Separated to Imperial Forces 23/10/1916
Death Survived War 29/09/15 Killed in Action

Attestation Statistics

Cyril Francis Hallam Ernest Walker Hallam
Service No. 651389 NA: Officer
Unit 18th Battalion 18th Battalion
D.O.B. January 12, 1891 April 16, 1884
Born Grantham, Linconshire, England Grantham, Linconshire, England
Address at Enlistment 463 Elizabeth Street, London, Ontario
Name of Next of Kin Mrs. Fanny Hallam

Marton, Grantham, Linconshire, England

Mrs. Ida E. Hallam

816 King Street, East

Hamilton, Ontario

Relation Mother Wife
Trade Book Keeper Insurance Broker
Marital Status Single Married
Military Experience 5.5 years with K.O.Y.L.I.[i] 18 months 96th Lake Superior Regiment Yes. Imperial Forces. 2nd Rifle Brigade in South Africa, Sudan and Egypt.
Apparent Age 24 years, 2 months 30
Height 5”6” 5’7.5”
Chest Measurement 37.5” 38”
Chest Expansion 4.5” 5”
Complexion Fair Unknown
Eyes Greenish blue Unknown
Hair Fair Unknown
Distinctive Marks None Unknown
Religious Denom. Presbyterian Unknown
Sight NA OK
Hearing NA OK
Attested London, Ontario West Sandling
Date January 20, 1915 May 30, 1915
Remarks Transferred from the 8th Regiment, C.M.R. to 18th Battalion.


[i] Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

Soldiers of Windsor: The Windsor Star

Two news articles give some context to the experiences of soldiers from the Windsor area. The 18th Battalion had been in the line as of the latter part of September 1915 and had experience its first Christmas on the Continent. The Battalion had experienced light casualties, in regards to men killed, with 34 men who perished due to all causes from September 1915 to February 1916.

But March and April of that month were different. 19 men were lost in March and almost the total number of men lost between September 1915 and 1916 where lost in the month of April with that months tally amounting to 29 men dead. The Battle of St. Eloi Craters engaged the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade with its battalions (18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st ) and this increase in deaths was a precursor to the actions at the Somme in the coming Fall.

The men of the 18th Battalion would not know this as it was to be their future. They have been bloodied in Belgium and their first major action led to recrimination and replacements of key battalion staff of the 18th Battalion.

The “other ranks” suffered in their turn and the Windsor Star relates some of the details of the men of the area.


Many Casualties suffered by Western Ontario Units in Recent Fights.

Pte. R. Williams, at present attached to the 18th Battalion writes from West Sandling Camp, to inform Windsor residents of the death of Pte. C.A. Batten, No. 215058 [213038], 99th Battalion, who was killed in action at Combes Ridge on Sep. 2.

Pte. Batten had no living relatives. He boarded at 53 Sandwich street[i] east before enlisting in the Essex county battalion. “He was my pal,” writes Pte. Williams, “ but he went to France on one of the first drafts. He was well known in Windsor.”

Lance-Corpl. Walter G. Kent, formerly of Walkerville, was reported killed in action on September 15th in a telegram received today by his brother-in-law, H. Clyde, 72 Janette avenue [probably 72 Jeanette Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario]. Kent was about 24 years old and enlisted in the 18th battalion. Mr. Clyde, who received the message moved to the city a few years ago from Hamilton.

Source: Windsor Star. Circa September 1916.

This news article has some interesting elements.

Private R. Williams

Private R. Williams, as yet not identified, does not appear to be part of the original nominal roll of the 18th battalion and the article he is “attached to the 18th Battalion,” indicates he was part of another battalion’s draft. He is writing from West Sandling Camp so there is the possibility he is part of a reinforcing draft, yet to be assigned to a combat unit. It is unclear his relationship to Pte. Batten.

Private Charles A. Batten

Private Batten appears to have survived the war. There is no record of him being killed on September 2, 1916 or at any time during World War 1. In fact, no soldiers of the 18th Battalion died on that day. A Charles Albert Batten reg. no. 2075671 was killed in action on August 28, 1918. It is unclear at this time where this erroneous information came from but research into this soldier’s service file cannot be done at this time as the PDF file at the LAC is corrupt. Note too that the article got the reg. no. of Batten wrong and a search of the LAC using the incorrect number results in a null search result. No soldier was issued with that regimental number in the C.E.F.

It looks like Private Williams’ friend survived the war.

Combes Ridge

There is no geographical feature name that from World War 1 that I can be found at this time.


Lance-Corpl. Walter G. Kent

Lance-Corporal W.G. Ken reg. no. 54185 enlisted February 4, 1915 in London just over a month before the Battalion left for England. He was part of the “Originals” but he enlisted relatively late as most of the Battalion enlisted in October to December of 1914. His previous experience with the 21st and 48th Regiments, as well as his service with the North-West Mounted Police probably assured a place on the Battalion.

He is commemorated on the memorial at Vimy Ridge as he was killed during the attack on Courcelette and many 18th Battalion dead on that date have no known grave.

The next news article states:

In Rouen Hospital

William Butler, of the Customs staff, received word Saturday morning that his son, Lance-Corpl. Leslie Butler, has been wounded in the thigh and is now in a Rouen hospital. Butler live at 11 Aylmer avenue, enlisted in the Winter of 1914 with the 18th Battalion. Shortly after the arrival of the unit he was taken ill with pneumonia. He did not fully recover until a short time ago, when he was sent to France.

Others who enlisted in Windsor reported wounded in the official casualty list issued at Ottawa Saturday morning are as follows: Ptes. A.M. Freeman[ii] and J. Price, formerly of the 99th Battalion; Ptes. Jack Fisher[iii] and F. Thomas[iv], formerly of the 33rd Battalion, and Sergt. Richard Drew, and Ptes. Frank Remington and Alfred G. Austin of Windsor.

Source: Windsor Star. Circa October 1916.

Lance-Corporal Leslie Butler

Lance-Corporal Butler, reg. no. 53322 was one of the “Originals” and enlisted in the Fall of 1914 on October 29, 1914 in Windsor. He was an American citizen. He was wounded on October 5, 1916 and rejoined his unit on December 23, 1916. 2 months later he was wounded with a G.S.W. to thigh and buttocks and these wounds led to his eventual discharge from the Army as “medically unfit.”

Sergeant Richard Drew

Sergeant R. Drew, reg. no. 53221 was an “Original” member of the Battalion and was an American citizen enlisting in Windsor on October 27, 1914.

Regardless of being issued with 20 days of Field Punishment No. 1 for being drunk on duty in the trenches on November 26, 1915, he was regarded well enough as a soldier to be promoted Corporal on March 1, 1916 and then to Sergeant on the 19th of that month.

He is wounded October 10, 1916 with a shrapnel wound to the back and this wound results in his discharge as medically fit on January 9, 1917 with the curious notation on this soldier’s Proceedings of Discharge. It states: “Joining American Forces. H2649D3630 / 4-7-17 Medically fit for service” It appears that some act of cooperation between the C.E.F. and the U.S. Army was at play to allow this to occur.

Private Frank Remington

Private Remington, reg. no. 54228, was one of the “Originals” and was also an American Citizen. He enlisted on February 12, 1915 and was an unmarried labourer. As there are no service records digitized for this soldier but we do know he was “Previously reported Wounded and Missing, now Killed in Action” on October 9, 1916.


A Gowen-Sutton postcard from c. 1915. From Vanishing B.C.

Alfred George Austin

A.G. Austin, reg. no. 53312, was to survive the war. He was one of the “Originals” who enlisted Windsor on November 2, 1914. He was a tall 5’10” man of 21 years old at enlistment and was born in Belfast, Ireland.

He had previously been treated for shell shock and was wounded with a G.S.W. to the left hand on October 3, 1916.

Private Austin was offered employment March 27, 1919 in his native Belfast by William McComb Limited as a “bakehouse labourer” and McComb Limited as a bakery and confectioner. He was to die at the King Edward “Tranquille” Sanatorium[v] of pulmonary tuberculosis on September 18, 1931 and is buried in the Kamloops Cemetery according to his “Farm Record” card.


[i] Note that another soldier of the C.E.F. listed his address at enlistment as 53 Sandwich Street, Windsor, Ontario. Private Blaze Carabez, reg. no. 270133 listed this address on his attestation papers. He is honoured at the doingourbit.ca web site. This soldier attempted to join the C.E.F. four times, being rejected at least 3 times for medical reasons pre-existing his enlistment. Note that the building does not seem to exist anymore, being replaced by a more modern structure.

[ii] Unknown at this time.

[iii] Unknown at this time.

[iv] Unknown at this time.

[v] This link has an extensive and interesting article about this sanatorium.

“Gallant Gentlemen”



In a speech at the annual meeting of the British Columbia and Yukon Aid Society[i] at Church House, Westminster, yesterday, the Bishop of London[ii] [The Right Reverend Arthur Winnington-Ingram] spoke of the great debt of gratitude which the country owed to the men from[iii] Canada, and said that one of the things he would remember best of all, perhaps, in connection to his visit to Flanders was his address to 10,000 Canadians in a certain market town.

“As I went out at the end of the long day, and found these men waiting in the market square, I shall never forget the shout of welcome that wen up from those 10,000 throats. They were there in their thousands to live for us, to fight for us, and to die for us, and when I think that of those sixty officers that sat around me in that market square twenty-two are dead, and that out of the multitude of men 6,000 have fallen, it gives a pathos to the meeting such as no one can ever can forget. We owe a debt of gratitude to those 6,000 gallant gentlemen, who have fallen in battle that we can never repay.

One way in which they could help to repay the debt, the bishop continued, was to give to the young men in British Columbia early in life the religion they would need in the day of trial. It was not fair to leave them to get their religion on the battlefield.


[Sir] George H. Perley. 
Source: Library and Archives Canada/MIKAN 3544530

Sir George H. Perley, High Commissioner for Canada, said that Canada, though her men who were fighting as heroes of old, and through the baptism of blood they had had in Flanders, had come to manhood. (Cheers).Source: The Daily Telegraph. Wednesday June 15, 1915.

Well, the Right Reverend was right about one thing. Many Canadians had fallen. From the beginning of the war until the date of this news story 3,575 men and women of all branches of the Canadian military had died. 6,000 thousand dead and wounded during the four days of April 22/25 at the Battle of Second Ypres.

From the context of a hundred years hence the jingoistic and paternalistic tone of this news article is evident. The explanation of “cheers” being inserted at the end of the article capping the story with, at that time, appropriate sentimentality of the time.

As related in “The Unholy Spirit” the Bishop of Birmingham wrote September 1914 just after the retreat at Mons and the Aisne battle:

“I know the delights of being at the front and I confess a great longing to be there again…My young clergy think that I am hard because I disapprove of them becoming combatant soldiers…but the clergy are serving England bravely when they minister comfort to the soldier’s widow wife or mother, when they help to send out to help fight for their country, young men who fear God and fear no-one else.’”4

The word “delights” needs context but one would think that ministering to the dying, the bereaved, the scared, the afraid, the repentant sinners afraid of dying before absolution and atonement would engender an adjective more appropriate other then the word “delight”. The duty and value of spiritual guidance and console is an important aspect of the Canadian military ethos since just about every soldier that enlisted or was drafted indicated a religious affiliation. The War Diary of the 18th Battalion mentions the social engagement by the soldiers in Church Parades and we can forget in the present time how important church was to the social and religious fabric of Canada one hundred years ago.

The Right Reverend appears to be a controversial figure and even today people are examining his work during the war. One can see from this brief article a man with a determined set of values and beliefs who used their legitimacy and position to extolled the virtues of a militant Christianity, made more militant by the act of war.

If one compares this rhetoric to the actions and ministrations of the much loved by Canadian troops, Canon Frederick Scott, who served dutifully and actively in the 1st Division until his wounding later in the war. As Private Donald M. Cleal related in a letter published in the Toronto Star on August 30, 1917:

“We have a chaplain here, Canon Scott,2 of Quebec, who has several medals.  He earned them too.  He is the Divisional Chaplain and entitled to stay in the rear.  But no matter how thick the fight is, he is always to be seen wherever the boys are.  I wish the slackers could hear him speak.”[iv]

But Private Cleal also speaks to the bigger issue of the morality and ethics of war with a simple, illuminating statement, putting into contrast the bombastic religious propaganda of others:

“Of course, I never forget the old and trusted saying, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged,’ but oh, to see men dying all around you, men with wives and children, also old men, all dying for principle, and these men your comrades — you can’t help seeing things from one side onlyIt hardens a man, and at the same time softens him.  You learn what fear is, and you learn to conquer.  It makes some men, breaks others, and changes them all.” [bold and italics mine]

The debt owed by the Mother Country and those like the Right Revered Arthur Winnington-Ingram will never be repaid.

The Right Reverend had his point of view and his conception of religion and how it operated at that time in place in history. Mores the pity that this example of the use of religion to effect change and affect the decisions of others to join a combat arm that is so often in contradiction of the true values of that religion. Sounds familiar does it not?

Private Cleal makes a simple, eloquent statement. It is not couched in sentimental religious terms. It is a concise clarion declarative statement. The soldiers experience war and they react differently to the stress of combat and regardless of the outcome “…it changes them all.”

Guy Vernon Smith wrote a detail exposition about The Right Reverends visit to the front between March 27, 1915 to April 5, 1915 entitled The Bishop’s Visit to the Front. It is written with a strong positive bias to militant Christianity and its expression by the Right Reverend. An audience would now find it terribly sentimental. It is instructive to read this document to get the tone of how religion and militarism co-existed during World War 1 and many contemporary Canadian letters and newspaper articles reflect this philosophy.

The debt will never be repaid. Not if one does not learn from the lessons of history and work to overcome the methodology and acceptance of of violence and terror as a means to effect change, be it non-state or state sponsored.

The debt can be repaid if society works to values that engender peace.

[i] Per Memory BC The British Columbia Church Aid Society, based in London, England, was formed in 1910 as an organization to represent the interests of and raise support in the home country for the British Columbia dioceses and institutions such as the Anglican Theological College. It unified into a provincial scope the work of the various existing diocesan missionary societies: the Columbia Mission, founded in 1859; the New Westminster Association (later called New Westminster and Kootenay Missionary Association) founded in 1880; and the Nishga Union (later called Caledonia Missionary Union) created in 1905. The former diocesan organizations retained their identity as diocesan committees of the larger organization. In 1913 the Diocese of Yukon was added to the Society’s activities resulting in a new name, British Columbia and Yukon Church Aid Society (B.C.Y.C.A.S.). The Society’s long-time serving General Secretary was the Rev. Canon Jocelyn Perkins who remained active in office from the Society’s beginning until after the Second World War.:

[ii] See The Unholy Spirit for a perspective about religion and war.

[iii] “…men from Canada…” as opposed to “…men OF Canada…” Interesting use of the word “of”.

[iv] Source: Transcription by Marika Pirie at the Canadian Great War Project

“Nerves” in War-Time: A contemporary view of Shell Shock, German Propaganda and the cure to all this: Optimism

The understanding of what we would not call PTSD during the First World War was minimal and fraught with a range of mostly inappropriate connotations about a person’s mental and moral upbringing. Many of this blog’s posts reference shell shock and one may find this article from the Daily Telegraph recorded in the June 5, 1915 edition interesting.

Source: Daily Telegraph. June 5, 1915. Page 7.

Source: Daily Telegraph. June 5, 1915. Page 7.



The effect of the war on the nerves of both soldiers and civilians was the subject to a lecture by Dr. Murray Leslie before the Sociological Society at their rooms in Buckingham-street, Strand, last evening. Describing cases of “battle shock,” he said these were divided into two classes — those who had been constantly subjected to shell explosion and had not actual injury, and those suffering from neurasthenia. The first kind of case was characterised by a curious stupor. He had seen patients absolutely oblivious of everything. One soldier in hospital kept putting his head above the bed-clothes and then ducking it again. He was living through his experience in the trenches again. Nearly all the patients were young men of 21 and 22, which suggested that it was not advisable to send out men too young. The neurasthenia cases required prolonged treatment, and it was the greatest mistake in the world to send them back too soon.

There was a great deal in the German method of trying to destroy the morale of their enemies and of preserving that of their own people. Our censors knew what they were doing in not allowing certain news, such as details regarding Zeppeplin raids, to be sound out broadcast. They knew how important it was to keep up the morale of the nation in this time of mental strain, and it was perfectly right from a medical point of view. Once we felt that “the machine had begun to go,” as Mrs. Lloyd George expressed it, it would allay any nervous panic that might exist. Optimism was of the greatest value. The exploit of the dashing young airman would do an immense amount of good. It would spread the feeling generally that an Empire which could produce such deeds could never be defeated.

The article is illustrative of the concern a medical condition that was sapping the resources of the medical facilities of the Allied armies. The numbers for the Canadian Army indicate that 10,000 soldiers suffered from identified “shell shock” but that number probably under reports the condition given its implications to a soldier and his life. The earlies record of a potential shell shock case with the 18th Battalion may have been Lieutenant F.G. Newton. The Medical Officer’s War Diary notes on October 2, 1915: Lieut. F. G. Newton in a shocking condition as a result of [‘nerves’?] + sent to hospital. Lieutenant Newton was to return to service and this case illustrates the impact the scale of mechanized war had on the soldiers fighting it.


The reference to “civilians” clearly delineates the change in the perception of the fighting and how new weapons and tactics impacted the morale and war experience of a civilian population. The German Navy had attacked Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby in December 1914 and had extended their attack using strategic airpower with Zeppelin raids that had been approved by the Kaiser in January 1915 with the first raid being effected the night of January 19/20, 1915.[i]

The reference to neurasthenia indicates the state of medical thinking at the time with the relation to psychological symptoms being caused by a physical actor, such as the concussion of the shells a soldier would experience in the front line. The issue of shell shock is one that is still being grappled with even today. Dr. Murray Leslie’s perspective shows how little was known about the psychological effects of combat stress on combatants.

The comment on censorship is interesting as, particularly with German Zeppelin raids, the reportage of the impact of the raids was often minimized to influence the American perception of the war by maintaining the perception of Britain was winning the war.[ii] The strong bias of the reporting is evident.

The summation of the article ends on an optimistic note with reference to “the dashing young airman” with their exploits, as yet of the date of this article, unproven against the Zeppelins as no Zeppelin had been lost to the Royal Flying Corp over England at that time. It was not until the night of September 2/3 that Lieutenant Leefe Robinson would shoot down Schütte-Lanz SL 11 from which he was gazetted with the Victoria Cross.

The article is a brief glimpse into the attitudes of the Home Front in England at the time and echoes the misconceptions of shell shock commonly held at the time. It would take another war for these attitudes to begin to start and change.

[i] Private Arthur Bailey Atkin, brother to 18th Battalion member Private Herman Aitken, was wounded during a Zeppelin raid on Folkestone.

[ii] See “Censorship and News Control as a Method of British Propaganda in the United States: 1914 to 1917.” Masters Thesis by Glen D. Jesse.