“Probably Just a Little Used Up.”

An article in the Windsor Star circa 1916 gives topical news about a number of soldiers from the local area. Lance-Corporal (later Sergeant) Leslie Butler if the 18th Battalion is figured prominently in the story and several other soldiers of the 18th are also mention.

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette on September 15, 1916 and the Battalion, as well as the other Divisions of Canadian Corps participation in the hell of the Somme is reflected in the article below which relates the fate of eight soldiers that enlisted in the Windsor area.

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In Rouen Hospital

William Butler, of the Customs Staff, received word Saturday morning that his son, Lance-Corpl. Leslie Butler, had been wounded in the thigh and was now in a Rouen Hospital. Butler lived at 11 Aylmer avenue and enlisted in the winter of 1914 with the 18th Battalion. Shortly after the arrival of the unit in England he was taken seriously 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 and J. Price, formerly of the 99th Battalion; Ptes. Jack Fisher and F. Thomas, formerly of the 33rd Battalion, and Sergt. Richard Drew and Ptes. Frank Remington and Alfred G. Austin, of Windsor.

Windsor Star Article. Circa October 1916.

Sergeant Butler, reg. no. 53322 father lived at 11 Aylmer Avenue in Windsor, Ontario. Though his father lived in Canada, Sergeant Butler was an American citizen having been born at Ypsilanti, Michigan on September 9, 1893.

A medical report in his service record outlines his illness:

sgt-butler-medical-case-history-sheet

Jan 11/16
Disease: Double Pneumonia

Parade sick at [Dickenbushe] on Nov. 1st 1915, complaining of heavy cold + general bad health, sent to Balluel [sic] on Nov 2nd 1915, then to Bologne [sic] on Nove 10th, then to Bevan Hosp. Sandgane on Nov. 15th, the to Ramsgate on Dec. 13th, the to Monks Gorton to date.

Present Condition

Slight shortness of breath, otherwise generally fit.

Sergeant Butler’s recovery took a fair amount of time as he did not return to the 18th Battalion until July 4, 1916. Previous to that date, on June 10, 1916 he was appointed the rank of Lance-Corporal replacing Lance-Corporal Bertram Huswick, reg. no. 434597 as this soldier was invalided to England with shrapnel wounds to his right foot.

Sergeant Butler was to survive the war being wounded two times. He was wounded with a G.S.W. to the right thigh October 2, 1916, recovered in a relatively short time only to be wounded by a bullet on February 22, 1917[i] in the right buttock and thigh.

Privates A.M. Freeman and J. Price are mentioned and Private Price is found on the 99th Battalion’s Nominal Roll for May 31, 1916. A Private Freeman is listed on this roll as William Freeman, reg. no. 213009 so it is uncertain to whom the article references. Private J. Price is most likely James Price, reg. no. 213145. Private Price appears to have survived the war.

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From the 33rd Battalion Private James Mathew Fisher[ii] attested as a private and was to serve with the 1st Battalion until wounded in October 1916 but was eventually obtain the rank of lieutenant with the Western Ontario Regiment. Of interest from his service files is a notation of his treatment at the Pasteur Institute at Kasauli, India for a horse bite. This is a very curious notation in his service file as it is difficult to determine his movements and the reason for his presence in India. The Institute was known for its treatment of bites and rabies, but it is hard to imagine a soldier station in England being transported to northern India for treatment.

Private Frederick Thomas, reg. no. 401701 is confirmed on the 33rd Battalion’s nominal roll but his service records are not available at time of this post, nor are his attestation papers, so his information available is limited. He enlisted in St. Thomas on October 4, 1915 listing England as his country of birth. He had no prior military experience and listed Mrs. Alice Norrill of 124 De Beauvior Road, London, N.E., England as his next of kin.

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Mrs. Alice Norrill lived at 124 De Beauvor Road, London, N.E., England. It is the door to the left of the tree in the center of the picture with what appears to be a knob in the center of the door.

The last three soldiers all served with the 18th Battalion and Private Remington was not to return.

Sergeant Drew, reg. no. 53221, an American born in Cleveland, Ohio, transferred from the 18th Battalion to the 4th Canadian Machine Gun Company and was wounded September 27, 1916 by shrapnel in the back which necessitated his demobilization from the C.E.F. August 17, 1917. An interesting insight to his service record is that documents indicate this wounds from September 1916 made him medically unfit for Canadian Service but upon discharge the Canadian authorities make the following notation on his discharge sheet: Medically Fit for Service. Perhaps Sergeant Drew was going to have to prove that he no longer served in the C.E.F. and would have to produce his discharge papers of proof of the discharge but also his experience in the military which would increase his value during enlistment in the American Army.

Pte. F. Remington, reg. no. 54228 was another American being born in Lansing, Michigan. He was a labourer of 21 years of an average height of 5’6” and served with the Battalion until his death on September 15, 1916. He was initially posted as “wounded and missing” which explains the article relating him as being among the wounded. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial.

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On October 2, 1916, Private Austin had an accident, crushing his left hand. This accidental wound resulted in transport to England for treatment, which lasted until May 26, 1917. Of note is a medical report dated November 9, 1916, stating that his wound was swollen but healing with the estimate of four weeks more time to recover. This estimate of recovery in early December was probably correct but the nature of his wound may have precluded active service as he was attached the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre (C.C.A.C.) to further his recovery.

This was not the first time that Private Austin was to require medical attention. In early March 1916, he had a brief need for care at the 6th Canadian Field Ambulance Rest Station for shell shock which took him out of the line for four days.

Eventually these two events in his service experience coupled with being on active duty with the 4th Reserve Battalion in England led to a case of “vertigo” on February 21, 1917, necessitating is admission to the Moore Barracks Hospital at West Sandling. The report relates:

austin-medical-report-shell-shock

Date: 21-2-17

Disease: Vertigo

Complaint: Nervousness

Duration 1 wk

P.H.[iii]: Wdd [wounded] lt. hand Oct 5th 1916 at Courcellette [sic]. Good result.

H.P.I. Has had four attacks of what he thinks is nervousness in past week. Starts with numbness in legs and spreads all over body to head, lasts about two hrs. & leaves him with headache. Bowels reg. no urinary symptoms. Eats and sleeps well.

Exam: Heart, lungs, nervous system normal.

Urine: Normal.

Date: 24-2-17

To lines hosp. [?] No evidence of sickness. Probably just a little used up.

[Signature]
Capt.

The last comment is almost chilling given the context and one is unsure exactly what the doctor attending to Private Austin meant but it appears that this is the last time that Private Austin was in need of medical attention during the rest of his service. He did not have to go back to the front lines as the rest of his service occurred in England.

He indicated that he wanted to stay in Ireland after the war and made application to do so with William McComb Limited as at bakehouse labourer but, for unknown reasons, he returned to Canada via the S.S. Regina and was discharged at London, Ontario         July 27, 1919. He had been in the Canadian Army 1,728 days and lived until September 18, 1931 dying of pulmonary tuberculous.

A news article from 100 years ago making mention of eight soldiers, all with different experiences of war, helps us to appreciate the lives that these men experienced during their service career. The article relates some rudimentary information and they share the common experience of service with the C.E.F. but it also high-lights that their experiences were unique and multi-dimensional.

But at a cost. War “used up” many of the participants.

[i] The 18th Battalion War Diary states on that day: “Our artillery active during day. 2 o.r.s Killed in Action, 3 o.r.s wounded while on patrol. Enemy working parties seen at intervals. 70 o.r.s arrived from 2nd Canadian Entrenching Bn. as reinforcements.”

[ii] Note that there is an officer of the 18th Battalion with the same name research on this soldier is not complete.

[iii] Possible Patient History

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