Author Topic: A forgotten soldier on a forgotten front  (Read 1438 times)

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Offline StygianFire

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A forgotten soldier on a forgotten front
« on: September 29, 2018, 05:10:39 »
An interesting article from the BBC, not only someone I had never heard of but a theatre that is rarely discussed.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/A_forgotten_soldier

Offline Old Sweat

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Re: A forgotten soldier on a forgotten front
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2018, 07:22:05 »
According to Wikipedia, future prime minister Lester Pearson served in that theatre during the First World War. (I had heard this earlier when he was still active in politics, so I went on a search.)
"
When World War I broke out in 1914, Pearson volunteered for service as a medical orderly with the University of Toronto Hospital Unit. In 1915, he entered overseas service with the Canadian Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer with the rank of private, and was later commissioned as a lieutenant. During this period of service he spent two years in Egypt and in Greece. He also spent time in the Serbian Army as a corporal and a medical orderly.[7]"

Offline GR66

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Re: A forgotten soldier on a forgotten front
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2018, 07:42:51 »
Thanks for the link.  My Scottish grandfather was with the British Army in Salonica.  Like many veterans he didn't talk about it and there is very little written about the theater.  I'll look to see if I can find a copy of the Wakefield/Moody book mentioned in the article.

Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: A forgotten soldier on a forgotten front
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2018, 13:50:17 »
According to Wikipedia, future prime minister Lester Pearson served in that theatre during the First World War. (I had heard this earlier when he was still active in politics, so I went on a search.)
"
When World War I broke out in 1914, Pearson volunteered for service as a medical orderly with the University of Toronto Hospital Unit. In 1915, he entered overseas service with the Canadian Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer with the rank of private, and was later commissioned as a lieutenant. During this period of service he spent two years in Egypt and in Greece. He also spent time in the Serbian Army as a corporal and a medical orderly.[7]"

I'll have to see if there is a copy of volume one of "Mike" (his memoirs) in the library to see how he describes his war years.  According to the scant details in his CEF service records (available digitally from LAC), Pearson did serve in the CAMC during WW1 and was with No. 4 Canadian General Hospital (University of Toronto) at Salonika.  According to one comment in a letter that discussed commissioning Private Pearson, he had spent his time since enlistment with the Quartermasters' Department of that unit - he was finally promoted to A/Cpl shortly before being sent off in 1917 for officer training.  Such would have been entirely consistent with how regiments and corps were managed back then.  With a few exceptions, all ranks and occupations within a regiment or corps were filled by individuals belonging to (and badged as) that corps.  So (unless "Mike" describes his CAMC service differently), suggestions that he spent his war years as a "stretcher bearer" or a "Serbian Corporal" may be gilding the lily a bit.  Being a "supply tech" (medical or otherwise) was just as honourable and necessary.

Links to the two digital files at LAC
http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=pdf&app=CEF&id=7688-15
http://central.bac-lac.gc.ca/.item/?op=pdf&app=CEF&id=B7688-S015
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Offline StygianFire

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Re: A forgotten soldier on a forgotten front
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2018, 15:54:44 »
Very interesting documents on the service of Lester B

Offline StygianFire

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Re: A forgotten soldier on a forgotten front
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2018, 15:59:07 »
Very interesting documents on the service of Lester B. Pearson.  I, being a young and modernity educated sod was unable to read the handwritten letter. Thankfully there was much pertinent information in the rest of the documents. I'll keep an eye on this thread to see if there are any further developments.

Offline Blackadder1916

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Re: A forgotten soldier on a forgotten front
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2018, 01:25:27 »
I'll have to see if there is a copy of volume one of "Mike" (his memoirs) in the library to see how he describes his war years.  . . .

Got "Mike" from the library.  Volume 1 deals with the years 1897-1948, one chapter (pages 19 to 38 of 295) specifically with his service in WW1.  He does mention drilling as a stretcher bearer (as well as learning to salute) during the short couple of weeks between his enlistment and shipment of the U of T hospital unit overseas to England from where they were sent to Egypt and then on to Salonika.  While Pte Pearson did not undertake what most envision as "stretcher bearer duties" with units engaged in combat, he did have occasion to work as a typical CAMC orderly both in England and overseas.

I've extracted a few paragraphs that discuss his medical service.  The first one is from the portion of the chapter dealing with the months that the hospital was in England and the other two from his discussion of his time in Salonika.

Quote
     The next two or so months passed quickly.  They were full of new sights, new activities, new experiences, and new revelations.  One of these latter related to my own role in the war.  I had no doubt it would be infinitesimal, but I thought it would be exciting.  In my innocence and from my impressions of G.A. Henry and other war stories for boys, I expected to be sent quickly to the trenches, rescuing wounded in no man's land with that calm courage that warranted, even if it did not receive, a Victoria Cross.  The reality was very different; I became a night orderly at the camp hospital.   . . .
 
. . .

     I personally was faring well and thriving physically.  My incompetence in giving first aid, or later care, to a sick or wounded soldier, had been recognized.  Through friendly relations, going back to prewar days with a few senior officers and more important, with some sergeants, I was given a cushy job in the quartermaster stores.  This was a happy change for me and gave my two brothers in combat service an excuse to address me in their infrequent communications as 'Dear Fighting Grocer'.  In this honourable military post I gave service far beyond the call of duty, for I wanted to make sure that I would not lose my new post.  As long as I was with a hospital unit, I knew where I was most qualified to operate.  It certainly was not in an operating tent.  I had already been exposed to that possibility and muffed my opportunity by fainting dead away at the first gruesome incision.  That was no way to win a medal for gallantry.

     The army could not advance and win the war.  It would not withdraw and get us out of that particular war, out of disease, boredom and mounting frustration.  This growing malaise was not cured by my own personal fortunate lot, by the comradeship of good friends, by the games we played and the fun we had off duty.  It was increased to the point of being intolerable by the fact that my college friends were falling in France, while I was safe and comfortable among my quartermaster stores.  My older brother, soon to be severely wounded, was with his battery on the Somme; my younger brother was soon to arrive in England as a gunner.  So I must get back and join the fighting services.  Moreover, I was now nineteen years old, so my parents could no longer use the argument of infancy.  What to do?





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