Official history of the canadian forces in the great war

НазваниеOfficial history of the canadian forces in the great war
Дата конвертации09.02.2013
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devotion of the soldier gave place to murmurings and dis

content. In Canada the results were deplorable. The pub

lic mind was disturbed by speeches and writings that were

always incomplete and sometimes false. The worst things

were surmised, and the public came to believe that to the

inevitable hardship of the soldier was added the cruelty of

medical incompetence and neglect. Nothing is more sub

versive of morale in civil or military life. To that extent aid

and comfort was brought to the enemy.

The history of the Canadian medical services cannot

be written apart from the history of the Canadian army.

It cannot be written at all except as a component and in

tegral part of the history of the medical services in the

whole expeditionary force. The present subject, therefore,


can be partial; it must never be impertinent to the general

theme. But even this partial field is wide enough for one

volume: the British medical history when complete will

occupy twelve; the German nine volumes containing 5350

pages. Apart from matters which once were controversial

and now in the lapse of time have adjudged themselves,

there is enough in the Canadian effort alone to instruct and

interest the reader for all time.

Previous to the outbreak of war, the Canadian army

medical services consisted of 20 officers, 5 nursing sisters,

and 102 other ranks in the regular permanent force. There

was in addition a militia organization comprising on paper

at least 6 cavalry field ambulances, 15 field ambulances,

and 2 clearing hospitals, as well as medical officers detailed

for each of the combatant units of the militia. These

militia units underwent field training for a period of two

weeks each summer ; they had lectures, drills, and element

ary training in armouries throughout the country during

the winter months.

On the outbreak of war in August, 1914, from this

small nucleus of regular permanent officers and militia

within a month was organized a regimental service for

every unit of the Canadian expeditionary force to the num

ber of 30 medical officers, 3 field ambulances, 1 casualty

clearing station, 2 stationary, and 2 general hospitals, 1

sanitary section, and 1 advanced depot of medical stores.

As the Canadian army developed there was subse

quently organized for overseas alone, in addition to this

initial medical service, 1 cavalry field ambulance, 10 field

ambulances, 4 sanitary sections, 3 casualty clearing stations,

4 stationary and 14 general hospitals, 7 special and 8 con

valescent hospitals, 2 laboratory units, 3 depots of medical

stores, and 2 hospital ships, as well as regimental medical

officers, medical boards, and a training school. This


service required a total personnel overseas of 1,528 officers,

1,901 nursing sisters, and 15,624 other ranks, exclusive of

reinforcements. This personnel, in addition to the field

medical units, casualty clearing stations, and hospital ships,

operated hospital accommodation with a total capacity of

36,609 beds. Medical service was provided for 418,052

troops overseas, and hospital treatment for sick and

wounded to the number of 539,690 cases, of which 144,606

were casualties in battle. Seventy medical units were main

tained overseas.

In Canada the effort was equally great. Sixty-five

medical units were in operation with a capacity of 12,531

beds, to which 221,945 patients were admitted. The total

of all units overseas and in Canada was, therefore, 135,

with accommodation for 49,140 patients at one time; and

761,635 actually occupied the beds, without taking account

of admissions in Siberia and St. Lucia.

The Canadian medical service never failed; it never

was embarrassed from any inherent cause, either when it

operated in reliance upon itself alone or in those larger

operations where it necessarily depended upon the co

operation of the British service. In the praise of fidelity,

endurance, and courage that was bestowed so justly and

so generously upon the Canadian Corps the medical ser

vice had a just and generous share. Sir Douglas Haig,

the oommander-in-chief, in his despatch of May 19th,

1916, affirmed that all branches of the medical service

deserved the highest commendation ; the sick rate had been

consistently low; there had been no serious epidemic; the

wounded had been promptly and efficiently dealt with,

and their -evacuation was rapidly acomplished. The

Canadian medical service was singled out by name for

the especial notice of His Majesty as having "displayed

marked efficiency and devotion to duty."


In his report of operations for 1918, Lieut.-General

Sir A. W. Currie, the Corps commander was able to say,

The devotion of the medical personnel has been, as

always, worthy of every praise." (Report O.M.F.C., 1918,

p. 184.) To allocate or receive that praise anew is no part

of the present task, nor is it possible to follow in detail

the operations of every one of the medical units by which

this commendation was earned, that would be to descend

from general history to regimental record and personal


War is a simple art, but it is based on knowledge. In

the beginning there was in Canada, in the militia and in

the permanent force, a soldierly leaven preserved from

the olden times. Although neutralized at first, it retained

its vigour and leavened the whole mass. In the end there

was, and yet remains, incorporate in those who served, a

demobilized body of military knowledge. In the medical

profession alone are many men, themselves learned and

skilled surgeons, prepared by experience in the rough field;

enlightened so that they could find their way in a new

and difficult situation; educated so that they could take

a rational decision; with a judgement .so trained that they

could at least see a problem in its simplicity. They have

obtained an intellectual discipline under a system adminis

tered with impartiality and knowledge, where every sub

ordinate was loyal, disinterested, sincere; they have ac

quired that submission to common action which goes by

the name of discipline.

With the present untried political institutions under

which the world is for a long time doomed to live, this

contest between the civilian and the soldier is bound to

increase. In the complete success of one or the other

disaster lies. Democracy must choose either the soldier

of its own flesh and blood, whom it can inspire and control,



or the unrestrained military spirit which may grow up

from within by neglect, or will come from without as an

invader. By fostering this ancient body of knowledge

which was so hardly won, and so quickly disdained, Canada

can best preserve the balance between warlike ardour and

civil ardour; between those who, in the formula of Croce,

believe that war with its violence, danger, adventure, and

triumph will always tempt men; and those who have con

vinced themselves that war is merely the sign of a bygone


It would be a waste of time and a mis-spending <

public funds if one engaged upon a work of history were

to fill the allotted pages with a mere chronology of events

and personal eulogy of those who had part in them. His

tory is something more than record and something less

than praise; it demands selection and judgement, judging

events as if they were far in the past, and men as if they

were already dead; it implies censure as a warning, lest

those who read may be misled. History is for the guid

ance of that posterity which follows and finds itself involved

in historical circumstances, which always recur in identical

form; for history is the master to which all must go-

history with its pensive and melancholy face.





War is the father of all things, 1 even of medicine, mili

tary and civil too. When the Imperial troops retired from

Canada a remnant of surgeons remained in the country to

continue the military tradition of organization and order,

the Hippocratic tradition of sound learning, safe experience,

and humane practice. From this root grew, and still grow,

the great schools of Canadian medicine. 2 The profession

and the service were prepared when war broke out in

August, 1914.

The Canadian medical service took form in the North-

West campaign of 1885, under the direction of Lieut.-

Colonel Darby Bergin, M.D. He was at the time member

of Parliament for Cornwall, and officer commanding the

Stormont and Glengarry battalion; he had served at

Laprairie in 1863 as captain, and in the " Fenian Raid "

as major. He held the highest medical appointments in

Ontario, and was a practising surgeon since 1847. On

April 1, 1885, he was selected by Sir Adolphe Caron, Min

ister of Militia, to organize the medical service, with the

status of surgeon-general. He chose for his deputy Sir

Thomas Roddick of Montreal, "one of the most dis

tinguished Canadian surgeons, young, full of vigour, of

powerful physique, heeding no fatigue, and a splendid

horseman." 3 Dr. Bergin entered upon his duties with


83635 2j


extreme celerity, and in two weeks created a service which

elicited the highest praise. He set forth the principles

which should govern such a service, and those principles

found their fulfilment in the present war. His mastery

of detail was remarkable, and his prevision acute; to these

qualities he added discipline, energy, and resource. The

medical management of the campaign was a complete


Twelve years afterwards a department was cre

ated with a director-general at its head. The old

Imperial connexion was maintained. The first director,

Colonel Hubert Neilson, was trained at Netley; he served

in the Fenian Raid of 1870, in the Red River Expedition,

in the Russo-Turkish war, and under Sir Garnet Wolsley in

the Soudan; he was detailed to the British army for two

years ; he studied the medical services of the United States

and of European countries, and was stationed at many

places in Canada. His successor, Sir Joseph Eugene Fiset,

had a most distinguished medical, military, and political

career. He studied at Aldershot and served in the South

African war; he continued in the permanent service, and

was director-general from 1903 to 1906, surgeon-general

with rank of Major-General in 1914, and deputy minister

of militia, under seven ministers from 1906 to 1924, when

he was elected to parliament. His successor in turn,

Colonel Guy Carleton Jones, had also an intimate ac

quaintance with Imperial methods. He had his profes

sional training at King s College, his military training at

Aldershot, and field service in South Africa.

During these later years Sir Alfred Keogh was in com

mand of the medical services in England, and developed the

plan for a unity of method. He suggested that Canada,

Australia, and South Africa should create in the Dominions

medical services similar to that existing in England, organ-


ized and equipped to the same pattern. The Indian service

was made to conform. In England the territorial force was

brought into the scheme with the general result that in

all countries of the Empire the unity of the profession, mili

tary and civil, was preserved for a common purpose. To

the territorial force was assigned the duty of organizing

general hospitals where medical schools already existed,

with a staff available for duty in the emergency of war. 4

In Canada the military and civil sides of the profession

were even more closely joined. Indeed they had never

been separated. Men who were destined for the permanent

force studied medicine in the same schools with those who

were to be civil practitioners, and followed special courses,

as those who aspired to any other form of practice. After

receiving military appointments they attended general

meetings of medical associations, and in papers presented

the military aspect of medicine. In 1912 a special camp

of the medical service was held in London at the same

time as the meeting of the Canadian Medical Association,

and the military side of medical work was brought to the

notice of a very large and influential number of the medical

profession from all parts of Canada. 5

Schools of military medicine were authorized at Ottawa,

Montreal, Toronto, London, St. Johns, Halifax, Winnipeg,

and Esquimalt, where details were studied, and the annual

camps left free for field operations.

On the civilian side practitioners were equally eager.

They identified themselves with local units; they also

qualified at Aldershot. The annual meeting of the asso

ciation of officers of the medical services in February 1914

was presided over by a civilian, Dr. J. T. Fotheringham, and

it was addressed by Sir William Leishman, professor of

pathology at the Army Medical College, London, upon anti

typhoid inoculation, the subject so closely connected with


his name and work. A plan was organized for the develop

ment from civil sources of voluntary aid to the militia
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