Pte. Arnott's Return to Canada
As IKA was about to embark from Avonmouth, England on the hospital ship H.S. Neuralia, he may have reflected back on his hospital experience. The date was June 3, 1918, he had just spent over 4 months in military hospitals. During that time he went through the complete process that any sick or wounded man would endure. Regimental Aid Station, Casualty Clearing Station, Stationary Hospital and finally two General Hospitals. The horrors he must have seen.
The Great War extracted a tremendous toll on the minds and souls of many men. In these hospitals would be found those who were gassed, shell shocked, missing limbs, blind, or those that were just plain tired of living. IKA would be there to see some of this, plus he was fresh out of the killing fields of France and Flanders. How this affected him the rest of his life would only be speculation, for he talked very little of his experiences in the war later in life. The only ones that really understood were those that were there, his 'brothers' of the 2nd Battalion.
The Neuralia, arrived in Halifax on June 14, 1918 at which time IKA was given a two week furlough (leave) with pay. Perhaps he returned to Windsor to see his mother and father, whom he had not seen in over two years. By the first of July he was back in London, Ontario. During the month he spent at the L.M.C.H (London Military Convalescent Hospital) he was given "Service Chevrons 3 Blue" which would be attached to his uniform to indicate length of service.
After his discharge from the hospital, he was sent to work in the No. 1 District Depot (London, Ontario) pay office. On the 7th of Sept. he was promoted to acting corporal, with pay. All seemed fine until the 6th Of October, when IKA was admitted to the C.H.M.H. (Carling Heights Military Hospital) in London with influenza!
A world wide epidemic of influenza appeared as the Great War was winding down. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 would eventually kill 21 million people world-wide, including 50,000 Canadians. It was brought into Canada as the men fighting overseas began to return home. It demonstrated a perverse tendency to kill the young and hearty. With a population of 7 million people at the time, Canada was particularly hard hit. The country had just lost close to 60,000 men on the field of battle and would now lose 50,000 of its people to the Spanish Flu. That was about 1.5% of its total population. The social and economic disruption to the country was felt for a number of years.
By the 13th of October, IKA was deathly ill, his fever had peaked at 104.4 F and his weight was down to 115lbs. To complicate matters, he came down with pneumonia 3 days later. Perhaps as a quarantine measure, IKA was sent to G.M.C.H. (Guelph Military Convalescent Hospital) in Guelph on November 11, 1918.
November 11th was a very historic day, for it was on this day the Armistice was signed in Europe, thus bringing the Great War to an end. "Lest We Forget" it is also the day we take a minute's silence to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice in the 2 World Wars and Korea.
By mid December, IKA was well enough to return to C.H.M.H. in London. His health was returning as was his weight, 128lbs. On January 8, 1919, IKA was returned to London. Five days later, after being declared 'Medically Unfit', IKA was honourably discharged on January 13, 1919.
IKA had dodged his final 'bullet'. Here was a man, who truly had nine lives.
1.) He survived the German subs aboard the 'Olympic' on his way to Europe.
2.) He survived the Battle of Fresnoy.
3.) He survived the Battle of Hill 70.
4.) He survived the Battle of Passchendaele.
5.) He did not get gangrene from his shrapnel wound.(Specifics unkown) Many thousands
did and died a slow and painful death.
6.) He survived his bout with Acute Rheumatic Fever.
7.) He survived another trip back across the Atlantic.
8.) He survived the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-19.
9.) He survived his bout of pneumonia.
IKA would go on to live until he was 87 years old. Quite a medical feat for a man who beat the odds during his military service, but also made it through a sickly childhood and suffered a serious stroke in his late 60's. IKA passed away in September of 1982. It's ironic to note that Metropolitan Hospital, the last hospital he was ever admitted to, (he spent some time here, several years before his death) in Windsor, Ontario, is located on Lens Ave. This avenue is named after Lens, France. The Lens area was the scene of a number of bloody battles, in which the Canadians were involved. The 2nd Battalion spent so much of the war in this area, they began to look upon it as 'their own special preserve.' It was also in this area, IKA first reported sick in Janaury of 1918. With the exception of 2nd Battalion's march to Passchendaele (Nov. 1917), IKA spent all of his time with the 2nd Battalion in the area of Lens, France.
Like Lens Ave, the City of Windsor named a number of other avenues and boulevards after towns and villages of France and Belgium where Canadian blood was spilled. The area is in what is currently known as South Walkerville.
For a direct link to the author of this article, EMAIL TOM ARNOTT
Copyright © Tom Arnott, September, 1997.
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