Many of the men who lived and worked at Glenbow later enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Canada’s army that served in the First World War. One of these volunteers was Frederick (Fred) Wall, an English-born stonecutter. However, Fred fought to save lives, not take them.

In 1909, Fred arrived at Glenbow Quarry. During his leisure time, he provided music for community dances and played football (soccer to us). In 1911, his family joined him at Glenbow, but in the next two years, his wife and oldest daughter died, and he gave up his newborn for adoption.

Fred faced increasing adversity. The stone industry collapsed, economic depression set in, and war broke out. In 1915, he enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, drawing on experience he had gained in his years with St. John’s Ambulance in England. Initially his two young sons were cared for by another Glenbow family, the Andertons, and then the boys moved to Calgary’s Salvation Army Children’s Home. By joining the CEF, Fred was able to provide a steady wage for his sons’ upkeep.

As the war dragged on, combat became more brutal. In May 1918, an unprecedented assault on a hospital 45 miles from the front was carried out by a relay of German planes. On the night of May 19th, the air-raid dropped incendiary and high explosive bombs on the No. 1 Canadian General Hospital outside Étaples, France, where Fred was stationed. The sleeping quarters of both the men and the Nursing Sisters were attacked, as were the hospital wards.

The official report read: “The portion of the staff and personnel that had escaped injury immediately attended to the needs of those who had been hit.…The devotion to duty with absolute disregard to personal safety, that was exhibited by all ranks is very highly commendable.” Among the dead were 51 enlisted men and officers, 1 nursing sister, and 8 patients. The wounded numbered 46 enlisted men and officers, 6 nursing sisters (2 of whom died of their injuries), and 31 patients. Although Fred did not suffer physical injury, his mental anguish must have been extreme.

Fred Wall is just one example of the many members of the Canadian Army Medical Corps who volunteered to serve the needs of others during the War to End All Wars. Placing their own safety at risk for the greater good, they saved many lives. The selfless dedication of medical professionals to providing health care continues today, as we have witnessed during the current crisis. All medical staff, past and present, deserve our gratitude and support. 

Tips for Researching Ancestors Who Served in WWI

Old photos can provide clues to your ancestor’s service. For example, Fred’s rank as Lance Corporal is depicted on his sleeve by a single chevron with the point down. You can find information about uniforms, ranks, and badges as well as many other aspects of WWI (and WWII).

The date for Fred’s photo was derived by combining the information about his rank with details from his service record. Digitized personnel records of Soldiers of the First World War can be accessed online at Library and Archives Canada. You can find a variety of clues to your ancestor’s service (and family) in documents such as attestation papers, casualty records, pay records, medal cards, and record of service form.

This article was originally printed in THE BERGEN NEWS and is being reprinted with permission.

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