RMR Letter Describes ‘Splendid’ Hospital Treatment in 1915

Tuesday, May 11, 1915

In billets, Bailleul (Le Nouveau Monde)

The Battalion War Diarist wrote for this day: “Bn. Headquarters visited by Lt.-Gen. Sir H. Smith-Dorrien and Major-Gen. J. W. Carson.  Gen. Smith-Dorrien congratulated O.C. on part the 14th Battalion had taken with other Canadian units in the fighting from April 22nd, stating that the Canadian Division had undoubtedly saved the situation”. [1]

THIS DAY IN RMR HISTORY: “A feature of the Bailleul period which many Royal Montrealers recall was provided by the issue of Irish butter.  Butter had been scarce for some time and the men received round, gold-lettered cans of ‘Guaranteed Finest Irish Butter’, with unconcealed satisfaction.  Buttered toast!  Fried eggs and butter! Eagerly the cans were rushed to the cooks, who were ordered to waste no time in putting the contents to use.  Meanwhile, an individual greedier, or perhaps it would be more charitable to say, hungrier, than the rest, was digging at the cover of his can with a Lee-Enfield bayonet.  Soon the point penetrated and simultaneously visions of golden butter faded.  From the tin there escaped, like soda-water suddenly released, a sizzling fluid, foul smelling and horrible.  ‘If that’s Irish butter’, remarked one N.C.O. disappointedly, ‘thank God we have no Irish cheese’.”  [2]

11 May 15“An interesting letter was yesterday received by Rev. Dr. Rexford, principal of the Diocesan Theological College, from his son, Corporal V.G. Rexford, who was wounded ‘somewhere at the front,’ but is fortunately now recovering in an English hospital. No word until now had been received by Rev. Rexford as to where his son was, however, he now has the satisfaction of knowing his son is out of danger. Corporal Rexford wrote: “I have been in a hospital, an Indian Government donation for the war, situated three miles out of Boulogne, and I expect to leave this afternoon for England. There I shall be sent to some hospital, possibly in London, and have the bullet extracted, so I do not think it likely that I shall be back in the trenches for a month. I must admit that this is a mighty welcome change to the last lot of trenches we were in.

The bullet that caught me was either shot from a German aeroplane, which was passing at the time, or a return shot fired at it. It entered my back, just over the left hip, as I was bending down talking to some fellows in a dugout. It passed through to the inside of my left leg, where it is now lodged, some six or seven inches above the knee. There was very little blood, and I suffered very little, being most carefully handled.

I was wounded at 5 p.m., and as soon as it was dark, at 8 p.m., I was carried a mile and a half to our dressing station. From there I took the motor ambulance fifteen miles, to another dressing station, where I rested until morning. Then the motor ambulance again for fifteen miles to the station, where I was put on board the most luxuriously fitted train I have ever seen, a proper hospital train – where there as an orderly and a nurse to look after me.

There were 143 wounded on this train, which took us to Boulogne, and as all the hospitals there were full I was sent on to this Indian hospital three miles out, for a rest. Altogether I passed through three dressing stations and two hospitals in getting here. I cannot speak too highly of the care taken of us.

Of course, there are hundreds of wounded coming down every day, and so everything has to run smoothly or there would be an awful blockade, so they have a wonderful system of transport.

I do not suffer any, but am unable to sit up, so have to write this on my back. My chief trouble is that I am starving. Two slices of bread and a cup of tea do not suit me, but I am mighty lucky when I see all the fellows around me. The nurses are all fine, and brighten up wherever they go, and the doctors are a fine lot of young fellows.’

No further information has been received by Rev. Dr. Rexford as to where his son is, but he knows he is in an English hospital and is rapidly recovering from his bullet wound.”[4]

After recovering in England from the wound described in his letter, above, Corporal Rexford rejoined the 14th Bn. and was commissioned as a Lieutenant. At the battle of Mount Sorrell, June 2nd 1916 he was again wounded, suffering injuries to his jaw, an arm and a leg. He survived the war and was married in 1938 at Hamilton Ontario. He died in 1972 and is buried with his family in Knowlton Cemetery, Knowlton, Quebec.

A NEW C.S.M. FOR THE RMR: On this day Sergeant W.A. Bonshor, a future R.S.M. of the Battalion, was promoted in the field to Company Sergeant-Major.

William Arthur Bonshor, R.S.M., (Capt.) – (#25546) was born 12 Feb 1877 at Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England. He served for seven years in the British Grenadier Guards, taking part in the Soudan Campaign of 1878, and participated in the Battle of Omdurman that year, for which he received the Queen’s Medal and the Khedive’s Medal. After marrying Florence Dudley in England in early 1905 they emigrated to Canada. When war broke out in 1914 he enlisted with the 1st Regt. Canadian Grenadier Guards, and was posted to the 14th Bn. R.M.R. as a Sergeant on the formation of this unit.

Bonshor was promoted to Company Sergeant-Major in the field on 11 May 1915, and to Warrant Officer Class 1 in December 1915. In January 1916 he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal “For conspicuous gallantry on numerous occasions; he many times, with total disregard for his own safety, led men to positions which would afford them more safety. His bravery, resource and splendid example have given the greatest encouragement to all ranks with him.” [5] In addition, in the same month, he was Mentioned in Despatches. Shortly after that, on 14 February 1916 he was promoted in the field to Regimental Sergeant-Major, succeeding the injured R.S.M. John M. Stephenson.

A few months later, in May 1916, Bonshor was commissioned as a temporary Lieutenant, and sometime thereafter was transferred to the Canadian Army Pay Corps where he was promoted to the temporary rank of Captain effective 1 Dec 1917, which rank he held at the end of the war.

Captain Bonshor’s wife Florence died at Montreal in 1935, and he died at the Christie Street Hospital, Toronto, on 01 September 1947. He was buried in the Veteran’s Plot of Prospect Cemetery, Toronto.

[1]  War Diary, 14th Canadian Battalion, The Royal Montreal Regiment, May 11, 1915.  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e044/e001089732.jpg
[2]  R.C. Featherstonhaugh, The Royal Montreal Regiment 14th Battalion C.E.F. 1914-1925, Montreal, The Gazette Printing Co., Ltd., 1927, pg. 53.
[3]  “Corp.V.G. Rexford Tells of Wounds,”  The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, Tuesday, May 11, 1915, pg. 4, col. 2.
[4]  Ibid.
[5]  The London Gazette, 4th Supplement 29438, January 11, 1916, pg. 615.

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