An article in the December 21, 1915 edition of the Galt Daily Reported relates the first casualty from former Galt Reporter employees serving in the war, Private John Hollins, had been wounded during service with the 18th Battalion.
Private Hollins enlisted on November 4, 1914, at Galt with the 18th Battalion and gave his trade as a butcher, though later references in his service record list him as a “grocer” and a “greengrocer”. His next-of-kin was recorded as his father William Hollins, who resided on West Main Street in Galt. He assigned his pay to a Mrs. L. Williamson residing at 10 Crombie Street and would later have it noted to contact Mr. Albert Williamson if anything happened to him.[i] He was shipped to London, Ontario and assigned to “A” Company and trained with the Battalion and followed it to England and then to active service on the Continent in Belgium, where he was wounded in the Ypres sector.
The story describes when he had his first need for medical treatment during his service career. He had was admitted to 5th Canadian Field Ambulance on November 23, 1915, for peritonitis, as well as an injury to his left leg and ankle from a roll of barbed wire falling on him after a shell exploded near him. The peritonitis was amended to appendicitis when he arrived at No. 2 Casualty Clearing Station the next day. At that time, it was noted that he had contusion to the left leg and these medical conditions required treatment at No. 13 General Hospital at Boulogne. He arrived at this hospital on November 25, 1915, and he treated and healed, returning to his unit on January 17, 1916.
This wound took him out of front-line service, and he was re-assigned to the transport section of the Battalion where he was serving when he was wounded a second time. He was injured at St. Eloi with a fractured nose, a wound to his right ear, and suffering from shell shock. A medical report stated: “Was blown off his horse and rendered unconscious by shell fire at St. Eloi on April 27, 1916. He was found hanging from his stirrup by his left boot.” Another, earlier, medical report describes this event in more detail:
“On about April 26/1916 was going up with rations to the front, the road was being shelled, patient galloped to get away, a shell exploded to his left fragments of which struck him in face and left side of head, was thrown from horse in an unconscious state.”
A notation October 16, 1916, in his medical record introduces a further condition he is suffering from, shell shock, no doubt in recognition of the effects of the shell explosion from the previous record. A medical report dated February 21, 1918, relates:
“Some days feels fairly well; on others feels miserable, with pains in the head, lost appetite, general nervousness. Is easily excited, gets out of breath for slight cause easily and gives a history of eight or nine attacks of sudden pain in the head followed by unconsciousness. These attacks come at any time and without warning, no frothing of mouth or biting of tongue accompanies these attacks. Is nervous in his manner, and hands shake while he is talking. Does not get to sleep easily as he had a tendency to keep thinking and “living over again” his experiences at the front, despite his efforts to forget them.”
After medical treatment and duty in England, he was married and this was approved on February 14, 1918, Valentine’s Day. He was discharged on August 23, 1918, as “Being no longer physically fit for War Service,” due to a flat left foot and shells shock. Hollins would begin his civilian life at 2 Barandon Street, Notting Hill, W10 with his wife Mary. He appears to have lived the rest of his life in England, passing away on there on August 29, 1962, at the age of 66.
[i] The relation between Hollins and the Williamsons is unknown. Most soldiers assigned their pay to a living relative. He would later assign his pay to his wife.