Coincidence on a Train

Coincidence.

What series of events need to come together to create one? Many people attribute unseen forces to coincidence, and some dismiss that, by chance alone, there is no way a series of events or connections can occur without some unseen force conspiring to create the event that seems but impossible to have occurred. There is an innate need for humans to bring order and patterns to their lives and many dismiss that coincidence can truly happen. There must be some reason for the event happening.

In a Discover article the author relates how, when searching for some automotive related memorabilia for his son’s bedroom, he happens on a license plate that is full of meaning to him. The year of the plate was the same year as his father’s birth. The numbers of the plate represented several other aspects of his life. By recognizing these patterns, he felt that the license plate had some stronger connection to his past and his family history.

But some coincidences cannot be explained and will forever remain a mystery. In this case, it can be.

There have been several men of the 18th Battalion that experienced coincidences related to their families, their service, and other elements of their lives.

Lieutenant W.G. Worth. Circa 1915-16. Source: Family member.

For Lieutenant Walter Garlick Worth his story has an explanation and is not a mystery.

Lieutenant Work enlisted in Peterborough with the 93rd Battalion and came from a distinguished business family that ran a yarn factory in town. With his enlistment his service took him to England with the 93rd and this unit was broken up to provide replacements for other units. Initially assigned to the 19th Battalion after the losses that battalion suffered during the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (September 15/16, 1916) at the Somme, he was transferred to the 18th Battalion November 10, 1916.

He served with the 18th Battalion until he was wounded during the Attack on April 9, 1917, at Vimy Ridge. He suffered a GSW to his face and he was shipped to England for treatment. He had a long convalescence as his wounds to his face were severe and was attached to the Canadian High Commission in London, England starting on November 20, 1917. It was on a trip to London that the coincidence happened.

Peterborough Examiner. January 31, 1918. Page 1.

In a news clipping he relates, in a letter to his brother, the following:

“I had company down to London with a Bradford officer going back off leave, and a perfect stranger to me. What do you think of this for a coincidence? As he took down his shoulder pack when we approached London I suddenly noticed my name on it. ‘Lieut. W.G. Worth, 18th Canadians, France.’ I stared at it for a moment, and then asked him his that was his name.

’No,’ he said, ‘my batman picked it up out of some salvaged equipment.’

It turned out to be my own pack which I threw off my back on Vimy Ridge when I got hit.”

The news clipping was published on January 31, 1918, so Lieutenant Worth is probably relating an event that happened 3-weeks or a month prior to its publication.

One can imagine Worth returning from New Years Even weekend in the country with friends or family and sitting in a first- or second-class rail cab with at least one other officer. One wonders what thoughts went through his mind when he saw the familiar, but thought forever lost, pack? The letter does not record if the Bradford officer offered to return the pack to its original owner, and as there is no reference to this one assumption is that officer departed with Worth’s former property.

A linkage can be made between the two lieutenants. Worth was wounded and lost his pack on April 9, 1917. As part of the effort to keep costs down there was a well-organized salvage operation that was part of the standard operating procedure of the CEF and other Imperial forces. These salvage operations would collect, classify, repair, recondition, and put into service clothing, kits, arms and armament that had been discarded on the field of battle.[1]

The 2/6th Battalion of the Bradfords participated in the Arras offensive near Bullecourt and it was probably during this time that the batman for the Bradford found Worth’s pack and gave it to that officer to use.

This is not the only coincidence to involve an article of kit for a soldier of the 18th Battalion.

Lobby Card. English: “Copyright 1935, RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.”, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sterling Carl Campbell was a military advisor for The Informer (1935). While looking for uniforms for this movie he found his haversack with his name and company designation. That haversack’s discovery was an even longer chain of coincidence as he was working in Los Angeles, California at the time of this discovery 17-years after the signing of the Versailles Treaty. The pack apparently makes a cameo appearance in the film and is readily recognizable. One wonders how many 18th Battalion or 4th Canadian Brigade men saw this film and noticed this haversack?

Coincidences exist. Their causal effects are often unknown but they happen with regularity to those people that are keen and active observers, are curious, and communicate with people, like the Bradford officer, that they do not know. Humans can be surprisingly connected and Lieutenant Worth’s experience is but one example of many that occurred to the men of the 18th.

One more coincidence – Walter Garlick Worth moved to Los Angeles after the war and opened a worsted yarn spinning plant. I wonder if he ever bumped into Sterling Carl Campbell?


[1] There are several references to salvage in the 18th Battalion. An example of this is an entry from the May 1917 War Diary for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th relates “Position as yesterday. During this tour much valuable work was done in improving defences, wiring, and deepening the trenches, also in the collection of salvage which was spread over the whole area. Each company established a dump and rivalled each other in the collection of the S.S.A. [small arms ammunition] Bombs, and Equipment etc.”

2 thoughts on “Coincidence on a Train

Add yours

  1. Good stories. Capt W T Cheyne former 149th was a salvage officer and this was often the case where lost kit was identified.

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