This is the second in a series of posts exploring the service and life of 18th Battalion men buried in the Maritimes. The author visited the grave of a soldier in Nova Scotia during a visit to a family member and from that grew a desire to visit and honour these men, some of who residents of the Maritimes and due to the exigencies of military need were posted for active duty with the 18th Battalion.
In this case, this soldier was from Southwestern Ontario and moved to the region.
Once was not enough…
For some people given an experience like this man one would wonder why he would wish to return to active duty after he had been honourably discharged from duty bearing the wounds of his combat experience.
This is his story.
Joseph Kornowski enlisted first with the 18th Battalion on 3 November 1914. He then enlisted at London, Ontario on 3 September 1918.
His service record is an above average 118 pages. It outlines his service history in some detail and from it we can deduce some factual information and derive some of his experiences with reasonable certitude so we can give some idea of the experiences of this man.
He enlisted with the 18th Battalion indicating that his trade or calling was a hospital orderly, though a later medical document has his trade or calling as a sailor. He states he was born at Sventziang[i], Russia on 6 May 1893 making him 21-years old. His religious affiliation is as a Roman Catholic and on his second enlistment in 1918 he indicates he was born in Poland.
The now Private Kornowski begins his service with the 18th Battalion and service records show that during his service in Canada he has a clean record with no notations against him for any disciplinary actions or misconduct.
When he arrives in England his has some disciplinary issues. There is a note that he was transferred from “C” Company to the Base Company on 12 April 1915, just before the Battalion leaves for England. Once in England he goes Absent Without Leave (AWL) and forfeits a total of 4-day’s pay for two incidents of being AWL. He is admitted to hospital 5 July 1915 suffering from “pain in the inguinal region” and an issue regarding his urethra. He had been up to London a week prior and was “exposed to infection”[ii] while there. He was treated and discharged on 9 July 1915 and then transferred to the 48th Reserve Battalion and was not able to go to the Continent with the 18th Battalion when if left for active combat service on 14 September 1915. He caught up to his Battalion when he was transferred from the 48th Reserve Battalion at West Sandling to the 18th Battalion on 26 October 1915 and he arrived for duty with the 18th on 2 November 1915 in Ypres Sector, Belgium.
5-months later he is admitted to No. 6 Canadian Field Ambulance (CFA) for deafness 13 April 1916, and he is then transferred to No. 5 CFA the next day. The following day he transferred to No. 4 CFA admitted suffering from neurasthenia, a common diagnosis for what would be known as PTSD today. 2-days later he is transferred to Mont-de-Cats in transit to “N. Mid. Div.” Casualty Clearing Station, probably to assess if his condition warranted return for more intensive treatment in England. At that point it appears that the medical authorities felt some time at a Division Rest Station (DRS) would resolve his problem and he stayed at No. 4 CFA DRS and was discharged to duty on 24 April 1916.
Ariel photograph of the “Bluff”. 20 February 1916.
With his return to the 18th Battalion he would suffer a gunshot wound (GSW) on 8 June 1916 while the Battalion was in the front line at the “Bluff” near St. Elois. He was one of five men of the 18th wounded that day. Private Kornowski was wounded in the left foot and his wound required medical treatment. With his “blighty” he was sent to England via the Hospital Ship Cambria after a two-day stay at No. 14 General Hospital, Wimereux, France.
Once in England he was treated and after several visit to several military hospitals was finally declared fit for duty on 1 July 1916 and discharged on the 7th.
It took some time before he was healed enough for active service as it was not until 26 April 1917 that he arrived back in France at the Canadian Base Depot at Harve, France on his return to the 18th Battalion. He arrived to fight again on 6 June 1917, almost one-year since his wounding, while the Battalion was stationed in the rear at Barlin, France.
Barely a month would pass and on 18 July 1917 Private Kornowski would suffer a GSW to his left hand, listed as severe leading to a fracture of his phalanx. He was also suffering from the effects of gas and was transported to England aboard the HMHS (AT) Western Australia.
A medical case sheet noted on 31 August 1917 that he had been gassed “in front of Lens” and arrived at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Whalley on the 26th, then transferred to Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Monks Horton, Kent on the date of the report. The doctor was concerned that, beside the wounded hand, his patient was suffering from bronchial distress and from photophobia – eye discomfort to bright light.
In September 1917 his photophobia got worse and his hand was healing but it was noted on 27 October 1917 that the Private was complaining of pains in his chest.
He was admitted Bushy Park ward on 1 November 1917, and he was diagnosed with Disorderly Action of the Heart (DAH) and he was subject to a series of test in order to determine if his treatment was helping his condition. The medical report summarizes:
“D.A.H. General condition only fair. He has not improved much under graduated exercises. Still complains of Dyspnoea, Palpitation, Fatigue, Vertigo. Precordial Pain, and chronic headache. He has slight degree of flat foot and complains of pain in post tibia muscles. No cardiac enlargement. No murmurs. Pulse average 92. Boarded Biii 9 [Capable of employment on sedentary work as Clerks, Storemen, Batmen, Cooks, Orderlies, etc., or, if skilled tradesmen, in their trades.][iii]. Likely to be raised in Category withing six months.”
With his condition not likely to improve in a reasonable time to be sent back to active-duty Private Kornowski was send to Canadian Discharge Depot, Buxton.
Returning to Canada he was discharged at London, Ontario on 28 February 1918 and his conduct was rated as “fair”. His medical report on discharge states he, “Complains of general nervousness, sleeplessness, and defective memory and loss of appetite.” His dyspnoea is not evident under moderate exercise.”
The now civilian Joseph Kornowski had some plans after his military service. Wounded twice and out of Canadian military service he has planning to live at 14 Chestnut Street, Smoki (possibly Shamokin), Pennsylvania. There is a notation of a Joseph Kornowski, Polish, born in 1893 entering Port Huron, Michigan on 24 February 1918. Perhaps he stayed in the U.S.A. and returned to London to complete his discharge forms as they appear to have his signature on them.
But this newly released civilian was not done. The war was not over, and other political forces were changing the outlook of the nations involved in the great conflict. Perhaps Joseph Kornowski had a sense that the Russian Revolution would threaten the nascent existence of Poland when the war ended. He would have a chance if he re-enlisted to participate with the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force which was authorized 12 August 1918.
Thus, on 3 September 1918 he enlisted at London, Ontario indicating his present address was the Great War Veterans Club, Windsor, Ontario. He listed his sister, Mrs. H. Romanowska of 1122 West Erie Street, Chicago, Illinois as his next-of-kin. On the 5th he completes his will leaving his estate to his sister. His trade or calling was that of a stationary fireman.
As chance would have it the major effort in recruiting this force took place in British Columbia and with the waning interest in a sustained action against the Bolsheviks the Canadian Government wound down this unit resulting in Acting-Sergeant Kornowski’s discharge due to demobilization at London, Ontario on 11 February 1919. The service records for his service are not present in his service file but he was appointed as Acting-Sergeant, and this is reflected in his discharge certificate, and he was serving with the 1st Canadian Garrison Regiment when he left the service.
In the intervening time from his second enlistment, he met a woman and married. She was a resident of London, Ontario where they most likely met. He was now partnered with a Polish woman named Bessie. Bessie is recorded of going across the border at Port Huron, Michigan to visit a friend while her husband was in hospital to collect some personal belongings and money.
Sometime after his discharge the Kornowski’s moved to St. John, New Brunswick. It is not presently clear why they moved there but on 20 September 1920 Joseph Kornowski was to die at St. John County Hospital, St. John New Brunswick from tuberculosis and his death was attributed to his service.
He is buried at Saint Joseph’s Cemetery, Saint John, New Brunswick in the Soldier’s Plot.
There is limited information on this original member of the 18th Battalion. We appear to have no real connections to former relatives, and it appears that there were no children from the union of Bessie and Joseph.
It is interesting to note Kornowski’s identification as Polish even though he lists is nationality as Russian and one could say that is desire to re-enlist after his experiences with combat, being twice wounded, that he wanted to join the efforts of the Western Powers to suppress the expansion of the Bolshevik government after the war. He may have been aware of forces at work that allowed him to deduce his homeland of Poland was at threat and his best course of action was for him to join the Canadian forces to have some influence on international events.
In the end, he was not able to participate in the Siberian Adventure and his war service had a direct bearing on his health as he suffered from tuberculosis twice. He also was hospitalized for it in January 1919 just before his discharge.
Now he lies amongst other members of the Canadian Military. Many of them contemporaries. He lies near the top of a peaceful hill with green verdant grass covering his grave among men who would understand his service and sacrifice.
[i] No reference to this place could be found by the author.
[ii] Most likely VDG.