Source: Charles Searle.
This man enlisted with the 18th Battalion, CEF on 26 October 1914 at Guelph, Ontario. He was a Teamster and married to Rose Searle who resided at 124 Queen Street, Guelph, Ontario.
He served with the 18th Battalion until he was wounded by a GSW to his abdomen on or about 7 April 1916. He recuperated in England and never returned to active service after his wounding.
He returned to Canada and was discharged on 22 September 1919.
On 7 April 1916 it is recorded that Pte. John Searle, 54051, was admitted to No. 13 General Hospital at Boulogne, France for a GSW to the abdomen. By the 12th he was admitted to H.M. Queen Mary’s Royal Naval Hospital at Southend, England for further treatment. The problem with his service records are that they do not indicate the date of wounding, only his arrival at No. 13 General Hospital.
Normally, the service records show a soldier who is wounded going to a Canadian Field Ambulance (CFA), then to a Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) and thence to a hospital.
The typical time frame would be (as an example):
- Wounded 1 May 1916.
- Admitted to CFA 1 May 1916.
- Transferred to another CFA 3 May 1916.
- Transferred to a CCS 4 May 1916.
- Transferred to a General Hospital 4 May 1916 (usually Etaples if wounded in France or Boulogne if wounded in Belgium).
- Transferred to a HT (Hospital Transport) several days after arriving at the General Hospital.
- Admitted to one of the many hospitals in England. Sometimes Wales or Scotland.
The War Diary shows 6 other ranks wounded at or about 4:30 AM 7 April 1916. It is most unusual for a soldier to be wounded and then transported to a hospital in the rear in one day but it is not unheard of.
The problem in verifying this is Pte. Searle’s service records contain NO clinical notes. These often summarize the flow of treatment in dates and places and help verify the timeline of events. Since these records are not present and NO soldiers were wounded before the 7 April 1916 we can assume he was one of the 6 men wounded in action on that day.
As to the name of the action he participated in when he was wounded there is none. He was wounded doing his duty with his battalion as part of their assignment to occupy the trenches in their sector.
But by digging a little harder we find out a plausible alternative explanation to this man’s wounding.
If one looks at the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade War Diary for that date we can derive some more information.
“3:30 AM 18th Battalion instructed to hold OLD FRENCH TRENCH – 1.32.c.6.0. to 1.36.c.9.6 with 250 rifles the remainder of Bn. To rest.
9:30 AM 18th Bn., requested their bombers loaned to 6th C.I.B. (Canadian Infantry Brigade) to be returned to them.
10.45 18th Bn., informed that their bombers have returned to Camp 5. five wounded”
This, it looks like Pte. Searle may have actually participated in the action at St. Elois Craters on 6 April. The 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade War Diary relates, in part,
“200 Bombers of the 18th Bn. Reported and had been previously sent with bombs half to each to each Sector. It transpired later that these men were not trained Bombers, and order were received from from the Division that they were not be used as such unless absolutely unavoidable.”
Thus, another timeframe presents itself where Pte. Searle was actually wounded on 6 April 1916 and it was reported in the 18th Battalion that he was admitted to No. 13 General Hospital.
As to the exact nature of the wounding (rifle/machine gun bullet or shrapnel) we will never know. Suffice to say it took him out of the war as he did not return to active service.
As to the discrepancy between the 18th and 4th CIB War Diaries it is quite common for numbers not to match. Perhaps five of the men where “Bombers” wounded while attached to the 6th CIB and one was wounded in service with the 18th at the OLD FRENCH TRENCH.