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ARCHIVED - Oral Histories of the First World War:
Veterans 1914-1918

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Graphical element: Rendering first aid to a wounded Canadian soldier

Vimy Ridge

In this section:

Interview with W.R. Lindsay: 22nd Battalion
Transcript Excerpt, 16 minutes, 56 seconds

A. I was at Vimy. I was with the 22nd, A Company, Platoon I, which was the first platoon and, when we were in the line, of course we were between Vimy and Neuville St. Vast. Neuville St. Vast was all destroyed, there was nothing left there. In the daytime we used to stay down in the basements of houses, some places where they used to keep wine, quite large places, underground. We hardly could even travel or go out in the trenches because Vimy itself was higher than St. Vast. They were up there and we were down in the valley so we stayed there, we spent part of the winter there waiting for April.

Q. What work did you do while you were waiting through that winter, how did you spend your time?

A. We were up at night, we were with the boys. Every post there were three, two would sit there and try to sleep a little and one would do the watch. Then officers had to go back and forth in the front line there to see that everything was alright, if the boys were alright and if some time some were wounded, to get them out. We wouldn't leave any gap in case German patrols would come in and spread into our ranks there so we had to watch it all the time.

Q.They were mostly interested in keeping Vimy though.

A. Of course because Vimy was attacked three times I believe. That's what I was told, twice by French. Anyway, French and English had made three attempts to get Vimy Ridge and it was decided that it was our turn at Vimy on April 9th, the Canadian Corps. All the Canadian Corps was in there, artillery and all. Well, we left in the morning at daybreak, about half past five, opened fire at half past five. It was something terrible. We couldn't talk, we couldn't do nothing. You know, it was a regular noise on and on and on all the time. The ground was prepared. We had had a bombardment for three weeks before on weak points of the German line so they wouldn't move, they would stay there. They had it in their minds it's OK, they don't touch our strongholds so it's OK, we won't move. Then we had our aeroplanes going over bringing some information and we kept it up for three weeks and then, in the morning of the 9th of April at half past five, they opened up there with gas shells on strong points. We did paralyze them; we really did paralyze them rather easily. We got the job there done. They expected it would be a three day fight and early in the day we were on top of Vimy. Then I got wounded on the way up there. I didn't get to Vimy myself, I got wounded before.

Q. This was a bad wound?

A. Oh yes. I got it here. Strange, I never could realize how I did it. The 22nd, that was our turn to be the third wave because in the fifth brigade, we were the 22nd, the 24th, the 25th and the 26th. In every attack they had their turn. Then at Vimy it was our turn to be in the third wave. There was a young officer that I met away down in Sackville and he was nervous. He had been in just for a few days and he was quite nervous. I told him, I said, "Look here, don't you worry too much". It's to get out of the trenches. That's rather hard because you're under cover but as soon as you come out of the trenches there's no cover in any place that's good. I said, "I'll jump out with you". Then I said to my non-commissioned officer, "I'll be going out with him for sometime and then I'll meet you, don't worry". Then we left and I went for a certain time with him and suddenly I just waved at him, we couldn't speak on account of the noise, explosions on both sides. He said, "OK OK" as far as I could make out and then I just decided I would go back to my men but I thought, "What's the use walking a hundred yards back to meet my men, why not wait for them". Then I simply lay on the ground to wait for them and then a high explosive got me. It got me on my elbow and in the hip bone and right across up the bottom of my spine. My batman was with me so he yelled at me, "Are you wounded?" I couldn't answer so he just put his thumb in my eye to see if I was still alive. We used to do it, you know, take the thumb in the eye there and we'd just wink. Three other fellows tried to carry me, put me in a shell hole. In fact they didn't carry me, it's lucky, they simply dragged me on the ground by my arms and then suddenly something like a 4-pounder four inch shell just landed quite close to us and they simply dropped there. I never heard a sound and then I stayed there, almost covered with ground. I stayed there for some time. An hour after we had the second wave going over and then a friend of mine just passed over me, Bellamy LaCorte from Gaspé, a fellow I knew well. I had been to school with him, college with him and so on and so forth. He simply walked over me. I had quite a lot of trouble but I got hold of my whistle and I had it in my mouth. I knew somebody would be coming over so he stopped. He said, "I'll have you carried out". I said, "It's no use, I'm gone after all". I had a terrible shock on my spine, my back, and all my body all got paralysed, you see, so I said, "No, keep your men, you need them". Anyhow, he left me there after we had a little talk as best we could and then two Germans came along, looked at me and they started to talk together. One could see I was dressed in the private uniform but I had my two pips on my shoulder so the fellow just saw these two pips and he started to tap on my shoulder and say, "Good, English officer, good". Then one left and came back with two other Germans and a stretcher, they had a stretcher. That was a kind of safety for them to go out with a stretcher because quite often we had fellows taken in here and there. We were not forced to take any prisoners in the beginning. That's the order we had. Well anyhow, carrying out a stretcher they had a chance to get out in safety. They carried me out there but when they could hear the shells coming, something strange, we are always frightened of our shells. We don't give a hoot for enemy shells. Of course we don't like them but you expect it but when you hear your shells coming close you don't like it and they could hear their shells coming. They were their shells. They used to just drop the stretcher and lay on the ground and my back was bad. I was trembling all over. They carried me out that way.

Q. You got dropped a good deal.

A. Did I. Well, there were plenty of stretcher cases, badly wounded, that were there. Well, I was put there in the lot. We had a little railway coming up to bring rations and ammunition, so on and so forth. They put us on that little railway to carry us to Mount St. Eloi and the track there was more or less good so that it was no fun to be on that little railway. Then at Mount St. Eloi was put in an ambulance. The roads were bad. There was about six inches of slush on the roads all along the front. They were going fast, those fellows. We were four stretcher cases there in the ambulance and the first thing I knew the three others were dead although I was not much better than they were. I kept on, I was not unconscious, I was alright. I stood it. We landed I don't know where and they put us in a big marquee and then the rain started. There were three big marquees and I was in the first one. Then the rain started and there was a hole in the marquee and it was dropping on me and the first thing I knew my stretcher, with heavy canvas on it, it was keeping the water in there so I was in the water there with big rubber boots on. I had a miserable night there. I almost died there that night. The next day I was carried out. They carried me out to a little hospital. Well anyhow it looked good to me because it was made up with lumber. They opened up my hip, that's all. I suppose they have taken pieces out, I don't know. I know there is a lot in yet because I have a bet for fifty pieces. Nobody wants to take it at five dollars a piece. I have about a hundred pieces. Then I was not there long and then they took me out again and put me on the boat and by mistake they put me with the Imperials, English troops, my name, I don't know what but that must have been a mistake. I landed in Manchester at an Imperial Hospital. I was the only Canadian there. I was lucky, I really did realize after that I was lucky because they took good care of me. They didn't do too much for me because they couldn't do nothing. One thing, I could have anything I wanted which has helped me a lot. I had trouble, no trouble with doctors but I argued with doctors, "If you don't do this, if you don't do that we won't take care of you". "Never mind," I said, "I'm going to take care of myself". I have done a lot of let's say foolish things but nevertheless that's what has pulled me out. Otherwise I would have stayed there and I wouldn't have been able to move no more even the first time I got up. They took me up because I couldn't get up by myself. They put me in a big easy chair. My legs were bad and sore. All my system was bad. When I was wounded I was two hundred and twenty and then in Manchester in Whitworth Street, the hospital at Whitworth Street there, at one time there was a nurse there by the name of Thompson. She used to take me in her arms and the other one would change the sheet under me. I was not a hundred and twenty-five in weight.