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Veterans 1914-1918

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Graphical element: Rendering first aid to a wounded Canadian soldier

The Battle of Passchendaele (The Third Battle of Ypres)

In this section:

Interview with Wallace Carroll: 15th Battalion
Transcript Excerpt, 6 minutes, 6 seconds

Q. Had you heard about Passchendaele at this point? Did you know what it was going to be like?

A. No, no we didn't know what it was going to be like but from the fellows that had been into Ypres in 1915 and 16, we didn't like going. But we marched up, poked most of the way. We were met with buses and we were taken up - I suppose the last 40 or 50 kilometres - we were taken up by bus, and we got up to a place call Flamentenes and we were billeted, then eventually we moved on up into Passchendaele on the we, our company never got into the line at Passchendaele that is as a company. At Passchendaele we did a lot of working parties up there, building the plank road up towards as far as they could and eventually they built this plank road on to the Menin Road. Oh we did a lot of working parties and gatiuge around there and when the First and Second Divisions went over at Passchendaele our company was detailed as stretcher bearers for the Third Battalion.

Q. For the Third Battalion eh?

A. For the Third Battalion, yes. See they sent them in as a full Battalion but they had to have stretcher bearers cause casualties were very heavy up there. So I don't now how that worked out but our company got detailed as stretcher bearers, and we had one stretcher to four men. And we went on up they kicked off early in the morning and oh about eight o'clock we were sent in to pick up the wounded. Well the Commanding Officer of the Third Battalion he wouldn't allow us to go on any further. It's no use he said, you'd never get them, and he said, you'll never be able to get them out. The mud and the water up there was terrific but by the time we got as far as we did we were all soakin' wet. The shell holes were so close together and everyone was full of water see, that was low land country up there and the canals and the dikes you know up there had all been cut you see. And the water overflowed into the low country and consequently every shell-hole up there were some shell holes up there you could get out and paddle around in a canoe in them, and they were quite big. You could drown up there quite easy if you happen to fall in them at night time. And this Commanding Officer of the Third Battalion wouldn't allow us to go on up not till after dark. So we went up after dark and when we went up we got up to the front line and we got - they had quite a few wounded up around in there. But the four of us brought out one wounded man and we had an awful job getting him out. You see everything was pitch black and there was still lots of Jerries around in those shell holes and that, you see, that had been missed and they were taking potshots at you from the shell holes.

Q. Well how long would it take you to bring a man out from this front line? This was a terrible terrible long hard difficult trip: four men on a stretcher, how long would it take you to bring a man out?

A. You could only go about twenty feet and you had to put the stretcher down and take a rest. You see the mud was knee deep up at Ypres: first one guy would slip into a shell-hole and somebody else would go, it's a wonder the man ever stayed on the stretcher. Of course he hung on on both sides of the stretcher, he was wounded in the leg, but that man really stuck it. I don't know who he was or what his name was; I might have known at the time. He had a hard job hanging on to the stretcher because there was one or the other of us slipping into a shell hole, and it took us - I don't know now what time it was - but we got him out by daylight. By the time we got down to the dressing station on the plank road there it was daylight and we started up about eight o'clock at night. It took so, so long to get up in there and the tapes, the Third Battalion tapes you see.

Q. To show where they were?

A. Yes, but the tapes had been blown away, when you come to the end of the tape well you had to go and find the other end. Somebody had to get out and scout around and find out where the other end of it was. It took us a long time to get up there but we got there. As I say we got this one man and we brought him out. But there was lots of other men brought out too you know.

Q. Oh yes.

A. Buts that's just what the four of us did, and we were all night getting that one man out, and I'm telling you we were all in. Well the fellow had about, he had seven francs and he wanted us to have it between the four of us. He says you can buy something or other, he says if its only chocolate bars, so we told him to keep the seven francs you see, you can buy chocolate bars when you get in the hospital. You'll need a little money when you're in the hospital, because I told him I just come back from the hospital a little while ago. I says if you're in the hospital and got no money I says it's not so nice either, and they won't pay you, you know, while you're in the hospital.