Genealogy

A Soldier’s Fortunate Care

Lawrence Tarrant, known as Larry, was forever thankful to a young female doctor in England for saving his arm during the First World War. He was left with a permanent crook at the elbow where four inches of bone had been destroyed and an inverted hand missing the index finger. Of critical importance was that the skillful repair allowed him sufficient mobility in the arm to later hold down a job and raise a family.

Larry, the grandfather my son never knew, signed up for service on March 25th, 1916 in Magog, Quebec and was assigned to the 117th Battalion of Canada’s Expeditionary Force. He was a teenage boy of eighteen. Lance Corporal Larry arrived in England in August of 1916 but once there requested to be reverted to the rank of private. He knew this move would enable him to proceed immediately to France with the 24th Battalion His brother Lloyd had been killed at Mount Sorrel two months earlier. It would seem that Larry was determined to “get them” who had killed him.

On August 28, 1918, Larry was injured at the Battle of Arras. Canada’s 2nd and 3rd Divisions had been led into this battle by the British General Sir Arthur Currie. Currie’s questionable strategy was to launch successive frontal attacks on the German trenches in order to exhaust the enemy. Although very successful, the cost to Canadian soldiers was huge. Arras was the start of “Canada’s Hundred Days”, the series of offensives led by Canadians that culminated in the Allied final victory at Mons in November. At Arras, however, Larry was shot in the head, legs, and left arm, and was evacuated to England. Although badly wounded, he was actually one of the lucky ones. The total loss to the Canadian Corps during the Hundred Days was eleven thousand men.

In England, Larry was sent to Endell Street Military Hospital in London, another stroke of luck as it was one of the most remarkable hospitals of the war. Entirely staffed by women and the only women’s unit operated by militant suffragists, it was known not only for the skill of its surgeons but for its highly distinctive nurturing care. The staff concentrated on the psychological as well as the physical needs of their patients. Larry claimed that his doctor never gave up on saving his arm but it is just as likely that his doctor never allowed him to give up on himself.

Larry spent almost two years in England recovering from his wounds, first at Endell and then in Epsom, Surrey. His recovery was compromised by influenza so severe that he was hospitalized for weeks in yet another hospital at Hardelot. In August of 1919 he returned to Canada and a military hospital in Toronto. He was ultimately discharged from the army in 1920 as medically unfit for further service  He was only twenty-two years old, hardly yet a man but with four years of hell behind him.

On his return to civilian life Larry found work as a machinist at a paper mill in LaTuque, Quebec where he spent his entire career. He married Flora Tremblay in 1939 and fathered three sons and a daughter. He died in 1962 of a blood clot following routine gall bladder surgery. He was sixty –four. His eldest child, Lloyd, my son’s father, was nineteen. Today my son carries his grandfather’s name: Stephen Lawrence Tarrant.

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Larry with wife Flora, two of his three sons (Lloyd and Gerry), his daughter Linda, and a the daughter of a cousin (Susan). His third son (Gordon) was born later.

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