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Short of Reinforcements

Heroes Remember

Short of Reinforcements

I started out in a military hospital in Fraser Valley, for a short time, and then I was assigned to a unit from Alberta, the 31st Alberta Recces, which meant they were light armoured vehicles with machine guns and half tracks and so on. We went from camp to camp with them. These were made up of men who had not agreed to go overseas. Because when Mackenzie King first declared war, he gave you the option of going overseas or deciding that you wouldn’t go overseas. So the 5th Division was made up of these people. The officers of which were... their job was to try and convince the troops that they should volunteer for overseas service. But most of these guys didn’t want to and they were used. They went home for four months of the year to the farms, and helped with the chores or were fishermen on the coast. But, they eventually had to change the law because they were very short of reinforcements. So they changed the law and then everybody had to go overseas who was fit. And eventually my turn came to go overseas. My daughter, Katie’s mother, was three weeks old when we took the train down to Grimsby. We stopped in Grimsby for three days and we left the three-week old baby with my mother who at the same time, my sister was there with her husband who was in the air force and she was expecting. My mother was going to have two babies on her hands before long for some time. Then we went on down to Nova Scotia, my wife and I, and it was two months before we got a ship, I got a ship, overseas. Then when the ship came in. Maybe because my wife was there, they delayed my departure, I don’t know, but eventually I went over on the Isle de France, which is a luxury liner, and it zigzagged over and got there in five days which was pretty good. Too fast for submarines.

Dr. Theal describes his activities as a recruiter before sailing overseas.

Dr. Gordon Irvine Theal

Dr. Theal was born in Grimsby, Ontario on April 2, 1916. His father, a farmer, operated a feed mill and later became a grocer, at which time Dr. Theal was old enough to help in the family business. At the insistence of some friends, he enrolled in Queens University’s medical school in Toronto. With the outbreak of war, he joined the Officer Training Corps. After graduating, Dr. Theal married and moved to British Columbia, where he went from camp to camp, encouraging enlistment in the regular forces. After shipping overseas and a couple postings in England, he was shipped to France during the D-Day invasion. His brigade accompanied the Allied advance from France to Holland. During this time, Dr. Theal and his team performed triage. This was the first contact the wounded had with a doctor and he would provide emergency medical treatment before the wounded moved back to the larger field hospitals. After completing his tour, Dr. Theal returned home to Ontario, to his wife and daughter, and took up private practice. He currently resides in Courtney, British Columbia.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Dr. Gordon Irvine Theal
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps

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