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Shortsightedness Was No Obstacle!

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Shortsightedness Was No Obstacle!

Well after two years, the situation for volunteers was getting very tight. They were hard to get with casualties being so heavy and everything else, and the university said when you got towards the end of the year, anybody that had completed the year's work that were in the services or anything would be given their year. Well that was fine. So on the last Monday in March of 1916, we were eligible to take our classes and somebody said I guess it was time we went down to enlist and seven of us went down to enlist. We had already talked over what we were going to be. We didn't, definitely didn't want to be in the infantry and we thought, you know, being engineers and the like of that we would be more useful someplace else. It wasn't a matter of ducking the thing or anything, it was just a matter of where we could be the most use so we decided on the Signal Corp. There was a story about that is I'm short-sighted and you had to have 20- 40 vision to get in there. And the other six guys all filled a crew and they examined me and the officer says, “I can't pass you!” This was a dirty, rainy morning on a Monday, he says, “Come back on Wednesday, it might be a bright, bright day and you'll be able to see a little better.” So I came back on Wednesday and he says, “Oh”, he got eight or ten people he's checking through there and he says, “Sit down there until I get through these people.” He sat me down about that far from the chart and left me sitting there for nearly half an hour. So I was in the Army when I came out of there.

Mr. Burton discusses he and his friends' decision to enlist. He's found to be shortsighted, but the examining officer retests him after making him wait beside the vision chart for a half hour. He passes the retest!

Robert Burton

Robert Burton was born on February 21, 1896 in Dundas, Ontario. After public school, he was accepted into university which he attended from 1914 to 1916, in the Canadian Officer Training Corps. For a time, he worked at Massey, checking shrapnel shells. Despite being shortsighted, Mr. Burton was recruited into the 13th Brigade in Mar, 1916. In England, he joined the 5th Division, a reinforcement unit, and deployed to France with the 2nd Division as a sapper. Mr. Burton became a mounted courier at Courcelette, and had several interesting experiences in that capacity. He witnessed and was attacked by Gotha bombers at Arras, and was shelled at St.Pol. Mr. Burton also served in the trenches at Amiens. During the 2nd World War, he was a very successful engineering instructor at camp Petawawa, where he attained the rank of Major.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
Robert Burton
War, Conflict or Mission:
First World War

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