James Bentley was a patient at Beechland House, Newick in November 1916. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album comprises a drawing of a maple leaf with the word CANADA written underneath, followed by a verse and text. His original entry has been heavily over-written in blue biro in later years. It can be viewed here in part 19 of The Hospital Way.
The entry reads:
THE MAPLE LEAF FOR EVER
[line drawing of maple leaf]
We’re the Boys from Canada
and we have come across the Sea
We’ve come to fight for Old England’s right
And to help win Victory
Don’t you hear our song
When they blow fall in
We’re on our way to old Berlin
For we are the boys of the Maple Leaf.
Pte J Bentley. 7th Canadians
Wounded at Ypres on June 16th ’16 Hill 60
Now under Convalescence at Beechlands
Nov 26th Newick
According to his attestation papers, James Bentley was born at Leicester on 15th February 1890. He attested with the 34th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, at Sarnia, Ontario on 16th August 1915. He gave his home address as 434 Russell Street, Sarnia and his next of kin as his father, Thomas Bentley. James gave his occupation as car repairer. He was unmarried, five feet nine and three quarter inches tall with brown hair, dark blue eyes and a dark complexion. The doctor examining him also noted scars on his knee caps, a burn on his left elbow and moles and brown marks on his shoulder blades.
His attestation was approved the following day and on 1st November 1915, 602919 Private James Bentley arrived in England aboard SS California. At Bramshott on 3rd February 1916 he was transferred to the 23rd Battalion and then on 25th May, overseas, transferred to the 2nd Battalion. The following day he was transferred again, this time to the 7th Battalion. Three weeks later, on 16th June near Ypres, he was hit on the left knee by a piece of shell. His medical notes written at Shornecliffe in Kent in February 1917 explain the subsequent sequence of events:
“Was hit by piece of shell on left knee cap producing fracture. Dressed at various aid stations taken to Poperinghe, then taken Boulogne 14 General. Patient was there 10 days. Had patella removed and excision of knee joint. One drainage tube. Then taken 2nd Eastern General Hospital Brighton where patient had four operations for the purpose of drainage – wound healed up except sinus on outside which still persists. Patients statement. Entry on MHS 26.6.16. Excision of patella and knee joint – residual abscess.”
MHS is Medical History Sheet and it is easy on reading the above statement to gloss over weeks of what must have been tremendous pain for James Smith. His medical notes in 1917 continue:
“Patient is lame and unable to bend leg. Curved scar seven inches on anterior portion femur. Old scars on under side of joint healed where tubes have been. Small sinus still discharging on external surface. Joint was opened. Patella fractured – present condition ankylosis of joint – atrophy of Quadriceps extension X-Ray 4013 Bony ankylosis knee. Left periodtitis inner side of knee involving both bones. Patella absent. No evidence of necrosis. All other organs healthy.”
It is unclear how long James Bentley spent at Beechlands. His medical records indicate that he first arrived at the 2nd Eastern General Hospital, Brighton on 26th June 1916 but then seems to have been almost immediately transferred to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre at Folkestone. It would appear from the date he writes in Nurse Oliver’s album that he was at Beechlands at some time between June 1916 and February 1917 (when he was transferred to Moore Barracks Hospital in Shornecliffe. I am not even convinced that 26th November, as over-written on his original album entry, is a correct date; it could just as easily be “Nov ‘16”.
James was discharged from hospital on 11th May 1917 and sailed from Liverpool for Canada two days later. His arrival date is unclear but he was admitted to a convalescent home in Canada on 21st May and started attending in-patient classes at MHCC (acronym unknown but the MH possibly stands for “Military Hospital”) on 6th June.
His last pay certificate, dated 30th September 1917 records him as being with F Unit MHC and notes his home address as 333 Wellington Street, Sarnia. His pay for the month of September amounted to $42.80 broken down as $1 per day for regimental pay, 10 cents per day Field Allowance, three days subs allowance at 60 cents per day plus and $8 clothing allowance. He was discharged as Class 3.