Medicine and Duty: The World War I Memoir of Dr. Harold McGill's Service as Medical Officer with the 31st Battalion, C.E.F.

Medicine and Duty: The World War I Memoir of Dr. Harold McGill's Service as Medical Officer with the 31st Battalion, C.E.F.

Medicine and Duty: The World War I Memoir of Dr. Harold McGill's Service as Medical Officer with the 31st Battalion, C.E.F.

Medicine and Duty: The World War I Memoir of Dr. Harold McGill's Service as Medical Officer with the 31st Battalion, C.E.F.

Synopsis

Medicine and Duty is the World War I memoir of Harold McGill, a medical officer in the 31st (Alberta) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. McGill attempted to have his memoir published by Macmillan of Canada in 1935, but unfortunately, due to financial constraints, the company was not able to complete the publication. Decades later, editor Marjorie Norris came upon a draft of the manuscript in the Glenbow Archives and took it upon herself to resurrect McGills story. Norris's painstaking archival research and careful editing skills have brought back to light a gripping first-hand account of the 31st Battalion and, on a larger scale, of Canada's participation in World War I. A wealth of additional information, including extensive notes and excerpts from letters written "from the trenches," lends a new sense of immediacy and realism to the original memoir, and provides a fascinating, harrowing glimpse into the day-to-day life of Canadian soldiers during the Great War.

Excerpt

Writing about Canada’s military role in the Great War has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. in the forefront have been some excellent studies by scholars like Tim Cook, Jack Granatstein, Desmond Morton and Bill Rawling. To this scholarly output, however, must be added the first-person accounts of participants, some never before published and others long out-of-print, which have enriched our understanding of the impact of this great struggle on ordinary Canadian soldiers and their families.

Medicine and Duty: Reminiscences of a Battalion M.O., 1914–1917, the 1930s memoir of Dr. Harold W. McGill, is a fine addition to this second category. the detailed, remarkably forthright and often poignant story of Dr. McGill’s experiences as the medical officer of the 31 Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force on the Western Front gives us an insider’s look at the quietly heroic lives of the men of Flanders fields. Published accounts of the war by Canadian officers of McGill’s rank are rare, making this book particularly valuable. Moreover, his memoir effectively complements what is undoubtedly the best recollection of the war by an ordinary Canadian soldier, The Journal of Private Fraser – both men served in the same battalion from 1914 through the autumn of 1917.

1 Here are a few suggestions for further reading: Will R. Bird, Ghosts Have Warm Hands (Ottawa: cef Books, 1997); Tim Cook, No Place To Run: the Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War (Vancouver: ubc Press, 1999); J. L. Granatstein, Hell’s Corner: An Illustrated History of Canada’s Great War, 1914– 1918 (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2004); J. L. Granatstein and Desmond Morton, Marching to Armageddon (Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1989); Desmond Morton, Fight or Pay: Soldiers’ Families in the Great War (Vancouver: ubc Press, 2004); Desmond Morton, When Your Number’s Up: the Canadian Soldier in the First World War (Toronto: Random House, 1993); Marjorie Barron Norris, Sister Heroines: the Roseate Glow of Wartime Nursing, 1914–1918 (Calgary: Bunker to Bunker, 2002); Bill Rawling, Surviving Trench Warfare: Technology and the Canadian Corps, 1914–1918 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992); Reginald H. Roy, ed., The Journal of Private Fraser, 1914–1918, Canadian Expeditionary Force (Nepean, ON: cef Books, 1998); Frederick G. Scott, The Great War As I Saw It (Ottawa: cef Books, 1999); and Victor Wheeler, The 50 Battalion in No Man’s Land (Ottawa: cef Books, 2000).

2 Reginald H. Roy, ed., The Journal of Private Fraser, 1914–1918.

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