Remarks by BGen Jack Partington, RCAF (Ret.) to the 37th Signals Regiment’s 110th anniversary as a Signals unit. It stood up in Saint John, NB, in 1904, with BGen Partington's grandfather as its first CO. He was invited to speak at the Regiment Dinner following a Freedom of the City ceremony on 29 March 2014 in St. John, NB.
In 1916 my Father, Nelson Farrell, was undergoing training as an elevator technician in Winnipeg, when he cut off the end of his right index finger in a milling machine. Not wanting to lose his whole finger, he walked to his doctor's office with the finger wrapped in his handkerchief, and insisted that his doctor sew it back on. He refused any analgesic, because he thought that if he lost consciousness, the doctor would surely amputate the finger. After trimming off he first joint, the doctor acceded to his wishes and re-attached the finger, cauterizing it by dipping the whole finger in boiling water. The operation took and made medical history.
Shortly thereafter, Nelson joined the army. With his finger still healing, the M.O. decided that Nelson should not be in a combat unit, until he could prove that his finger was OK; therefore, he was enrolled and trained in the Field Ambulance Corps. He deployed to England on the Empress of Britain on 1 April 1916, and was assigned to the Canadian Special Hospital (Orthopedic) in Ramsgate, where he performed as an operating room orderly. In addition to its orthopedic specialty, Ramsgate also treated VD cases, and Nelson told many hair raising stories of how those patients received treatment in the First World War.
Deciding that he "wanted more action", Nelson volunteered for what was then the Engineers, and later became the Signal Corps. He was transferred to the signals training depot and underwent training as a motorcycle dispatch rider. Once his training was complete , he spent several months of sometimes rather hazardous duty riding from numerous locations on the south coast of England, up to London and return, and sometimes to old castles and estates that had been loaned for military hospitals. He then joined the Second Canadian Division in France.
This photo was taken in Winnipeg, just after he had enlisted.
Albert Hyde served in the Royal Naval Division during World War I.