Fred Banting in World War I

Lieutenant Fred Banting, now an officer, was sent to Britain in March 1917.  He spent about a year in Britain before being sent closer to the front lines in France.  In France, he served in a number of rear units before ending up as the medical officer for the 44th Battalion, 4th Canadian Division.  As the medical officer, he directed the men carrying stretchers and worked as a triage doctor.  Wounded soldiers would be carried on stretchers to his station.  He would evaluate and stabilize their wounds.  Then either send them further to the rear for more treatment and recovery or send them back to the front.

Fred sustained an injury during the second Battle of Cambrai.  He was moving between aid stations when an artillery shot landed nearby.  Shrapnel from the shell hit him in the forearm and embedded itself there.  He thought it was a minor wound and ignored it, but then his commanding officer sent him off for treatment.  A field surgeon removed the metal fragment and sent him back to England to recover.  His arm sustained minor bone and nerve damage, and the surgeons thought it should heal quickly.

It did not.  His arm became infected, and in the pre-penicillin days, there was talk of amputation.  Banting refused the amputation and waited. His body eventually cleared the infection and the wound healed.  The war, however, was over by then.  He was shipped back to Toronto where he spent another six months tending the wounded at the Christie Street Veterans’ Hospital.

Captain Banting (he had been promoted again) was discharged from the Army in the summer of 1919.  He was a minor war hero, having been awarded the Military Cross for heroism under fire during the second battle of Cambrai.