CHRIS BAKER REPORT
We have included a complete copy of the report that we received from
Chris Baker, the British War Historian and author of the internationally
recognized "Long, Long Trail"
web site. In addition to that resource, Chris also has the "Great
War Family Research", which through which we contracted with
Chris to undertake our research. In addition, Chris operates the
Forum", our initial link to hundreds of world wide researchers
who enabled our early success in tracking his records.
The report that
Chris Baker prepared has been uploaded to this web site:
1914-1918 Military Service History of George Van Wyck Laughton, M.C."
is the textual summary of the report as it specifically relates to the
service of Grandfather Laughton, following which are the specific links
to the actual records that really tell the story:
In May 1916,
George Van Wyck Laughton completed an application for a
commission as an officer. Born on
10 May 1897
, he gave his occupation as student of
Harbord Collegiate Institute at the
. George already had some military
experience: he had joined the 26th
Middlesex Regiment in June 1911 and served for three years,
attaining the rank of Sergeant, and then in August 1915 he began
service with the 7th
Regiment (Fusiliers), attached to 142” Overseas Service
Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, as a supernumerary
Lieutenant.1 On 15 November 1915 he moved into the
University of Toronto Overseas Training Company. At some point
he qualified as an instructor in musketry, after taking the
basic infantry training course between December and February
1916.2 Interestingly, a 1918 letter from the Canadian Record
Office to the War Office is the only document that gives his
original regimental number of 82130.
of his college acted as a referee for his application, saying
that he had known George for two years from 1914.
It is not
clear but likely that he was still in
when he completed the application
but he soon moved to
, for on
7 July 1916
, George signed an attestation form enlisting
him into the army, at Shornciffe in
. On his papers he gives his father Louis V.
Laughton (RVL note: that is actually his sister),
identified on his application for a commission as a
Canadian-born commercial traveller, as next of kin. George also
said that he had spent a year in the Officer Training Corps of
Aged 19 years
and 2 months, George underwent a medical examination that
revealed him to stand 5 feet 10 inches tall, to weigh 150 pounds
and to have a 37 inch chest. He was found fit for general
service and was accepted into the 32nd
Battalion of the CEF.
application for a commission was accepted and he was admitted to
No. 6 Officer Cadet Battalion, which was based at
. He was posted to begin the course on 5
latter stage of the course George was taken ill with influenza,
which took him to the 3”’ Southern General Hospital in
for six days commencing
5 December 1916
. George passed the course and was duly
commissioned as a Second Lieutenant with the Northumberland
Fusiliers. He was discharged from the ranks of the CEF on
18 December 1916
. His commission was gazetted on 30 January
He arrived to
join the 26th Battalion
of his regiment in the field during the first week of March
1917. At this time, the battalion was nominally at rest in “X
Huts” at Ecoivres, although large numbers of men were out on
working parties. George arrived at the same time as two other
officers — Second Lieutenants Price and Mallory.
A history of
the battalion is given later in the report, including coverage
of the advance and patrol activity on
14 April 1917
, for which George was awarded the Military
On 27 or 28
April 1917 [although 27 April is much more likely given the
circumstances described in the diary], George was buried during
heavy enemy shellfire: he was severely traumatised and may also
have suffered a wound to his right calf. The effects were
sufficient for him to be considered wounded and in fact he left
his unit and did not return to active service. The effects of
the shock of his burial were certainly still being physically
felt in early 1918.
evacuated down the lines of communication, he crossed the
English Channel from Calais to Dover aboard the steamer
“Newhaven” on 1 May 1917. George was certainly at the 4th
London General Hospital at Denmark
Hill when he underwent a Medical Board on 9 May, and it is
probably reasonable to suppose that he went directly there on
arrival in England.
Board report recommended a lengthy period of convalescence and
light duty afterwards. It appears that George made a reasonable
appeal that he be returned to
for this period. He had a second Board on 22
May 1917 and was discharged to travel to
September 1917, George was admitted to the Officers Convalescent
Hospital in Toronto: the gap between 22 May and 8 September is
not explained by any reference in his file.
On 22 January
1918, a Medical Board recommended that he be discharged from the
service on the grounds of physical unfitness. He received the
Silver War Badge soon after being discharged.
relinquished his commission by resignation on
25 April 1918
an enquiry on
17 September 1918
about his entitlement to a wound gratuity.
He eventually received the considerable sum of 97 Pounds and 13
awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his part
in the war. The British War Medal was awarded to those who left
their native shore for war service and the Victory Medal to
those who had served in a theatre of war.
to claim their medals, and George’s British War Medal and the
Victory Medal were issued on 21 December 1921.
for Admission as an Officer Cadet, May 1916
This was the first document that showed the details of his prior
Militia experience in Canada and it was not in the file that came
from Library and Archives Canada, yet it was in the UK National
Archives - interesting. This document also a previously unknown
address of "130 Lake Shore Avenue, Centre Island,
Toronto". This is an actual island, off the shores of
Toronto (very close, a short ferry boat ride) but I never knew that
he lived there - apparently during his time as a University of
of Toronto Contingent C.O.T.C., May 3, 1916
(Canadian Officers Training Corps) - This shows Grandfather
Laughton as a COTC candidate that is recommended for
Commission to the British Army (Infantry). It is stamped for
the date as "Dept. Militia & Defence Canada".
The 2nd page shows he was accepted for admission to "No. 6
Officer Cadet Battalion" to join at Oxford on September 9,
1916. On the bottom of that 2nd sheet is also typed that he
was posted to the 26th Northumberland Fusiliers on January 20, 1917.
A notice appeared in the London Gazette on January 30, 1917 that
"the undermentioned cadets to temp. 2nd Lts. - George Van Wyck
Papers, 32nd Battalion, Shorncliffe Kent UK, July 7 1916
Included here as this is a "hand written" copy of the
Attestation Papers of George Van Wyck Laughton from the UK
National Archives, whereas the copy from Library and Archives
Canada is type written. The witnesses are different, and
his chest grew by an amazing 4 inches! The third sheet in this
package (medical) shows that he was attesting to the 32nd Reserve
Battalion. This offers some confirmation that although he was
in the 142nd Overseas Battalion in Canada, he left there and
attested in the UK for the 32nd Reserve Battalion.
We have investigated the 32nd Battalion C.O.T.C. link further and
have found there were a number of students and others that came from
the Toronto area and signed up with the 32nd Battalion on July 7,
1916. Of the 17 that signed up that day, 11 have direct links
to the University of Toronto and/or the UofT COTC program. The
details of this are now posted under a new page for "University
of Toronto C.O.T.C."
Records of George Van Wyck Laughton
There are a large number of medical records for Grandfather Laughton
over the term of his military service. As such, I have
assembled them all into one PDF file, where you will find:
Influenza, December 1916
Transferred to England after leaving his unit on April 27, 1917 due
to his wounds. He left Calais (France) on May 1, 1917 aboard
the channel steamer "Newhaven" and landed in Dover.
On May 9th, 1917 George was examined by the Medical Board in the UK
and as a result he wrote a letter (Very clear handwriting) and asked
that he be given the opportunity to spend his convalescent time at
his home in Toronto Canada (349 Markham St, Toronto).
On June 14, 1917 George typed a letter from his home in Toronto to
the Secretary of the War Office in the UK (received June 30, 1917)
noting that he had been granted leave up until August 7, 1917.
He was seeking confirmation that he had permission to stay in Canada
until that date. Note that at this date he signed his letter
"George V. Laughton, M.C., 2nd Lt.".
On January 22, 1918 we have a "Medical History of Invalid"
from the Base Hospital in Toronto. His disease is listed as
"Shell Shock Neurasthenia"
as a result of being buried by a shell (for 5 days the records later
show) on April 28, 1917 in France. The report is quite
detailed as to his physical and emotional condition, indicating that
any excitement causes vomiting and tremors. The report called
for 4 to 6 months rest. (Note that there is no reference to
the server physical disability that was "more or less the
story" passed down through the family - it seems the intestinal
ailments were neurological, not physical). On the next page,
Captain G. V. Livingstone declares him "Unfit for further
military service". On the next page the "Opinion of
the Medical Board" on January 22, 1918 classed him as
"Category E", and recommended that the officer be
discharged due to physical unfitness and not able to travel.
That was approved February 5th and 12th 1918. On February 13,
1918 communication was received from the Brigadier General Tyne
Garrison (Tyneside Irish) inquiring as to the location of 2nd.
On March 17, 1918 the Surgeon General Deputy Minister of the
Department of Militia and Defence in Ottawa wired the Secretary War
Office in London England with the findings of the Medical Board as
noted above. On that same day, George wrote the the Secretary
War Office as well and applied for his "wound gratuity.
This document fills in the blank period showing that he was in the
"Officer's Convalescent Hospital" in Toronto from
September 8, 1917 to January 22, 1918. On April 16th,
1918 the Colonel for Military Service, Deputy Minister, Department
of Militia & Defence, Ottawa filed notification as to the
resignation of 2nd Lieutenant Laughton, notice of which was to
appear in the London Gazette.
On April 24, 1918 a notice appears in the London Gazette (4959) that
states that "Temp. 2nd Lt. G. V. W. Laughton, M.C.
relinquishes his commission on account of ill-health, contracted on
active service, and is granted the hon. rank of 2nd Lt."
On April 22, 1918 there is a "Notification to War Office
On February 27, 1919 there is a letter to 2nd Lieutenant Laughton
from Major A. P. Churchill on behalf of the Military Secretary,
confirming that his commission was relinquished due to ill-health
and that he has already been issued a "Silver War Badge" (actual
item shown here).
On February 27, 1920 this is a letter to "Overseas Military
Forces of Canada" Senior Paymaster indicating that G. V.
Laughton had been issued a gratuity of £90:13:0 "in respect of
with the 26th Northumberland Fusiliers
The events that surround the service and wounding of Grandfather
Laughton in the 26th Northumberland Fusiliers is documented in the
War Diaries of that unit. Chris Baker has provided copies from
March 1, 1917 to April 30, 1917. Unfortunately, the period of
April 9th 1917 (the day of the attack on Vimy Ridge) is ineligible.
Attempts are being made to located another version of the war diary
that has these pages - it is believed they exist in the Newcastle
Public Library. As you will see from the following
paragraph it is indeed unfortunate that April 9th is ineligible.
NOTE WAR DIARY LOCATED! Thanks
from the Great War Forum, the missing pages were retrieved
from the Newcastle Library. Copies were sent to me, I have
cleaned them up, and now the April diaries are posted here on the
1st to 10th, 1917
11th to 23rd, 1917
24th to 29th, 1917
It is interesting that the final page of this attachment, dated
May 31, 1917, contains a list of "Honours and Awards" and
there is lists "2nd Lt/ G. V. W. Laughton" for a D.S.O.
(Distinguished Service Order) for operations on April 9th,
1917 (the day of the attack on Vimy Ridge). I have never
seen any mention of this elsewhere, however this does match what we
know regarding the M.C. (Military Cross) for which we have not been
able to make a match in the UK records. From Chris
Baker's web site we find the following to describe the D.S.O.:
high award for meritorious or distinguished service rather than an
act of gallantry, although in many cases during 1914-1918 it is not
easy to discriminate between these two reasons for granting an
award; in fact in some cases it appears that a DSO was awarded when
perhaps a full recommendation for a VC could not be justified or
existence since 1886, for officers who were not eligible for an
award of the CB (Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the
Bath): however, after the establishment of the award of the
Military Cross, it was unusual for a DSO to be awarded to an
officer with a rank below Major.
awards of the DSO were announced in the London Gazette, usually with
a citation, although awards made as part of the King's Birthday or
New Year's honours were made for reasons of meritorious service and
do not usually have a citation.
very detailed reference book, detailing each award, is "The
Distinguished Service Order" by General Sir O'Moore Creagh.
Perhaps Grandfather Laughton was noted for the award of the D.S.O.
and that was changed as a result of the introduction of the M.C.,
perhaps at or about that time or perhaps unknown to the Lieutenant
Colonel who commanded the 26th Northumberland Fusiliers at that
Note that this mention differs from the Chris Baker report for the
M.C. on April 14, 1917. The confusion and unknown continues!
Medals and Decorations
Included with the package from Chris Baker was a copy of
Grandfather Laughton's MIC (Medal Index Card) which we had already
retrieved from the UK National Archives (see
this part of the site). This shows his entitlement to the
Victory Medal and the British War Medal (each of which I must
presume were lost in the 1967 house fire - I have some remnants
recovered but not identifiable to these).
The next page is a record of he MILITARY CROSS, which is shows was
"sent to Colonial Office". This, as noted, was
Gazetted (published in the London Gazette) on July 18, 1917 and he
was decorated on November 29, 1917. This last piece of
information is noteworthy as we know that Grandfather Laughton was
in Canada at that time (see medical records above) and we have the
picture and newspaper account of his decoration at the Ontario
Legislature in Toronto, Ontario. We did not have an exact date
for that before. The 1918 date reported in the Ontario
Legislature may have been a "ceremonial decoration".
We have included in the attachments on this topic the actual posting
in the London Gazette of July 18, 1917 followed by a second version
of that page, also in the same package from Chris Baker, that has
handwritten notations. On the side it says
"0237/3860" and underneath the typed text it is marked
"N. (or W.) Arras 9-14 April 1917". The text
of the report from Chris Baker states that it was April 14, 1917
that George earned his M.C., whereas other reports say it was April
9th. Since we have still not resolved why there are two
differing reports, this remains a mystery.
Chris Baker included a copy of the text from John Sheen's book
"Tyneside Irish" which we have referenced
in detail elsewhere on this site. We have discussed this
reporting "first hand" with John Sheen and he reported
that he took his information from the London Gazette, so if it is
wrong the error just carried on into his text.
The last two pages in this collection are the dates the honours were
collected, which appears to be December 21, 1921 for the Victory
Medal and British War Medal. The last page dated
December 10, 1918 matches the number on George's
Reporting Error, March 13, 1919
Out of interest, the last page shows that errors are made - one
which was almost made a few years ago when we first started to check
the records of the Tyneside Irish, not knowing there were two
"G. Laughton's". Geoffrey is listed on page 209 of
Sheen's book and George is the next listing on page 210. The
details of this are shown on our page for the Tyneside