The pains endured from fighting a war do not end with the fighting. For many veterans of the First World War, their battle scars never healed and continued to affect them for decades after the war ended. One of these veterans was Private Thaddeus “Thaddie” Knockwood. His pension files and service record offer important insight into the life of an indigenous veteran both during and after the war. Thaddie Knockwood was born in Allexon, Prince Edward Island, on July 17, 1879 and grew up on the Lennox Island Indian Reservation where he spent his time farming and hunting. Before the war broke out, he married Susan Bernard, fathering five children with her.
On August 2, 1915, Thaddie enlisted with the 55th Battalion at Sussex, New Brunswick and was sent overseas shortly thereafter. In April 1916, he was transferred to the 58th Battalion where he saw action on the front lines in Belgium. On June 18, 1916, Private Knockwood was struck by shell fragments in the right side of his head. He remained unconscious for several days, losing his right eye completely, as well as the ability to hear in his right ear. Following numerous transfers through Canadian Army hospitals overseas, he was returned to Canada in 1917 where he was fitted with a glass eye to prevent his eye socket from closing in. Before he was discharged, it was recommended that Private Knockwood be approved for a pension before leaving the CEF.
On June 25, 1918 Thaddie Knockwood returned to civilian life and the following day, his pension became active. His initial pension of 390 dollars annually was upgraded to class one less than a month later. He would now be receiving 600 dollars annually for his disability. His health did not improve with the return to civilian life however, for he still had numerous pieces of shrapnel embedded in his skull and suffered from seizures and overall weakness. As a result, he hired help to work a small farm on the island.
As his health deteriorated, so did his family life. He split with his first wife, and in 1941 he remarried a much younger woman. Despite being in his early sixties, he fathered another child with his second wife, who already had five children from a previous marriage. Being around young children was not ideal for Thaddeus in his old age, as he once again found himself leaving family behind.
By 1947 he had made his way to Toronto, where his deteriorating health found him in and out of hospital there until his death on May 4, 1950. Thaddeus Knockwood left behind six children, five from his first marriage and one from his second, and was buried in the family plot on Lennox Island.
Click here to access Thaddeus Knockwood’s military service file at Library and Archives Canada