Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Morley served overseas from 1914 to 1915 until he was discharged in August of 1915 following a gunshot wound of the right leg. Lieutenant Colonel Morley’s pension files reveal the struggles that soldiers endured during the First World War, and the repercussions that came as a result of their brave service overseas.
During Lieutenant Colonel Morley’s service overseas, he was involved in a great number of conflicts which would leave lasting results on him during his postwar life. While seeking money from the Board Pension Commission, a letter written by Lieutenant William Slater reveals some of the sacrifices that Morley made to protect his brigade and fellow soldiers. Lieutenant Slater claims that at Salisbury Plain, despite the weather and terrible conditions, Morley fought through Bronchitis, “never known to miss any duty during his entire service.” Then in France, Morley and the 8th battalion under his command would be present at the Second Battle of Ypres where they were caught in a gas attack. Slater noted that Morley would lead his men “fearlessly into the gas cloud to counter attack penetrating the trenches to our left against heavy fire.” Slater mentioned that if it were not for Morley and his exceptional actions of bravery, the 8th battalion would have been “completely annihilated.” Seventy five percent of the group were considered casualties and needed medical treatment, including Morley, but he refused treatment in order to continue leading. Morley’s hardships throughout the war would continue, as in the Battle of Festuburt, half of his company were casualties. Slater recalled heavy shelling, yet Morley insisted he be in the most vulnerable areas. In the Battle of Givenchy, he would become ill once again, this time with the measles. Morley’s service overseas would come to a sudden end when he was shot in the leg by a German sniper. However, his trip home would not go uninterrupted. The ship returning him to Canada, the Hespanan, would be torpedoed off the Irish Coast.
When Morley returned home, doctors would find that Morley was suffering from a heart condition known as diffuse alveolar hemorrhage (DAH) and damage to his leg from the sniper bullet. He would be in a constant battle with the Board Pension Commission in order to receive the money which he believed he was entitled to. Upon returning home, Morley told his doctors he is not suffering from any mental strains, but in 1926 a doctor diagnosed him with neurasthenia. This diagnosis came after a failed suicide attempt from a shot to the right breast. He attempted this after being charged with petty theft which would later be dropped. Morley was promptly admitted to a psychopathic ward and was later released. He would again find himself in legal trouble with his family, and attempted suicide again by ingesting poison. He was again hospitalized in Winnipeg and then transferred to Toronto where he remained for a year and a half.
Despite his traumatic war experiences and his struggles with physical and mental illnesses, Morley would survive until 1964. Morley’s pension file reveals the struggle of a soldier which occurred, not only during active service, but also in his post war years.
Click here to access Arthur Morley’s military service file at Library and Archives Canada