The advent of the aeroplane and its adaptation for military use changed the face of battle forever. During the First World War, thousands of Canadians offered their service to the Empire as a part of the British Royal Flying Corps. One of these men was Captain Charles Lambert Bath.
Born September 9, 1894 in Swansea, Wales, Charles Lambert Bath moved to Canada at a young age and studied science at McGill University. Living in Toronto when the war broke out, he signed up for the Eaton Machine Gun Battalion on February 8, 1915. At the age of twenty he had become a Captain in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His time in the Machine Gun Battalion would be short lived however, for in April of 1916, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and became a pilot.
On November 3, 1917 Captain Bath suffered his first battle wound when a bullet struck his right foot. The wound was not severe enough to prevent him from flying, and after three weeks on leave he returned to the skies once again. His second flight related injury however, did not offer such a speedy recovery. On March 10, 1918 he was involved in a plane crash in England. His aircraft nosedived 1200 feet and put Captain Bath in hospital with a fractured skull, and broken nose. He remained unconscious for several days and had to undergo reconstructive surgery to remove bone fragments from what was once his nose. Miraculously, Captain Bath recovered, losing most of his sense of smell and taste, as well as part of his nasal bone. The internal injuries to his brain however, would never heal.
During his recovery he began suffering from seizures and slight memory loss. Transferring between recovery hospitals, Captain Bath returned to Canada and was medically discharged on October 15, 1919. Upon his discharge, he applied for and received a pension for seventy-five percent disability at a rate of 62.50 dollars per month. As a result of the Amended Pension Act of 1920, his pension was significantly reduced to only ten percent and he would now receive 8.33 dollars per month. Despite this, he was still able to support himself, working a series of jobs in northern paper mills and travelling to the Prairies for the harvest. His seizures only happened every couple of months during this period, and had little impact on his ability to do manual labour. If he was in an office or had to do heavy mental work however, they worsened and he would not be able to work.
Despite his injuries, Charles Bath’s days as a pilot were not yet over. In the winter of 1924 he met fellow Veteran pilot H.S. Quigley, president of the Dominion Aerial Exploration Company. Quigley offered him a job provided he obtain his civilian pilots license by the springtime. In 1925, Bath was back in the air, working for Quigley as a bush pilot in Northern Ontario. He flew for the Dominion Aerial Exploration Company until 1927, when he once again entered military service. This time with the newly formed Royal Canadian Air Force.Captain Bath flew with the RCAF for two years, being stationed at Dartmouth, Ottawa and Winnipeg. In 1929 he suffered two seizures while on base and was grounded. His career as a pilot had come to an end. Later that year, he married Fawnie Byrne Brophy and in 1930, he was medically discharged for the second time.
Following his discharge, Bath once again applied for a pension. As the board was reviewing his latest application, they noticed his previous reduction from a decade earlier and deemed it a mistake. Realizing this, they awarded him 4,300 dollars that should have been paid out over the course of the previous decade. Along with this, they awarded him a seventy-five percent pension that gave him and his wife a combined 81.25 dollars per month. As his disability worsened with age, this would later be increased to one hundred percent coverage. Charles Bath spent most of the 1930s living a quiet life with his wife just outside of Ottawa.
In 1944 he was hospitalized with hallucinations as a result of his injuries and alcohol abuse. The hallucinations continued throughout the 1940s, resulting in numerous stays in the hospital. Charles Lambert Bath died on September 5, 1952 in an Ottawa hospital. His wife received a widow’s pension until her death in 1955.
Click here to access Charles Bath’s military service file at Library and Archives Canada