This blog was produced in collaboration with the students and Christine Ritsma of Stratford Northwestern Secondary School, and the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies.
By Luke Riehl, Jackson Nickel and Josh Rogers
James Hastings was born 23 March 1890 in Stratford, Ontario. Prior to the war, he was employed as a furniture finisher but must have been caught up in the enthusiasm of serving his country, as he enlisted quite early in the war on 20 September 1914 at Valcartier, Quebec. His unit (1st Battalion) sailed in early October 1914. In January 1919, Hastings was demobilized and discharged, opting to return to Stratford to live with his recently widowed mother and older brother–an ex-soldier himself suffering from injuries incurred during the war.
Hastings was injured quite early in the war in May 1915 when he suffered a severe gunshot wound to the neck. He was admitted to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital in Woodcote Park, Epsom and remained hospitalized until he was put on furlough, which lasted until April 1916. His records state that when he returned to duty he was documented as suffering from neurasthenia.
While he was serving with the 36th Battalion, he returned to hospital and this time stayed at Moore Barracks suffering from influenza on 20 December 1916. He was discharged from barracks six days later, “feeling better” after suffering from a high fever. His military career after his gunshot wound is filled with comments about drunkenness and, in one case, being absent from his unit for several days. His last and most severe wound occurred in February 1918 where he suffered a phosgene gas attack. This type of gas is highly toxic and can disrupt the breathing of the afflicted, sometimes leading to suffocation.
Once Hastings arrived back in Canada, he required extensive hospital visits as he suffered from serious respiratory issues. He applied for a disability pension for his injuries and received a Class One Pension ($75 per month) with an additional $15 that went to his mother. Sadly, Hasting died on 16 February 1922 at the young age of thirty two. He spent the last three weeks of his life in a Stratford hospital unconscious. His death was reported to be from pulmonary tuberculosis and tuberculous meningitis. It was attributed to being gassed in the war. Pension payments of $30 per month continued to be sent to his elderly mother in Stratford until her death in 1934.
To View James Hastings’ military service file at Library and Archives Canada, Click Here