“May they not take it too seriously! Seein’ as ‘ow the training is all washed out as soon as you turn that narrow street corner at Boulogne, where some watcher with a lantern is always up for English troops arriving, with a “Bon courage” for every man. A year ago today-but that way madness lies.”
(Captain Charles Hamilton Sorley from a letter to the Master of Marlbourgh, in War Letters of Fallen Englishmen, edited by Laurance Houseman, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1930)
It somewhat surprises me that I can quote from a War Poet, for whenever I’m asked about the War Poets the default answers is “Not a fan”. It is not that I don’t like them. They wrote some of the finest poetry ever written in English. They wrote a lot of crap too, but we won’t dwell on that today. It is just they are shite historians. They are part of the history of the Great War, but they did not write that history. I remember Mr Millinship, one if not the best teacher I ever had reading Dulce et Decorum Est and asking me what I thought of it. Don’t think he was too impressed with my reply, I said something along the lines of. “It took him three years to come up with war is hell. My dad’s a soldier don’t you think I don’t already know that?” I was 11 at the time, an easy going child in a difficult world. Back to Sorley. Sorley was for a time at Shorncliffe but the madness he was writing about was not the madness at Shorncliffe but the madness of war.
Someone who will never be as famous as Owen or Sorley, basically because he wasn’t a War Poet but who dealt with insanity, his own, at Shorncliffe was Private 513212 William Anderson, Canadian Army Service Corps Training Depot. (CASC TD)
William was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England. After serving in the Inniskilling Fusiliers He emigrated to Canada it was here he enlisted at Petawawa, in No.2 CASC TD. he was 37.
William sailed to England on the SS Olympic arriving in England on the 28th December 1916 and is taken on the strength of the CASC TD at Shorncliffe on the 29th. On the 5th May 1917, William was posted to the 7th Reserve Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, (Eastern Ontario Regiment). (PPCLI (EOR). Six months later he is admitted to 44 Casualty Clearing Station suffering from Trench Feet, a condition caused by standing with unprotected or badly protected feet in unsanitary water. Sent back through the evacuation train to England and the General Military Hospital in Colchester. January 1918 sees William at the Military Convalescent Hospital Epsom and on the 28th at the Manor War Hospital Epsom. May 16th and William is back at Shorncliffe. This time he is at 11 Canadian General Hospital and diagnosed with Dementia Praecox (Schizophrenia). On the 28th May, his diagnoses is changed to Exhaustion Psychosis, which is an abnormal mental state in which the patient is restless, illusional, and has severe communicational problems. At 11:30 pm on the 14th June 1918, William Anderson’s madness ends.
William is buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery.