Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Reading Frederick William Slatter's WWI Military Records

My husband's Slatter family had a multi-generational tradition of military service. This post honors the memory of his 1c1r Frederick William Slatter (1890-1958) who was severely wounded while serving with Canadian forces in World War I. Frederick was the second son of Capt. John Daniel Slatter (renowned military bandmaster in the 48th Highlanders of Toronto) and Sophie Marie Elizabeth Le Gallais (1861-1943).

Beyond Attestation

According to Frederick's Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Forces attestation paper, he joined the 75th Battalion on August 11, 1915. It had just been formed as an infantry unit for World War I service. 

Frederick, a bank clerk, was just weeks shy of his 25th birthday. He told officials he was unmarried, had been a member of a Canadian militia, and had previously served in the 2d Queen's Own unit. 

The complete military record covers 62 pages (including envelopes and blank pages) in the Library and Archives of Canada. This comprehensive file tells the story of his journey from the time he signed the attestation (and resigned and signed a new attestation) to his period of service in the European theatre and then to hospitals and finally to leaving the military. Unexpectedly, the file even included his date of death, decades after the war.

From Private to Acting Sergeant

After Frederick was medically cleared to serve in the 75th Battalion (formerly the 180th Battalion), he went into training. He was ranked as a private when he resigned from the 75th Battalion on February 8, 1916 to accept a commission as an acting sergeant with the 109th Regiment and then absorbed into the180th Battalion.  

Before being deployed overseas, Frederick trained at Camp Borden, the same Canadian training camp where his father (Capt. John Daniel Slatter) was training hundreds of buglers for World War I service. Then, 104 years ago this week, Frederick sailed from Halifax to Europe with other Canadian troops on H.M.T. Olympic

"GSW Chest Sev" Before Battle of Vimy Ridge

By early 1917, he was one of the thousands of soldiers massing in France to prepare for the notorious battle of Vimy Ridge. Many were wounded or lost their lives before the major offensive. On March 28, only days before the big battle began, Frederick was shot and subsequently admitted to the Duchess of Westminster Hospital in Le Touquet, France.

His medical condition was noted as: GSW chest sev - meaning a severe gun shot wound to the chest. He was moved to two other hospitals for treatment before being discharged from medical care on May 6, 1917. He was promoted to become Lt. Frederick William Slatter in September, 1917, and appears with that rank in the history of the 180th Battalion booklet. Ultimately, he was reevaluated by medical boards, declared medically unfit for service in early 1918, and returned to Canada for discharge.

Unexpected Find: Death Date

As I scrolled through Frederick's lengthy file, I found several pages that revealed his death date. Above, the card noting that Frederick was considered active in the theatre of war (France) from November 13, 1916 (the date of his sailing from Canada). Typed above his name at top left is the date he died, July 15, 1958.

Rest in peace, Lt. Frederick William Slatter, being honored for Remembrance Day and Veterans Day in 2020.

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