Ethelbert “Curley” Christian
Enlisting in 1915 with the 108th Battalion CEF, Curley Christian served on the Western Front with the 78th Battalion CEF, a unit of the Fourth Canadian Division. At the Battle of Vimy Ridge “Curley” Christian was crushed and trapped for two days, his wounds becoming gangrenous requiring the amputation of his forearms and legs. Curley’s recovery story seems a familiar one, falling in love with his caregiver a volunteer aide named Cleopatra McPherson, they were married in 1920 and raised a son, Douglas.
Curley’s life as the only CEF soldier to survive four amputations is not so familiar. After his surgeries at London’s Bethnal Green Military Hospital, Curley was transported back to Canada aboard the SS Llandovery Castle, and once in Toronto stayed at Euclid Hall for seriously wounded veterans. Curley was then moved to the Christie Street Veterans Hospital where he met his “Cleo”. Tending to Curley’s needs was a full time commitment for the couple but with the hospital director’s assistance, an appeal resulted in the establishment of a financial supplement for full-time carers of Canada’s wounded veterans. Such is the legacy of Curley’s Great War circumstance that the carer’s Attendance Allowance remains in place today.
In 1936 Curley Christian with his wife Cleopatra returned to Vimy as part of the pilgrimage and memorial dedication. At the ceremony Curley spoke with King Edward VIII who had met Curley previously when, as the Prince of Wales, Edward was on a Canada wide tour promoting the 1919 Victory Loan and taking part in many civic engagements.
Active with The War Amputations of Canada* organization for many years, Curley Christian, an advocate for Canada’s wounded veterans passed away in Toronto in 1954 and is buried at Prospect Cemetery.
Record of Amputations within the Canadian Expeditionary Force
Both Legs and Both Arms – 1
Both Legs – 47
One Leg – 1,675
One Foot – 232
Both Feet – 11
Both Arms – 6
One Arm – 667
One Hand – 141
Sir Andrew McPhail Kt., OBE, The Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War, The Medical Services, 1925, pages 393 – 394.
*’The War Amputations of Canada was first organized in 1918 as The Amputation Club of British Columbia.