Friday, April 23, 2010

Private Richard Regan

Private Regan Joins the CEF

Richard Regan attested to the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) on November 12, 1914. From his "Regimental Number" (57714) we know that he attested directly to the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion in Military District #2 (Toronto, Ontario). The 20th served as a unit of the 4th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division of the CEF (the "Canadian Corps").

At the time that Private Regan signed up to serve with the CEF he indicated that he had been born in London, England (Bermondsey) and that his wife was now living in Milton, Ontario (Halton Region, Canada). Richard was born on November 12, 1884 and thus 30 years, 8 months at the time of his enlistment. Private Regan indicated that he was married and that is trade was that of a "Lightman". Private Regan's medical history document on discharge states that his former occupation was that of a "Brick Maker".

By all standards, Private Regan was much older than most recruits that were attesting from Halton Region.

At attestation, Richard Regan noted that his next of kin was his wife, "Eliza Adda Regan" and their place of residence was at 86 Claremont St., Queen Street West, Toronto Ontario. On discharge his wife is reported to be residing at 40 Robinson Street, Toronto. His attestation papers note that his next-of-kin were located in Halton County (Milton).

Click this image to see Private Regan's Attestation Papers:

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Service Record of Richard Regan

We have retrieved the service records of Private Richard Stephen Regan from Library and Archives Canada, at the request of his grandson, Ronald Regan (Milton Canadian Legion, Branch 136 - April 2010). It is from these documents and a number of reference texts that this summary document has been prepared.

A complete copy of Private Regan's service record from the Archives has been provided to his Grandson Ronald Regan (paper format). An electronic copy of those papers, for those accessing this record on-line, can be found at the following link: (this is a large file, download by high speed connection only)

Regan, Richard Stephen 57714

In addition to the details provided in the Service Record of Private Richard Stephen Regan, a great deal of information is available in the War Diary Archives, also held at Library and Archives Canada. There are war diaries for all of the unit components (Battalion, Brigade and Division).

Private Regan joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in November 1914, after which he trained during the winter months at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. Many other new recruits of the First Contingent that trained at Valcartier, Quebec. The July 1915 War Diary contains a concise summary of the training period and notes that the men left Exhibition Stadium on May 14, 1915 for Montreal on the C.P.R. (Canadian Pacific Railway).

War Diary, 20th Battalion - July 1915
(Library and Archives Canada)

Private Regan left Canada on the evening May 14, 1915 on board the S. S. S. Megantic, arriving in England on May 24, 1915. The Megantic was met by the "Lucifer and Legion" torpedo boat destroyers upon arrival in Plymouth, England.  The War Diary for June 1915 shows that the 20th Infantry Battalion was training at West Sandling, Kent, which they reached by rail from Plymouth. The complete unit of 1,142 men arrived at Kent on May 24, 1915.

Private Regan did not leave England for France until September 14, 1915, during which time he would have undergone extensive training in England. The War Diary of September 1915 indicates the men of the 20th Infantry Battalion left camp on September 12, 1915 to Shorncliffe where they entrained for the port of Southampton. In the pouring rain of the evening of September 14, 1915 they boarded the Duchess of Argyle for a short (but rough) trip across the English Channel to Bolougne, France.

The fall of 1915 and winter of 1916 saw the men of the 20th Infantry Battalion firmly fixed in the front-line trenches of the Great War. Main locations noted in the war diary are La Brassiere, La Clytte and the Dickebusch Trenches (in the Ypres Sector of Belgium - southwest of Ypres and northwest of St. Eloi - note the "Dickebush" lake on the map).

The Ypres Front Line of 1916
(Norm Christie - The Canadians at Mount Sorrel)

It was at Ypres in April 1915 (prior to the arrival of Private Regan) the that German's first used poison gas against the Canadian and French troops. Private Regan's name is clearly listed in the Nominal Roll of the 20th Infantry Battalion upon arrival in France in September 1915. This is included in the War Diary of December 1915, where he is shown as a member of "C Company - 20th Battalion".

Extract of 20th Battalion Nominal Roll in War Diary
(Private Richard Regan 58814 - C Company)

The service record of Private Regan is primarily one of MEDICAL CONDITIONS that he suffered as a result of his service in the Great War. He was wounded twice (minor wounds to hand and foot) and suffered other medical ailments, all of which lead to his ultimate discharge in 1918 as a soldier that was "medically unfit" for further overseas service.

Private Regan's involvement with the Town of Milton came to light when his grandson (Ronald Regan) discovered a pocket watch that had been issued to Private Richard Regan for his service in the Great War of 1914-1919. An image is shown in the side posts of this blog, along with the inscription. To date we have not found any other record of watches being issued by the Town of Milton to soldiers of the Great War.

The service record of Private Regan shows that in total he served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force for 4 years and 196 days, with service as follows:

  • Canada: May 1914 - May 1915
  • England: May 1915 - September 1915
  • France: September 1915 - May 1918
To better understand the service record of Private Regan, the file has been broken down into these categories:

Private Regan Suffers "Shell Shock" (Neurasthenia)

The "Service Record" of Private Regan shows that while serving with the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion he suffered from "Shell Shock" (Neurasthenia) on June 10, 1916, a period of the Great War that is recorded in Nicholson's Official History of the CEF in the Great War in the chapter "The St. Eloi Craters and Mount Sorrel". This was certainly one of the most devastating bombardment periods of the war from the artillery assaults and the extensive sub-surface mining by both sides. As a result of this infliction, Private Regan was admitted to the No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital at Boulogne (June 15, 1916), after which he progressed through the No. 1 Convalescent Depot (June 21, 1916); Special Hospital; No. 3 General Base Depot (June 29, 1916); finally being discharged to Reinforcements on August 10, 1916 (Havre, France). In the later stages of his rehabilitation he also was treated for a "hernia" and transferred to England on August 23, 1916.

By August 31, 1916 he was at the CCAC (Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre), then to the 5th Reserve Battalion on February 3, 1917 at Hastings, then back to the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion on March 6, 1917, leaving to France from Bramshot (England).

Private Regan is "Wounded in Action"

Private Regan's wounds of June 1916 included the wound to his right hand (in addition to the "Shell Shock" noted above), caused by a rifle "exploding in his hand". A misfire was a common occurrence on the front lines, particularly in the early days prior to the replacement of the infamous Canadian "Ross Rifle" with the British "Lee Enfield". He suffered no permanent disability from the hand wound. The Ross Rifle would be removed from service in the Summer of 1916.

Private Regan's service records report that he received a "gun shot wound" to the foot on or about May 8, 1917 (recorded on May 10, 1917), thus his transfer to the Stationary Hospital at Wimereux, then the Convalescent Depot at Boulogne. There are conflicting reports as to left or right foot, however most front line evidence is that it was the "left foot" and that his final discharge papers were in error (probably due to his "flat foot syndrome" being worse in the right foot).

Unfortunately, the writing in the service record is "cramped" and difficult to interpret during that period. Parts of the record suggest he was once again discharged to a "Rest Camp" on May 23, 1917. These  latter reports of Private Regan being "wounded in action" are documented on May 21, 1917. The wounds do not appear to have been severe and he was able to continue to serve at a "Rest Camp" in the capacity of "Camp Police" during the period from June to September 1917. He was assigned to the 27 IBD (Infantry Base Depot) during this period.

On January 27, 1918, Private Regan was classified as "A" by the Medical Board, which meant he was fit to return to "General Service". He did a short stint with the 27th Infantry Battalion, which appears to be related to some form of "Escourt Duty". By March 16, 1918 he was back serving with the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion. On March 12, 1918, Private Regan was very sick and invalided to the 1st Central Ontario Regimental Depot (CORD). He is reported to be back in 11 CFA (Canadian Field Ambulance) on April 30, 1918 at which time his Field Medical Card states that "running no fever but pain severe and persistent". Those reports continued throughout May 1918 and are reported as occurring at the Military Convalescent Hospital (Epsom) on August 15, 1918.

Private Regan was finally "Struck-Off-Strength" (S.O.S.) and discharged to Canada from Witley on December 12, 1918, a month after the Armistice. He was then allocated to the No. 2 District Depot, from which he was discharged on June 2, 1919. His discharge papers note that he had two Gold Stripes (wound stripes), recognizing his 1916 "Shell Shock" and his 1917 "Gunshot Wound - Foot". There is no note regarding the 1916 right hand injury, as it may have been reported as "accidental". His medical history at discharge says there was no disability from the hand injury, however he was left with a "V" shaped scar.

Private Regan Suffers from "Flat Feet, Trench Fever, Myalgia and Influenza

Throughout the service record of Private Regan there are numerous references to his battle with the medical condition of "Flat Feet". This is an important issue in military terms and generally a condition that would have excluded him from military service at the time of his enlistment. Many men joined and served with multiple medical conditions, often find ways to "work around" the medical issues that would have seen them left out of the war. By the time the war was over, the Medical Board ruled that he has "partial loss of function" of his feet and that he was medically unfit. This led to serious issues in dealing with the pain in his legs (as of May 1918) and the inability to participate in the gruelling marches of the infantry battalions on a daily basis. Although the service records indicate that Private Regan was provided with "Orthopaedic Boots", the problem was never resolved.

There is little mention in Private Regan's records of matters in the later part of 1917. Clearly the 20th Infantry Battalion was active in the "Slaughter in the Mud" (Passchendaele, October - November 1917). Private Regan's "Casualty Form - Active Service" for that period suggests that for the period from September 1917 to January 1918 he was not at Passchendaele, rather at the "Rest Camp" and with the "Military Police". He was not classified ready for "General Service" until January 27, 1918 and with his inter-unit transfers (Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp - CCRC), Private Regan was not back to the 21st Infantry Battalion until March 16, 1918. It was not long after that he was back in the hospital with Trench Fever and Influenza, ending Private Regan's real active service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

The medical reports infer that the leg pain was exacerbated by the "Trench Fever" that he suffered while in active duty on the front lines - initially reported on April 26, 1918 and later in August 1918. He was hospitalized from May 12, 1918 until May 27, 1918. Trench Fever was the most common ailment of the soldier, brought on by the infestation of the body and clothes by lice. This infliction started in May 1915 and was compounded by influenza in June-July 1918 and a second bout of trench fever in August 1918.

It is reported that Private Regan suffered from "Myalgia" (extreme muscle pain) while at the Canadian Red Cross Special Hospital in Buxton, Derby (England) from August 1st to September 3rd of 1918. It was here that Private Regan had a spot of trouble with the CEF as he was charged for the offence "While on active service, whilst a patient in hospital: (1) neglecting to obey an order; (2) Insolence to a N.C.O. (non-commissioned officer)". This is as reported by Sgt. Bishop and Cpl. Thomas, leading to a loss of 3 days pay.

Private Regan arrived back in Canada on board the transport ship Essequibo, arriving in Halifax Nova Scotia on December 20, 1918. He was hospitalized as of December 24, 1918 and cleared to the Casualty Company Park School on May 8, 1919.

After transfer to Canada, he spent time in recovery for his "flat feet" syndrome, with final discharge on May 26, 1919 (St. Andrews Military Hospital).

We should note that in the end, the Influenza Pandemic ("Spanish Flu") killed more people world wide than the Great War. Private Regan was thus once again lucky he survived. His medical discharge suggests that he needed treatment in hospital in England for 7 months and a further 5 months in hospital in Canada.

Private Regan was formally discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force on June 2, 1919 being declared as "Medically Unfit".

The 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion

It is important for Private Regan's military service record to understand the importance of the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion in France and Flanders, during the time that he served in the trenches. As a unit of the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Division, the 20th was an active front line infantry battalion in the thick of the trench warfare.

June 1916 - The St. Eloi Craters and Mount Sorrel

The complete War Diary for the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion (4th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division) is available on-line from Library and Archives Canada. To see the complete file, please select this link:

20th Infantry Battalion, 1916

The Battalion War Diary of May 9, 1916 shows that the Private Regan and the 20th were at St. Eloi (Dead Dog Farm), and that the enemy was active. They moved to Reninghelst on May 15, 1916 for what appears to be a rest period, returning to active duty at "The Bluff Trenches" on May 30, 1916, an area known to be about one-and-one-half miles southeast of Ypres, in the Zillebeke surrounding area.

What happened on June 10, 1916 - which does not appear to be significant is reported in the War Diary at this link:

20th Infantry Battalion, June 10th 1916

The war diary suggests the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion was at The Bluff Trenches at the time and that the men had been out on a "working party". During the early days of June 1916, the 20th Battalion had been under heavy artillery fire, primarily from German 77 mm guns. That would be the beginning of the events that lead to the "shell shock" which inflicted Private Regan. Many a Canadian Soldier suffered shell shock from the pounding of the German 77 mm guns (one of which sits in Victoria Park, Milton).

War Diary of June 10, 1919
(Library and Archives Canada)

The specific area where Private Regan was working on the construction and maintenance of trenches in May and June 1916 has been depicted on a 1:40,000 original trench map produced in December 1916. The "orange tags" mark the places referenced in the war diary pages for the 20th Infantry Battalion of that date:

From Sheet 28 - Belgium and France
(from the trench map collection of Richard V. Laughton)

The summer and fall of 1916 are well known in the Great War history for "The Battles of the Somme", as described in detail in Nicholson's Official History (see Chapter VI). The winter of 1916-1917 was relatively quiet, if one can say that about a war, leading to the great events as recorded for the Battle of Arras and Vimy Ridge in the Spring of 1917.

April - May 1917 - The Thelus Sector, Arras and Roclincourt

The 20th Infantry Battalion was in the "Thelus Sector" of Arras as early as February 1917. By April 1917 they were in the thick of the Battle for Vimy Ridge (see War Diary April 1917) at Roclincourt, just north of the British 3rd Army. Their objectives are as described in the Operational Orders, also contained in the War Diary.

The War Diary of May 1917 provides details of the intense trench warfare of that period after Vimy Ridge. The Canadian Corps was providing support to the British 3rd Army Attacks and counter-attacks continued for weeks as the two opposing armies tried to consolidate or recover positions. The war diary reports that in early May 1917 they were west of Aux Reitz and moving into Divisional Reserve. It is reported on May 5, 1917 the 20th Battalion moved into the area between Neuville-St-Vaast and Thelus, on Vimy Ridge  (reference map 51b - sectors A4 and A5), where they are actively cleaning dugouts and trenches, while receiving enemy fire.

Map 51b - General Area
(from the trench map collection of Richard V. Laughton)

Map 51b NW1 - Thelus Sector
(original trench map from the archives of Lt. G. V. Laughton, M.C.)

On May 6, 1917 the unit was north of Thelus (references map 36c) where there was heavy shelling.

At 3:00 am on May 8, 1917 the enemy attacked, the period during which Private Regan was wounded in the foot. Action was most significant at the Arleux Loop and on Winnipeg Road. The war diary of May 8, 1917 states that "C Coy" of the 20th Battalion were on Manitoba Road. Nicholson reports (page 278) that the 4th Canadian Brigade was protecting the British left flank, all of which broke down due to poor liaison and heavy enemy shelling. This was the last major action for Private Regan.

War Diary of May 8, 1917
(Library and Archives Canada)

The exact location of the ROADS referenced in the war diary (at the T28 T29 coordinates) were found from Trench Map 36cSW which is available on-line from the McMaster University archives. The map in expanded form for the Vimy Sector is shown below, followed by a further expansion to show T28 and T29 road locations. "C Coy" of the 20th Battalion was at T28 C&A (left lower and upper sections of T28).

Vimy Sector (Vimy is on the left)
T28 and T29 (lower right)
(from the Trench Map Archives of McMaster University)

Expanded View of T28 and T29 Sectors
Vancouver Road in T28 A & C Sectors
(from the Trench Map Archives of McMaster University)

Post May 1917 - Battle Time is Over for Private Regan

The service record of Private Regan indicates that he did not participate in the Summer 1917 Capture of Hill 70 & Lens, nor in the Fall 1917 Battle of Passchendaele. As such, Private Regan avoided the "Slaughter in the Mud" at Passchendaele that took the lives of so many young Canadian Soldiers. Medical afflictions from trench fever and influenza also kept Private Regan out of the war in 1918, thus he did not participate in "Canada's Hundred Days", as the Corp marched from Amiens to Mons in the final days of the war. Regardless, Private Regan was there when he was called upon to serve, as well as when he was able to serve.


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