May 17, 1916 (12th Parliament, 6th Session)


Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)


Before the committee rises I should like to give some information in reply to a question asked by the hon. member from Maisonneuve (Mr. Verville) with regard to recruiting in Montreal. This information consists of a report from General Hodgins, the adjutant general, to which is attached a report from Lieut.-Colonel Potter, the acting-director general of the medical services. These reports are somewhat lengthy, and perhaps the committee will agree with the assent of the hon. member for Maisonneuve.

whom I have consulted, that they should be incorporated in Hansard without being read, in order that they may appear in Hansard for the information of the hon. gentleman. The reports are as follows:
Criticism by Mr. Verville, M. P. of the medical examination of recruits at Montreal and elsewhere,' Hansard, pages 4219 et seq. 16th May, 1916. .
The following reply is submitted herewith to the criticisms marginally noted:
1. Telegram from Brigadier General Wilson, officer commanding military district No. 4 received to-day. " Examination being carried out by Medical Board in accordance with instructions from headquarters. Not more than three hundred discharged in this district in the last six weeks.- Certain civilian practitioners in outlying districts have recently been discovered passing men in defiance of definite instructions. Many of these men acknowledged that they had not been even stripped. The cases of rejection are not for minor defects but for hernia, potts' disease of the spine, hip joint disease, flat feet, under age and over age. Rejections for defective eye sight have been in accordance with regulations, and the test has been carried out at a distance of twenty feet only ".
2. A full memorandum (attached hereto) prepared by Colonel Potter, the Acting Director General of Medical Services, setting forth the whole system with regard to physical examination of recruits.
3. Recent editoral * (attached hereto) from the London Times clearly demonstrating the value and necessity of carrying out a very careful weeding-out process before submitting them to the thorough training for and the hardships of active service in the field.
This matter has received special care not only at headquarters, but in Military District No. 4 (Montreal) as well as in all other military districts, and it is confidently submitted that the criticism is not justified, and that what has been and is being done is in the best interests, both of those desirous of serving efficently end of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
W . E. Hodgins,
Major General Adjutant-General.
Physical Examination of Recruits.
Particular attention has been paid to the Issuing of instructions regarding the physical examination of recruits. The assistant directors of Medical Service of the various military districts have, from time to time, sent out such instructions as appeared necessary to correct any particlar point which appeared not to be receiving sufficient attention.
The regulations for the Canadian Medical Service have been used as a guide. The standards of physical fitness were amended with regard to the condition of the teeth, and such are now practically disregarded, as the Dental Service immediately give any necessary attention. Standards of vision have been slightly modified and are now in accordance withe the standards in use by the British service.
Medical examiners of recruits have, from time to time, made mistakes at the original examination, with the result that, with later medical Inspections, it was found that men were unfit, and had to be discharged, as they obviously

were not physically fit for the hardships of overseas service.
Very recently, the whole matter of physical fitness of recruits was again given attention and instructions, with more particulars given, prepared. The examination of recruits, to be carried out successfully, requires a special training, and it can be understood how a good general practitioner might overlook points which, from a military standpoint, are considered as impairing efficiency, but which, in civil life, are not considered to be causative of physical unfitness. Men suffering from disabilities which, apparently, do not impair, in their civil occupations, often have disabilities which, when under the hardships of active service, are very likely to render them invalids, and, if such men are sent overseas, they only have to be returned to Canada and perhaps become the subjects for consideration in the matter of pension or' other claims.
In the larger centres, as for example

Montreal, the Standing Medical' Board carry out the inspections, as far as possible, of recruits, and thus a greater degree of efficiency is obtained. The instructions sent out in Military District No. 4, in which Montreal is situated, show that very careful attention has been given to the matter of the physical fitness of recruits. Reference is made to a second physical examina.-tion being carried out at some time subsequent to the primary physical examination whin the man is recruited. This, obviously, would not be necessary, unless there were good reasons for such action being taken, and, with the large numbers of men enlisted, there is bound to be a weeding-out process at some stage before they proceed overseas. It is obviously much more economical and in the interests of the public to discharge a man found medically unfit than to carry him overseas and have him return as an invalid at considerable expense to the public.
Medical examiners of recruits are widely scattered throughout Canada, and many of them, prior to the outbreak of the war, had but little experience in this particular line of work, and it is hardly to be expected that a certain number-of mistakes will not be made.
In the case of any man physically unfit for overseas, lie may be utilized on home service in Canada, provided his disability does not impair his efficiency for the duty on which he is to be employed and it is certified that his disability is not likely to suffer from such employment. In each case, a decision will have to be made upon the merits of the case. Once the standard of physical fitness is lowered from that required in the cases of men sent overseas, it becomes an extremely difficult matter to lay down general rules.
I may say that this matter is receiving special consideration with a view to giving the men who are unfit for overseas service every opportunity to replace those who are physically fit for duty in Canada, in order that the men may have an opportunity to serve overseas.
Following your instructions, I rang up Lt.-Colonel Patch, the Assistant Director of Medical Services, Military District No. 4, and asked if he had anything special to report as distinguishing the Montreal situation from that in other parts of Canada. He reported that every care is being taken to avoid the sending of men, medically unfit, overseas, and that, before troops are sent to camps, or otherwise, either as whole units or as drafts, a very careful medical inspection is carried out. Recently, the number was large, and he considered that

this was probably due to the regular medical inspections of the men not being carried out as strictly as should be expected.
Inquiry was made as to the nature of the disabilities for which discharge was carried out. He informed that, in every case, the disability which rendered the man physically unfit was a serious one, and that they were not being discharged for minor disabilities. Disabilities which tend to materially impair the efficiency of a man as a soldier were given special attention.
In the cases of all men discharged in Military District No. 4, they appear before a Medical Board. It would appear that whatever action is being taken by th' medical officers is with the best interests of the service in view.
J. J. POTTER, Colonel, A.D.G.M.S.
Editorial from the London Times.
Medical Tests for Recruits.
We fear that there are still very serious defects in the method of medical examination for recruits, similar to those on which we remarked when Lord Derby's scheme was begun. The problem is two-sided. On the one hand there are men who are determined to join the Army, and do everything on their own account to " dodge " the doctor. A less praiseworthy influence is also at work, in that certain people are anxious at this moment to get on paper as many voluntary recruits as they can, irrespective of their quality. Whatever the motive, the results of admitting men who are physically unfit are certain to be lamentable. Modern warfare is all against the weak in body, however great may be their soul. The test of the trenches-with their wet or frost; their constant strain on the nerves; their demand for the unceasing and infinitely laborious labour of the spade-all this is almost sure to detect latent weakness. Then the man who has gone in under the false pretence of physical efficiency is apt to let his comrades down. This may seem a brutal way of putting it, but it is the truth. There is, too, the cost of medical attendance for men who break down in this way, not to speak of the dangers that may arise from the discovery that an unduly large percentage of unfit men is being brought into the Army by the new recruiting methods. Far less should those who are responsible for the admission of recruits allow any other motive than zeal in preventing the recruiting of unfit men to govern their supervision of the tests applied.
Progress reported. -

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   LSI 3. II.
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