Past blogs have told many a story of an American born being trained in Canada and shipping off to do their bit. Later, when the US officially entered the fracas, many of these would be allowed to switch over to American units, and several of these would later earn their Medals of Honor. (One would even proudly brag that the skills that brought him the MOH were learned while trained in Canada.)
Many as well would stay with Canadian units. It has been widely recognized, that 6 Americans would earn the Victoria Cross, four while in Canadian uniform. Five of the 6 were awarded for heroism in 1918, and one back during Civil War days, but outside of the US.
Future blogs will bring stories of new information leaned that the number 6, needs to increase to 10. But I will save those stories for future blogs.
But these two units were certainly not the first consisting mainly of American men. As early as October 1914 about 800 had already sailed overseas with the first contingent. Probably the first of the 35,000 to make the same journey.
They had allowed the earlier enlistments. But in doing so requested that any who gave up their citizenship upon joining, would be encouraged to return to the US and take up citizenship again.
Bellenden was one of those men. He'd give up his citizenship, signed up and go to war and came back home to Toronto, then back to his real home in Illinois. The very state that would claim a connection to Medal of Honor hero's Charles Asten, Thomas Higgins, George Houghton, Alonzo Pickle and Wesley Powers. All names you have hopefully read here in past blogs.
Bellenden came from Mount Carmel Illinois, and had taken secondary schooling and then medical training and was a practicing doctor and surgeon when the Great War began. He would later claim that his future, as you shall soon read about, was in fact due to a desire to get war experience in the cleaning up of wounds made by others.
He was further influenced by the fact that, being of English descent, he was very sympathetic to the Allied cause. He would write in later life that in addition to this, his G. Grandfather fought under Nelson at Trafalgar and lost an eye and his Grand-father, having moved to the US, had fought as an officer in the Civil War.
Shortly after that he found himself at the grounds of today's famous Canadian National Exhibition grounds, but during the war is was better known as Camp Exhibition.
By either 14 November or 14 December, depending on documents looked at, Bellenden had been moved to Toronto and enlisted with the 97th Overseas Battalion of the Expeditionary Forces, and better known as the "Toronto Americans."
Being a good Toronto regiment, the 97th apparently were not unknown for raucous activities. Perhaps it was because they were anxious to be getting to the battlefields, but after many months of training the regiment shipped to Halifax and sailed with about 30 officers and 800 men to Europe in mid September 1916.
Upon arrival in Britain the unit was broken up and men went out to several units as reinforcements. It is believed that Lt. Hutcheson may have done some of his battlefield work whilst attached to the PPCLI and also the RCR. soon he was promoted to captain and transferred into the Canadian Medical Corps.
It would be whilst attached to the 75th, that doctor Bellenden S Hutcheson would become famous, not only for his heroism, but his compassion for all those in need of medical help.
And I will bring you that part of this story on Sunday.
see you then.