Benjamin “Benny” Crook (1894-?) was born in Poland and immigrated to Canada. He worked as a labourer before enlisting with the Canadian Expeditionary Force on July 8, 1915, in Smiths Falls, Ontario. He sailed from Quebec to England on the SS California on October 23, 1915. He was sent to France in March 1916, where he was transferred to the 21st Battalion of the Canadian Infantry. While serving at the Ypres Salient, Crook suffered shrapnel wounds to the left knee, right shoulder and head on April 5, 1916. After recuperating for almost a year, he returned to active duty only to be shot in the left arm in August 1917. At only 24 years of age, Crook had proven his courage in battle, and was discharged in Toronto on April 22, 1919. In 1921, the Department of Militia and Defence found several personal photographs belonging to Crook and placed them in his service file in the hope that they would eventually be claimed. They remain in the file today, including one photo of a young woman, inscribed “To Dear Benny, with Love, Dolly.”
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: September 1, 1894 (Lazue, Poland, Russia)
Date of Attestation: July 8, 1915 (Smiths Falls, Ontario)
Age at Enlistment: 20 years, 10 months old
Height: 5 feet, 8 inches
Weight: 156 pounds
Description: Fair complexion, grey eyes, light hair. Two vaccination scars on left arm. Roman Catholic.
Home Address: 312 Rideau Street, Ottawa, Ontario, and 188 Simcoe Street, Toronto, Ontario (after the war)
Trade: Labourer, Carpenter
Next of Kin: Mother, Hurle Crook, living in Lazue, Poland, Russia. Brother, Alex Crook, living at 137 Queen Street W., Toronto, Ontario.
Theatre of War: Canada, England, France
Casualties / Medical History
- April 5, 1916 – Crook is wounded in action at Dickebusch. He is hit by shrapnel in the left knee, right shoulder and head, and receives treatment at a dressing station. He is then admitted to No. 13 General Hospital in Boulogne on April 7th.
- April 22, 1916 – He is sent to King George Stamford St. S.E. Hospital for treatment of his wounds and severe left foot drop.
- May 13, 1916 – Medical notes describe the condition of his left knee and left foot: “There is an incomplete paralysis of the Internal Popliteal Nerve which is recovering.” “There is a wound of entry in the left popliteal space; this has healed up. Patient cannot dorsiflex his left foot which is in a position of drop foot. There is some movement of his toes, some power of extension. No loss of sensation to pin prick. X-Ray Report: A foreign body at the posterior and outer surface of the lower end of shaft of femur.”
- September 5, 1916 – A signed physician’s order form requesting special boots for Crook with a bar under the sole, and a lower left heel to compensate for his drop foot.
- August 16, 1917 – He is admitted to No. 2 Stationary Hospital, Abbeville, with a severe gunshot wound to the left arm. This occurs after spending almost a year recuperating from his knee injury.
- May 1918 – Five months after receiving more treatment for his injuries and convalescing in hospital in England, he returns to duty in France. He is kept only six days at the base and is again hospitalized because “his knee could not stand the marching.”
- February 24, 1919 – Crook’s discharge documents describe his wounds and scars in detail. He has a scar from shrapnel on his right shoulder and left knee, as well as a “gunshot wound in his left upper arm, the bullet passing through the bicep muscle, small scars at point of entrance and exit,” and “a small fragment of shrapnel in the upper portion of the occipital bone.”
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- No date – A “Permanent Force of Canada Attestation Paper” is filled out by “Benjamin Crooks.” He lists Carpenter as his trade and claims to speak English, Polish, Russian, Hebrew and a German dialect.
- October 25, 1917 – A military will signed by “B. Crooks” states “I hereby revoke all former wills made by me and in the event of my death I give all my personal property and personal effects to my brother. Alex Crooks. 59 Dennison Ave. Toronto Ont Can.”
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Military Medals, Honours and Awards (1812–1969)