The Amputee

Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Webb, D.S.O., M.C.
47th (Western Ontario) BattalionWebb

A shell dropped in among the troops and twenty-two Winnipeg men and Col. Webb were wounded. Webb’s leg was completely severed near the hip. The colonel took out his pocket-knife and cut off the mangled remnants, then tied up his arteries with a shoelace. He afterwards underwent the necessary surgical operation without an anesthetic in Etaples field hospital. Recovering in England, he never used a crutch. He secured an artificial limb and left the hospital walking upon it. Within five months after his leg was blown off, he was back in France with his unit, with the artificial member.

(Winnipeg Tribune, 17 Nov 1924, 4)

Ralph Humphreys Webb succeeded Lieutenant Colonel M. J. Francis as commander of the 47th Battalion on 14 December 1917. In September 1914, the twenty-eight year old Webb had enlisted as a lieutenant with the Canadian Army Service Corps. Webb was born at sea on an ocean liner sailing from India on 30 August 1886. Raised in England, he immigrated to Canada in 1902.

Serving on the Western Front with the 36th Battalion, Webb rose through the ranks as he proved himself a courageous soldier and effective leader. He was mentioned in the dispatches four times, won the Military Cross and received the Distinguished Service Order. On 22 April 1918, while commanding the 47th near Oppy Wood, an exploding shell blew off his left leg.

Webb was taken to the No. 57 Causality Clearing Station for a field doctor to complete the amputation. Major H. L. Keegan succeeded him as the 47th Battalion commander. Webb was evacuated to England for rehabilitation and recovery. Fitted for a prosthetic limb, he returned to France in October 1918.

After the war, the charismatic, one-legged war hero was twice Mayor of Winnipeg (1925—1928, 1930—1934). Taking a strong stand against socialism and communism, he argued that the “Red Gospel” indoctrinated children “to defy, desecrate and insult the Union Jack, to roll it in the mud and spit upon it.” Webb also served as a Conservative member of the Manitoba Legislature from 1932 to 1939.

He died in Ottawa on 1 June 1945.

Digitized Service File:
http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/cef/10001-11000/10181-40.pdf

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