The Shell Shocked

Lieutenant Colonel Irvine R. Snider
27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion
IRSnider

…this officer as the result of service in France and severe nervous strain has become very emotional and is unable to sleep well except for a short time each night. He is easily exhausted and has some muscular tremor. At present he is quite unfit for any mental or physical exertion and must have prolonged rest.

(Proceedings of Medical Board, 18 May 1916)

Irvine Robinson Snider was a Manitoba farmer, long-time militiaman and veteran of the Northwest Rebellion and the Boer War. He was born on 1 January 1864 in Nobleton, Canada West. In spring 1885, the twenty-one year old Snider joined the 90th Winnipeg Rifles as a private to put down Louis Riel’s insurrection. Fifteen-years later, he served with Lord Strathcona’s Horse in South Africa.

In early 1915, Snider assumed command of the 27th Battalion organized from Winnipeg. The 27th deployed to France in September 1915 as part of the 6th Infantry Brigade in the 2nd Division. He led his troops through the battle of St. Eloi until he suffered a nervous breakdown in mid-April 1916. Labelled “Not Yet Diagnosed,” (N.Y.D.) the fifty-two year old colonel was admitted to the Granville special hospital at Ramsgate on 22 April 1916.

Enduring headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia and nightmares, doctors determined that Snider “suffered constant severe strain” from mortar fire and scenes of death. The medical case sheet summarized that Snider, “…naturally feels the loss of his men personally; returning to billets felt naturally depressed and fatigued but it was only when he saw his bed that he went all to pieces and broke down & cried.”

Following several months of treatment with rest and massage in England, by September 1916, doctors concluded that Snider had recovered from his spell of nervous exhaustion. However, the former 27th colonel did not return to France. He remained in England as commanding officer of the 14th Reserve Battalion.

When he returned to Canada in March 1918, the Winnipeg Tribune noted, “The worry and strain of the campaign affected his health, and he was sent to England. He was met at the depot by a number of officers and men of the 27th, who organized a reception for him.”

Snider died on 19 July 1936.

Digitized Service File (LAC):
http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/cef/9001-10000/9137-12.pdf

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