Henry Devereaux Corlis White

He left the war physically unscathed but was mentally traumatized.

After his childhood dream of being in the military was ruined in Canada because he failed his eye exam, Henry Devereaux Corlis White tried his luck in England. In 1914, the man testing White’s eyesight asked him count the number of chimney pots on a house nearby. White wasn’t sure if there were three or five but he guessed five and with that, he found his way as a trooper in the King Edward’s Light Horse (K.E.H.). His nearsightedness never proved to be a problem during the war because he wore glasses, though he did worry that the reflection from his glasses would make him more visible to snipers. He left the war physically unscathed but was mentally traumatized.

During the opening phase of the Battle of Lys in April 1918, White was in charge of plugging holes in the line. He was defending the area of Huit Maisons and Vieille Chapelle when the Germans attacked and punched a three and a half-mile hole through the British line. His regiment moved in to fill the hole but suffered many casualties, one of which was White’s friend. White’s friend was lying on the road, wounded and screaming for help but the gunfire was so bad that no one could rescue him. When White went back the next day, his friend was dead. “I think that’s the one that would come in his nightmares,” said son-in-law Charles “Charlie” Grant.

He suffered shell shock for the rest of his life. Even when he was hospitalized near the end of his life, the nurses would comment on how much he would scream while he was sleeping.

Despite being traumatized from war, White had funny stories to tell his son-in-law. White told Grant that once he and some other soldiers were on horseback in a small town when they came across a big building. They went inside and found a stack of clean, packaged long johns and each put a pair on. They left and started making their way down the road. About five minutes later, the building exploded. The Germans had placed a timed explosive that luckily went off too late.

In 1919, White had his payout stolen while he was sleeping. That same year he returned to his farm online to find his livestock gone. “People were counting on him being killed and some people took his horses and sold them,” said Grant. “After being back for two or three months he said there’s not too much excitement to be a bachelor in the country.” In the 1920s, White moved to Edmonton to and worked with horses for Brewster, an outfitting company, to build the Banff-Jasper highway.

In 1940 he married Kathleen Bell and they had two kids—Marilyn and Ralph. White also served as a corporal during the Second World War. After the war he worked in a stockyard into his seventies.

Born January 13, 1888, White was an orphan and was raised by a deacon. He left Brighton in the early 1900s to farm in Barrhead, Alberta before living out his life in Calgary. He died at age ninety-six in 1984 and Bell died in 1994.

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