Frank and Murray Benner

“Murray has given his life, you have given a son. The first is not hard but the second is heartbreaking.”

Frank Benner’s love for his brother, Murray, ran deep. Even so, he kept positive when he wrote a letter on September 22, 1918, after receiving the telegram bearing the news of Murray's death.

“It hardly seems possible that a cheerful, energetic, buoyant brave boy can be gone,” Frank wrote. “Murray has given his life, you have given a son. The first is not hard but the second is heartbreaking.”

Frank’s letter was infused with patriotism. “While we are feeling so badly over it, it is some consolation to think of the nobility of it all, killed in battle in defence of his country, in defence of a great cause, defending right and liberty against oppression, tyranny and wrong.”

Murray died on September 4, 1918 in France at age twenty-six. He was a gunner with the 3rd Brigade in the Canadian Field Artillery when he was shot. “Your son was hit by a German shell directly above the knees. It was what is known to us as a direct hit. He was killed absolutely instantly, and I can assure you that he knew not what happened nor what struck him,” wrote Captain D.G. Higgins.

“The following day the body was placed on a gun carriage and hauled by a six horse hitch, and was laid to rest in a cemetery behind the lines, as brave and popular a man as any battery in France ever had,” wrote gunner E.R. Bailey.

At the outbreak of the war, Frank was practising medicine in Winnipeg, Manitoba after graduating from McGill University. He was eager to enlist but an injury he suffered in the early 1900s resulted in the amputation of his leg. This closed the door to enlistment.

His desire to contribute led him to England where he cared for soldiers returning from the front. He also acted as a medical officer on a troop ships transporting soldiers to and from England and throughout the Mediterranean. His next assignment took him to Giza, Egypt, with a British Red Cross Hospital where he operated on the freshly wounded. After the war he returned to Winnipeg to practice medicine.

Follow the war time years of the Benner Brothers through a family website at or by Googling "Land of Good Neighbours, Benner letters."

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