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COs in the Medical Corps

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People sometimes misinterpreted the actions of the COs who joined the medical corps. While some COs did not see this as a valid option, it was a sincere act of faith for those who joined.


Bill Driedger joined the Canadian Dental Corps. Near the end of his training, he organized a very successful alcohol-free graduation dance. Other dances sometimes got out of hand, but at this one, all the women felt safe and even the officers enjoyed themselves. Driedger explains what happened next.


“The following day I was ordered to see the company major.

As I entered I sharply snapped to attention and saluted. He was thoughtfully reading what I knew to be my file.

'Driedger,' he said, 'these last weeks you have demonstrated the qualities of leadership that we need in our officers. I am recommending you for officer training.'       

I hesitated, for just a moment. Two months of obedience training has its effect.

'I'm sorry, sir. If you will look at my record you will see I am destined for other duties.' I explained my pacifist convictions and the history of my people, as well as I could. I braced myself for the unknown.

To my surprise I saw a puzzled senior officer whose self-assurance seemed to have abandoned him. His training had not prepared him for my response. He quietly met my eye for a moment, then, without a word, dismissed me.

I completed my service in the Canadian Dental Corps without incident.” [ASM, 168]


John Bergen also had the opportunity for a promotion from the Canadian Dental Corps.


“Whenever I was transferred from one location to another, I was about to be issued with a rifle. In each case I explained that I was a CO. Frequently (as there were fewer COs in the Dental Corps) I was the only CO attached to a unit, and did not have the moral support of fellow COs. However, I seemed to have the respect of the officers and men I met. I have not experienced ridicule or persecution, as some have claimed to have experienced.


“While I was with the Dental Corps in Germany I was given more privileges and freedom than some of the non-commissioned officers. I was unit interpreter, communicated with Germans employed in the service of the unit, and had great freedom of movement. This was also true in England, where my absence from the barracks during a town troop riot did not bring me into difficulty as it did others.”


“Prior to going overseas, on my way to Halifax from Winnipeg, I was carrying my own papers and also those of an officer for delivery. This was most unusual. Privates were generally not entrusted with such responsibilities. I cannot attribute this trust and consideration to my being a CO, but rather my proving trustworthy as a person. My own explanation, of course, is that this was simply the consequence of being a Christian and being cognizant of my responsibility as a Christian witness.”


“I might add that when life became dull in the Dental Corps, I was excited by the prospect of transferring to the Intelligence [Division] while in Germany. When it became obvious that Intelligence officers required arms, I declined the opportunity to transfer.” [MHC, 1015-75]


By remaining true to his beliefs, Bergen earned the respect of his colleagues.


Cornie Thiessen also followed his conscience.


“Since Cornie knew the German language really well and the officials were aware of this, he was asked if he would help the army gather secret information about the Germans. For him it was a distinct “No”. The words of his mother came back to him strongly, “Lade dir nichts auf dem Gewissen.” (Do not load anything on your conscience.) [ASM, 172]


Thiessen would not help gather information if it would lead to the killing of more people.

View additional medical corps documents.

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