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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.
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.
I entered I sharply snapped to attention and saluted. He was thoughtfully
reading what I knew to be my file.
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.
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
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.
completed my service in the Canadian Dental Corps without incident.”
Bergen also had the opportunity for a promotion from the Canadian
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.
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.”
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.”
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,
remaining true to his beliefs, Bergen earned the respect of his
Thiessen also followed his conscience.
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.)
would not help gather information if it would lead to the killing
of more people.
additional medical corps documents.
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