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COs in the Medical Corps

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Peter Friesen's story of non-combatant training is also an example of strong principles. He begins with his experience before the judge.

“Upon the question why I took this stand I stated that the New Testament did not teach killing and violence. Then Judge Manson asked me to give an explanation for Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple. He was not satisfied with my answer and said he understood the Bible better than I did. He did not pass me for non-combatant service. However during my stay at the Little Mountain Vancouver camp they tried very hard during examinations and questioning to sign me up for the Air Force. I remained firm on my stand and the last statement was, 'If you join the Air Force you can stay in Canada but if you insist on noncombatant service, it is only an active overseas service.' I said this was fine and what I wanted.”


Friesen could not be tempted to betray his beliefs. He knew that he wanted to do some meaningful service in the medical corps. As it turned out, his experience was a good one.


“I thought it was a wonderful experience and has added much to my later life. At no time were we ever asked to take a rifle. We were mixed with other army personnel in every respect except during rifle training when we used stretchers instead. Took basic training in Peterboro, Ont. Was not sent overseas after the training because I had stated I was of German origin. Put on an N.C.O. [Non-Commissioned Officer] course however was called or rather the whole school was called overseas. After completing my vacation at home I was left because of origin again. Was asked to take a shoe-maker course which I did. This increased my pay upon completion. However did not serve as a shoe-maker but was called for overseas draft and sent this time. Was in England (6 day boat trip) about 2 or 3 weeks, then sent to Holland through France in about April 1945. Was called to front lines the day the war ended in Germany. Returned to Holland for regrouping for occupational duties since I did not have enough points to return home. However anyone signing up for Japan could leave. After a month of waiting was sent to Oldenburgh, Germany with the 6th Canadian Field Dressing Station and served there for almost a year as interpreter for local needs and in charge of 16 Germans working for us.” [MHC, 1015-17]


Even though he was a pacifist, Friesen performed his duties so well that he was promoted to Lance Corporal.


John McCrae wrote one of Canada 's most famous poems. During the First World War he served courageously as a doctor, treating the wounded and dying. Near the end of the war, McCrae died. During the Second World War, 107 medical officers lost their lives. At least two of these were Mennonite COs. Isaac Lehn was twenty years old and a member of the Leamington (Ontario) United Mennonite Church. As part of the Medical Corps, he followed the troops in the Allied invasion of western Europe. He was killed on 26 January 1945. Another volunteer, Henry Doerksen of Morden, Manitoba, died on 3 March 1945. These men were among the 107 deaths in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps.

View additional medical corps documents.

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