Springhill veteran saved soldier thought dead
SPRINGHILL – “Do you remember my grandfather?”
© Christopher Gooding photo
As a member of the medical corps during World War II, Dr. Arnold Burden encountered upwards of 1,100 soldiers a day as part of the first field hospital in France following the D-Day operation. It wasn’t until he returned to Canada, however, that the story of Lindsey Grant’s life began, when Dr. Burden saved her grandfather from the grave.
It’s probably a question many veterans of World War II are asked but not one easily answered. More than 1.7 million Canadians served in the two world wars and the odds of one soldier encountering, let alone remembering, another specific soldier if they weren’t from the same community or outfit, while possible, were marginal.
Not so for Dr. Arnold Burden.
The decorated doctor was a determined young man when World War II broke out and he has diligently shared his story with students at Springhill High each year during Remembrance Day so they can remember the perils of war and the cost it brought to the community and nation.
But on Friday, during the school’s Remembrance Day service, it was Dr. Burden’s time to remember an extraordinary moment that occurred as WWII was drawing to a close, courtesy of student Linsdey Grant, who credited Dr. Burden with saving her grandfather.
Abraham Grant, a Port Elgin native, was for all sakes and purposes dead and repatriated to Canada in a wooden box by ship along with many other fallen soldiers. Injured in battle in France, Grant was not dead, however, but in a deep coma.
In Halifax, the deceased were routinely inspected before final arrangements were made. When it was discovered Grant was still alive, the inspecting medical technician yelled for help.
“Dr. Burden was that [man] who determined the soldier was still alive,” the school heard as Lindsey was introduced to Dr. Burden.
Lindsey, Grant’s granddaughter, first made the school aware of her grandfather’s story last year when Dr. Burden acted as guest speaker at last year’s Remembrance Day school service and a newspaper clipping interviewing her grandfather in his later years as a resident at East Cumberland Lodge tells a riveting story.
Including the time it took to ship Grant along with the dead, it was believed he had gone 10 days without food or water and it would be another six months before he came out of the coma that inflicted him. Given new life, he would have a family and his children would bear children, among them Lindsey.
“He [Dr. Burden] is the reason I’m alive today,” Lindsey had told her school.
As part of the first medical team to set up a hospital in France following D-Day, Dr. Burden explained to students the staff of four contended with between 450 and 500 battle casualties a day. They were also responsible for discharging just as many to further medical care as the wounded came in, making for upwards of 1,100 encounters every day they were there.
“You can’t imagine what we seen,” Dr. Burden said.
As the Allies pushed Adolph Hitler’s Nazis towards defeat, Dr. Burden followed British troops into Germany where he would be part of the medical team that treated the victims of a concentration camp, adding to the number of encounters he would experienced during World War II. Many of the lives he helped lead to new life, new stories and new families.
And, almost 70 years later, one of those stories is Lindsey, who got the chance to thank Dr. Burden personally for being on hand when her grandfather needed him the most.
To Lindsey's question, does Dr. Burden remember her grandfather; he nodded his head and tells her "yes."