The O'Leary Collection—Medals of The Royal Canadian Regiment

8260 / 2228308 Sergeant Joseph Marcil

The Royal Canadian Regiment
Canadian Forestry Corps

By: Capt (ret'd) Michael M. O'Leary, CD, The RCR

Joseph Marcil was born in Montreal, P.Q., on 4 Jan 1878.

Marcil enlisted in the Permanent Force of the Canadian Militia with The Royal Canadian Regiment at Quebec, P.Q., on 9 Jul 1906. An enrolment ledger in the collection of The RCR Museum notes that he was 28 years 11 months in age and a painter by trade. He was given the regimental number 8260.

On 9 Sep 1907, after less than a year of his engagement was completed, Marcil was discharged by purchase. Less than six weeks later, on 19 Oct 1907, he re-joined The RCR.

Marcil attended a School of Signalling conducted by No. 5 Regimental Depot of The RCR at Quebec, P.Q., from 12 Jan to 13 Apr 1909. He passed the required examination and was entitled to receive a Certificate of Qualification in Army Signalling, "Grade B."

After completing his three-year engagement, Marcil was discharged at St. Louis Barracks., Quebec, P.Q., on 18 Oct 1910. His conduct and character while in the service was noted on his discharge certificate as "Good."

Marcil re-joined the Permanent Force on 6 Dec 1912 after two years of civilian life. A year into his new engagement, he attended another School of Signalling conducted at Quebec, P.Q., from 5 Jan to 5 Feb 1914, completing the examination, he received a certificate of Army Signalling, "Grade A."

With the outbreak of the First World War, The RCR mustered its outlying companies to Nova Scotia. On 11 Sep 1914, the Regiment sailed for Bermuda for a year of garrison duty. The Regiment relieved the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, which sailed immediately for England. Marcil appears on the September 1914 monthly pay list for "G" Company of The RCR at Prospect, Bermuda. In October 1914, after a reorganization of the Regiment, he is shown as a soldier in "F" Company. In his appearances in available paylists for the Regiment's service in Bermuda, Marcil is still shown as a single soldier.

On 12 Aug 1915, The RCR was relieved in turn by the arrival of the 38th Overseas Battalion from Canada. The RCR returned to Halifax for a stay of only a week. During this time, the Regiment was re-attested for overseas service. Although The RCR had just spent a year in Bermuda, there were concerns regarding the applicability of the soldiers' Permanent Force enlistments for wartime deployments. This was, perhaps, prompted by the idea that a man on a P.F. three-year engagement could choose not to re-engage and the Government would be obligated to bring him home. Enlistment in the C.E.F., on the other hand, was for the "Duration of War." Accordingly, the soldiers of The RCR were re-attested, signing C.E.F. attestation papers in August 1915 before sailing for Europe.

Joseph Marcil did not sign an attestation for C.E.F. service and would not proceed overseas to England with the Regiment in August, 1915. His Permanent Force contract, however, was still in place and he attended the Royal School of Infantry at Halifax, N.S., between 6 Sep and 16 Oct 1915. Successfully completing the required examination, he was deemed qualified for the rank of Sergeant.

Among the surviving personal papers accompanying Marcil's Memorial Cross and Plaque, is a letter that identifies the nature of his employment in 1916. Dated 20 Nov 1916, the letter was written at St. John, N.B., by Lieutenant A.J. Cyr as the Secretary of the 165th Battalion Regimental Fund. It reads:

"Dear Sergeant,

"On the part of the N.C.Os and men of the 165th Acadian O.S. Battalion C.E.F. I have the honour and much pleasure in presenting you with the enclosed cheque for Three Hundred ($300) dollars as a token of their esteem and their appreciation of your worthy services to the Battalion as Sergeant Instructor.

"For them I wish also to extend to you the heartfelt sympathy which every one has on your sad bereavement and I wish to assure you that every one of them will keep a very good souvenir of your stay with the Battalion."

On 5 Dec 1916, after completing a four years of Permanent Force service, Joseph Marcil was again discharged from The RCR. At the age of 35 and holding the rank of Acting Sergeant Instructor, his conduct and character were noted on his discharge certificate as "Very Good." Also recorded on the certificate was the information that he had been employed with the Instructional Cadre of The RCR. Marcil's intended place of residence after discharge was the family home in Montreal.

Joseph Marcil attested for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) with the French Canadian Forestry Company at Montreal, Que., on 16 Jan 1917. A 39-year-old painter, Marcil was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a 33 1/2-inch chest, a brown (sic) complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair. Tattoos on both arms were noted on his C.E.F. attestation form, but details were not recorded. His religious denomination was Roman Catholic. Now identified as a widower, Marcil identified his father, Louis Marcil, 1425 St. Denis St., Montreal, as his next of kin. On attesting with the French Canadian Forestry Company, Marcil was given the regimental number 2228308 and enlisted as a Provisional Sergeant.

As part of his administration after joining the C.E.F., Marcil completed a military Form of Will on 5 Mar 1917. In this will, he bequeathed all of his estate to his father, Louis Marcil, 1427 St. Denis, Montreal.

A letter dated 5 Mar 1917 in Marcil's papers is a reply to him from Lt.-Col. Papineau, commanding officer of the Instructional Cadre in No. 6 Military District. The letter, a reply to one of Marcil's written 27 Feb 1917, notes that as Marcil had been found unfit for a commission through heart trouble, the same complaint would prevent his being taken on the instructional staff in Quebec. Despite his challenges in eligibility for a commission or getting take on the instructional staff, Marcil was pronounced fit by an Inspecting Medical Board at Montreal on 12 Mar 1917.

But Marcil's continuing military employment as a member of the C.E.F. was not to last. On 23 May 1917, a Medical History of an Invalid form was completed identifying his disease or disability as recorded as "aortic insufficiency." The date of origin was noted as "No doubt prior to [C.E.F.] enlistment" although place or origin and cause were "Unknown." Marcil's present condition was described as:

"General condition fair. Invalid has chest poorly developed. Complains of constriction at heart region with palpitations and rush of blood in head. He is also very short of breath at times, even at rest. Examination: lungs negative. Heart: systolic murmur at base of heart on the right side and at the second beat. Apex of heart beats in 6th interspace in line with nipple. Pulse weak. Blood pressure with Sahli mercury instrument is systolic 120, diastolic 40. Urine is normal."

Marcil's condition was not considered a result of his service, but aggravated by service. He was assessed as having a permanent 50% disability and was under treatment in the Grey Nuns Convalescent Home. The Board's recommendation on 25 May 1917 was summarized as:

"The Board having met and examined Sergeant J. Marcil, #2228308, F.C. Forestry Battalion, C.E.F., concurs with the above report and recommends that he be discharged as medically unfit with 1/2 disability – permanent. Class "E."

Marcil was hospitalized at Montreal from 20 Apr to 8 Jun 1917. A diagnosis of "aortic insufficiency" was confirmed by a medical board and he was recommended for discharge as medically unfit. After his release from the hospital, Marcil was discharged to the care of the Medical Officer at the District Clearing Station pending discharge.

Joseph Marcil was discharged from the C.E.F. at Montreal, Que., on 31 Jul 1917. His discharge certificate records the reason as medical unfitness. His conduct and character were noted as "Good."

Marcil's papers include a brief letter written on a blank postcard from "J.A. Labrie." The writer is in Sault Ste. Marie and described a less than enjoyable working situation with Algoma Steel Corporation. Labrie's note advises Marcil not to come to the Sault seeking similar employment. (8542 Private Joseph Alphonse Labrie, a wood machinist, joined The RCR at Quebec on 29 Dec 1911 at the age of 21 years 2 months. He was discharged at Halifax, N.S., on 31 Dec 1915 on the termination of his period of engagement, his conduct being recorded as "Good."

On 11 Jan 1920, Joseph Labrie again wrote to Marcil, this time from Toronto, Ont. In a friendly note, Labrie doesn't mention if he's working but does mention the newly relaxed prohibition laws and the return of readily available alcohol to Ontario. He does note, however, that he behaved himself for New Year's as his boarding house had more than three boarders which made having liquor in the residence illegal. Labrie closed his letter with the line: "… so I have to keep my feet dry, it is quite as well though, as you know dampness don't agree with me."

After his discharge from the C.E.F., Marcil was eligible to receive a War Service Gratuity of $280 with an accompanying dependent gratuity of $120. Cheques was issued in this amount on 15 Mar 1920. Two months later the Gratuity entitlements were increased by another $70 and $30, respectively, and supplementary cheques issued.

Marcil again approached the staff of Military District No. 6 about employment in the summer of 1920. Another letter in his papers, dated 4 Aug 1920 and signed by Lt.-Col D.B. Papineau, now D.A.A. & Q.M.G. of the District informed Marcil that no positions were available.

Effective 9 Oct 1920, Marcil was authorized to receive a pension of $37.50 per month. This was based on a pensionable disability of 50% under the amended Pension Act of 1920. On 3 Feb 1921, an additional dependent's amount of $7.50 monthly was authorized for Marcil's father.

Joseph Marcil died at Ste. Anne's Hospital, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, on 19 May 1921. The cause of his death was recorded as valvular disease of the heart and it was attributed to his service. His next of kin was his mother Mrs. M. Marcil.

Marcil was buried in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery in Montreal. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery register reads:

"MARCIL, Sergeant JOSEPH, 2228308, Canadian Forestry Corps. Died of sickness 19 May 1921. Age 43. Son of Louis and Marie Marcil. Of 1425, St. Denis St., Montreal. Grave ref. Soldiers."

For his service in the C.E.F., Marcil was not entitled to receive any medals because he did not serve outside of Canada (there was no eligibility for medals for serving in Bermuda). He was, however, considered a casualty of the war and his parents received the Memorial Plaque and Scroll and his mother received the silver Memorial Cross. The plaque and cross were despatched to his parents on 30 Aug 1921.

Note: Marcil's service number and unit are incorrect on his gravestone as shown by Coincidentally, his service number is also incorrect on his Memorial Cross. — The Commonwealth War Graves Commission office in Ottawa is aware of the errors on the gravestone and Marcil's stone is scheduled for replacement.

Pro Patria

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