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COMPASSIONATE LEAVE REFUSED: ONE SOLDIER'S STORY

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Compassionate Return
“Compassionate leave to Canada will only be granted in very exceptional cases in which extreme hardship would be caused to the individual concerned or his dependants, if he did not return. It must be demonstrated that the hardship could not be alleviated in any other manner.”

Buster Rainey, 1941The Situation
On August 4, 1944, after over three years cutting timber for the war effort in Scotland, “Buster” Rainey (28) from Rawcliffe, Quebec, disembarked in France, about two months after D-Day. His Company 16 of the Canadian Forestry Corps set up a mill at Cerisy La Foret, in Normandy, and cut timber there until the end of October. Then, they followed the allied armies up into Belgium and initiated sawmill operations in the Ardennes Forest near Spa, Belgium.

By that time the Germans had been pushed out of Belgium to the German border on the east and into Holland to the north. German armies were dug in along the Siegfried Line, just east of the Ardennes.

The mail Buster received from home during early December 1944 brought disheartening tidings. He knew his mother Kate (55) was suffering with colon cancer. Now, news came that his father Sam (65) was having trouble with sore legs. He could no longer contribute much to the farm work, nor could he cut wood as usual in the bush. The home situation was deteriorating.

This sad news may have distracted Buster. On December 8, 1944, he had a rare accident. A thick slab, falling off the rollers in the mill, crushed his left hand, lacerating his little finger and fracturing its middle phalanx.

Shortly after, on December 16, 1944, the Germans launched a massive counteroffensive through the Ardennes, starting what later became known as the Battle of the Bulge. But Buster’s injury had effectively side-lined him, taking him out of harm’s way.

Sam.Rainey.Family.1939In late December 1944, Buster got more bad news from home. His father Sam could hardly walk due to severe varicose veins in his legs. Dr. Beaudoin from Hawkesbury, had advised him to stay off his feet and rest.

Subsequently, Buster’s hand wound got infected, swelled and developed cellulites. After being shuttled between U.S. and Canadian army field hospitals in Belgium, he was returned to Britain on January 17, 1945, to heal properly and recuperate.

On pondering the situation back home, Buster decided to apply to return to Canada on compassionate grounds, to support his parents by looking after the farm. He filed an application for “compassionate return”, on January 30, 1945. While it was being processed, he got news that his mother Kate had died. His “compassionate return” request triggered a special inquiry to determine if there were sufficient grounds to grant him leave. The inquiry report provides insight into the home circumstances at that time.

Farm
The farm was described as 300 acres of land of which 75 acres were cultivated and the rest was bush. It was owned outright by Samuel Rainey Sr. The farm was little more than self-sufficient.

The farm house was a one and a half storey frame house, 24’ x 22’ with a 20’ x 20’ kitchen addition. It was unpainted inside and out, but in clean condition. There was no electric power, telephone, or running water. It was an old homestead, situated seven miles from the nearest town (Grenville) in a sparsely settled district (Rawcliffe), and not particularly good for farming.

The crops grown were hay, oats, potatoes, turnips, corn and a few vegetables. The farm machinery were horse-drawn and included: a grain binder, a hay mower, a seeder, hay rakes, discs, grubbers, a smoothing harrows, two walking ploughs, a manure spreader, a wagon, an express, two buggies, and light and heavy sleighs.

The following animals were described: twelve milking cows, five heifers, four horses, three pigs and fifty hens. Fifty cords of wood were typically cut over the winter and 1,100 trees were tapped in the spring for maple syrup.

Family
Samuel Rainey, the father, age 65, had been working his farm until he became incapacitated with varicose veins in January 1945. Kate (Loughren) Rainey, the mother, had died of colon cancer earlier that month. Russell, the eldest son, age 34, was supporting a wife and three children. He lived in Grenville Bay and worked at the Canadian Refractories mine at Kilmar. Gladys (Mrs. Fred Cousins) the eldest daughter, age 31, lived in Grenville. Her husband was worked at Canadian Refractories. Margaret, an unmarried daughter, age 29, kept house for her father and brother. William, an unmarried son,age 27, was serving overseas, was initially with the CFC, but transferred to a combat unit, the Black Watch Battalion. Katy, an unmarried daughter, age 26, was employed at Montreal Works, D.I.L. Gilbert, an unmarried son, age 23, was working his father’s farm alone. Edward, an unmarried son, age 20, was employed doing light work at the Bouchard plant at St. Therese, Quebec. He suffered from epilepsy after having his skull fractured by a kick from a horse at age 17 and was unable to do farm work, so was of no assistance to his father. Edna, an unmarried daughter, age 17, lived with her sister Gladys. Minnie, an unmarried daughter, age 13, was attending school.

Recommendation
The investigator concluded that the soldier, Buster Rainey, should be released to work on the family farm. The existing hardships were considered serious enough and could only be alleviated by the soldier’s presence at home.

Sources cited included Samuel Rainey (Buster's father), the sisters and brothers, the neighbours, Dr. L. P. Beaudoin from Hawkesbury, Rev. A. E. Hawes, the Anglican minister from Grenville, and James W. McGibbon, the M.P. for Argenteuil.

Final Decision
A CMHQ ruling was reached on March 27, 1945. “It is not considered that the difficulties experienced by the family are of such a nature that only by the soldier’s return could alleviation be obtained. Nor is it felt that the farm will be abandoned if the soldier is retained overseas.”

E. G. Weeks
Major General, CMHQ Admin

Aftermath
Buster remained in Scotland until he was released in July, 1945. In the meantime his father sold the farm, which threw the family into further disarray. In his discharge interview, Buster indicated he intended to marry a girlfriend and settle down on a farm, but that did not happen.

After the war, Buster spent a few years in Grenville, then went to British Columbia to work in the lumber business there. He remained a bachelor throughout his life. Buster eventually came back east, after labouring for 35 years in the forests of B.C. He died in 1983 at the age of 66, and is buried in the Calumet Protestant Cemetery in Calumet, Quebec.