When war was declared on Germany on August 4, 1914, Frederick Banting attempted to enlist in the Canadian Army the following day, but was denied entry because of his poor eyesight.
The following spring, and with his medical studies near completion, Banting was allowed to enlist in the Canadian Army Medical Service. He was quickly promoted to the rank of sergeant.
In order to complete his medical school programme, the University of Toronto condensed the fifth and final year in a special session commencing in the summer of 1916 with final exams in October and graduation on December 9th. The following day, Banting reported for active duty. He was again promoted, and with the new rank of Lieutenant, sailed for Britain to his first overseas posting at the Granville Canadian Special Hospital (Orthopaedic), Ramsgate, England.
Banting was later promoted to the rank of Captain and transferred for service in France. While in France, he served with distinction and was nominated for, and received, the Military Cross after the events of September 28, 1918:
“Capt. Frederick Grant Banting, 13th Fld. Amb., C.A.M.C. Near Haynecourt on Sept. 28th, 1918, when the medical officer of the 46th Canadian Battalion was wounded, he immediately proceeded forward through intense shell fire to reach the battalion. Several of his men were wounded and he, neglecting his own safety, stopped to attend to them. While doing this he was wounded [severed interosseous artery in his right arm] himself and was sent out notwithstanding his plea to be left at the front. His energy and pluck were of a very high order.”
Some reports suggest Banting continued to dress the wounds of others, despite his own wound, for nearly seventeen hours.
The Military Cross was first issued as a decoration on December 28, 1914, to officers of the rank of Captain or lower, and was available to all soldiers of the British Empire. Of the approximately 150,000 Canadians who were eligible, only 2,877 received it. The original warrant stated that the Military Cross was awarded “in recognition of gallant and meritorious services in time of war.”
Visit the Google Map timeline to explore the involvement of Banting in the First World War.