|Date of Birth||July 4, 1893|
|Place of Birth||Kenora, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Ida McDiarmid (mother), Columbia & First Ave., Kamloops, British Columbia|
|Trade / Calling||Carpenter|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||No. 2 Field Ambulance|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Army Medical Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Vernon, British Columbia|
|Date of Enlistment||October 4, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||22|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 7, 1917|
|Age at Death||24|
|Buried At||Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium|
|Plot||IX. D. 28.|
Private Findlay Howard McDiarmid enlisted in October 1915 and served in France and Belgium with a field ambulance unit. He was killed by an artillery shell in November 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele.
Howard was the oldest son of James McDiarmid and Ida McNabb of Kamloops, British Columbia. James was a carpenter originally from New Brunswick and his wife was from Ontario. Howard was born on 4 July 1893 in Rat Portage, Ontario. His only brother James Willard was born two years later, in March 1895. At the time of the 1901 census the McDiarmid family was still living in Rat Portage (now called Kenora) but by 1911 they had moved west to British Columbia and settled in Kamloops, where James Sr. worked for the city as a carpenter. Howard was an apprentice carpenter and his brother James was employed as a bank clerk.
The war started in August 1914 and Howard and his brother James McDiarmid enlisted together on 4 October 1915 at Camp Vernon in BC. They signed up with the No. 1 Field Ambulance Depot, Canadian Army Medical Corps and they were given consecutive regimental numbers, 524556 and 524557. The recruits trained in BC over the winter and in March 1916 they headed east and embarked for England on the SS Metagama. Howard and James both spent 2-1/2 months at the Canadian Army Medical Corps Training School before being sent to France in early June 1916. They were assigned to No.2 Canadian Field Ambulance and after three weeks at the Base Depot they joined their unit at the end of June in a small draft of reinforcements.
Field ambulances operated advanced and main dressing stations, which were located just behind the front lines. They provided short term medical care, collecting casualties, treating them and evacuating them to the clearing stations and hospitals as needed. They also operated rest stations and provided stretcher bearers for moving the wounded. No. 2 Field Ambulance was in the 1st Canadian Division and in September and October they were at the Somme Offensive in France. The Somme has been called the graveyard of armies and in less than three months there the Canadian Corps suffered 24,000 casualties. In mid-October the 1st Canadian Division was relieved and along with the 2nd and 3rd Divisions they moved north to the area between Lens and Arras, opposite Vimy.
Over the winter of 1916-17 the Canadian battalions received reinforcements to bring them back up to strength and early in the spring they began to prepare for their next big operation, the Battle of Vimy Ridge (9-14 April 1917). The carefully planned assault was a remarkable success, the first time all four Canadian divisions were used together in one operation. By early March No. 2 Field Ambulance was based at Г‰coivres, 30 km west of Vimy, and they stayed in the Vimy area until after the battle was over. Casualties for the Canadian Corps for the six days at Vimy were 10,600 men killed, wounded and missing. The Canadians remained in the area between Lens and Arras until early in October, when they were sent to the Ypres Salient in Belgium for the Battle of Passchendaele (26 October-10 November 1917). By this time Howard had been serving in France and Belgium for 16 months and his service record makes no mention of a period of leave or rest. On 31 October No.2 Field Ambulance was moved to the area of Vlamertinghe, about 5 km west of the ruined city of Ypres. The unit’s War Diary recorded one man wounded on 1 November, one wounded and evacuated on 3 November, and three men wounded on 6 November. Howard was one of the casualties and he was transferred to No. 1 Field Ambulance where he died on 7 November.
From the Circumstances of Death record for Howard: Died of Wounds (Shrapnel wound, fractured skull and leg) at No.1 Canadian Field Ambulance.
Howard is buried in Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery near the village of Vlamertinghe in Belgium. The cemetery has 1,800 First World War Commonwealth burials, most of them from July to December 1917. Howard is commemorated on the Cenotaph in Kamloops, British Columbia and on page 280 of Canada’s First World War Book of Remembrance, on display in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
By Becky Johnson
Grave marker photo at the top is from the Canadian Virtual War Museum, courtesy of Marg Leissens.