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Ethelbert “Curley” Christian

Canada’s only surviving quadruple amputee of the First World War, Ethelbert “Curley” Christian was a pivotal part of The War Amps history.
Curley Christian (1883-1954), was one of The War Amps founding members and has been celebrated during Black History Month. He served with the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers). During the Battle of Vimy Ridge, he was wounded when heavy shelling buried him in a trench. With debris crushing all four of his limbs, he lay on the battlefield for two days before being found.

Later, in a French hospital, both of his arms and legs had to be amputated due to gangrene.

While Christian was recovering at Christie Street Veterans Hospital in Toronto, he met his future wife, Cleo MacPherson, who was a volunteer aid. MacPherson noted how costly it was for the government to keep Christian in hospital and felt that she could take care of him at home. However, that would be a full-time job which meant she would be unable to work.

The hospital director appealed to the Canadian government on Christian’s behalf, which led to the creation of the Attendant Allowance, a supplement for full-time caregivers of wounded veterans. This benefit still exists today. Christian, ever-positive, was among a dedicated group of First World War veterans who welcomed the new contingent of amputees following the Second World War, helping them adapt to life with limb loss.

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