Sergeant Austin Francis McCarthy

Austin Francis McCarthy, the son of Joseph McCarthy and Margaret Gibbons, was born on September 19th, 1883 in Toronto, Ontario. His parents came from Wellesley Township, Waterloo County, Ontario.

Austin married Sarah Jane Flanigan on February 4th, 1913 and they moved to St. Thomas where Austin worked on the Toronto, Huron and Buffalo Railroad. Their children Joseph and Dorothy were born in St. Thomas. In February 1916 when Austin enlisted in the Army he sent his family to live for the duration of the war with Sarah's parents, John and Mary Ann Flanigan, who had a farm in Downie Township, Perth County.

Austin enrolled in the CEF in St. Thomas Ontario on February 9th, 1916. He joined the 91st Overseas Battalion and they left St. Thomas for Halifax by train on June 25, 1916 and embarked for Europe on the M.S. Olympic on June 29th, arriving in Liverpool on July 5th. The Battalion was encamped at Otterpool, then moved to West Sandling on July 15th. On August 18th he was transferred to the 38th Canadian Battalion, 4th Division, 12th Brigade, near Havre, France. The 38th went into the field in October 1916 and except for short breaks, Austin was with them until September 1917. He was involved in all the major offensives including Desire Trench, Vimy Ridge and Avion.

Austin became a runner with "B" Company and spent most of his time running messages to the Battalion HQ. After Vimy Ridge he was assigned as a Brigade Observer in forward Observation Posts on the east side of Vimy Ridge near Lens. He was to stay in this sector for the rest of his tour at the front. Austin was hospitalized on September 27th, 1917 with the 11th Canadian Field Ambulance, 'C' section with acute rheumatism. His feet and legs were so swollen he was unable to move. In October 1917, he was transferred to Orpington, Kent, England and was there until April 1918. He was shipped back to Halifax on May 27, 1918 and then to London, Ontario on June 13th, 1918. He spent a long time in hospital and was finally discharged on July 13th, 1919 in London Ont. with rank of A/Sgt. Service # 189964.

Austin joined the family back in St. Paul's and moved them to Stratford where he obtained work with Pounder Brothers as a carpenter. He was continually in and out of Westminister Hospital in London with rheumatoid arthritis and respiratory problems and spent most of the winter of 1927 hospitalized. Austin started receiving only a 'Class 19' WW1 pension commencing in August 1919, as he had done what many others had on return from overseas: signed a release denying any claim in order to get demobilized without the administrative delays of more Medical Boards. After repeated visits and stays in Veterans Hospitals, his pension was upgraded in the 1930s.

Austin developed circulation problems in his legs and was bedridden for the last part of his life. After his legs were amputated due to these problems, he died from complications in the Stratford General Hospital on October 13,1960.

Austin McCarthy is buried in Avondale Cemetery beside his wife Sarah in St. Joseph's Section, Plot 74. His grave is marked by a Veterans headstone inscribed "Austin F McCarthy // Sergeant / 38th Battn CEF / 13 Oct. 1960 / Aged 77."

This account was contributed by Austin McCarthy's grandson, Thomas Hunter.

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