b. 08/02/1880 Montreal, Quebec, Canada. d. 13/02/1937 Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Francis Alexander Carron Scrimger (1880-1937) was born on 8th February 1880 at Redpath Crescent, Montreal, Quebec. He was known as Frank, Scrim or Scrimy. His attestation paper records actually recorded his birth as 10th February 1881. His father was the Reverend John Scrimger, who was Pastor of Calvin Church, Montreal and lecturer in both Old and New Testament at the Presbyterian College. He was one of the leading clergymen in Canada and a strong advocate of Church Union. He was appointed Principal of the Presbyterian College in 1904. Frank’s mother was Catherine Charlotte nee Gairdner and his parents married in Montreal in 1874.
Frank was educated at Montreal High School, McGill University Medical School in Montreal (BA 1901, MD 1905), and carried out postgraduate studies in Dresden, Vienna and Berlin. On 3rd March 1912 he joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps Militia and on 13th April, he was commissioned in the CAMC to serve with the Montreal Heavy Brigade, Canadian Garrison Artillery. He attested into the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 9th August 1914 as a captain. On 22nd September 1914 he was appointed Medical Officer of 14th Battalion, CEF and went with it to Valcartier Camp. They left Quebec on SS Andania, arriving at Plymouth on 13th October. They trained on Salisbury Plain, before Frank was detached to No 1 Canadian General Hospital suffering from bronchopneumonia.
The Battalion sailed for France on 10th February, but Frank remained in England until 12th April, when he went to France with No 1 Canadian General Hospital. He was attached to the Advanced Dressing Station of 2nd Canadian Field Ambulance at Mouse (Shell) Trap Farm, north of Wieltje, Belgium on 19th April.
During the Second Battle of Ypres on 25th April 1915 at Saint-Julien, Belgium, Captain Scrimger was in charge of an advanced dressing station in a farmhouse near Wiltje on the St. Julien-Ypres Road. The advancing enemy were bombarding the area with an intense shelling. The German infantry were within sight. Scrimger directed the removal of the wounded under the heavy fire. Captain Scrimger and a badly wounded Captain Macdonald were the last men left at the station. Scrimger carried the wounded officer out of the farmhouse to the road. The bombardment of shell forced Scrimger to stop and place Macdonald on the road. Scrimger then protected him with his own body. During a lull in the gunfire Scrimger again carried Macdonald toward help. When he was unable to carry him any further, he remained with the wounded man until help could be obtained.
Frank received his VC from King George V at Windsor Castle on 21st July 1915. He was admitted to 1st Canadian Field Ambulance on 16th September with boils on his neck, and didn’t return to the Battalion until the 5th October. On 31st December, he was posted to No 1 Canadian General Hospital, Etaples. While performing an operation there on 29th January 1916 the scalpel was knocked out of his hand by a patient. The wound to his hand bcame infected and he was admitted to No 6 British Red Cross Hospital at Etaples the following day. He was evacuated to England aboard HMHS Jan Breydel on 26th February 1916, and he had to have his finger amputated and it was feared that he may lose an arm.
In July 1916, he was fit enough to join the staff of Granville Canadian Special Hospital and held a number of positions before promotion to Temporary Major on 5th December. On March 1st 1917, Frank returned to France to serve with No 3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Remy Siding, Lijssenthoek. During the German Spring Offensive, he led a team to reinforce No 50 Casualty Clearing Station at Roye on 21st March 1918. Frank spent the rest of the war with the No 3 Canadian Clearing Station, having had to be evacuated from Roye.
In September 1918, whilst on leave, Frank got married. He was posted to No 3 Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne from 3rd October, and was appointed acting Lieutenant Colonel to command the hospital. This was the same hospital commanded earlier that year by John McCrae (In Flanders Field). During the influenza epidemic which soon broke out, Frank was extremely busy, and even fell ill himself. After a spell back in England, he sailed for Canada aboard SS Baltic on 29th April 1919, and was demobilised a month later.
Frank’s wife was Nursing Sister Ellen Emerson Carpenteer, who he met at the No 3 Canadian Clearing Station at Remy Siding. She was mentioned in despatches in April 1918. They had four children, Jean Ligny born in 1919, Alexander Carron born in 1921, Charlotte Anna born in 1925 and Elizabeth Ellen born in 1929. From January 1919 until 1931, he was Assistant Surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal. He was also appointed Director of the Department of Experimental Medicine in 1919, researching Paget’s Disease and the treatment of intractable ulcers. He joined the staff of McGill University as a lecturer in Clinical Surgery. He qualified as a Master of Surgery, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a Member of the Association of Surgeons of America in 1930.
Frank died of a heart attack at his home in Montreal on 13th February 1937 and was buried in the family plot in Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His grandson, Dr John Charles Scrimger Wooton, presented his medals to the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa in October 2005. The 1914-15 Star is missing from the group.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM, OTTAWA, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: MOUNT ROYAL CEMETERY, MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA.
Section M-2, Grave 727
Bill Mullen – Image of the Scrimger VC Grave at Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal.
Canadian War Museum – Images of the Scrimger VC Medal Group and of the reverse of the Scrimger VC.