after the


Long-Term Effects of Shell Shock and Veterans’ Fight for Recognition

After the Armistice in 1918, soldiers were demobilised and the Canadian Expeditionary Force dissolved, leaving veterans to reintegrate civilian society. Those who were left injured by the conflict were granted a pension, but for those suffering from “shell shock” support from the military authorities was often difficult to find.

"The neurosis is neither a reason for vocational training nor the basis of a pension claim."


Booth saw action at the Battle of St. Eloi in April 1916 and was later admitted to hospital for "shell shock" first in May, then June 1916. He reports in his diary on May 19, "Went to Line (Got Lost) near quators hid in shell holes ... Got back OK My nerves Gone," then on June 14th, "(Buried by Shell) Gone bad again sent to pass a bord/Sent to Hspital" [sic]. Following his second stay in hospital, Booth was transferred to the 2nd Division Head Quarters, where he worked as a cook.

Clarence Booth
Front row, farthest left
Enlisted with the 24th Battalion Victoria Rifles in November 1914
Collection CCGW

The impact of "shell shock" was not limited to employment difficulties; many veterans developed related conditions such as alcoholism or difficulties maintaining relationships. Whole families were impacted, and the stigma of mental illness remained deeply ingrained in Canadian society. Reports of veterans' suicides in Canadian newspapers post-war often mentioned "shell shock" symptoms.

"Shell Shock" and the Canadian Pension Commission

Many men affected by war neuroses were left without financial support from the Board of Pension Commissioners and often had difficulty holding a job to support themselves and their families.

The Pension Commission considered that "shell shock" originated from a genetic predisposition. Large numbers of veterans were denied a pension, particularly those who started experiencing nervous symptoms years after the end of the war. Their claims for a pension were almost always rejected, as the Pension Board ruled that the elapsed time meant their condition was not attributable to service.

Basket-making at Military Hospital in Cobourg, 1917
Department of Soldier's Civil Re-establishment
University of Toronto Archives
Item B1999-0011-003P-11-B