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Just one leg and ready to go to war for his country; IN WWI many of the servicemen who had lost a limb from the effects of war were discharged from the Army on medical grounds but Christine Fawell's grandfather managed to get conscripted despite only having one leg. Jessica Flynn reports.

A LOSS of a limb would for many people automatically rule them out of even considering serving during World War I. But for John Davidson Elrick that was never an option. Determined to do his bit for his country in March 1916 he turned up at a British recruiting office on the crutch he used daily telling Army officers he wanted to enlist.

Surprisingly after a delay, probably caused by much deliberation from Army offi-cials, John, known to family and friends as Jack, was accepted in 1918 into the Royal Army Pay Corps.

Dressed in his military uniform this picture shows Jack ready to serve complete with his crutch and was discovered last year by his granddaughters Christine Fawell and Norma Robinson after their mother passed away.

"My grandfather was my father's father and he only had one leg after his right leg had to be amputated as a young child because of TB.

This came to light following a fall down the stairs in the tenement where he was living in Aberdeen," said Chris, from Creigiau, near Cardiff.

TB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Poverty in the early 1900s resulted in people, especially children, contracting the disease which usually develops in the lungs, although there are cases where the bacilli infect other parts of the body, usually the lymph nodes, bones, central nervous system, and cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems.

Chris said: "Despite this he never used to let this stop him do anything. As a child he would go up and down the stairs on his bottom. When I was young I was always told he was the only person to enlist into the Army with one leg but when you're young you don't appreciate the magnitude of what is being said and it was only after my mother died in 2013 that my sister and I found this picture.

"We were clearing out some of her paperwork and found it along with his national health insurance card and Army number."

Born in 1896 in Aberdeen, Jack had his leg amputated between the age of three and seven but Chris, a nurse, said her grandfather never let his disability get in the way of what he wanted to do and signing up to the Army showed the determination and independence he had.

During WWI many servicemen were injured resulting in them losing limbs or becoming severely disfigured, this led to advances in the development and production of prosthetic limbs and in pioneering plastic surgery as servicemen didn't like to use the cumbersome artificial limbs.

"My grandfather died when I was seven but what I can remember of him was that he was a lovely, funny man and there was nothing he didn't do," said Chris.

"He was a skilled tailor, and along side the suits, dresses and alterations he also made hand sewn bespoke kilts.

"He was given a prosthetic leg but it used to live under his bed as he didn't like wearing it and he couldn't balance properly with it on. Prosthetic limbs were different then to how they are now. My nan never liked him wearing it."

In December 1916 Jack married Maria Ellendon and the couple had three children - two daughters and a son. He was discharged from the Army in 1920 with the rank of Corporal.

He settled with his family in Ward Street, Hendon, Sunderland. As well as being a tailor he later worked for the Sunderland Corporation working as the Weigh Bridge operator until his retirement. He died at the age of 77.

His half brother was radio host and musician George Elrick known as The Smiling Voice of Radio and probably best known for presenting the popular record request show Housewives' Choice during the 1950s and 1960s.

"The paperwork we found said he signed up on August 10, 1918, and was in the Royal Army Pay Corps," said Chris. "I remember that it was said he wanted to do his bit and this is what he could do.

"I've always been proud of my grandfather.

"I'm a nurse and have worked with people who have spinal injuries and some say they are now disabled but my grandfather grew up disabled but he never considered himself disabled.

"He was an ardent Sunderland supporter and every Saturday he would place himself in front of the barrier behind the goal in 'the Roker end' with his crutch for their games and would also travel to Wembley for matches.

"There was nothing he would not do or anything he was scared of trying and I think for him to enlist into the Army proves it."

NEIGHBOURS KILLED ON GREAT WAR BATTLEFIELD Our website, WalesOnline, features a great new tool which enables you to find family members or people who lived in your street who died in World War I. Today Jessica Flynn has searched for fallen servicemen who lived in Minny Street, Catherine Street and Dalton Street. Here is who she found...

Minny Street Albert Stanley Sheppard Son of Albert and Betty Sheppard, of 37 Minny Street, Cathays, Cardiff. Native of Bruton, Somerset.

Rank: Assistant Cook Regiment: Mercantile Marine Reserve Age: 24 Date of death: 17-7-1917 Buried at: Plymouth Naval Memorial Edward James Bennett Son of Robert and Polly Bennett, of 62 Minny Street, Cathays, Cardiff. Rank: Private Regiment: Welsh Regiment Age: 21 Date of death: 7-7-1916 Buried at: Thiepval Memorial John Archibald Hedges Brother of Mrs Elizabeth Adams, of 60 Minny Street, Cathays, Cardiff. Rank: Private Regiment: Devonshire Regiment Age: 29 Date of death: 1-7-1916 Buried at: Thiepval Memorial Catherine Street, Cathays J G Edmonds Son of Frederick George and Elizabeth Ann Edmonds, of 6 Catherine Street, Cathays, Cardiff. Rank: Sapper Regiment: Royal Engineers Age: 20 Date of death: 19-11-1918 Buried at: Dar Es Salaam War Cemetery Dalton Street Percy Phillips Son of Mrs Rebecca Phillips, of 4 Dalton Street, Cathays, Cardiff.

Rank: Lance Corporal Regiment: Welsh Regiment Age: 25 Date of death: 8-9-1917 Buried at: Tyne Cot Memorial William George Miles Husband of Nora Miles, of 1 Dalton Street, Cathays, Cardiff.

Rank: Corporal Regiment: Royal Marine Engineers Age: 33 Date of death: 30-1-1919 Buried at: Cardiff (Cathays) Cemetery Thomas John Anstey Son of Thomas Henry and Elizabeth Anstey, of 17 Dalton Street, Cardiff.

Rank: Corporal Regiment: City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders) Age: 31 Date of death: 6-10-1915 Buried at: Green Hill Cemetery Arthur Antcliffe Son of Mrs Selina Antcliffe, of 11 Dalton Street, Cathays, Cardiff. Rank: Private Regiment: Welsh Regiment Age: 21 Date of death: 8-8-1915 Buried at: Helles Memorial


James Davidson Elrick's national health insurance card |

James Davidson Elrick's|who enrolled in the Army to fight in the First World War, despite having only one leg
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 10, 2014
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