Veteran Stories:
John Carl Bunting

Army

  • John Carl Bunting (left) and his friend Dean in France in January of 1917. John and Dean enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force together. Collection courtesy of John Bunting's son, Jim Bunting.

    John Carl Bunting (left) and his friend Dean in France in January of 1917. John and Dean enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force together. Collection courtesy of John Bunting's son, Jim Bunting.
  • John Bunting's attestation paper dated October 25, 1915. At the age of 16, he enlisted and told officials that he was actually 18 years old. He maintained this fiction throughout his life.

    John Bunting's attestation paper dated October 25, 1915. At the age of 16, he enlisted and told officials that he was actually 18 years old. He maintained this fiction throughout his life.
  • One of a kind engravings on shells made by a German POW in Beligum. After the war, John Bunting signed on for work in the POW camps and exchanged 200 cigarettes for these personalized shells.

    One of a kind engravings on shells made by a German POW in Beligum. After the war, John Bunting signed on for work in the POW camps and exchanged 200 cigarettes for these personalized shells.
  • John Bunting's engraved shell collection. The small shells have the words "Souvenir of the Great War" and the larger ones have his name, unit and service number. All of the engraving was done with a flattened darning needle.

    John Bunting's engraved shell collection. The small shells have the words "Souvenir of the Great War" and the larger ones have his name, unit and service number. All of the engraving was done with a flattened darning needle.
  • Left: War Medal 1914-1918. Right: Victory Medal.

    Left: War Medal 1914-1918. Right: Victory Medal.
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Transcript

My name is Jim Bunting. My father was John Carl Bunting. He was born in 1898 in Arthur, Ontario, and in 1915 while living in Toronto; he joined the Canadian Armed Forces. In those days, it would have been the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. He signed in Toronto for the 95th Battalion. At the time that he signed, he lied about his age. He was actually only seventeen. He made himself out to be eighteen and a half. I have his papers in front of me, and it's amazing to see that he was only 5'4" and weighed 135 pounds.

When the battalion left and went to Valcartier, Quebec, most of the people in the battalion were from the Toronto area, so he had friends in the unit. They trained in Valcartier for a number of weeks, and then they were put on a troop ship out of Halifax and on to England. This was the fall of 1916. If you know your history, you'll know that there was a rebellion in Ireland in that time period. The shipload of Canadians was diverted to Northern Ireland. My father and two other men were put in a church tower with two Lewis machine guns and five days worth of rations and water, and they were told if they saw anybody on the streets that was not in British uniform and was carrying a weapon, they should fire at them. So my father, being of an Irish family, got his first trip back to the 'Old Sod' the hard way.

After a week or so, the Canadians were sent on to Britain, and they went to the Aldershot camp. A number of people were selected out from the unit for training on the Vickers machine gun (my dad was first trained on the Lewis), and my dad wound up in the Machine Gun Corps. He went to France, and the machine-gunners were known as the 'Suicide Club', because in a lot of cases they were in positions ahead of the trench lines, to break up German attacks.

During the course of the next three years, my father was wounded on three different occasions. He was a Gun Crew Leader. The Vickers machine gun required a ten man crew. On two of those wounding occasions, he was the only man to survive, so he was very lucky in that regard.

At the end of the war, because he was single, he volunteered to stay behind, and worked for a year as a guard at a German prisoner of war camp in Belgium, and one of the things that he got out of that was four brass shell cases which were hand engraved by a gentleman who was a German prisoner of war. He had been engraver in his civilian trade, and for two hundred cigarettes, the gentleman spent a month engraving the shells, and I still have them. So those are very unique pieces of trench art.

The wording on the shells, on the large ones, says: "Souvenir of the World War for Dave (?), Belgium." And then it has my father's name: "Pte. John Carl Bunting, "G" Battery, 4th Canadian Machine Gun Corps," and his service number, "201018." The small shells just say "Souvenir of the Great World War, 1918." All of that was hand-engraved using a flattened darning needle.

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