Today, February 11th, we honor the first apparition of the Immaculate Conception to Bernadette of Lourdes. and so we offer today the following narrative of a remarkable cure at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes; it’s a favorite of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren and I hope you’ll like it too!
IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR
The first world war broke out in 1914, and Jack Traynor was mobilized with the Royal Naval Reserve, to which he belonged. He was in the naval brigade that took part in the unsuccessful Antwerp expedition of October, 1914, and was in the last battalion to retreat. He was carrying one of his officers to safety, when he was hit on the head by shrapnel. He did not regain consciousness until five weeks later, when he woke up after an operation in a Marine hospital in England. He recovered rapidly and went back into service.
In 1915, Traynor was lent to the 1st Dublin Fusiliers as physical instructor, and was a member of the expeditionary force sent to Egypt and the Dardanelles. On April 25th, 1915, he took part in the landing from the steamship River Clyde at Gallipoli. He was in charge of the first boat to leave the ship and was one of the few to reach the shore that day. From their positions in the steep banks above the beach the Turks raked the Clyde and the boats with deadly gunfire. The casualties were so heavy that the operation was suspended until nightfall.
Meanwhile all the officers in the landing parties had been killed, and Traynor found himself in charge of about 100 men, who took cover in a shallow trench. A Catholic chaplain, Father Finn, was killed in the second boat, from which he fell. Traynor dragged him from under the barbed wire and later he and his comrades buried him on shore. After dusk more officers and men landed, and the small force began to fight its way, with severe losses, up to the sand hills. For days the bitter fighting continued. Traynor took part, without injury, until May 8th, when he was hit by machine gun fire during a bayonet charge.
He seems to have been literally sprayed with bullets. He was wounded in the head and chest, while a bullet tore through the inner side of his upper right arm and lodged under the collar-bone. Medical corps men brought him back, dazed and suffering, to the beach, and he was shipped to the base hospital at Alexandria, Egypt. Now began his long years as an invalid and as the patient of unsuccessful operations. A well-known English surgeon, Sir Frederick Treves, operated on him in Alexandria, in an attempt to sew together the severed nerves in the upper arm, which the bullet wound had left paralysed and useless.
The attempt failed, and so did another, made by another surgeon, on the hospital ship that brought Traynor from Alexandria to England. In September, 1915, in the Haslar naval hospital, England. a third operation was performed with the same object-and the same result. While on the hospital ship Traynor suffered his first epileptic attack. These attacks became frequent.
The surgeon-general of the navy now advised amputation of the paralysed arm, as there seemed to be no hope of ever joining the torn and shrunken nerves. Traynor would not consent. In November, 1916, another doctor tried to suture the nerves, bringing the number of unsuccessful operations up to four. By this time Traynor had been discharged from the service, first on 80 per cent pension, then on 100 per cent, as being permanently and completely disabled. He had to spend months in various hospitals as an epileptic patient.