One week later, the September 21st Hospital News editorial, entitled “When the News Comes,” considered the emotional toll military death notices had on families at home. Despite “continually trying to school ourselves in order to be prepared to meet the worst,” the writer admitted, “It gives us such a shock that we can scarcely realize it in time.” Written either by Bartholomew himself or, given his shaken state, by his new assistant editor Corporal T. W. McCafferty, the article nevertheless reassured readers that the deaths had not been in vain. The editorial quickly shifted away from pessimism to strike a jingoistic tone. It declared Canada’s “sons have died by thousands and will continue to die by thousands if necessary, until victory is assured.” The writer called for not just the conquest of Germany but also for total retribution against the “hordes of savages.”6
In contrast to the patriotic certainty contained in the editorial, medical reports of Bartholomew’s condition depicted a shattered man. Doctors noted, “He is very uncertain of his actions, wandering about from place to place with no particular object in view and forgetting what he started to do.”7 Months earlier, as the Hospital News editor, Bartholomew had emphasized the crucial importance of relentless cheerfulness to winning the war, writing, “we must bury our individual troubles and keep smiling all the time.”8 “In other editions, he had called on readers not to be pessimistic lest they discourage those whose “nerves strained to the highest tension” were awaiting news from a family member in uniform.9 Unable to live up to his own optimistic, cheerful ideal in the wake of his son’s death, Bartholomew was admitted to the Granville Canadian Special Hospital at Buxton on October 10th 1918. Two weeks later, the Canadian Hospital News ceased publication. The final edition summed up the fate of the magazine “in three words, ‘Killed in Action.’”10 Invalided to Canada after the armistice, Bartholomew continued to be treated in hospital until 1920. His emotional suffering had also produced physical ailments and bodily pains.
The experience of Captain Bartholomew illustrates the conflicted feelings of a father struggling to find meaning in a war that cost him his only son. As the Hospital News editor, Bartholomew articulated the popular mythology of the war as a noble crusade, and prescribed the appropriate behaviour and temperament for men on the home front and behind the lines. Supporting the war effort was the priority. Fathers needed to project enthusiasm and cheerfulness despite anxiety or personal tragedy. But when confronted with the loss of his son, Bartholomew fell into depression and indicated the fragility of this type of patriotic and masculine rhetoric. What comfort Bartholomew drew from the slogan, “They died for God, for King and Country” is unknown, but his nervous breakdown suggests that genuine patriotic zeal was no match for the profundity of personal loss.