Frederick Grant Banting (Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Doctor, Sir)

Library and Archives of Canada

Frederick Grant Banting (1891–1941), medical scientist, doctor, and Nobel Laureate, is one of the most distinguished scientists of Canada. Banting was a medical student at the University of Toronto when he volunteered for the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) on September 8, 1915. His studies were fast-tracked to meet the need for more doctors in the Army. He reported for duty with the CAMC in December 1916, just one day after he graduated. He served in military hospitals in England and, in 1918, was wounded in his right arm by a shell at the Battle of Cambrai, in northern France. Despite his injury, he continued to tend to casualties for another 16 hours and was later awarded the Military Cross for his actions.

After the war, Banting returned to the University of Toronto to complete his surgical training. Banting’s research into diabetes, with colleague J.J.R. Macleod and medical student Charles H. Best, led to the discovery of insulin as a treatment for diabetic patients. He and Macleod were Service Recordjointly awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research. Then only 32 years of age, Banting remains the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in the area of physiology and medicine. His career included research into silicosis, cancer, the mechanisms of drowning, and physiological problems suffered at high altitudes. King George V knighted him in 1934. During a trip to England on February 21, 1941, Frederick G. Banting died when the plane crashed in Newfoundland.

Service Record Details

Date of Birth: November 14, 1891 (Alliston, Ontario)

Date of Attestation: September 8, 1915 (Niagara Camp), May 4, 1915 (Toronto), December 10, 1916 (Ex Camp,

Attestation Paper 1Toronto).

Age at Enlistment: 25 years old

Prior Military Service: “Two years with the 36th Peel.” Eight months with the Canadian Army Medical Corps 2nd Field Ambulance.

Height: 5 feet, 11 inches

Weight: 175 lbs

Description: Fair complexion, blue eyes, light brown hair. Methodist, Presbyterian.

Home Address: Alliston, Ontario

Trade: Medical Student, Physician

Married: No

Next of Kin: Father, William Thompson Banting. Mother, Mrs. William Thompson Banting.

Theatre of War: Canada, England, France

Casualties/Medical History
  • September 28, 1918 – Banting experiences a gunshot wound to the right forearm at the Battle of Cambrai. AAttestation Paper 2stamp on his file indicates that he is given an “anti-tetanus inoculation” upon admission to hospital.
  • October 1, 1918 – He is transferred from Ville de Lieges, Belgium to Shorncliffe, England.
  • Banting spends a total of 20 days in hospital because of his wound. The larger bone in his right forearm is slightly damaged and fragments of bullet are removed in surgery. He has a scar and some loss of movement in the little finger of his affected hand.
Interesting Details from the Service Record
  • Banting enlists as a medical student, returns to medical school, graduates, and re-enlists. He is at the rank of Staff Sergeant Nursing when granted leave to return to his medical studies. Upon graduation, he rejoins as an officer, with the rank of Lieutenant. He serves in Canada and England, where he is made Captain, eventually joining the Field Ambulances in France.
  • June 29, 1918 – Upon his arrival in France, Banting is taken on strength (TOS) with the No. 3 Canadian General Hospital. He is TOS with the 13th Canadian Field Ambulance on July 14th and with the 5th Canadian Field Ambulance on August 18th.
  • In 1918, he is granted leave for Christmas and awarded the Military Cross on December 31st.
  • A letter from Lieutenant Colonel Richardson, one of his commanding officers, dated September 2, 1919, is contained in his service file. It states that Banting served with the Stationary Hospital in Niagara-on-the-Lake from May 4 to October 14, 1915. He was granted two periods of leave, each lasting for six months, to attend and complete medical school at “Toronto University.”

The London Gazette

Supplement to The London Gazette, July 30, 1919, Page 9789
“Capt., Frederick Grant Banting, 13th Fld. Amb., Can. A.M.C.
Near Haynecourt on September 28, 1918, when the medical officer of the 46th Canadian battalion was wounded, he immediately proceeded forward through intense shell fire to reach the battalion. Several of his men were wounded and he, neglecting his own safety, stopped to attend to them. While doing this he was wounded himself and was sent out notwithstanding his plea to be left at the front. His energy and pluck were of a very high order.”

Military Medals, Honours and Awards (1812–1969)

Census Records

1901 Census Census Record 1901

  • At age 9, Frederick G. Banting is living in Simcoe South, Sub-District of Essa, in Ontario. His father is William Banting (52), a farmer, of Irish descent, and his mother, Margaret (46), is also Irish. Their religion is listed as Methodist. They have five children, Nelson A. (19), William T. (18), Alexander (17), Ester (13), and Frederick (9).

1911 Census

  • At age 19, Frederick G. Banting still resides at home with both of his parents, his sister Ester, and his brotherCensus Record 1911Alexander (who now calls himself Kenneth). The older boys have moved out. Nelson is married to a woman named Margaret (24). His brother William (who now calls himself Thompson) is married to a woman named Lena (22) and they have a two-month-old daughter named Helen.

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Canada’s forgotten Cold Warriors

Paul Manson – Globe and Mail

Canadian soldiers take part in a NATO exercise in West Germany in 1989.
Canadian soldiers take part in a NATO exercise in West Germany in 1989.

The federal election campaign, coupled with recent compelling reporting in The Globe and Mail about Canada’s military veterans, has stimulated welcome – and much needed – discussion about our veterans and the ways in which they are treated.

But references in two recent and otherwise thoughtful articles follow a disturbing pattern. One article, which included tallies from Veterans Affairs Canada, referred to “685,300 Canadian veterans: 75,900 from the Second World War, 9,100 from the Korean War and 600,300 from subsequent peacekeeping missions and conflicts, including at least 40,000 younger Afghanistan war vets.” Another opinion article took up the same theme, referring to Canadian casualties in the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Afghanistan and “numerous United Nations peacekeeping assignments.”

Stunningly absent from both accounts is even the slightest mention of what was by far Canada’s most important military activity since 1945: Our contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) in the Cold War, from 1950 to 1990. It was a massive commitment. Several hundred thousand Canadian military members served in the vital cause of deterring Soviet aggression, thereby joining Canada’s allies in preventing the outbreak of a third world war and the nuclear holocaust that would have ensued.

And our Canadian soldiers, sailors and air officers were good. At one point, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, an American, told me, “You Canadians set the standard in NATO.” We were well trained, well equipped and superbly motivated. In spite of unique organizational challenges, we earned great respect from our allies. Our small but powerful mechanized brigade in West Germany was an elite force, given the toughest assignments. Our air force, both in NORAD and in Europe, won numerous competitions, especially with the Canadian-built and powered F-86 Sabre, considered the world’s best fighter in the 1950s. At sea, our navy showed that it was a quality force. On several occasions, a Canadian was chosen to command NATO’s Standing Naval Force Atlantic.

Canada and Canadians paid a heavy price for all this. To put it concisely, our Cold War operations resulted in more fatalities due to military service than in the Korean War, the Balkan conflicts, the Gulf Wars, Afghanistan and peacekeeping – combined. For aircrew deaths alone, the number was 926.

Why has this been forgotten, to the extent that Cold War veterans apparently don’t seem to deserve even a passing mention these days?

Some possible reasons come to mind. Much of this happened a relatively long time ago, much of it far from home – in the north, at sea, in Europe. And news media coverage was much less intensive in the days before real-time TV reporting and embedded journalists. For example, whenever a Canadian airman was killed in Europe (as more than 100 were), he was invariably buried in a small military cemetery in Choloy-Ménillot, France; no ramp ceremony, no funerary procession along the Highway of Heroes, no headlines.

Then there is the mythology that has arisen to the effect that peacekeeping has been the principal occupation of Canada’s military since the Second World War. Our Blue Beret peacekeepers did wonderful work back when there were real opportunities for keeping conflicting armies apart, but the reason they were so effective is that they had the skills and credibility that come from having been trained for modern heavy warfare.

Another explanation for the public silence regarding Canada’s NATO and NORAD veterans is that there has emerged a troubling tendency on the part of some in this country to look upon those who did not fight in a shooting war as second-class veterans.

My entire career was encompassed by the Cold War years, including 10 years with my family in France and Germany. The Cold War, however, was not a shooting war. I have told Canadians on many occasions that my greatest pride in having served is that, from the end of the Korean War until I retired 37 years later, not a single shot was fired in combat by the Canadian military.

Our job was deterrence, and deterrence worked. We trained for war so that we wouldn’t have to fight a war.

It’s a shame that the story has been largely forgotten. On this Remembrance Day, my earnest hope is that Canadians, when they pause to commemorate the many sacrifices that our veterans have made through the years, will give a moment to those whose service as Cold Warriors, although unheralded, really made a difference. Lest we forget.