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GORRELL, CHARLES WILSON FARRAN, physician and army officer; b. 27 Oct. 1871 in Farran’s Point, Ont., son of George Taylor Gorrell and Catherine Fulton; d. unmarried 24 Jan. 1917 in London, England.
Charles Wilson Farran Gorrell was educated in Ontario at the Brockville Grammar School and Brockville Collegiate Institute. He received his md from McGill University, Montreal, in 1894. While obtaining his education he served as assistant private secretary to Christopher Finlay Fraser*, commissioner of public works for Ontario. Gorrell’s postgraduate medical training included a year as an intern at the Montreal General Hospital and one as medical superintendent at the Garrett Hospital for Children in Baltimore, Md. He then moved to Ottawa, where he was associated with St Luke’s Hospital [see Annie Amelia Chesley*].
While Gorrell was a student he had enlisted in the 41st (Brockville) Battalion of Rifles, and in 1890 he was made a lieutenant in the 42nd (Brockville) Battalion of Infantry. Between July 1901 and May 1904 he was captain and then major commanding No.2 (Ottawa) Bearer Company of the Army Medical Corps. In November 1906 he was promoted lieutenant-colonel. The following year he became principal medical officer of Military District No.4, where he served until February 1911.
After World War I began Gorrell enlisted on 26 Sept. 1914, becoming a major in the permanent force of the Canadian Army Medical Corps. He proceeded to the United Kingdom as a member of No.2 General Hospital and on 27 Jan. 1915 was appointed to command the Duchess of Connaught’s Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Taplow, west of London. The hospital was very large, with 1,040 beds. From April 1915, with fighting so heavy in Belgium and France, Canadian casualties flowed in. Gorrell, who had been promoted lieutenant-colonel on 2 Feb. 1915, was named temporary colonel on 8 Aug. 1916, the appointment backdated to the 3rd.
While much good undoubtedly was done for the patients in the hospital, a scandal occurred that rocked the establishment. A non-commissioned officer was convicted, apparently in 1916, of accepting bribes from tradesmen to favour their wares over those of competitors. Gorrell was under no suspicion himself, but he took his responsibility as commanding officer to be such that criticism should involve him. By 23 Dec. 1916 he had been admitted to Queen Alexandra Military Hospital in London with a diagnosis of “Paralysis Functional.” Had he been a woman, he might, in the terminological sexism of the time, have been categorized as having hysteria. For a high-ranking medical officer the term was functional paralysis, indicating that some portion or portions of his body were incapable of functioning normally, though no physical reason could be found. Certainly the diagnosis indicates the presence of a severe mental disturbance. He was nevertheless discharged after four days as fully recovered.
Whether Gorrell returned to the Duchess of Connaught’s hospital is unknown. On 25 Jan. 1917 he was found dead at a house in the Maida Vale district of London. A druggist stated at the coroner’s inquest that he had sold the doctor some hydrocyanic or prussic acid a short time before. The verdict was suicide due to temporary insanity; cause of death, prussic acid poisoning.
NA, RG 150, Acc. 1992–93/166. Ottawa Public Library, File information concerning the Gorrell family. Can., Dept. of Militia and Defence, Canadian Expeditionary Force: nominal rolls (13v., Ottawa, 1915–18), 10, No.2 General Hospital and Advanced Depot Medical Stores. Canada Lancet (Toronto), 50 (1916–17): 320–21. Canadian Medical Assoc., Journal (Toronto), 7 (1917): 87, 181. Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1912). G.B., Army, Pay and Record Office, List of officers and men serving in the First Canadian Contingent of the British Expeditionary Force, 1914 (London, [1915?]), 340. Peter Lovegrove, Not least in the crusade: a short history of the Royal Army Medical Corps (Aldershot, Eng., 1951), 24. Andrew Macphail, Official history of the Canadian forces in the Great War, 1914–19: the medical services (Ottawa, 1925), 221–22, 344.