Blackburn almost succeeded in the ruse
until another doctor walked in and spotted what he was doing. An
argument ensued, with the second doctor arguing that Blackburn was
useless. Blackburn pointed out that if the
doctor had been more observant he would have noticed that the leg was
clearly marked on his attestation papers. He also mentioned the railway
officer's testimony and argued that he was perfect for the front line as
he couldn't retreat as quickly as the others and would be forced to stay
with his locomotive and hold his ground. The doctors then made him
remove his trousers and walk around the room.
The first doctor declared that he
would pass fit a thousand men like Blackburn and he enlisted on 10
January 1917 with an A1 rating. He notes proudly that he never missed a
parade or route march and his drill instructors never realized the
extent of his disability, assuming he was suffering from a bad corn.
Serving in France with 4 Broad Gauge
Railway Operating Company Blackburn drove engines around Peronne and in
Flanders without mishap. The only problem he experienced with his leg
was a severe numbing in the coldest months. These conditions caused his
calf to shrink from 16 to 9 inches. On his return to Australia Blackburn
discarded the leg for one with a better fit and donated the original to
the Memorial in 1925.
- Blackburn maintained that his was
the only artificial leg accepted for service in the AIF, and
possibly the entire Allied Forces.
After the war Blackburn returned to
Australia and resumed his work with the Tasmanian Railway Department. In
1942 he presented himself for enlistment in the second AIF, but to his
displeasure was passed unfit for service. Blackburn died in October
1967, a few months after his 90th birthday.