TLC Muskoka Home Health Care and Nursing Shift Relief Agency celebrate the history of Nursing in Canada. This Remembrance Day we take this moment to highlight the 132 years of nurses on the battlefield. While we recognize that male nurses have made significant contributions, this is the story of women successfully contributing on the frontier.
In 1885 the Nursing Sisters of Canada first joined Canada's armed forces on the battlefield of the North-West Rebellion in what is now Saskatchewan. From that date, nurses have been a presence in every armed conflict that Canadian soldiers found themselves fighting.
Reverend Mother Hanna Grier Coome and the first Canada's Nursing Sisters, Moose Jaw 1885
In 1899 the Canadian Army Nursing Service was established. The nurses were given the rank and pay of an army lieutenant. Their first conflict was in South Africa where eight nurses assisted the needs of 7,000 Canadian volunteer soldiers facing not just the ravages of war but disease and a tropical climate the Canadians were not acclimatized.
The Bluebirds in the Battlefield
The first world war saw the number of Canadian military nurses significantly increase. In total 3,141 nurses served. They were given the nickname "bluebirds" because of their blue uniforms and white veils.
Canadian nursing sisters working among the ruins of the 1st Canadian General Hospital, which was bombed by the Germans, killing three nurses
Of the 2,504 nurses dispatched to the European battlegrounds, 45 lost their lives. In one night 14 nurses died when the hospital ship Llandovery Castle was torpedoed by a German U-boat.
RCAMC Nursing Sisters and other medical staff on board hospital ship Letitia WW II
World War II saw 4,480 nurses enlist. The majority of these nurses were sent overseas and practiced on the battlefronts. Nurses were also dispatched to Hong Kong, and it was here that two, Kathleen G. Christie and Anna May Waters, were taken prisoner when the base was captured. You can read Nurse Christie's official report here http://scholars.wlu.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1305&context=cmh
Nursing sisters of No.10 Canadian General Hospital, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (R.C.A.M.C.), having a cup of tea upon arriving at Arromanches, France, 23 July 1944. (L-R): Lieutenants H. O'Donnell, T.M. Woolsey and J. Mackenzie. Source LAC.
Nurses continue to serve and sacrifice alongside Canada's military. Our military nurses work either in hospitals or clinics or on the battlefield wherever Canadian Armed Forces are deployed. They are also active participants in Canadian humanitarian missions conducted by the Armed Forces. Thus continuing the legacy of Florence Nightingale of "doing the thing that is good".
Canadian Forces Capt. Karoline Martin, a nurse with the Canadian Forces Health Services Center, gives a child a sticker after an examination during a medical clinic April 15, 2013, in Caluco, El Salvador, as part of Beyond the Horizon (BTH) 2013.
On November 11 take a moment to remember nurses that have served and as Col. G. W. Nicholson wrote: “They served equally.”
For more information on Canada's Nursing Sisters click the links
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