Somewhere in France

Somewhere in France

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nursing Sister Gladys Maude Wake

As promised, on the fourth of each month up until the 100th anniversary of WWI, I will be posting a short bio of a Canadian nurse who died while on service overseas during WWI. Today I'm posting the first of these bios, a description of Nursing Sister Gladys Maude Wake, who died on May 21, 1918 of wounds received during the bombing of #1 Canadian Hospital, Etaples, France.

Gladys Maude Wake was born in Victoria, British Columbia on December 13, 1883. At the time of her enlistment in London on January 10, 1916, she was 5'1" tall, a tiny woman weighing 112 pounds. She was a graduate nurse, although the school she attended was not named in her military records. While overseas, she served at the Duchess of Connaught's Canadian Red Cross Hospital, #1 Canadian Stationary Hospital in Salonica, #4 Canadian General Hospital, and in England, #11 Canadian General Hospital. In October 1917, she joined #1 Canadian General Hospital in Etaples.

Gladys was one of three Canadian nurses who were mortally wounded on May 19, 1918. That night, 15 German planes attacked Etaples. During a hellish two hours, 116 bombs were dropped over the hospital complex. The nurses' quarters of #1 Canadian General sustained a direct hit, scattering debris and setting it on fire. Wake was among those in the nurses' quarters when it was hit. As flames crackled around her, recognizing that she was unlikely to survive, Wake begged black-faced stretcher-bearers to leave her and save themselves. Despite her protests, they pulled her from the burning hut. Above them, German planes flew low, sending a spray of machine-gun fire among the rescuers. Wake eventually died of extensive damage to her legs and a fractured femur.


  1. This from my grandmother's (Dorothy Elsie Collis) journal, she was a nursing sister at Canadian general No.1
    She and Gladys Wake 'bob' 'bobbie' graduated from The Royal Jubilee Hospital school of Nursing at Victoria BC.

    May 19, "Had a terrible air raid from 10:30 p.m to 12:30 a.m. Was a beautiful night - as light as day...
    Before I left for supper I heard distant guns and thought nothing of it. had just got to the kitchen door when bombs began to drop. There were several in the mess quarters and that set the rows of huts on fire, Two dropped outside the club, another outside our new quarters, the whole place was wrecked - poor little 'Bob' was buried, she had a fractured femur, a huge wound in the other leg and several smaller ones. Miss McDonald was killed. She had a small wound but it must have severed the femoral artery as she died of haemorrhage almost immediately. Wounded were taken to G ward. Several bombs dropped on the officers lines. One on top of Hill 60. Killed one M.O who was standing up and several others. There were about six of us in the kitchen on the floor. It was dreadful. We could see the fires through the window, hear the men shouting and calling. Hear bombs dropping, the guns would all stop until the machines came within range. All one could hear was their continual buzzing - then the guns again, then the bombs. The windows all fell in, dishes kept breaking, the plaster walls fell in in places. We were sure the next one would hit us. when there was a lull, we hurried back to the wards. One badly hurt man was brought to hut X dying. Three planes returned, one dropped several bombs then left us alone. several of the hill wards were hit, one destroyed. where the HSD men slept a number where killed and nearly as many wounded. The O.R was very busy the rest of the night. Private Wilson Was killed.

    May 21. Miss McDonald was buried this a.m. A number of us went, also No.7, all our men. Capt Hughes was also buried. These funerals are dreadfully trying. Saw 'Bob' this morning, she looked terribly ill. has the most dreadful wounds, gangrene, I'm sure from the odour. Miss saunders came while I was there. Miss Wilson brought her from Le Treport. She was on a case. so glad she got here. Poor little "Bob" died at three o'clock. Saw Miss Wilson for a few minutes.

    May 22, "Bob" buried at 9:30. We all went to the funeral, it was dreadfully trying. 46 of the boys were all buried together in one long grave.

    May 23, Not busy, have had no patients since the raid. A number of our boys in hospital, suffering from shock. Miss lowe very ill.

    May 28, Miss Lowe died this a.m. She had a fractured skull, was unconscious towards the last.

  2. I fictionalized that raid in my novel, Elusive Dawn. It pays tribute to the Canadians in WW1, including the women who become VADs and ambulance drivers - all heavily based on fact. You can find out more on
    You might also be interested in my website,, which has been used by educators and researchers worldwide.

  3. My great grandfather died in the bombing raid that night in 1918. He would have been in the care of these beautiful and strong women. As I read through Dorothy's journal, I can more clearly imagine his last thoughts and experiences. I am grateful for this account.