Somewhere in France

Somewhere in France

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Remembering Katherine Maud Macdonald

Today I want to continue remembering Canadian nurses who died during the May 1918 raid on Etaples, France. Nursing Sister Katherine Maude Macdonald served in Canada, Britain and France during the Great War. She was born in Brantford, Ontario on January 18, 1883. Macdonald took her nursing training at Victoria Hospital, London, Ontario, graduating on May 15, 1915. She enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) on March 20, 1917 and sent to England where she was posted to #10 Canadian Stationary Hospital and later, #14 Canadian General Hospital (both in Eastbourne). She seems to have been a strong, physically fit nurse--5'2" tall, 125 pounds. MacDonald was sent to France in February of 1918, where she was posted to #1 Canadian General Hospital. She died on May 19, 1918, of wounds from the same air raid that also killed Nursing Sister Gladys Wake (see last month's post, for more information on Wake). Macdonald was only 25 years old when she died.

While I was unable to gather much more information about Macdonald than what is printed in her military file, I do have an article describing the precautions taken for other nurses following the raid that took her life. Apparently, the Etaples hospital complex had taken no precautions against air raids, believing that the Germans would not attack a hospital. (They forgot that part of the camp was also a military training ground, and that this might have made it a "military target".) However, after the attack, steps were taken to give nurses and other personnel a fighting chance at survival in the event of another raid.

"The funeral was held Tuesday in a beautiful cemetery near the pine woods and the sea. Everyone attended. Our girls were given a soldiers' burial. The Germans returned Tuesday night. This time, however, preparations had been made to repel them, compelling their retirement. Immediate steps were taken to make the camp more safe against attack, the nurses being taken to sleep at night time in the woods some distance away. Dugouts are now being hastily built to give all shelter. Yesterday afternoon, steel helmets were served out to the nurses. One cannot fail to see how heavy the strain has been on them..." (Toronto Star, undated clipping--near May 25, 1918).

In 2000, I visited the graves of the women who died at Etaples. It was a moving experience, especially since the cemetery is very near the location where they died and one can imagine how little protection they had in the exposed, sandy coastal area where the hospital was established.

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