Somewhere in France

Somewhere in France

Monday, January 30, 2012

Death in the Dardanelles: Remembering NS Munro

Mary Frances Elizabeth Munro was born in Wardsville, Ontario in the County of Middlesex in 1866. Wardsville seems to have been a prosperous village located along the banks of the Thames River. The small community had a number of businesses including a farm implement company and a foundry)and boasted a library, established in 1876 in a room rented in the downtown. In 1908, a building was purchased to house the collection.

Mary's family seems to have been a prosperous one. Her mother was Martha Ward, part of the family that founded the village. Her father, Malcolm Munro, was listed as a merchant and was Wardsville's town reeve for over a decade. Mary had an older sister and brother--Marcella and Alexander--and two younger siblings, Marion and John. As in many 19th century families, death was a frequent visitor to the household. Both Marion and John died in childhood and in 1878, Martha Munro also died.

There was another loss yet to come. In the 1880s, Malcolm and his son Alexander moved the family home and business to Morrisburg in Dundas County. In 1888, Malcolm Munro died there--of drowning.

In her attestation papers, Mary lists herself as a nursing sister, but there is no information about where she trained. What the papers also reveal is that before the war, Mary had also faced another terrible challenge--her right breast had been removed, likely in response to cancer. At the time of her enlistment in London in May 1915, she was almost 49 years old. She was five feet, three inches tall, with brown eyes and gray hair.

Munro was assigned to No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital in West Mudros. Within four months, she would be dead. In her book "Lights Out!," fellow Mudros Nursing Sister Kate Wilson described the events leading up to Munro's death. "Before the end of six weeks, owing to the hot days and cold nights, many of the unacclimatized Canadians had fallen ill, with the result that each hospital ship returning to England carried ten to twelve No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hopsital personnel, including our Commanding Officer Colonel Casgrain...Our very much loved Matron Jaggard had taken ill. With little thought for herself and a keen interest in her nursing staff she carried on. So anxious would she become at night that many times she would go from hut to hut of her sleeping nurses, assuring herself that they were alright...Lying with the picture of her seventeen year old son smiling down at her, one night she closed her eyes for the last time and slept....A few days earlier Sister Munro had fallen ill, and too weak to battle with this eastern disease [dysentery] she too was called to rest. A good soldier and a true friend, she will be remembered too." A good soldier and a true friend are all we know of Mary Frances Munro. She died on September 7, 1915 and is buried in Portianos Military Cemetery, Plot V, Row D, Grave 176.

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