Excerpt - Battlefront Nurses in WW I
The Esquimalt Connection: Summer of 1915
Tents on Macaulay Plains, Summer of 1915
Macaulay Point at the western entrance to Victoria Harbour became part of the defense system of Vancouver Island when the British army built an earthwork gun battery high on the rocks in 1878. The site continued as a military base through the next three decades, but the first women to drill on its parade ground were the World War I nurses of British Columbia's own unit of the Canadian Army Medical Corps.
The 72 nurses who gathered in Victoria in July, 1915, were an important part of that unit. Graduate nurses left hospitals in Kamloops, Nanaimo, Revelstoke, Summerland, Cumberland, Ladner, Chemainus and Rossland - and Winnipeg - to join the Vancouver and Victoria nurses applying to enlist as Lieutenants in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
In their navy blue brass-buttoned uniforms they "caused much amusement among the soldiers," as Nurse Elsie Collis wrote in her diary after their first drill practices and dismal efforts at "marching past" on the hot and dusty plains.
72 nurse/lieutenants, nicknamed "the penguins" by the troops, practiced drilling as part of their preparation for overseas duty.
After drill practice, lectures, medical exams and other preparations for overseas duty, they were often bused to entertainments in their honor at some of the grandest homes in Victoria, including Government House and former premier James Dunsmuir's new 'castle' at Hatley Park.
The unit left Victoria Harbour on August 21, 1915, after parading through town to the cheers of large crowds, proud of British Columbia's own contribution to the war effort.
The following pictures were part of a group of photographs in the Daily Colonist on August 1, 1915. The unit was organized by Victoria physician Dr. E. C. Hart between May and July. The complete hospital was ready for departure early in August. Equipment had been ordered, one motor ambulance 'of the latest type' was donated, a tag day was held in Victoria and the provincial government donated $250.
Squad of cooks with B.C. base hospital, Macaulay Plains
Stretcher Bearers ............... Officers and Men
The newspaper photos were part the Daily Colonist's coverage of the organization of the hospital at Macaulay Plains. The Esquimalt camp was remembered in No. 5's newsletter published when the unit was serving at the Mediterranean Front six months later: "Who will forget those happy days when we were all so new ... dusty route marches to the Gorge, squad and stretcher drill, rehearsals of ceremonial parade ... but an ideal camp site, a bathing beach within a stone's throw, weekend leave to Vancouver, and the inner man catered to in proper style."
This is one of a number of photos of nurses, doctors and troops, including the cooks.
Nursing Sister Morrison is second from right, middle row, with Nursing Sister Collis standing behind her.
(The Daily Colonist, August 8, 1915)
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