Nurses Disdain Death to Help Wounded Men: A Transcription

Photograph and Toronto Star newspaper archive located here.

The Toronto Star: May 25, 1918 

(My great grandfather, John Moors, was one of the Canadians killed in this German raid in Etaples, France)

Subtitle: Wonderful Courage of Sisters Under Rain of Hun Bombs Told by Toronto Star’s Special Correspondent – All Volunteer When Matron Calls – Monster Bomb Blows to Bits


Special Cable to The Star by F. A. McKenzie, Copyright

Hospital City in France, May 25 –

German kultur has shown itself again in the deliberate murder of Canadian and British nurses, doctors, orderlies and patients under circumstances of such appalling callousness that even those life myself who have witnessed endless German misdeeds since the early Belgian days turn away sickened.  I have just been hearing the brave simple tales of our nurses who escaped.  No words would sufficiently emphasize ones sense of their splendid conduct.

The hospital city is a well-known district placed around a valley in a sandy channel near the coast, where a large number of temporary hospitals have been grouped together.  Since the early days of the war it has been frequently described in great detail.  It’s position and its purpose are as perfectly well-known to the Germans as to ourselves.

Until Sunday our authorities, not believing that even the Germans would deliberately bomb a large hospital centre, left the place entirely open.  Two big Canadian hospitals were there.  These consisted of tents and wooden galvanized iron huts.  There were no bomb-proof shelters, as shelter-giving protection even from bomb fragments.

Sad Sequel to Concert

On Sunday evening there had been a concert.  The sisters returning to quarters suddenly heard a loud humming, and immediately one monster bomb fell direct upon the sleeping quarters of the Canadian orderlies and the other personnel.  Many were blown to bits.  Fire began and this gave the enemy a target.  The survivors rushed up in an attempt to extinguish the flames.  Those soon, however, made the whole area visible, thus clearly showing it even if the Germans did not know before what the place was.

The enermy airmen rained down bomb after bomb, some of small calibre solely man-killing bombs, others of a very large size.  Two doctors, rushing to help, were caught by a bomb.  One was killed and the other wounded.  All the lights were immediately turned out except the little hand lamps with which the doctors and nursing sisters hastily sought to help the wounded.  Sisters in night quarters were ordered to lie down under their beds.

All the Nurses Volunteer

The matron of No. 7 called two volunteers to move across the open under bomb fire and give needed help.  Every sister present immediately volunteered.  She took the nearest two, who moved out unhesitantly, as though selected for a special honour.

One bomb fell among five sisters in quarter No. 1, killing one sister almost instantly and wounding five others, of whom one died shortly afterwards.  Another was very seriously hurt.  The conduct of the patients, mostly British private soldiers, was magnificent.  Their chief anxiety was lest the sisters should be hurt.  In Ward 1, where one sister persisted in exposing herself in order to help, the men patients held her down, refusing to let her court almost certain destruction.  Between bombs, doctors, nurses and patients able to move got  about helping the injured and instantly flinging themselves on the ground as each bomb fell.  There was nowhere to take anyone for shelter, for the huts were like tissue paper under the fire.

The first German squadron, after about a three-quarter-hour bombardment, sailed away.  Immediately all energy was concentrated upon relieving the injured.  British soldiers arrived to help and then a second German squadron came.  Altogether four squadrons attacked this hospital city.  Nearly every hospital besides the Canadian was bombed.  The one exception was the hospital next the the German prison camp.  The prison camp itself also escaped, the enemy evidently knowing its location.  The total casualties amounted to many hundreds.  Our Canadian list, you  have officially received.

Given Soldiers’ Funerals

The funeral was held Tuesday in a beautiful cemetery near the pine woods and the sea.  Everyone attended.  Our girls were given a soldier’s 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.

The story of this outrage is arousing the whole army to fury.  Australian troops, besides our own, particularly swearing vengeance against every German.  Many of the victims were Ontario folk.

Special recognition should be given to the orderlies who suffered so heavily, Canadian men being killed and injured.  Many of these orderlies were elderly men who had served for years with their units since the early days of the war, doing service whose faithfulness and excellence aroused general respect.

All Deserve the V. C.

“Every night sister deserves the Victoria Cross for the way they kept on,” say the day sisters, but both day and night sisters have had an experience which showed to the full their splendid qualities.  frankly, no words can give an idea of the horrors of Sunday night’s scene.  It’s only relieving feature was the courage and faithfulness of all our people.

One German plane brought down contained two airmen, who declared they did not know there was a hospital below.  This is incredible.  Certainly their superiors knew, while the burning buildings must have revealed the position even to the blindest airman.  They flew at a very low height, under brilliant moonlight.  Their idea of ignorance is a cowardly evasion, adding horror to their crime.  F.A. McKenzie

Nursing Sister, Katherine Maude Macdonald of Brantford, who is reported killed in action, May 19, is the first Canadian nurse who is known to have died in this attack on the hospitals.

Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you. Marsha Norman

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