WORLD WAR II

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Honour Roll

Helen Christian, Class 1939

Dorothy Rebecca Colquhoun, Class 1933

Blanche Herman, Class 1925

Letter from Miss Blanche Herman in 1943, Class 1925

Helen Hewton, A.R.R.C, Class 1921

Katharine E. Horsfall, Class 1925

Dorothy MacRae, Class 1927

Margaret Jane McCann, Class 1938

Madeline Taylor, Class 1924

Anne Thorpe, Class 1927

Phyllis Walker, Class 1935 "The Wreck of the Santa Elena"

Honour Roll

(Source: Montreal General Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae News Letter, Vol 1 No 4 January, 1959)

The Honour Roll of the nurses of the Montreal General Hospital who served in the Second World War was unveiled by Dr. Lorne C. Montgomery on March 3, 1958 in Livingston Hall. Here Miss Blanche G. Herman, R.R.C., our President, Associate Director of Nursing and formerly Principal Matron in the R.C.A.M.C.is seen beside the Honour Roll.

(The unveiling was in the evening and the invitation called for afternoon dress and medals to be worn)

In his address Colonel Montgomery said " It is with great pride, deep emotion, and humble reverence that I unveil this plaque to the Montreal General Hospital Nursing Sisters in World War II." The Honour Roll was received in the name of the Hospital by its President, Colonel W.W. Ogilvie, E. D.

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Helen Christian Class 1939

Helen Christian was a Lt Nursing Sister in WWII, serving in England and Holland. She held the following positions: Head Nurse Ward G, MGH; Night Supervisor, Catherine Booth; Matron, Julius Richardson; X-ray dept, Jewish General; Night Supervisor, Edward VII Bermuda; Matron Red Cross outpost, Grand Manan. She retired in 1981 and died September 27, 2005 in her 90th year. (From sister Ethel, Class 1948)

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Dorothy Rebecca Colquhoun, Class 1933

Dorothy Rebecca Colquhoun is director of the School of Nursing of Metropolitan General Hospital, Windsor, Ontario, where a new two-year program of student nurse education is operating.

Born in Hamilton, Ont., Miss Colquhoun graduated in nursing from The Montreal General Hospital, in teaching and supervision from the McGill School for Graduate Nurses and with her Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill. For two years she served on the staff of the Victorian Order of Nurses in Montreal then went to Victoria, B.C., as senior instructor at Royal Jubilee Hospital. She resigned from that position to join the R.C.A.M.C. in 1943 and served in England, Belgium and Germany. Miss Colquhoun is President of the Windsor Unit of the Nursing Sisters' Association of Canada.

In 1949, Miss Colquhoun became Director of Nursing of the Port Arthur General Hospital. She taught in the University of Alberta School of Nursing for a year before assuming her present position in 1953. She takes a lively interest in the activities of the Windsor-Essex Chapter of the R.N.A.O. and is a member of the sub-committee on examinations of the provincial association. She is a vice-president of Zonta Club of Windsor, enjoys "whodunits," dabbles at oil painting and revels in her fine collection of Hi-Fi records. (Canadian Nurse, March 1957)

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BLANCHE G. HERMAN, R.N., R.R.C. (1st class), M.I.D.

From her yearbook:

Quotation: "Like Alexander I will reign

and I will reign alone."

Hobby: Tidying up

Ambition: Speed, accuracy and neatness

Favorite expression: "My lor'!"

(Source; Coronet studios)

Blanche G. Herman, a native of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, graduated from the School of Nursing of the Montreal General Hospital in 1925 and from McGill University with a Diploma in Teaching and Administration.

From 1933 to 1955 she was the Superintendent of the Western Division of the Hospital. On leave of absence during WWII, Miss Herman joined the Army Nursing Service in 1940 and in 1941, went overseas as Matron of the 1200 bed No. 14 General Hospital which was located first at Farnborough and later at Horley in England. Posted to the Mediterranean as Principal Matron of the Canadian nurses in that area in 1942, she was on board the S.S. St. Helena when it was torpedoed 2 days out of Gibralter. During her service in Italy she was stationed at Caserta, Perugia and in Rome. For her wartime service Miss Herman was decorated with the Royal Red Cross (first class) and received an MID (mention in dispatches). On her return to Canada she resumed her position at the Western Division.

Miss Herman was apppointed to the position of Associate Director of Nursing in charge of Livingston Hall when the Central and Western divisions of the hospital amalgamated to move to the Cedar Avenue site in 1955. She remained there until her retirement on June 1, 1965.

On June 14, 1965 the Gazette writes .... She says she will really miss student nurses. For the past 10 years Miss Herman has been in charge of Livingston Hall, the student nurses' residence, and so has had contact with the approximate 1500 nurses who have passed through there in that time. "I have just loved this work, really loved every minute of it. It is so amazing to see the girls mature after three years in training" Student nurses today have more self-confidence, are more worldly and more aware than nurses in her day, she says. "They show exceptional qualities, and my life has been enriched by knowing and working with them."

Active in various nursing organizations, Miss Herman held the following offices: President of the Alumnae Association, McGill School for Graduate Nurses (1937-1940) and of the Alumnae Association of the School of Nursing of the Montreal General Hospital, (1956-1958) ; Chairperson, MGH Alumnae Archives Committee (1957-1964) and in 1962 she was named Honorary President of the Alumnae Association of the School of Nursing of the Montreal General Hospital.

Following her retirement, Miss Herman made her home in Halifax where she died on September 4, 1982.

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Letter from Miss Herman, 1943

Excerpts from a letter that Miss Herman sent to Miss Anderson, President of the Alumnae on January 20, 1943 from the 14th Canadian General Hospital, Canadian Army overseas. (Class 1925)

"... We started our Christmas festivities by having a Christmas tree in the Nursing Sisters' Mess for fifty evacuated children ranging from 2-5 years, who are living in our vicinity. Weeks before the Sisters began planning for this party, as each child was to have one or two knitted articles as well as a toy. You can imagine the struggle for wool as each skein requires a coupon (the latter as precious as gold). When the day arrived we had a grand collection of woolies and toys, all donated by the Sisters. ..... Being too young to enjoy a film, we started the entertainment by giving them supper. The food I may say, was donated and made by the Sisters, each one having contributed something from her own boxes. I wish you could have seen the kiddies eat - how they enjoyed themselves!. One little fellow kept at it for over an hour, then wanted more party. After supper they were escorted to the large lounge where Santa was waiting with all his toys........

The wards took on a very festive atmosphere; a Christmas tree was obtained for each, and fair amount of beautiful holly was gathered......Christmas Eve arrived and the festivities began by Officers and Sisters going through all the wards singing carols to the accompaniment of a harmonium played by one of the Sisters and a small piano by another Sister on alternate wards. As we paraded through the wards the glorious blue of our uniforms with the white veils blending with the khaki of the Officers made a very impressive sight.....The party ended at a reasonable hour as we had to anticipate an arduous day ahead of us.

And so to Christmas Day. To the surprise of everyone in the Unit, we were greeted with an egg! A real treat! The entire day was devoted to the patients and personnel of the Unit. Colonel Ross and I made rounds throughout the hospital shaking hands with all the patients........

The last day of the old year arrives and although weary, contented with the thought that we had done all we could to give both Unit personnel and patients a happy time. In the evening a dance was held in the Sergeants' mess which the Officers and Sisters attended for a short time. Later, the Officers and Sisters who had not made previous engagements, gathered in the Sisters' mess to see the New Year in. At the appointed hour a toast was drunk for the New Year. Then we gathered around the fire and sang familiar songs for a couple of hours. Feeling rather weary by now we retired for what was left of the night and hoping that, with victory ours, we should see in the next New Year with our friends and families at home."

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Helen Hewton, R.R.C., Class 1921

Miss Helen Hewton, who is superintendent of nurses at the Herbert Reddy Memorial Hospital in Montreal, has as her hobby the art of weaving. In the accompanying portrait she is shown at her loom and is wearing a suit made from material which she herself has woven.

A graduate of the Montreal General Hospital School of Nursing and the McGill University school, Miss Hewton went overseas during World War II with No. 14 Canadian General Hospital and in 1944 became principal Matron of No.1 Canadian General Hospital in Italy. For her services she was awarded the R.R.C. It was while she was overseas that she developed her present hobby, about which she has sent us the following comment: "Without having complete awareness of the desire, I have always yearned after a useful hobby in which I could find expression for whatever latent artistry I might possess. While still a member of the R.C.A.M.C. in 1946, I discovered weaving. So satisfying did I find this pursuit that for more than a year after my discharge from the army I continued it as a full-time occupation.

“I am now once more immersed in hospital administration and regret I have so little leisure for my favourite pastime. But I still hope to be able to go on producing woven materials. My favourite productions to date have been fine linens and cottons- in the form of luncheon sets and dress lengths.” (Newspaper clipping Source unknown, Alumnae archives, McGill 422-660)

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Katharine E. Horsfall, Class 1925

Katharine E. Horsfall served overseas with the 14th General Hospital R.C.A.M.C. She is a cousin to Lottie Mcleod (Class 1905) (From J A Parnell, sister-in-law, 1997)

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Dorothy MacRae Class 1927

(Photo by Notman, Montreal)

The Department of National Defence has announced the appointment of Miss Dorothy MacRae as Principal Matron, Nursing Service. R.C.A.M.C., in which capacity she will serve as associate to the Matron-in-Chief, Lt. Col. Elizabeth L. Smellie, C.B.E., R.R.C., L.L.D. She succeeds Principal Matron Dick, who is now Principal Matron of No. 10 General Hospital.

Principal Matron MacRae is a graduate of the School of Nursing of the Montreal General Hospital and, after serving as a member of the nursing staff in the Western Division of the Montreal General Hospital, became Superintendent of Nurses at the Anson Memorial Hospital, Iroquois Falls, Ontario. In December 1940, Miss MacRae was appointed Matron of No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, R.C.A.M.C.and proceeded overseas for service in Britain. Attached to the office of the Director of Medical Services for the Canadian army in Britain, she was at her own Unit and saw her first casualties brought from the Dieppe raid. She returned to Canada in September to take up her new duties. (MGH School of Nursing Archives, Source unknown)

From the Canadian Nurse of July, 1946 we learn that Miss MacRae, R.R.C., accepted the position of Superintendent of Nurses at the Herbert Reddy Memorial Hospital in Montreal. She was released in 1945 from R.C.A.M.C., where she had served as matron-in-chief and subsequently completed her course in administration in schools of nursing at the McGill School for Graduate Nurses.

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Margaret McCann, Class of 1938

"Nursing Sister Awarded M.B.E. for work in Italy"

Lieut. (Nursing Sister) Margaret Jane McCann has just been awarded the M.B.E. in recognition of her services in the Italian theatre of operations, according to an official announcement. Lieut. McCann was born in Vankleek Hill, Ont., where her mother resides. She was employed in Montreal at the time of her enlistment in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp in June 1941, and has been serving overseas since that time. (MGH Archives, Newpaper clipping, source unknown)

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Madeline Taylor

Class 1924

Funeral services will be held Monday at Wray's Chapel, 1234 Mountain Street, for Madeline S. Taylor, 62, who died Thursday at St. Anne's Veterans Hospital after a long illness. (Died June 4, 1964)

Miss Taylor, who was with the Department of Indian Affairs in Alberta when she became ill, was born and educated in Montreal. She graduated from the Montreal General Hospital's School of Nursing in 1924. After working as a district nurse for the Victorian Order of Nurses, she received the Mildred Forbes scholarship prize and took a course in public health nursing at McGill University.

In 1929, she organized and supervised for two years, a VON district in Regina. She then returned to Montreal where she worked as a VON supervisor until she joined the No.14 Canadian General Hospital Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, January 1941. Miss Taylor went to Europe from Camp Borden with her unit in June, 1941. She saw service in England and Italy. In Italy she was matron of No. 11 British General Hospital and was mentioned in dispatches.

Miss Taylor joined the United Nations Refugee Relief Association in 1945 and went to Germany to work among displaced persons. She was chief nurse of the United States zone in Germany for 16 months.

Miss Taylor, upon returning to Canada, was appointed matron of the Displaced Persons Reception Centre at St. Paul l'Ermite, and was elected president of the Nursing Sisters Association of Canada, Montreal unit. She was appointed director of organization, Quebec Cancer Society in 1947. (The Montreal Star, June 6, 1964 in MGH Alumnae Archives)

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Anne Thorpe, Class 1927

I have a certificate of merit from my Legion Branch, also “Citation” from Department of National Defence (end World War), Service medals (miniature with bar and Royal Red Cross (1944) I served on Canadian hospital ships “Letitia” the French Line; “ Ile de France” and the “Queen Elizabeth”  (Letter from Miss Thorpe to Mary McRae, 1973)

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The Wreck of the Santa Elena

by Jean Hanchet

The Santa Elena was small compared to the rest of the convoy of refurbished ships that left Liverpool harbour for the Italian campaign during the Second World War. The ship was carrying a crew of medical personnel from Canada, including 99 nurses, some of whom were graduates of the old Montreal General Hospital, Number 14 General. One of the members of the crew was Phyllis Walker (Class of ‘35), who recently described some of her experiences when their little ship was torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

Imagine being in their shoes! The convoy was zigzagging its way across the sea when at about 6 pm on November 6, 1943, a German plane dropped a torpedo and plunged into the sea. The torpedo ripped through the hull of their ship and exploded near the boiler room, shaking everyone into action. In great confusion in the dark and through a great screen of smoke, there was a scrambling for the lifeboats. Each boat carried 25 passengers and nothing else.

The cable on the last lifeboat to leave the Santa Elena was stuck. Hearts sank as those in it watched the other boats sail safely away. Someone on board remembered seeing an axe in the bottom of the boat. What a splash it made when the cable was cut and they landed right side up many feet down. Phyllis was on that last lifeboat, with only the clothes on her back and the shoes on her feet.

The assigned destroyer, the Monterey, was waiting for them. Over the side of the huge ship hung a choice of ways to climb the 65 feet up to the deck – a heavy rope ladder or long rope nets. Scrambling up like so many squirming fish, the medical crew landed on deck of the formerly luxurious Monterey, with all accounted for.

One nurse described landing on deck, frozen in fear as she waited for dawn, only to find herself beside a sailor who cried out "Woman on board." The news spread like wildfire. As the nurses were called sisters, it was now "Nuns on board."

At night, under the most hazardous of conditions, the Monterey had successfully rescued the entire crew of a troop ship to make the run alone to Naples with a double load on board. After a stopover in North Africa, the nursing sisters continued to Naples where they were housed under Mount Vesuvius in a castle run by nuns.

As they were considered casualties they had to go through a clearing station under a Canadian registry. They were overjoyed at the prospect of a good sleep on dry land, but it was not to be. They had a case of bedbugs. Happily, they were sent to Italian Public Baths and issued new uniforms – but not shoes.

The hospital in Caserta was formerly run by the enemy but now the British were in charge and it was Christmas. Having access to a tinsmith, the sisters cut strips from old gold-lined cans to decorate the drab ward. As the bright icicles hung, they twirled catching the lights. Christmas of ‘43 was a memorable one.

These sisters were well-trained women. To be accepted in the army was an honour. They had to be 25 years of age, have worked in the nursing field for five years, and be of sound mind, body and spirit. The sisters’ experience of early ward training was invaluable as they set up new hospitals, one of which was an old tobacco factory run by the matron Miss Blanche Herman of the Montreal General. When it opened, they were prepared to care for patients – Greek, Italian and British casualties of war, eventually caring for 284 people.

Moving from hospital to hospital until the war’s end, those shoes they wore were worn out. Think of the rejoicing when a parcel came from home, new special shoes for Phyllis!

To honour and foster remembrance of their wartime journey, an Italian made a plate for each nursing sister denoting the landmarks of their wartime experiences.

Jean Hanchet (Goodall) is a graduate of the class of 1946. Her sister-in-law, Frances Mitchell (Hanchet ), was one of the sisters on the torpedoed Santa Elena, and was a friend of Phyllis Walker.

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