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Canada’s Nursing Sisters

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Active Duty (Biographies)

Anne E. Ross

Nursing Sister Anne E. Ross marching with flowers to decorate graves of fallen soldiers.
Source
Nursing Sister Anne E. Ross marching with flowers to decorate graves of fallen soldiers.

Greece

In this section:

Anne E. Ross was born in 1890 in Kingston, Ontario, and graduated from the Lady Stanley Institute in Ottawa (later known as the Ottawa Civic Hospital Nursing School) in 1913. After her initial training at the Quebec Military Hospital, she went overseas and saw service with the No. 3 Stationary Hospital and the Duchess of Connaught's Canadian Red Cross Hospital. After a short period in England, at the Astor Estate in Taplow, she served in Lemnos in the Greek Islands, nursing soldiers of the Dardanelles campaign. After a period of convalescence in England following a bout of dysentery she was sent to attend to wounded soldiers in France.

The Anne E. Ross fonds at Library and Archives Canada contains a 14-page narrative in which Anne E. Ross describes her service as a nursing sister, primarily with the No. 3 Stationary Hospital.

The following text uses excerpts from Anne's narrative to provide insight into her war experience through her own words.

“On August 11, orders were received for No. 3 Stationary Hospital to proceed to London to be outfitted for duty in the East, destination unknown.”
(Ross narrative, p. 4)

In late August 1915, Anne sailed to the Mediterranean where she disembarked at Lemnos. Canada did not send military troops to the Mediterranean, but did provide five medical units that served under harsh, challenging conditions. Colonel G.W.L. Nicholson describes the hardships faced by the Canadian medical units:

It was characteristic of the element of unpreparedness associated with so much of the Gallipoli campaign that no sanitary provisions had been made for the Canadian units before they arrived. Each hospital depended for its water on a single cart, which daily brought in from a considerable distance a very limited supply. For the first two months on the island, until engineers sank wells locally, the meagre ration of water for washing was one quart a day…. Food was scarce, and of poor quality, often impossible for sick patients to eat.
(Nicholson 1977, p. 92)

Anne recalls that "drinking water was scarce until the Royal Engineers put in a filtration plant. Our meals poor — supplies hard to get — ships that came to Mudros had no orders to sell us supplies" (Ross narrative, p. 7). She also talks about the other serious health risks she witnessed in addition to battle wounds: "Our patients were from the Dardanelles. Dysentery and wounded. Our personnel began to get amoebic dysentery. Our matron took sick, two N.S. [nursing sisters] and O.C. as well" (Ross narrative, p. 8). The matron and one of the nursing sisters eventually died of the disease. Anne herself became a victim of amoebic dysentery and was sent to England in December.

“My days at Taplow were the happiest I spent overseas.”
(Ross narrative, p.10)

On February 6, 1916 Anne was sent for duty at Taplow, the Astor estate in England, with the Duchess of Connaught's Canadian Red Cross. Anne left England for France on October 17, 1916, and writes that "life again was different. Winter of 1917 — cold and shortage…. Each two sisters were allowed one bucket of coal a week" (Ross narrative, p. 10). She continues her narrative through 1917: "Time went on. 1917 passed. Our work was closer to the front than at Taplow. We would evacuate, receive a convoy and so carried on for another year" (Ross narrative, p. 12).

“We came to the big drive in March 1918.”
(Ross narrative, p. 12)

Anne summarizes 1918 and writes about how a well-timed order to evacuate her post prevented a potentially fatal attack: "We came to the big drive in March 1918. The Germans were pushing on to Paris and Amiens. Orders came to evacuate the hospital. I was sent to Etaples in charge of 30 N.S [nursing sisters]. 15 N.S to No. 1 General and 15 N.S. to No. 7" (Ross narrative, p. 12). Anne chose to serve with the No. 1 Canadian General Hospital. She continues, "We stayed there for 2 weeks and orders came to return to the No. 2. Three days later, No. 1 General Hospital was bombed and the tents we were sleeping in wiped out" (Ross narrative, p. 12).

From August 1 to December 5, 1918, Anne was night supervisor. "The duties of night supervisor are many and responsibilities heavy. Night always brought dread of hemorrhages…. 36 wards — 40 pts [patients] in each ward. Overflow in tents, up to 700 in August. Gas attacks" (Ross narrative, p. 13).

Anne records the Armistice on November 11, 1918, and sums up her narrative by capturing her last few duties in the First World War.


Reference

Nicholson, G.W.L. Seventy Years of Service: A History of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. Ottawa: Borealis Press, 1977.