Amateur historian shares stories of Peterborough-area nurses from First World War

Peterborough area nurses played a key role during the First World War. CHEX News

Items used by Canadian nurses who travelled overseas during the First World War were showcased in a display at the Peterborough Lion’s Community Centre on Tuesday evening.

A presentation was put together by amateur historian Heather Caldwell, who said she wants people to take pride in the Canadian women who took on dangerous roles, in order to serve Canada.

“The presentation was to honour their part in Wold War One and to honour those that never came home,” said Caldwell.

More than 2,500 trained Canadian nurses volunteered to serve in the Canadian Army Nursing Corps overseas during the war that lasted from 1914 to 1918. Forty-nine of them died.

“They gave their all just as the men did,” said Caldwell.

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Helen Lauder Fowlds Marryat of Hastings served in several locations, including France and Greece, and while she sustained a few injuries, she returned home safely.

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“She came back to Canada, married and lived in Hastings and she became a very well-known newspaper writer and a historian of the area,” said Caldwell.

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Caldwell came to the presentation dressed in the daily ward uniform nurses would wear while serving.

“Blue was their colour which is why they were nicknamed the Blue Birds. [They wore] full-length skirts with pockets. [It was] a two-piece dress, [with an] apron to protect the front of your dress from blood and other assorted fluids,” said Caldwell.

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Visitors said they appreciated the research put into presenting such meaningful stories.

“We hear a lot about the troops, the soldiers and the front lines and in the trenches and the hardship and the gas, what Heather brought I think much more to the front, was the role that women played and faced the same kind of hardships,”  said Dennis Carter-Edwards, a member of the Peterborough Historical Society.

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“History is more than just information in a book, it’s real men and real women who made incredible sacrifices for what we have today,” he adds.

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