Letters From Katherine

May 17, 2012 by Jason Duprau

 “My Dear Mrs. MacDonald…You may feel comforted knowing that Katherine esteemed her mother above all others and how she did adore you. No mother could have a more devoted and faithful daughter and her high ideals were alone a great inspiration to those who knew her well. …Many times have I counseled her with regard to going to France, but her duty was ever foremost and prevailed. So, mother of a true and noble daughter, ever be comforted and may God be your ever present aid.”

Katherine was only 25 years old. Her face, framed by the wings of her nursing cap, shines serenely in a photo taken not long before her death. She had everything to look forward to; going home after the war, marrying the man she loved and having a family of her own. Then the bombs fell and took everything away. She was killed May 19, 1918, at the No. 1 Stationary Hospital in Etaples, France. Those who knew and loved Katherine best, particularly her mother Maud and her fiancé John Ballantyne, were stunned by her death.

Katherine Mary Maud MacDonald was born Jan. 18, 1893, in Brantford, Ont., to Mary Maud and Angus MacDonald. She graduated in 1915 from the Victoria Hospital School of Nursing in London, Ont., enlisted March 20, 1917, in the Canadian Army Medical Corps and embarked for England April 6, 1917. Her postings in England included the 14th Canadian General Hospital, Eastbourne, Oct. 17, 1917, and the 10th Canadian Stationary Hospital in Brighton, Nov. 29, 1917. Her last posting, March 8, 1918, was the No. 1 Stationary Hospital in Etaples. When the hospital was bombed Katherine’s femoral artery was severed by flying shrapnel. She died of blood loss and shock. She was buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery in Etaples. Letters of sympathy were penned by King George V, and Queen Alexandra of France. John Ballantyne’s letters to Katherine’s mother Maud are extraordinarily compassionate.

Katherine was awarded the British Victory Medal. A memorial plaque, Scroll and the Memorial Cross were sent to her mother. A commemorative plaque honouring her service was placed in the Canadian Parliament Buildings. Maud MacDonald was recognized as a Silver Cross Mother.


Selection from the letter collection of N/S Katherine Maude MacDonald
CWM 19950037-014
George Metcalf Archival Collection
© Canadian War Museum
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