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New memorial honours First World War nurses

The lonely graves of two Canadian nurses who died during the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War received a new memorial last year, according to the 2014-15 Annual Report of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) released in December.

Matron Jessie Jaggard and Nursing Sister Mary Frances Munro both served with the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital and were among 70 Canadian nurses stationed on the Greek island of Lemnos who treated thousands of sick and wounded Allied soldiers, including many from Newfoundland, during the 1915 campaign (“Going back to Gallipoli,” January/February).

Canadian Nurses memorial
A new memorial to two Canadian nurses has been erected in the Portianos Military Cemetery in Greece.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Acting on a request from the Canadian government, the CWGC had a new memorial designed to honour the service and sacrifice of nurses from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain who worked in several hospitals established on Lemnos.

The new memorial, which is in the Portianos Military Cemetery on Mudros Bay, is made of Nabresina stone from a quarry near Trieste, Italy. It was unveiled by Canada’s Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic Robert Peck and CWGC Director General Victoria Wallace.

A new information panel was added to tell the story of the nurses who were with doctors treating the wounded and ill servicemen. Heat, poor sanitation and lack of proper nourishment also took its toll on the medical staff. Both nurses died of dysentery. Munro, of Wardsville in southwestern Ontario, died on Sept. 7, 1915, while Jaggard, of Wolfville, N.S., followed on Sept. 25.

The annual report also provides details of the commission’s restoration of the Thiepval Memorial in northern France, ahead of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Battle of the Somme.

The Thiepval Memorial, the largest Commonwealth war memorial in the world, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South Africa who died in the Somme region before March 20, 1918, and have no known grave. Most died during the Battle of the Somme from July to November 1916.

The first phase of the restoration will deal with the memorial’s roofs and will keep the structure waterproof. The second will include a complete overhaul of the memorial’s drainage system.

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