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Women in World War I

More than 3,000 women volunteered for the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) in the First World War. All had trained as nurses before the war; average age was 24. Nicknamed “blue birds,” because of their blue uniforms and white veils, they assisted with surgery and cared for convalescing soldiers. Though not in the trenches, they often worked close to the front lines. Of the 2,054 Canadian nurses who served overseas, 53 died from enemy fire, disease, or drowning.

On 27 June 1918, a German U-boat torpedoed and sank the Canadian hospital ship, Llandovery Castle, bound from Halifax, Nova Scotia, for Liverpool, 114 miles southwest of Fastnet Rock, off the coast of Ireland. Carola Douglas, a graduate of Harbord Collegiate, was among the 14 nursing sisters who died. As the ship was showing regulation Red Cross lights and many survivors were machine-gunned, Llandovery Castle became a rallying cry for Canadian troops during the Last 100 Days offensive of the war.

Carola Josephine Douglas was born 7 April 1887, in Toronto. She enlisted 2 March 1915, at the age of 29.

A memorial photograph of Miss Douglas hangs in Harbord Collegiate. Further photos and her attestation paper can be seen on the Canadian Virtual War Memorial website.

Alberta writer Debbie Marshall shares info about Canadian WWI nurses on her blog “Finding the forty-seven: Canadian Nurses of the First World War”.

More about Llandovery Castle — the 24 survivors, the 258 dead, and the post-war trial about the sinking are at The Great War Project.

Carola Josephine Douglas, 1887 – 1915

Carola Josephine Douglas, 1887 – 1915

If you have comments or questions about this post or the For King and Country project, we’d love to hear from you. Please visit our contact page.

14 comments to Women in World War I

  • Glen McKenzie

    Carola Douglas came from Swan River, Manitoba and her name on the Board of Remembrance in the Anglican Church in Swan River.

  • Anne Douglas

    Hi Glen, Carola was the great aunt of my husband Mel Douglas.
    Are you related to the Douglas family of Swan River?

    I have more information on Carola if you are interested.

    Best regards
    Anne Douglas

  • LeAnne Meyer

    Carola is my great-great aunt (MAYBE ANOTHER GREAT?). I have been the caretaker of her coral and sea pearl necklace since I was about 7 years old, about 50 years (past down to the eldest Douglas daughter.. etc). I know Carola’s story well and am proud to a part of her history. Anyway, I have decided that this piece of history needs to come back home to Canada. I am planning on sending her necklace to my Auntie Fran (daughter Brenda this March). Just wanted to let you know that as a descendant, I am very happy to have rescued, repaired, and treasured this piece of her history.

  • Robyn May

    I am writing a book about WW1 nursing sisters and have included Carola in it. I would love to make contact with the relatives so that I can add more information about her.

  • Anne Douglas

    My husband, Melvyn Howard Douglas, is a great nephew of Carola. I have not been on this site for some time, and would be very interested in talking to Glen, LeAnne and Robyn.
    I researched Carola’s life for my husband some years ago.

  • Carola was my Mother’s Aunt. My Mother was so inspired by her Aunt she also became a Cdn Army Nurse. This time during WWII. She even carried the same name: Carola Douglas. My daughter was in turn inspired by my mother to study Nursing. Without Carola’s inspiration for my Mother to become a nurse, my Mother would have never met my Father, who also served in the Cdn Army. So three generations all owe their existence to a World War I Nurse.
    My mother once told me another uncle served aboard the destroyer that sunk the German Submarine had torpedoed Carola’s ship and machine gunned the passengers. A century later we are still inspired by Carola’s Story.

  • Hugh Crawford

    After doing a little more research if appears one of my great uncles had misled my mother concerning the demise of the german captain that had sunk the hospital ship. Apparently the captain had escaped justice by exciting germany during his trail He died in 1984.

  • Daniel Le Blanc

    Hello. I am a high school teacher at Harbord Collegiate Institute in Toronto. Carola Josephine Douglas attended our school. We are planning on focusing on her during our Remembrance Day assembly this year(2016). Does she have any relatives in the Toronto area?
    Feel free to contact me at daniel.leblanc@tdsb.on.ca

  • Robyn May

    I recently self-published a book about WW1 nursing sisters, who served and died while serving, and Carola was one of the brave nurses I wrote about. The title of my book is Sacrifice of Angels. I would be willing to pass on what information I have. I can be emailed at robrob1962@live.com.

    Hugh Crawford, Panzig left Germany before the Llandovery Castle case was heard so his two Second-in-Command served short incarceration times. Panzig served again in WW2.

  • Anne Douglas

    The above article states that Carola Douglas was born in Toronto.
    This is incorrect, as her true birth place was Costa Rica.

  • Alisa

    Dear Hugh Crawford, Ann Douglas and LeAnn Meyer,
    I produce radio documentaries and am working on a story about the Llandovery Castle.
    Please email:

    Thanks very much,

  • Martha Jackson

    In Toronto, Nursing Sister Carola Douglas appears on three of Harbord Collegiate’s WWI memorials: (outdoor) cenotaph; (indoor) on a standard A.J. Casson-designed illuminated list probably drawn up around the time of WWII; (indoor) in an individual captioned photo. We are currently working on HCI for this website. Harbord CI has an active archives. (See HCI’s post above, dated Sept. 22, 2016.)

    Another Llandovery Castie casualty, Nursing Sister Mary A. McKenzie, appears on a brass memorial at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, Bloor Street, Toronto. That plaque is from a church that amalgamated with Trinity-St. Paul’s. (Our project does not “officially” cover churches, but we have some photos.)

    I hope to attend the new opera about the Llandovery Castle, June 26/27, 2018 at Calvin Presbyterian Church, Delisle Street, Toronto.

    Martha Jackson
    Project Coordinator

  • Dianne Dodd

    I would be interested in hearing from any of the descendants of Carola Douglas. I am a retired historian (Parks Canada) and have been researching the 60 plus nurses who died in the First World War.

    Dianne Dodd

  • Martha Jackson

    On her Great War attestation of March 4, 1915 Carola Douglas stated that she was not married. She continued to use her maiden name until her death on June 27, 1918. Probably safe to assume that she did not marry and did not have descendants.

    The genealogical path to follow would thus be to check for any siblings who had descendants. Comments on this blog indicate Carola had (and has) surviving extended family. We also note sustained interest in her fate, and possible places to search—such as Swan River, Manitoba.

    Shortly after Carola’s death, her sister, Mrs. H.V. Morse of 29 Conway Court, Winnipeg, was in Toronto with her husband. The couple visited Mrs. Harton Walker, 12 Edgar Avenue, Toronto. (Source: Toronto Star, July 5, 1918.)

    There is a Llandovery Castle (the ship on which Carola Douglas died) website, as well as a Face Book page. Both seem mainly to concern the opera about the nurses who went down with the ship, but details about Carola and the other nursing sisters could appear at any time.

    We are happy to post your comment here, Dianne. We hope that you get some helpful responses, and would be pleased to hear of your progress.

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