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.
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