On November 11, we honour and remember the sacrifices of those who have served in the Armed Forces and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace.
Alberta’s Registered Nurses and Registered Psychiatric Nurses honour and remember the service and sacrifices of the many nurses who served in Canada’s Armed Forces. Professional nurses entered the Canadian Army Medical Corps as Nursing Sisters in 1904 and were the first women in the British Empire to receive military rank.
More than 2,800 Nursing Sisters served in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps during the First World War. Because of their blue dresses and white veils they were nicknamed the “bluebirds.“
Most Nursing Sisters during the First World War served overseas in England, France and the Eastern Mediterranean where they provided skilled nursing care to the sick and wounded, often working under enemy fire.
At least 45 Nursing Sisters had lost their lives by the end of the First World War, dying from enemy attacks or from disease.
During the Second World War, more than 3,649 Nursing Sisters served and took on increasing responsibility and risk, serving close to combat zones in casualty clearing stations and on mobile surgical teams. Medical units followed the soldiers fighting on the front lines and were frequently within range of enemy guns and subject to shelling.
One Nursing Sister who made the ultimate sacrifice was Nora Hendry Peters of Cluny, Alberta, who died in Italy in 1944. Peters studied to become a nurse at the Calgary General Hospital and upon graduating in 1933 worked at the St. Michael’s and Galt hospitals in Lethbridge. She enlisted in 1942 and went overseas the following year as a Nursing Sister. Her body is buried at the Caserta War Cemetery, 27 kilometrers north of Naples, Italy.
Hundreds Canadian military nurses were decorated for their service in both world wars.
The devotion of Canada’s military nurses have earned them a very high reputation among the soldiers with whom they served and provided medical care. Veterans Affairs Canada describes the Nursing Sisters as “unyielding women who braved all the hardships of war to do their duty and care for their patients, and of those who nursed the casualties left in the wake of war.”
In 1926, the Nurses' Memorial commemorating the fallen Nursing Sisters was unveiled in the Centre Block of Canada’s Parliament Building in Ottawa. The marble sculpture, which is located just outside the doors of the Parliamentary Library, was a result of years of advocacy by the Canadian Nursing Association and its provincial affiliates.
On Remembrance Day, we honour the sacrifices of the Nursing Sisters and all those who have served in the Armed Forces.