The Canadian Expeditionary Force Novels

Forging the Weapon cover 1914
Hammering the Blade cover 1915
Sharpening the Blade cover 1916
Tempering the Blade cover 1917


Frank Rockland

Characters > Fictional

Matron Samantha Lonsdale


Fighting off the wondering hands of a patient at the Toronto General Hospital is when we first meet Samantha Lonsdale. She was completing her final year of the three year nursing program at the hospital and Samantha was worried about finding a job after she graduated.

The chief matron, who she didn’t get along with, told her that she would not be considered for a position at the institution. Without a good reference it would be difficult for her to find a good nursing job.

When war broke out Samantha, as did thousands of others, answered the call for volunteers. Samantha was ecstatic when she received her orders to report to Valcartier. It was a chance to practice her position, with the promise of travel and adventure while being paid.

She soon discovers the reality when she reports to Valcartier. Among the chaos and confusion she needed all her skills to minister to the sick and the soldiers that were injured during training. It is at Valcartier she meets Captain Llewellyn when he comes into the medical tent to visit one of his injured men. 

When she arrives in England, with the rest of the contingent, Samantha and the nurses spend a few pleasant weeks being feted by London high-society. Samantha was excited since the nurses were being housed at St. Thomas Hospital where Florence Nightingale started the first nursing school. She was also frustrated because she really wanted to work.

When she finally reports to Salisbury Plain she has to endure the same rain and mud as the rest of the contingent as the medical units struggle to get themselves setup and organized. She was only at Salisbury Plain for a few weeks before the British Army requested a medical unit be sent to France. The No. 2 Canadian Stationary Hospital was sent. It was the first Canadian unit in a combat zone. Accompanied them was Samantha with fifty other nurses.


At the beginning of 1915, Samantha Lonsdale had volunteered to nurse captured German prisoners being treated at the No. 2 Stationary Hospital at Le Touquet, in France. She also tended to Captain Llewellyn when he arrived at the hospital in February to recover from the injuries that he had suffered during his sea voyage from England.

In April, she was transferred to the Ypres Salient at the request of the Richmond Fusiliers' Medical Officer Captain Moore. She and Captain Moore were inspecting the casualty stations when the Germans launched their gas attack against the Canadian Division. As the battle raged, she would go out into the Salient to take care of the wounded soldiers suffering from chlorine gas and shrapnel and bullet wounds.

After the battle, she was given the job, with the help of the local sewing circle, of making cotton gas masks for the Canadian Division. In June, she was one of the members of a special medical unit created to help casualty stations being overwhelmed by the shear number of wounded soldiers. At the battle of Givenchy, she tended the wounded Gunner Paul Ryan.

In July, she was assigned to the Moores Barracks Hospital in Shorncliffe to pass on her experience to the newly arrived 2nd Division's medical units. One of the matrons she met is Matron Jaggard the cousin to Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden. Her friend Emily was assigned to the Canadian medical units that were being deployed to the Greek island of Lemnos in support of the Gallipoli campaign.

In August, she starts a romance with Captain Llewellyn who is assigned to Shorncliffe to help train the new 2nd Canadian Division.

In the fall, she is promoted to assistant matron responsible for the administration and training of incoming medical nurses at the hospital.

As the year comes to a close, she is helping the convalescing soldiers celebrate Christmas and the New Year.


In January, Samantha is transferred from the Moores Barracks Hospital in Shorncliffe to the Duchess of Connaught Canadian Red Cross Hospital on the Astors’ estate in Taplow. She is kept busy dealing with patients, learning new medical technologies such as x-rays, and playing in a few exhibition hockey games.

While at Taplow she contracts scarlet fever. Her condition becomes so serious that she is given last rites and her friend Major Llewellyn is granted emergency leave to see her. After she recovers, she is ordered by Matron Macdonald, the Director of Nursing Services, to report to her headquarters in London where she is assigned to administrative duty.

Drowning in a mountain of paperwork she still has to deal with the aftermath of the Canadian Corps battles in the Ypres Salient, and the horrendous casualties at the Somme which strain the medical units at all levels.

In August, she meets with Lieutenant-Colonel Bruce who had been ordered to prepare a report on the efficiency on the CAMC. The results of the report caused a shake up at the top of the CAMC that results in Samantha requesting a transfer to a front-line medical unit. Instead, she is sent to serve with the Anglo-Russian hospital in Petrograd, Russia.

While at Petrograd she find herself in the middle of power keg with the fuse lit by the murder of the Mad Monk Grigori Rasputin.


Samantha Londsdale was born in 1892 in Sudbury Ontario. Her father was a nickel miner. It was while attending Sudbury High that she decided to become a nurse. She was inspired when one of the teachers introduced her to Florence Nightingale and her struggles to helped the wounded during the Crimean War.

She was top of her class and she got a recommendation that allowed her to enter the Toronto General Hospital's nursing program. She wanted to stay in Toronto but job prospects were poor. She was not looking forward to going back to Sudbury.

Military Service