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Medical care of Canadian casualties in WW1

Photo of Residence of Sandford Fleming corner Chapel and Daly Streets, Ottawa, Ontario

In the novel I portray Katherine MacNutt and the women’s Canadian Club of Ottawa raising funds for a nine bed ward at the Sir Sandford Fleming Convalescent Home on Chapel St. in Ottawa.

Since everyone had expected the war to be short it had been thought that the medical system in place to take care of wounded soldiers would be sufficient. However, as the war dragged on, the large numbers of wounded soldiers were beginning to strain the uneven patchwork of medical hospitals and homes in Canada.

The concerns reached the point that in October 1915 the Canadian government set up the Military Hospital Association. Senator Lougheed, from Alberta, was one of the members. The Association was tasked to organize and implement programs and services for the appropriate care of soldiers returning from Europe.

The Sir Sandford Fleming Convalescent Home was the first of a network of medical facilities across the country for wounded soldiers. Captain Hugh Fleming and his wife donated his late father's mansion, Winterholme, on Chapel St., in Ottawa. His father was Sir Sandford Fleming the inventor of standard time.

The home had seventy-one beds for wounded soldiers. The Flemings generously provided support for a four-bed ward. They also left some of the family’s furnishings for the men such as a large capacious dining table upstairs and an equally large billiard table in the basement.

The convalescent home was the final stage before a wounded soldier unfit, for further military service, was discharged. It was the tail end of a long train that began in France.

Photo Two nurses are standing with convalescent soldiers in a hospital room. Soldiers are all resting in beds.

It was Canadian Army policy to keep wounded soldiers moving backwards away from the front. Canadian battlefield casualties were removed as quickly as possible to a Regimental Aid Post where wounds were temporarily bandaged, bleeding stopped, broken limbs splinted, and, if necessary, injected with morphine to control pain. From there, the wounded soldiers were evacuated to an Advanced Dressing Station where ambulances picked up and transported them to the Main Dressing Station where they were classified. Those seriously wounded were operated on immediately. Those with mild cases were given treatment and rest. When fit, the men were returned to duty.

Most of the wounded left the Main Dressing Station within twelve hours for a casualty clearing hospital where they would receive further treatment and rest. The severely wounded were transported by ambulance train to Canadian Army base hospitals in France, or via ambulance ship to a Canadian Base Hospital in England. The typical Canadian Base Hospital was equipped and staffed to accommodate up to a thousand patients. All wounded Canadian soldiers were treated in a Canadian Army hospital. If soldiers were deemed unfit for further military service, they made the voyage back to Canada in a Canadian Navy hospital ship.

Those who were returned to Canada were considered unfit for military service and fell into three classes:

Sources and further reading


Sandford Fleming - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Nursing Sisters of Canada - Veterans Affairs Canada

Part 13: Evacuation to Hospital, By Michael O'Leary; Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War, The Regimental Rogue

Military Hospitals Commission fonds, Library and Archives Canada


Macphail, Sir Andrew, Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War: The Medical Services, 1925. F.A. Acland, King's Printer, Ottawa