Sea voyage transports nursing sister Winifred MacLeod from the luxury of Cario to inhospitable plains of Macedonia
Last month Nursing Sister Winifred MacLeod of Charlottetown was spending Christmas in the relative luxury of the Semiramus Hotel, Cairo, Egypt, awaiting orders.
Unbeknownst to the Canadian medical units awaiting deployment in Egypt, the British Director of Medical Services Lieutenant General Sir Alfred Keogh, desperate for nurses to minister to his nine divisions (approximately 160,000 troops) at Salonika, asked The Canadian Director of Medical Services Major- General Guy Carleton Jones to send five hospital units to support the Gallipoli campaign. Although Canada had no troops in the Gallipoli Campaign, Jones agreed.
On 27 January 1916, MacLeod, and the other members of No.5 Canadian General Hospital (CGH), boarded the Hospital Ship Egypt at Alexandria leaving behind their luxurious accommodations. They, at last, were going to a war zone, destination Salonika. The seas were rough and the Egypt pitched and rolled creating similar sensations in stomachs.
The angry seas were but a minor annoyance compared to the greater menace, German submarines. MacLeod and all on board the Egypt were mindful that only 3 months before, the Marquette, a British troop ship with a New Zealand hospital unit on board, bound for Salonika, had been torpedoed in the Aegean Sea by a German submarine with the loss of 167 lives, including 10 New Zealand nurses. Understandably, MacLeod and the rest of the hospital unit were much relieved and felt a sense of protection when their ship, the Egypt, was met by a British destroyer which adroitly navigated it through the submarine nets into the safety of the Salonika Harbour.
After a scant two hours of sleep all on board “woke up with a start to hear guns going off all around... a terrible sound, the ship trembled and there was an awful sound of breaking glass... a bomb burst close to us, just before it hit the water a fragment came through the ship across a passage and into a wall. The concussion broke ever so many windows on the upper deck and several doors.”
The medical unit was hurriedly moved off the ship to a barren, grassless, treeless, windswept inhospitable plain in Macedonia (Salonika) where it was their monumental challenge to establish a hospital.
Follow along next month to see what horrendous challenges Nursing Sister MacLeod faced while her unit established a hospital.
Map of Mediterranean in 1915 with locations of Nursing Sister MacLeod’s postings.
This is Hospital Ship Egypt which transported Nursing Sister MacLeod from Egypt to Salonika in 1916.
This is a photo of Nursing Sister Winifred Grace MacLeod of Charlottetown.
An ambulance in Salonika hauled by horses. Donkeys and horses were the only mode of transportation in that country.