Tur­bu­lent wa­ters

Sea voy­age trans­ports nurs­ing sis­ter Winifred MacLeod from the lux­ury of Cario to in­hos­pitable plains of Mace­do­nia

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FEATURES - Kather­ine De­war This ar­ti­cle, which has been pro­vided by Kather­ine De­war of Char­lot­te­town, will run in The Guardian on one Satur­day each month. De­war’s book, “Those Splen­did Girls The Heroic Ser­vice of Prince Ed­ward Is­land Nurses in the Great War”, was re

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.

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