No.1 Canadian General Hospital, Canadian Army Medical Corps, 19th May 1918
Synopsis of Life and Service
Although Katherine’s (or Catherine’s) enlistment papers record her date of birth as 18 January 1893, birth registration records show, in fact, that she was born 9 years earlier on 18 January 1884.
She was born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada to Angus MacDonald (who died in 1906), a carpenter born in New Brunswick, and his wife Maud Mary Johnston. Katherine studied at the Brantford Collegiate Institute and from there studied to be a nurse at the Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario. According to military records she graduated from the hospital on 15th May 1915.
She enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps in London, Ontario on 20 March 1917. Her personnel file records the following description:
- Height: 5’ 2”
- Weight: 125lbs
- Chest Measurement: 32 ½ inches
- Religion: Church of England
She was appointed as a Nursing Sister on 9 November 1916 based initially in No. 1 Military District in Canada. From letters home to her mother it’s known that she pressed a case to be sent to France, and she was included in the draft that was sent to England on 6 April 1917. She was attached to a number of Military hospitals during her time in England including No 14 Canadian General Hospital, Eastbourne from 17 October that year. However, it was France where she wanted to serve and she finally got her wish when she was attached to No 10 Canadian Stationary Hospital where she joined them on 22 January 1918. Less than two months later she was posted to No. 1 Canadian General Hospital at Etaples.
Katharine was killed in a German air raid on the hospital. The War Diary for the unit records the event as follows:
“At the close of what had been a peaceful Sunday enemy aircraft came over the camp in large numbers, vis: – at 10.00 p.m. The hospital was wrapt (sic) in slumber when the planes were immediately overhead. The raid was obviously planned to take place in relays, and during the first stage the part that suffered most was the sleeping quarters of the personnel, particularly that of the NCO’s and men. A number of bombs, incendiary and high explosive, were dropped in the midst of the men’s quarters. Fires were immediately started which offered a splendid target for the second part of the attack. The scene was immediately converted into a conflagration and charnel house of dead and wounded men. Bombs were also dropped on the officers and Sisters quarters, buildings being wrecked. The S.E part of the Sisters quadrangle was completely wrecked by a bomb, the inmates being killed or wounded. While the work of rescuing the wounded was going on the enemy continued to drop bombs. Two of the hospital wards received direct hits and patients were killed and wounded. The portion of staff and personnel that had escaped injury immediately attended to the needs of the those who had been hit. Sisters and Officers were in attendance upon their wards within a short time, and while the raid was in progress the operating room staff were working on the cases injured. The devotion to duty, with absolute disregard to personal safety, that was exhibited by all ranks is very commendable.”
The raid killed 61 people (including Katherine) and wounded 84 (2 of whom later died). According to a letter written to her mother from her fiancé Captain John W. Ballantyne, she was hit by a piece of shrapnel which severed her femoral artery and she died of shock.
She was buried on 21st May 1918 in the Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
Katherine Maud MacDonald was born on 18 January 1884 at Brantford, Ontario, Canada. The following family members have been identified:-
- Father: Angus MacDonanld, born 10 May 1854 at New Brunswick, Canada.
- Mother: Maud Mary MacDonald, born 18 April 1856 at Ireland.
- Sister: Florence MacDonald, born 14 August 1883 at Ontario, Canada.
- Sister: Carrie MacDonald, born c.1887 at Ontario, Canada.
- Brother: John MacDonald, born c.1890 at Ontario, Canada.
Records show that Katherine lived at the following addresses :-
- 165, Market Street, Brantford, Ontario, Canada.
Katherine Maud MacDonald is honoured and remembered on the following memorial:-
- Brantford Collegiate Institute.
- Victoria Hospital, London, Ontario, Memorial Plaque.
- Grace Anglican Church, Brantford, Ontario.
- National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire.
There is also a stone in her memory on the family plot at Mt Hope Cemetery in Brantford, Ontario.
Links to Additional Information
- Lives of the First World War – Katherine Maud MacDonald
- Find a Grave – Katherine Maud Mary MacDonald
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Katherine Maud MacDonald
- A Street Near You – Katherine Maud Mary MacDonald
- Ontario, Canada Births, 1832 – 1914 (Ancestry)
- 1891 Census of Canada
- 1901 Census of Canada
- Front Lines – Nurses at the Front by – NFB
- Katherine Maud Macdonald | Great War Centenary Association (doingourbit.ca)
- Canadian War Museum
- Legion Magazine: 17 May 2012
- Trevor Torkington