World War I Nursing
first great war of the twentieth century, World War I, marked the end of an age
of innocence. It was the first war that saw almost global participation. It
was the first time that casualties of that magnitude had ever been seen. It
was the first time that civilians were the target of enemy fire. Gladys Matheson,
a Saskatchewan nurse, spent time overseas during WWI. While not much
remains in terms of written history, there are a few photographs that create
a picture of life as a nurse during the Great War.
so close to the battlefront meant that nurses would tend to soldiers who had
been wounded in battle. Rows upon rows of wounded soldiers would be laid
out on stretchers on the cold, hard ground where the nurses would have to stoop
or even get onto their knees to provide care. This was a far cry from
the warm hospitals back home with proper equipment and enough medical personnel
to take care of all patients. No matter how rough the conditions, nurses
still had to tend to their patients.
threat on the front lines was very real, even for those not engaged in battle. Like
the soldiers, nurses had to be prepared for gunfire and air-raid attacks. In
her collection, Matheson has photographs of nurses posing, wearing helmets, outside
of a sandbag shelter during an air-raid practice drill. Such photographs
tell a story of bravery on the part of soldiers and non-soldiers alike; those
who were putting themselves in harm's way to serve their country.