Nursing Sisters from Oxford Mills

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Looking at a plaque commemorating people from the Oxford Mills area who served during World War I, it takes a moment to realise that two of the names engraved there are women.

Amelia and Florence Greer served as Nursing Sisters with the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the First World War. The Greers were a prominent family in the Oxford Mills area, farming on lot 19, concession 5. Amelia was 42 when she enlisted in 1914, Florence was four years younger.

Just over 3,100 Canadian women served as Nursing Sisters between 1914 and 1918, more than 2,500 of them overseas. They nursed in France, Belgium, Gallipoli and Egypt, as well as in English hospitals. They earned the nickname “bluebirds” because of their blue uniforms and white veils, as well as “Sisters of Mercy”. Canada’s Nursing Sisters saved lives by assisting with medical operations and by caring for convalescing soldiers.

Fifty-three of these women were killed during the war, from enemy fire, illness, or when a German U‑Boat torpedoed and sank the Canadian hospital ship, the Llandovery Castle, in June of 1918. All 14 nurses on board were killed. Twice, also in 1918, Canadian hospitals were hit by aerial bombardment. In one of these attacks, on the 1st Canadian General Hospital in Étaples, three Nursing Sisters were killed. A special memorial to the CAMC nurses was unveiled in 1926, and it is located in the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.

Amelia served in France during the Great War, and was invalided back to Canada in 1919, suffering from Penumonia. She was one of the fortunate ones who survived that great Spanish Flu pandemic that took millions of lives worldwide.

Both Amelia and Florence died the same year, Amelia in June of 1954, and Florence just shortly after, and they are commemorated in interesting ways. The family tombstone lists their parents and sister on one side, but the two Nursing Sisters have their names and dates engraved together on the reverse side of the stone. A second, small stone lies beside the family monument. On it is engraved the inscription:

Amelia J. Seeley
served as Amelia J. Greer
Nursing Sister
C.A.M.C. C.E.F.
29 June 1954 Age 82

That, it seems, is how Amelia wanted to be remembered.

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