WWI Nursing Sister Lilly Garrard

When Lilly Garrard was born in 1890, someone told her Dad, “it is a dish washer this time, you must do better next.” But Lilly did much better than be a mere “dishwasher” — she became nursing graduate who served with the Canadian Army Medical Corps in WWI.

Nursing Sister Lillian Annie Garrard of Tofino in Buxton England in 1918. (Front row second from right). Photo Credit: Canadian Hospital News, March 16 1918, Library and Archives Canada.

Lillian Annie Garrard was born in Comox in September 1890, the eldest daughter of Francis Charles (“Frank”) and Annie Garrard, recently arrived from England. Over the next 20 years, Lilly would follow her adventurous family (4 sisters and 3 brothers) to Nanaimo, Alberni, Nahmint River, Lennard Island lighthouse, Vargas Island and then to Tofino, where Frank Garrard became the telegraph operator and post master in 1910.

Lilly’s dad Frank Garrard, photo from Harold Monks’ album.

I first learned about Lilly Garrard while researching my Grandpa Harold Monks’ story, as Harold was virtually an adopted son of Frank and Lilly Garrard. They first met my Harold before the war, when he worked at the Clayoquot Sound Cannery at Kennfalls. Lilly’s brother Noel was a close friend of Harold’s, and Harold (and later my Nanny, Katie Hacking) boarded with the Garrards in the 1920s and 1930s. The Garrards considered Harold (and later Katie) to be “one of the family.”

Once the Garrards had (finally) settled in Tofino, Lilly started helping Dr. Melbourne Raynor at the local Methodist Mission. Frank Garrard later wrote in his memoirs: “She was beginning to consider nursing as a career, which in the course of time we helped her commence…” In August 1911, Lilly entered the School of Nursing at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Victoria. She was financially assisted by her parents, Dr. Raynor, and Father Maurice of the Christie Industrial School. Frank Garrard recalled that “besides the initial expenses, we paid during the first year or so, about ten dollars a month, towards her expenses, pocket money etc.”

St. Joseph’s Hospital, Victoria. Lilly Garrard trained as a nurse here between 1911 – 1914. Image from Henderson’s Greater Victoria Directory

Lilly graduated May 4 1914. Lilly’s parents received an invitation to her graduation but they were unable to attend. There was a far distance by steamer to Victoria and it was often hard for Frank Garrard to get away from the telegraph and post office.

Lilly Garrard (3) graduation photo, St Joseph’s nursing school. Photo credit: Sisters of St Ann Archives.

Lilly Garrard was one of 28 St. Joseph’s Hospital nursing school graduates who later served with the Canadian overseas forces. On May 5 1917 Lilly enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. She arrived in England on July 8 1917 and soon transferred to the Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington, Kent. According to the Ontario Archives, the Ontario Military Hospital was “one of the most advanced military hospitals in the world at that time and was paid for by the Province of Ontario at a cost of $2 million.” (source Ontario Archives online exhibit about the Ontario Military Hospital) In September 1917, the Ontario Military Hospital was renamed the No. 16 Canadian General Hospital.

NS Lillian Annie Garrard’s service record shows her work at the Granville Canadian Special Hospital in Buxton. Photo credit: Library and Archives Canada.

Lilly was taken on strength on July 23 1917. She would have immediately been busy. The War Diary for the No. 16 Canadian General Hospital shows that on July 27 1917 a convoy of 170 stretcher cases came from France. On July 29 1917 a convoy of 190 stretcher cases came from France. On July 31 1917, there was heavy rain. During the month of August, 1408 overseas cases (including 442 Canadians) and 64 local troops were admitted to the hospital. A band from the Reserve Battalion was attached to the hospital for one week. Band concerts were given every morning and afternoon to patients.

Letters to Frank Garrard give more details about Lilly’s nursing experiences. Lilly’s brother Noel wrote a letter to his Dad, in which he mentioned Lilly being stationed at the Ontario Military Hospital, Kent and rather hoping to change roommates as a particular friend of hers was there. Noel said “she will be lucky if she can, as they don’t seem to study one’s wishes, either in the Army or Navy.”

In August 1917, Lilly had a visit from her brother Noel and also a chance encounter with a patient — Murdo Macleod from Tofino! Murdo was having a “plastic operation” (nose reconstruction), a result of an injury in October 1916 at Courcelette. Murdo later wrote to Frank Garrard: “met two of your family namely Sister L Garrard and Noel, Noel was on leave and had called to see his sister, what a surprise I got when I met Lilly, didn’t know she was over on this side of the water, was awful glad to meet them…”

The War Diary for No. 16 Canadian General Hospital on November 7 1917 notes: “Struck off Strength….N/S L.A. Garrard…proceeded for duty at Granville Canadian Special Hospital, Buxton.” This hospital had recently moved to Buxton after it had been bombed in Ramsgate, Kent during German air raid on August 22 1917.

Lilly’s grandmother in Ealing was glad she had been moved away from Greater London. Frank Garrard later noted: “two letters from Mother on the 5th and 10th November 1917. She mentions having been in touch with Lillian who was then at Buxton Derbyshire and Mother thought she was safer there than at Orpington. She says ‘the air raids keep us on the alert, to us they are only an excitement but to London and its near suburbs a terrifying trial.’”

Buxton town
Buxton, Derbyshire in the Peak District. View taken from the grounds of the Palace Hotel. Photo taken in March 1917

Buxton was a renowned spa town in the Peak District, known for its curative waters. Lilly wrote to her mother it was “like one big park like summer resort or rather health resort, they have the thermal baths and everything for a good easy time, with many hotels and hospitals.” The Granville Canadian Special Hospital (“GCSH”), located in the Palace and Hydro hotels, was a primarily a rehabilitation hospital for amputation and shell shock cases. The hospital had 1600 beds.

The Palace Hotel was taken over as part of the Granville Canadian Special Hospital. Photo taken in March 1917

Lilly worked at GCSH from November 1917 to July 1919. This image below comes from the March 16 1918 Canadian Hospital News, a magazine of the Granville Canadian Special Hospital. Lilly can be seen sitting in the front row, second from the right.

Granville Canadian Special Hospital nurses, Buxton, Canadian Hospital News, March 16 1918, Library and Archives Canada.

By Mother’s Day 1918, Lilly wrote to her mother that her work was very heavy just then. Although she had not much sleep lately, “fresh air is the main thing, one can’t keep up without it, I found out now.” Lilly was going to move her bed right into the window. This comment about fresh air may have been in reference to her living quarters. Reports from the War Diary for the Granville Canadian Special Hospital show that there were complaints from nursing sisters about their accommodation in the Grosvenor Hotel, where it was cold and damp and there was “an unpleasant odour of escaping gas.”

The site of the Grovenor nurses home (of the escaping gas!) Photo taken in March 1917
Another WWI nurses’ home in Buxton. Photo taken in March 1917

Lilly also noted that some of the other nurses were going in for golf, but it was “too much exercise for me for the feet.” However, Lilly was able to go horse riding. She told her mother that she was going for a ride that evening for fresh air, saying “it is a treat to be able to get the air and not have to walk, our feet get so tired at the end of the day so that it is not much pleasure walking.” The nurses held dances but Lilly didn’t enjoy them. She felt that a dance Wednesday evening was enough and far too much. They were always short of girls, she did not know where all the officers came from. It was too crowded for pleasure, “I go and feel it is a duty.”

Yet, despite the complaints, Lilly must have been doing well. In November 1918, Lilly’s Uncle Will wrote to Frank Garrard, who reported: “Lilly was in charge of two wards containing 80 beds, so he says she had definitely demonstrated to the ‘Tyees’ that she is a good nurse.”

Potential patients of Nursing Sister L.A. Garrard’s at Granville Canadian Special Hospital in Buxton, December 1917. Photo credit: Library and Archives Canada

There is an ironic parallel to this story of a Canadian nurse — While Lilly was nursing Canadian soldiers in Buxton, her brother Burdie (Pte. Francis Robert Burdett Garrard) was dying of tuberculosis at a military sanatorium in Canada. Burdie had first become ill in spring 1916 when he contracted a bad case of pneumonia. At that time, he was on leave from training and visiting Lilly, then nursing in Victoria. Lilly’s quick action at the time saved her brother, and after a few months of convalescence in Tofino, he returned to military duty and went overseas. His health deteriorated once again and by spring 1917 he was hospitalized and evacuated back to Canada, where he ended up at the Balfour Military Sanatorium on Kootenay Lake.

Burdie Garrard in healthier times before the war in Clayoquot Sound

In September 1919, Lilly was de-mobbed and returned to BC, and immediately went to Balfour to visit Burdie, who was in his final days of tuberculosis. Burdie died on October 25 1919 and Lilly and her sister-in-law accompanied his body back to Tofino for burial. In the 1920s, Lilly moved to Berkeley, California, where she became a nurse to private clients. She made annual holidays to Tofino to visit her parents and later retired back in British Columbia. Lilly Garrard died in Victoria in 1986.

I visited Buxton in March 2017 to see places connected to Lilly Garrard and Canadian nurses and soldiers in WWI. Click here for my Flickr album of Buxton visit photos.