Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC)

[CAMC uniform pins belonging to nursing sister Margaret Grace McBean, Children’s Hospital School of Nursing, Class of 1916]
During World War I, over 2,800 trained civilian nurses enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC).

The Department of Defence received hundreds of applications from trained nurses who wished to enlist.

Military nursing work was appealing for a variety of reasons, including: higher pay than they would receive at home, opportunity for new professional challenges, the potential of a military career, and the idea of enlistment was filled with the notions of patriotism, courage and the promise of adventure.

[Unidentified Winnipeg General Hospital nursing sister, 1916]
As members of the CAMC, the nurses were given the rank of lieutenant and title of nursing sister. Only the Canadian nurses were under the direct control of the army and held a military rank.

Because there was a great need to mobilize the nursing sisters quickly, the Department of Militia and Defence selection process was shortened. Reservist nurses who had already completed training in military hospitals were given priority. Young women with no military experience were selected based on the same criteria – physically fit, unmarried, and graduated from a recognized three-year nurse training program. Many of these nurses received their military training on board the ships that transported them to Europe.

Several graduates of the Winnipeg General Hospital (WGH) School of Nursing who were working at WGH, resigned their positions in 1916 in order to gain military experience  to work at Camp Hughes. They hoped this experience would be viewed favourably by the Department of Militia and Defence when reviewing their applications.

Camp Hughes (formerly named Camp Sewell) was a Canadian military training camp located west of Carberry, Manitoba. It was established in 1909 and from 1915-1916 the Canadian Department of Militia built extensive trench systems, rifle ranges and military structures for training purposes. Retail stores, a movie theatre and hospital were also built. During World War I, more than 38,000 members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force trained at the camp.