Winnipeg General Hospital War Years
The Great War had an enormous impact on Winnipeg General Hospital (WGH) – one third of the doctors, half of the senior interns, and many senior nurses enlisted in the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) to serve their country overseas. The staff shortage, coupled with the stress of providing care as wounded soldiers returned, created a tremendous strain on the hospital.
In 1916, renovations were undertaken at the hospital and another storey was added to the Jubilee Wing in order to accommodate the wounded returning from overseas. Two flats in the renovated building were devoted to exclusive care of the soldiers and were designated as Military Wards. As the war progressed, “D” Flat and part of “A” Flat of the hospital were set apart solely by the Invalid Soldiers’ Commission for the care of returned soldiers.
In 1917, the hospital received a grant from the Provincial Government in order to move forward with the construction of a new Psychopathic Building. The need for this type of specialized care in the field of mental health was already being delivered overseas with through the CAMC Special Hospitals and some nursing sisters were engaged in this specialist work. The construction of the Psychopathic Building was considered urgent due to the great number of returned soldiers who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (referred to as ‘nerve shock’ in 1917). It was hoped the building would be ready for occupancy by the end of 1918.
Nursing Sisters Serving at Home
Approximately 640 nursing sisters that enlisted in the CAMC were posted in Canada. Several graduates from Winnipeg General Hospital School of Nursing worked in the Military Wards at WGH, while others were posted to the No. 10 Manitoba Military Hospital (Tuxedo Park). The hospital at Tuxedo Park was originally the Manitoba Agricultural College and from 1914 – 1917, it was used by the Manitoba School for the Deaf, before being converted into a military convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers returning from overseas.
In 1919, the military took over the entire complex at Tuxedo Park, and the Fort Osborne Barracks, which had been located at the site of the current Provincial Legislature, was relocated and Tuxedo Park was renamed Fort Osborne Barracks. It acted as the primary army base in Manitoba until 1968.
Other nursing sisters who served in Winnipeg were posted to the No. 10 Manitoba Military Hospital (Deer Lodge Convalescent Hospital).
It was very common for nursing sisters from Winnipeg to return from overseas duty and resume their service at the No. 10 Manitoba Military Hospitals.