Nursing Sister Helen L. Fowlds

A Canadian Nurse in World War I

"There is plenty of sorrow and sadness over here - but
one can't worry much or one would go insane..."

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About Helen...

Helen Lauder Fowlds was born on October 28, 1889 in Hastings, Ontario. Helen and her brothers Don and Eric were the children of Frederick W. Fowlds and the former Elizabeth Sutherland. Their great-grandfather was Henry Fowlds, pioneer lumberman and founder of Crook's Rapids (later Hastings), Canada West. Helen received her education in Hastings and at Norwood High School. She graduated as a nurse from Grace Hospital, Toronto just before the outbreak of World War I.

Her Years of Military Service...

Helen enlisted immediately and by December 1914 was in Quebec City receiving military training. She and other nurses from Montreal and Toronto sailed for England aboard the S.S. Zeeland in February 1915. She was attested to serve in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force as part of the Canadian Army Medical Corps on February 24, 1915 in London, England. Helen and some of her fellow nursing sisters spent close to a month in London awaiting their postings to hospitals in France and England. On March 18, 1915 Helen sailed to France to begin her active service. She spent one week at Le Tréport and then was posted at Wimereux, near Boulogne-sur Mer, as a member of the #1 Canadian Stationary Hospital.

Helen Fowlds Marryat (1889-1965)

In June 1915, it was decided that the nursing sisters would be moved to Abbeville sometime in the summer. In mid-to-late July 1915, Helen was granted leave. She travelled to Scotland with Ida Smith, a Canadian nursing sister also serving at Wimereux. Upon their return, Helen learned that she was not to report back to Abbeville but was to sail for the East, her exact posting unknown. She sailed from Folkestone, England on August 1, 1915.

From mid-August 1915 until late 1916, Helen was stationed on the island of Lemnos, Greece. During that time Helen kept an autograph book with notes from her friends. She sailed from Lemnos on January 31, 1916 and, after almost a month in Cairo, arrived in Salonica, Greece on March 3, 1916. By the summer of 1916, Helen was suffering from a chronic respiratory infection. In late September 1916, she asked for a transfer and was able to leave the camp at Salonica on September 25, 1916. She spent some time in Malta before arriving in England on October 20, 1916.

Leaving Cairo

Our First Meal

A Photo with the Sphynx

Struck with illness...

Following an examination by the medical board, Helen was found to be debilitated "due to the strain of her long service " and was granted rest leave at Cheyne Place. On November 28, 1916, a follow-up medical examination found her to be recovered and she was posted to a Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Bushey Park. It was here in February, 1917 that Helen received notice that she was a recipient of the Royal Red Cross (2nd class) in recognition of her valuable service in connection with the war. Her investiture took place at Buckingham Palace on March 3, 1917.

Loading the Ambulance

On June 1, 1917, Helen reported for duty at the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Clarence House. She remained there throughout most of the summer and travelled with friends to the Lake District in late August 1917. From mid-September until early November 1917, Helen spent her leave in Canada, the first time she had been home since her departure in February 1915.

Upon her return to England, Helen was posted to serve at Buxton in Derbyshire. By March of 1918 she was suffering from bronchitis and was transferred to Northwood for five weeks convalescence. On April 15, 1918, she reported for duty at Matlock Bath, Derbyshire.

Her Return to Canada...

Following the signing of the Armistice, Helen returned to France in the winter of 1919, serving at Dax and Dunkirk, and travelling through Northern France en route to Germany. She also served in England for a time in the spring of 1919. On May 23, 1919 Helen sailed for Canada on the S.S. Megantic and continued to serve in hospitals in Toronto. The official end of service came with the General Demobilisation on October 31, 1920.

On April 25, 1921, Helen married Captain Gerald Marryat who had served during World War I with her brother Eric in the Canadian Engineers. They settled at Ashfield House in Hastings and Helen became a well-known historian and newspaper columnist. Helen Fowlds Marryat died on June 16, 1965. Her records and papers were bequeathed to Trent University.

Helen Fowlds Marryat was one of over 2500 Canadian nurses who served overseas in the First World War. Nurses had served in the Northwest Rebellion and in South Africa during the Boer War but had never before been officially organised into a unit of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. They were also the only nurses who enlisted with officer rank. By 1918, nurses were serving in a total of 30 military hospitals and casualty clearing stations in Europe, Greece, Malta and Egypt. Casualties amongst the nurses themselves were considerable.



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