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Doullens is a commune in the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.

No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital was located in the Citadel. Sister Elsie Tranter was detached to this hospital from 22 March 1918 to 21 May 1918.

No. 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station was in the nearby hamlet of Gézaincourt from October 1916 to January 1917.

Map of Doullens & environs

View WW1 Australian hospitals on the Western Front in a larger map

No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital

We think the buildings above formed the main part of the hospital, and it was one wing of this building that was destroyed by the bombs dropped on the night of 29/30 May 1918.

No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital was at Doullens from 11 November 1916 until 18 August 1918. It was within the Citadel of Doullens (La Citadelle de Doullens).

Notes from the unit war diary

10 Nov 1916. 10.45 p.m. Equipment and hospital stores were loaded on trucks and lorries immediately for transport to the hospital site at the Citadel 1/2 mile outside of Doullens…
11 Nov 1916. All personnel, equipment and stores are now in hospital area. Some stores and the buildings were taken over from No 35 C.C.S. who evacuated the area at 7.00 p.m.
30 Nov 1916. Many improvements have been made throughout the hospital area. Grounds cleaned up, sanitary arrangements improved, many cubicles removed to make room for hospital beds…
24 May 1917. Empire Day sports were held in the moat adjoining the citadelle in which the Officers, Nursing Sisters and Other Ranks and patients took part.
4 Aug 1917. Numberous repairs being made and complete renovating of Officers’ Hospital nearing completion. Decided improvement in appearance of place.
27 Aug 1917. Administrative offices moved into new quarters, formerly occupied by the French, providing larger and better quarters.
2 Sep 1917. Considerable improvement noticed daily in appearance of hospital buildings and grounds where large squads employed. The sanitary arrangements are very good.
9 Oct 1917. The number of nervous or shell shock cases being received is the greatest since the establishment of the centre in this area. The Officers’ Hospital, Lucheux, averages about 20 patients in hospital daily.
15 Oct 1917. An electric lighting plant under course of construction at Officers Hospital, Lucheux…
13 Oct 1917. Huts have been completed for winter quarters for the Sisters on night duty formerly quartered under canvas.
25 Dec 1917. Special Christmas Services were held in the Chapel.
28 Dec 1917. A cinema outfit has been installed in the recreation room and the pictures shown are a great source of amusement for the patients and personnel.
9 Feb 1918. Aeroplane alerts are received nearly every night now. Precautions have been taken to see that no lights are showing.
6 April 1918. The tunnels have all been cleaned out and prepared for the patients in case of an air raid. Electric lights have been installed.
8 April 1918. The Archway has been widened to allow cars to leave by other entrance.
20 April 1918. The Officers Hospital at Lucheux has been closed and all patients have been transferred to this hospital…
12 May 1918. The roadway leading into the hospital is about completed. It has been widened and completely rebuilt.
30 May 1918. On the night of 29-30 of May hostile aeroplanes were heard in the area. The night was clear and the moon shining. About 12.25 an hostile aeroplane passed over the hospital, dropped a flare, and immediately a bomb was dropped which struck the main building over the sergeants quarters, Ward S.6 (officers ward) operating theatre and X-Ray room, which collapsed immediately. Almost instantly a fire broke out and the whole group of buildings in the upper area were threatened. The alarm was given at once and every effort made to save the patients and combat the fire. The Nursing Sisters and orderlies worked splendidly and with the assistance of other members of the unit rapidly removed all patients to places of safety. There were no other casualties other than those killed by the bombs. During the work of rescue and while other members of the unit were combating the fire, the aeroplane returned and dropped more bombs, fortunately without doing any damage. At this time the flames were mounting sky high and the whole upper area was clearly illuminated and the buildings sharply delineated. The red crosses on the buildings being very visible so that there was no excuse for his not knowing that it was a hospital. The sergeants were in their quarters and the entire number were casualties. Ward S.6 (the officers ward) was fortunately only partially filled with patients but unfortunately all those in their ward were killed by the bomb, including the Nursing Sister who was on duty. Immediately below this were the X-Ray room and the operating theatre. Three surgical teams were on duty that night but two had completed their operation and had gone for their midnight meal. The other team (Capt. E.E. Meek, C.A.M.C. and Lieut. A.P.H. Sage, M.O.R.C. U.S.A.) were finishing their operation and they, their patient, Sisters A McPherson and E.L. Pringle, the orderlies and stretcher bearers, were all victims of the bomb. During the work of rescue and in the endeavor to save the buildings from fitre, we received splendid assistance from three companies of French soldiers and from the English soldiers quartered in Doullens. With their timely aid we were able to save the west wing of the main buildings. The night was clear and bright. There should have been no difficulty in the airmen recognising it as a hospital. The plane is stated to have been at a height of about 6000 feet. The hospital is well marked with red crosses which airmen say are quite visible from the air. There is no doubt that the occupants of the aeriplane knew it was a hospital for when they came back and dropped bombs a second time, the flames clearly illuminated the red crosses on the buildings. This hospital, being in the Citadel, is surrounded on three sides by fields and on the fourth by a French hospital. There were no camps of troops or dumps of any description in the vicinity of the hospital.
31 May 1918 The funeral of the victims of the air raid took place this afternoon and a very impressive service was held. Bishop Fallon, of London, Ontario, who came to visit the hospital on the 30th, very kindly took part in the service.
3 Jun 1918. New operating theatre finished and completely furnished ready for use.
30 Jun 1918. Today being Canadian Decoration Day, the unit paraded and marched to the cemetery to decorate the graves of the personnel who were killed in the air raid on May 29-30th.

Remained open throughout the Retreat and did a great deal of work

No.3, Canadian Stationary Hospital at Doullens, in the 3rd Army remained open throughout the Retreat and did a great deal of work. The nursing staff of 37 were reinforced by sisters coming down from evacuated C.C.S.’s in the 3rd Army, and in addition, 12 Sisters were sent up temporarily from 2, Canadian General Hospital. The neighbourhood was continually bombed at night.


Air raid of 29/30 May 1918

June 1918. No. 3 Stationary Hospital, Doullens, bombed by Germans; 3 Nursing Sisters and 2 Doctors killed. Canadian War Records Office O.3822

Left early in the morning having received a telephone message from Doullens saying that No.3 Canadian Stationary Hospital had been heavily bombed, and 3 nursing sisters killed and one badly wounded. Left as soon as possible with Miss Ridley, Principal Matron, Canadians. On arrival found that one huge triangle in the Citadel had been absolutely destroyed – part of it did not exist and the remainder of the roof had gone leaving only walls. The whole of the theatre and Xray appliances had been absolutely wiped out and the people working in the theatre were not recognisable. No N.C.O.’s were on duty – those who were not killed were badly wounded. I saw the O.C. and the Matron who spoke in the highest terms of the work of everybody. While there the D.M.S. of the 3rd Army arrived with the A.D.M.S. It was arranged that all sisters who could be spared should be moved at once and the wounded sister transferred to Treport.

War Diary, May 1918 E. M. McCarthy, Matron-in-Chief, B.E.F.

About midnight on May 27th, No.3, Canadian Stationary Hospital, in the Citadel, Doullens, was attacked by enemy aircraft, and the main building was struck by a bomb. Three Sisters unfortunately lost their lives and another was seriously injured. The part of the building struck burst into flames immediately – apparently the direct hit was at the main stairway and the wards to one side of it, which was over the Operating Theatre. The Officer patients, 2 Medical Officers, the 3 Sisters and the whole of the operating staff were buried in the ruins of the building. The other Sisters remained at their posts and assisted in the removal of the patients, some having to slide down the debris, as the stairway had gone. The staff, at the time of the bombardment, was 42, and it was thought advisable to reduce it immediately to 20; the remainder being sent on leave or given a rest, at a Convalescent Home. The Matron and the Commanding Officer reported that the Sisters did splendid work, and spoke very highly of their courage and devotion to duty. For their conduct on this occasion, 2 Nursing Sisters were awarded the Military Medal.


Visited DOULLENS on May 30th in responses to a telephone message received from the O.C. No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hpl. at an early hour.

An attack by enemy air-craft took place at about twelve mid-night, May 29th. The main building was struck by bombs at about 12-15 a.m. The part struck burst into flames instantly. Apparently the direct was at the main stairway and the wards to one side of it which were directly over the operating theatre.

Sister PRINGLE and Sister McPHERSON were on duty in the Operating Room and Sister BALDWIN in the Officers’ Ward. These Sisters with 10 Officer patients, 2 Medical Officers (Captain MEEK (?) C.A.M.C., and an American Officer, Mr. Sage) and the operating room staff were buried in the ruins of the building.

Sisters M. HODGE and E.J. THOMPSON had the wards on the opposite side of the stairway. As far as is known all patients were removed from these wards, the sisters remaining at their posts and assisting. Sister THOMPSON escaped without a scratch. Sister HODGE sustained a frontal scalp wound and injury to her knee and multiple abrasions. Sister WALKER slid down the debris leading her patients, the stairway having gone.

All the Sisters throughout the building remained at their posts, helped to get the patients out and did dressing afterwards. These were Sisters POTTER, GLEESON, SUTHERLAND, McLEISH, E. McDOUGALL, KENNEDY, CHISHOLM and W.W. McPHERSON.

At 2 p.m. Sister HODGE was sent down to ABBEVILLE to hospital. It was thought best to send her on the TREPORT to No. 3 General Hospital as we hope that she will have quieter nights there than here.

The Sergeant-Major of the Unit, 4 Sergeants and an attached Sergeant-Major were sleeping on the third floor of the destroyed building and lost their lives. Five other Sergeants were wounded. The entire main building was gutted, only the walls are standing.

All but twenty sisters were sent to TREPORT yesterday and three more are to go to-day. The unit was not to receive for 24 hours and all sisters were to sleep in the subterranean passages last night. The Matron and Colonel report that the sisters did splendid work and speak very highly of their courage and devotion to duty under heavy bombing.

Principal Matron, Canadians.


Third Army.

I beg to draw your attention to the magnificent work and recommend for favourable consideration the following –

N/S. M. Hodge and E.J. Thompson. During the recent raid these two Sisters were on duty in the resuscitation ward immediately adjoining the Operating Room, where the bomb fell. A heavy beam fell, wounding Sister Hodge considerably and Sister Thompson slightly. Regardless of this these Nurses, with great presence of mind, extinguished the fires burning in the coal oil heaters which overturned by the explosion, thus preventing the patients beds taking fire. They then direction their attention to the work of removing the patients, directing the orderlies, and without though of self assisted in the removal of patients from this ward, which as you know, were absolutely helpless. They remained in the ward till all the patients had been removed.

(Signed) C.H. REASON, Lieut-Col. C.A.M.C.
No.3. Canadian Stationary Hospital

Transcribed from unit war diary

The Canadian Journalists visiting the ruins of No.3 Canadian General Hospital at Doullens which was bombed during an air-raid on the night of 29 May 1918. (27 July 1918). © IWM (Q 9125)

The funeral

On the 31st the funeral was held. The hospital closed for twenty four hours. Owing to the Hun’s shelling from long range, the cemetery which was formerly used [Gézaincourt Communal Cemetery & Extension] was no longer available. Several large shells had fallen in the cemetery, making large craters, and converting what was previously a well kept cemetery into a mass of wreckage and holes. In the new cemetery which had been opened [Bagneux British Cemetery], we buried the remains of those who through many months had laboured with us. Side by side lay the patients, who were fellow victims with them. The day of the funeral was clear and bright. From Headquarters of the British formations, representative attended. Canadian Headquarters not only sent representatives, but very kindly sent a bugle band to sound Last Post. The service was most impressive and will long be remembered by those who took part in it. Bishop Fallon of London, Ontario, visited us that afternoon, and very kindly assisted us in the service. His address was most inspiring. At the conclusion of the service Last Post was sounded.

In the quiet little cemetery in France our friends lie. Their graves are marked by simple crosses, the wood kindly given by the Canadian Forestry Corps. Each cross is marked with a maple leaf cut out in metal, and stamped with the name and particulars of the deceased. The graves are well kept and are decorated with many flowers. For these we are deeply indebted to the French civilians, who so kindly stripped their gardens that the graves of their friends from the Hospital might be fittingly adorned.

From a report contained in the unit war diary, June 1918 – likely C.H. REASON, Lieut-Col. C.A.M.C., Commanding, No. 3. Canadian Stationary Hospital

Canadian War Records Office O.2725

Canadian War Records Office O.2726

Canadian War Records Office O.4457

Canadian War Records Office O.2727

Funeral of three Canadian Sisters, one Canadian Doctor and one American Doctor who were killed in German air raid on the 3rd Stationary Hospital. May 1918. Photographer William Rider-Rider. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 3194230

Canadian orderlies, nurses & doctor, Bagneux British Cemetery

Bagneux British Cemetery – More photos on Flickr

Sister Elsie Tranter – March-May 1917

1916-1919. Studio portrait of Sister Elsie May Tranter, Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), of Oakleigh, Vic, wearing her ward uniform. AWM P09173.001

23.3.1918. The hospital is in the citadel. It has been, until now, used for shell shocked patients but these have been sent away and the place is filled to overflowing with wounded. Matron Wilson (Canadian) received us very kindly. She said she had not proper accommodation for us but we could use the huts on the ramparts and rest there. She assured us the bombing planes never visited Doullens. This assurance was comforting. We settled down as comfortably as circumstances permitted and, being very weary indeed, we were all soon asleep. Our old tyrant, Fritzie, wakened us at 5 p.m. He was visiting the town and the archies were after him.

The Australian mail arrived last night – but unfortunately the little post office was burned down before we got our letters. So near and yet so far.

24.3.1918. There are no spare minutes here, it is one long rush of work. We are on duty at 6 a.m. and from then till 8.30 a.m. we are in the huts getting the men who have been admitted during the night ready for transport to Base Hospital, then we go to the operating theatre. Although still bearing the name of Stationary, this is really a Casualty Clearing Station and, at present, the nearest one to the line. Yesterday this place was very busy indeed. The patients and staff of twelve Clearing Stations arrived in addition to hundreds straight from the field. The Chapel has been converted into a dressing station. Here we worked far into the wee small hours. During the night there were 1 600 boys admitted. Boys utterly weary but cheerful.

This morning I dressed about forty men ready for evacuation and got their beds ready to receive men from the next convoy. These new men came before I had finished preparing for them. I dressed their wounds, then was in the theatre for the rest of the day. In all this work of dressing wounds and generally making the men comfortable, our orderlies and patients who are at all able to help are really wonderful. Most of the boys working with us are ever so gentle in handling the wounded.

Fritzie seems to be a very consistent visitor in this part of the world.

One dear old Digger I was busy with this morning trying to get the mud off his face so I could dress his wound said, ‘You know, Sister, I’m not really a soldier, I’m a farmer and carry my kit with me. That bit you are busy with is not my face but a potato patch’.

28.3.1918. Everything here is unutterably sad and awful. Thousands coming in day and night. We are in the theatre from 7 a.m. till 8 p.m., then work in the Chapel attending to the new admissions till any hour in the morning. The stretcher bearers who work all day, sleep within the alter rails at night and the night bearers sleep there in the day time.

29.3.1918. We were visited today by His Majesty the King and Sir Douglas Haig. They came into the theatre but did not stay very long. All the tables were busy. I had just started to anaesthetise a Tasmanian boy, so removed the mask to let him see the King. As there were two cases of gas gangrene, I think His Majesty was glad to get away to the outside air. The OC told the distinguished visitors that it was a new scheme for sisters to be giving anaesthetics and that we were doing exceptionally good work. It was rather a good day for them to visit for the place was full to overflowing – row after row of stretchers outside waiting, some for admission, others for transport to Base. Sir Douglas Haig went in and out talking to the boys on the stretchers.

1.4.1918. The planes have been very busy all day and this evening several of our own bombing machines have passed over on their way to a ‘stunt’. Almost every night Doullens is visited by hostile aircraft – the noise is dreadful. There was a big raid at 5 a.m. The aerodrome and the Tank Corps suffered badly. We still have hundreds coming in day and night.

I have many ‘last letters’ to write now to mothers in Australia and New Zealand. Many of the boys have entrusted me with very precious messages. They are game to the end.

2.4.1918. Yesterday we had a very heavy day’s work. I was just getting to bed when I was called back to the theatre and had to give anaesthetics till 8 o’clock this morning. We all seemed very tired and sleepy during the night – what with the smell of the anaesthetics and the closeness of the theatre, it was difficult to keep from nodding to sleep.

3.4.1918. On duty in theatre yesterday till 10 p.m. then in resuscitation hut till 8 a.m. This work is very depressing – there is not sufficient time to do all that the boys need. The huts are all so full and the boys so helpless and so sick – it seems as if the end of things will never come.

In the town there is a constant double stream of traffic. Heavy guns, trucks, supplies on the way to the line and the downward stream of more slowly moving ambulances with their wounded cargo, GS wagons, lorries, limbers, cars – vehicles of every description.

9.4.1918. No time for anything but work. We have been in the dressing station each night for the past week. It is ghastly work. Frightfully mutilated boys coming in all the time. There is hardly room to pass between the ambulances of the incoming convoy. We can hear some of the poor chaps groaning in the cars while they are waiting to be carried into the Chapel for dressing. A good many die on the way. We have hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders coming through.

There was a bombing raid close by at 10 o’clock yesterday morning. The victims were brought in but they all died soon after.

Last night Sister Gascoyne and I were on duty in the Chapel and we had 1 000 men, badly gassed, brought in. Poor fellows, how they suffered. We worked as quickly as we could – the boys helping us. The worst of the pain the men had was in their eyes – the eyelids puffed and blistered dreadfully. I had two dear Jocks working with me. One unbandaged, then I attended to the eyes (we used a solution of sodi bicarb) and wee Jock bandaged them up again. In this way we got through a great many patients in a short time. The soda solution appears to give instant relief. We put drops of cocaine and sodi bicarb in each eye, then put a gauze pad wrung out of the solution across both eyes. These men we then have to help undress, then the orderlies give them a soda bath and they don new pyjamas. Then, all those who are able to walk are led – one man with his hand on the shoulder of the man in front – till we have about a dozen in each ‘chain’ and then they are taken to the huts, if room can be made for them. If no room, they are taken once more into the ambulances and sent further down the line. Poor, weary boys, it seems dreadful not to have even one night’s rest for them. Fortunately this awful blindness will, in most cases, be only temporary. Those of us who are working amongst the gas men have lost our voices – and can just about manage to whisper. This is unfortunate, for the men seem to like us to talk to them.

10.4.1918. I was too tired to sleep when I went to bed yesterday morning and was thinking of getting up to enjoy a little fresh air at 2 p.m. when I was called for duty and worked till two this morning. It was pitch dark and I had great difficulty in finding my way to my hut, so wee Jock escorted me safely. Then I found two sisters sound asleep on my stretcher. They were refugees from a CCS near Amiens.

This citadel has huge tunnels. It is said that one leads right through to Arras. Here, a French regiment was in hiding when the Germans were in the town in 1914. Every evening now, about sunset, the civilians from the town come into our grounds and settle down in the tunnels for the night. It seems cruel that civilian women and dear little innocent children should be exposed to so much danger and have to endure so many hardships.

14.4.1918. This is the twenty-fourth day since the Retreat started – it has seemed like twenty-four years. So far I have given 179 anaesthetics and no casualties so far. Although this work occupies about twelve hours at least of each day, we are by no means cut off from our other work. We all have a fair share of work in the dressing station, also pre and post-operative nursing. We three Australians are very glad to be here. Such numbers of the Diggers have said how nice it is to have someone from their own country here. Needless to say we are all tremendously proud of our own Aussie boys. They always seem to be the nicest, the bravest and the most humorous of all. But then, perhaps, it is just because they belong in a special way to us that we like them best, for when I think of all the wounded ones and all the ones who work with us—stretcher bearers and orderlies—bless my soul, I believe I love them all. The Scotch boys certainly have a ‘way wid them’. Whichever country they belong to, they are all heroes and it is good to be among them.

Letters from friends in Blighty tell us of all sorts of false rumours that have been circulated about us – that some of us were taken prisoners, etc., etc. but we have the 4th Division AIF and the Glorious 51st Division BEF between us and the Hun, so why worry?

We are still very busy. Two days ago Fritzie was over four times during daylight hours. There was plenty of shrapnel flying round. Three planes were brought down yesterday. Field Marshal Foch and several other important looking French officers were there, then today they came again with several British staff officers. This town is now practically under martial law.


Not much has changed on Rue du Boug. An Australian soldier (or nurse) must have brought home this postcard as a copy appears in the Australian War Memorial collection: A02455

One afternoon I had a couple of hours off duty and went into the town. I very badly wanted to get my head shampooed. All the hairdressers seemed to have left the town. However, I saw a little shop with all manner of toilet requisites in the window – and Madame, who looked as if she couldn’t say ‘No’, standing at the door. I made my request in the best French I could command. Madame assured me she had never in her life shampooed anyone’s hair. After a little persuasion, she agreed to do her best and led me through to her kitchen. Operations were soon in full swing and when washing, massaging and rinsing were finished, Madame became greatly distressed as to how she could get my hair dry. Then she was possessed with a brilliant idea. Opening the oven door and placing a cushion on the floor in front of it, she had me sit down and put my head in the oven. A novel way no doubt, but it answered the purpose. Then she got a large book – it seemed to me like a register for the important events in the family history – and in the centre of a clear page she wrote, ‘Aujourd ‘hui j’ai lave la tete de L’ Australienne’. Beneath this statement I had to write my name and home address.

16.4.1918. Some days ago we received a warning that Doullens was to be shelled on April 16th, so we sort of expected a little excitement all day. Just for a change, everything was unusually quiet till 3.45 p.m. when a shell arrived, making plenty of noise but doing very little damage. One of the medical officers working with us in the theatre called out, ‘On with your tin hats!’ and he snatched a tiny enamel basin from the trolley and put it on his head. We had a great laugh – it was like a pimple on a pumpkin. We did not have any more excitement – even the bombing planes forgot to visit us.

17.4.1918. Very tired but very proud tonight. I have been giving anaesthetics all day for Colonel Gray, Chief Surgeon to the 3rd Army. He is very nice to work for and so kind to the boys.

One boy we had this morning was a young officer who was badly wounded yesterday morning and taken prisoner. Poor boy was kept in the front line of enemy trenches where he was again wounded by our own guns. Later in the night his own company made an attack – captured the trench and retook this lad. He was so happy at being amongst his own people that the fact of his being seriously wounded did not worry him.

We had a very wonderful operation this afternoon – Col. Gray was searching for a tiny bit of shrapnel in a boy’s heart. I was very glad when the anaesthetic was over. These serious cases and long operations give us a lot of anxiety.

19.4.1918. There is still a constant stream of men, guns, and tanks passing up the line. Fritzie was over twice last night. It is really preferable to be on duty during a raid—company means a lot at such times. Alone in one’s hut, the planes sound so very near with their buzzing sort of noise, it is a relief really when the bombs are dropped, for while the buzzing lasts the plane sounds as if it is only a very little way from your head-like a big mosquito waiting to sting.

I have been working with Major Waggett the last few days. We have had such a number of head and jaw cases – very tedious work.

One day last week we had a number of walking wounded admitted. With them came a dear old dog, a setter I think, white with black spots that don’t quite show through. This dear old dog seemed almost human. He had a shrapnel wound in his forepaw. He waited with the men and then followed on to where Sister Gascoyne was dressing wounds. When she found time, she dressed him and he seemed so grateful. The Quartermaster has taken charge of him and every morning the dear doggie makes his way to the dressing station and waits till someone has time to attend to him. He is nearly well now but still limps rather badly.

We had a very hard time last night, lots of victims from the bombs in the town in addition to our ordinary convoys from the line.

24.4.1918. This has been a very heavy week of work – ten long anaesthetics today. One poor boy with multiple wounds was two and a half hours on the table, then he collapsed and had to have oxygen, artificial respiration and direct heart massage.

From the ramparts we get an excellent view of the outlying country and the roads where we see London and Paris buses always busy, passing to and from the line. There are huge tunnels and dungeons under the citadel where the French civilians sleep at night. Every evening at sunset, the women and children come streaming in to find a safe shelter for the night – very few remain in their own homes. These bombing raids are dreadful. One morning we saw quite a long procession – carrying little coffins to the quiet garden outside the town, child victims of the previous night’s raid. So far I have given 227 anaesthetics. It is very tiring and trying work, for most of the men are very badly wounded and give us a lot of anxiety. The medical officers here are all exceptionally kind to us and help us over the hard places in our work. There is a terrific noise again tonight, the guns seem never to stop for one moment.

28.4.1918. On night duty only – with lots of work to do. There is a big barrage going on at present (3 p.m.) and some prisoners at work outside, newly sandbagging my hut. The planes have buzzed and buzzed all day – they seem to be flying extra low and make such a din – still, as they are our own, we should not grumble.

Yesterday’s Times has given a great account of our flit from Grevillers but truth to tell, it was not all through that pet phrase of the press, ‘devotion to duty’ that we kept on working while the shells were screaming round. It was really much easier to keep on working than not. Being with others made us feel safer. You can’t face these things alone but, with a pal beside you, you feel strong to face danger. If alone in your hut, you live every moment in dread until the bombing is over.

3.5.1918. When we came off duty this morning we went to Gezaincourt – a beautiful walk along the bank of the Authie, then through the woods. We passed some French camps and lorry parks. At Gezaincourt we visited No. 3 CCS where we met some of the sisters who had been with us at Grevillers. There is an officers’ hospital in the old chateau, surrounded by glorious grounds – copper beech, elm and oak trees, just a feast of beauty. Nos. 3 and 29 CCS are under canvas, with the tents sunk low. The Sisters’ Mess is at an old farmhouse – not very inviting quarters.

The sunshine is glorious today. We appreciate it all the more after so much wet and cold. In this country, we need only a little sunshine to cover the fields with flowers. This growth is wonderful—and they grow just anywhere and everywhere. The trees and shrubs seem to get prettier and prettier each day.

This hut is on the ramparts. It is a fairly long one divided into three, mine is the centre section. It was built by German prisoners. My cubicle has a dado of Fritz’s own designing. Loops of green leaves with a heart (very crimson) in each loop. One heart is pierced by an arrow and there are very realistic splashes of blood down the wall. Maybe Fritzie was thinking of his Fraulein when he painted it. Such a variety of noises come to us here. Below the ramparts are some soldiers from a neighbouring camp playing baseball; above from time to time, the buzz and drone of the planes; then, away in the distance, the boom of the guns. They have dispensed with the sandbags from round our huts now and in their place have put two galvanised iron ‘fences’ and filled the space between them with earth. This comes to the level of the windows and prevents a lot of vibration during the bombing. These raids are very cruel – to have the boys or civilians wounded when about their ordinary duty is bad enough but to have boys killed in hospital is the cup of sorrow filled to overflowing.

The droll humour of the Digger never seems to desert him. A medical officer was asking a Digger about his wound, ‘What is it lad, shell wound or bullet?’

‘Shell, sir.’

‘Did it explode near you?”

“No sir, it just crept up and bit me.’

17.5.1918. There is too much excitement here day and night. There are several big guns being sunk in the fields round about and all the bridges in and around the town are prepared for mine charge. The anti aircraft guns (‘archies’) make more noise almost than the bombs and the shrapnel falling from them makes it a bit unhealthy to walk abroad. It makes me sick to think of what goes on during the shelling and bombing here. Day after day more homes ruined, more processions of weeping mothers visiting the cemetery.

A letter from one of the artillery boys today told me of a little white rabbit they have up the line. When the boys settle to sleep, Bunny hops over each of them till he finds a snug spot. One night one of the boys lit a candle, Bunny got too curious, hopped up to smell the candle and got his whiskers badly singed.

We have been having a very busy time in the theatre with neck and jaw cases. One boy I had last night had to have a tracheotomy performed. The room at the back of the theatre always has the floor covered with stretchers, boys waiting to be operated on. Here too, we have the X-ray apparatus.

24.5.1918. Dieppe. Back from War’s alarms in this old seaside town once more. After letting us volunteer for special work, pass our examinations and work away for two months during the retreat, the ‘Pow-wows’ of the AIF have decided that they will not allow their nurses to give anaesthetics any longer. We are hoping this decision will be revoked for we found our work, although strenuous, most interesting. Our last night on duty there was indeed a dreadful one. Sixty-four bombs were dropped in the vicinity and there were several casualties. Of the tragedy of the Citadel, Hamilton Fyfe’s account must suffice.

[On May 30, No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital at Doullens was bombed by German aircraft. Twenty-one members of staff and several patients were killed. Several of those killed were working in the operating theatre at the time. Henry Hamilton Fyfe wrote an account of the raid for The Daily Mail.]

Elsie Tranter, In all those lines


Dardanelles, France (?) c 1916. Operating room at No. 3 Stationary Hospital. Nurses are assisting Major Macaulay with a surgical procedure. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN no. 3604498


No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital at Doullens by Gerald Edward Moira (Beaverbrook Collection of War Art)

Moira created a triptych of No. 3 Stationary Hospital which in 1918 was located in a 15th century French château outside Doullens. An oil painting on three panels, it measures 10 feet by 22 feet. The left panel depicts convalescence, a time to heal. The centre and largest panel illustrates the receiving room. In it, a statue of the virgin and child above the busy composition adds serenity and benediction to the healing below. The right panel shows the wounded being evacuated to a base hospital.

The Citadel – hospital and other buildings

In September 2011 we went on a guided tour of the citadel conducted by the municipality. Unfortunately the tour only visited the lower part; we think the main buildings and chapel of the Canadian hospital were in the upper section. Ruins of the chapel appear to exist still, but our guide said the existing buildings in that section were built after 1918. The tour is worth taking as it also visits the souterrain where Great War graffiti can be seen.

If you have any further information, please let us know.

The main hospital building & chapel

Panorama from the balcony of the Salle de Garde of the older part of the citadel, looking approx. south-west. Our guess is that the main Canadian hospital building, the one that was bombed on 29/30 May 1918, was centre, behind the trees. The ruins left of centre may have incorporated the chapel.

The mess

05.01.19 Had tea in the Sisters’ quarters [of 18 C.C.S.], which are established in the old mess of No.3 Canadian Stationary, a chateau in the grounds.


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Published Tuesday June 14, 2011 · Last modified Monday October 14, 2013
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We're pleased that people are using this website as a source for locations, quotes and other primary source material. It's why we published our notes on the web. But we'd very much appreciate a footnote or credit. Much of the hospital (and other) location information for Lemnos and the Western Front is original research -- thank you, from Bernard & Cheryl