On 17 April, the eve of the Centenary of the Gallipoli campaign, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Director General, Mrs Victoria Wallace, will take part in the unveiling of a new memorial at Portianos Military Cemetery on Lemnos, honouring the service and sacrifice made by two Canadian nurses during the Great War.
Matron Jessie Jaggard and Nursing Sister Mary Frances Munro were among 70 Canadian nurses stationed in Lemnos to treat thousands of wounded and sick Allied servicemen from the fighting at Gallipoli. Doctors and nurses were confronted daily with poor sanitation, illness, and the life threatening injuries of soldiers. The heat, poor diet and scarce water, inevitably caused illness throughout the medical personnel. Sadly, Jessie and Mary succumbed to disease and were buried at the CWGC’s Portianos Military Cemetery in 1915.
The new memorial, designed by the CWGC, is made from Nabresina stone from a quarry near Trieste in Italy, and was carved by CWGC stonemasons at their facility adjacent to ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey.
The memorial initiative, led by the Canadian Embassy in Athens, was made possible with funding provided by the Government of Canada, the dedicated support of the CWGC and the assistance of Mr Jim Claven, historian and Secretary of the Melbourne-based Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee.
Mrs Wallace said: “The hugely significant contribution made by women during the First World War deserves to be better known and I am honoured to support the initiative of the Canadian Embassy in Athens in commissioning this new memorial. More than 650 women, who served in a wide range of capacities, died during the First World War and are commemorated at Commonwealth War Graves Commission sites the world over. This new memorial honours the memory of just two such brave Canadian individuals, but is also a powerful symbol of the contribution on Lemnos of nurses from Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain, without whose dedication many more servicemen would have died.”
Mary and Jessie’s personal stories are among those revealed at the cemetery by the CWGC’s use of the latest smartphone technology. As part of the commemorations on Lemnos, the Director General will unveil a number of information panels at the CWGC cemeteries on the island. The panels feature the history of each location and a QR (Quick Response) code, which, when scanned with a smartphone, provides access to the personal stories of some of the casualties buried or commemorated there.
For more information, contact: Peter Francis on +44(0)1628 507163 / +44(0)7766 255884 / [email protected]
Notes for editors:
- The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (cwgc.org)
The CWGC maintains the graves of the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.
The CWGC operates in over 23,000 locations in 154 countries across all continents except for Antarctica.
14-18: A series of high-profile worldwide events will take place to mark the centenary of the First World War, many of which will take place at Commission sites. The Commission will ensure that these sites are maintained to the highest standard and is installing information panels at over 500 sites to enhance the visitor experience. Smartphone users will also be able to access additional information, including the personal stories of some of those buried at the site.
- Portianos Military Cemetery, Lemnos
The island of Lemnos played an important role in the First World War, particularly during the Gallipoli campaign. Over 80,000 cases of sickness or wounds were suffered by British Empire forces during the fighting at Gallipoli. After receiving initial care on the peninsula, most were transferred to hospital ships. Many were then brought to hospitals on Lemnos, or further afield to Egypt or Malta. Medical facilities on Lemnos eventually provided over 18,000 beds. Here, away from the fighting, men would often be treated by female nurses of the army or the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Red Cross (VADs). Sickness was a major problem during the campaign, and it is estimated that during the summer months of 1915 around 60% of all Allied troops on the peninsula were suffering with dysentery and diarrhoea. At times, more than 1,000 were evacuated every day.
Portianos Military Cemetery was begun in August 1915 during a major Allied offensive on the Gallipoli peninsula. More than 60 servicemen were buried here that month. The cemetery continued to be used by the many hospitals based nearby, and over 320 servicemen had been laid to rest here by the time the Allies withdrew from Gallipoli in early 1916.
In 1918, the crew of the cruiser HMS Endymion erected a memorial within the cemetery in memory of four of their shipmates who had died during the ship’s service off Gallipoli. The cemetery remained in use until 1920, particularly by the Royal Navy. Today it is the final resting place of over 350 servicemen and women, of whom two remain unidentified.
Nursing Sister Mary Frances Elizabeth Munro of the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital died on 7 September 1915, age 49. Mary was born in Wardsville, Middlesex County, Ontario, and attended Bishop Strachan School. Matron Jessie Jaggard died on 25 September 1915, age 44. She was the Matron of the 3rd Canadian Hospital and was born in Nova Scotia. She was the daughter of John Lothrop Brown and Elizabeth Whidden Brown.