Sunday, 25 January 2015

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Nursing Sister Margaret Lowe of Binscarth

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, I am working on a series of blog posts and radio shows that will look at 100 Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts, follow this link.


Margaret Lowe was born in Morayshire, Scotland in 1888 and came to the Binscarth area as a young child with her parents, Thomas and Christina Low. (It is noted here that her birth name was Low but while living in Winnipeg, the Henderson Directories list her as Lowe and she enlisted under that spelling.) 

Lowe came to Winnipeg to study nursing. By 1914 she was working at the Winnipeg General Hospital and living at the Nurses' Home at 781 Bannatyne, now demolished. By 1917 she was living at the Malvern House Apartments at 753 Wolseley Street, which at the time was the Graduated Nurses Residence.

On March 24, 1917 Lowe enlisted and on  April 3, 1917 she and five other Nursing Sisters left Winnipeg by train: Margaret Harper; Margaret Fenton; Elizabeth McPhail; Mary Watt and Bernice Petch.

Top: May 23, 1918, Winnipeg Tribune
Middle: Aftermath of attack on 1st CGH (source)
Bottom: Destroyed nurses quarters after attack (source)

At first, Lowe worked at a number of field stations in England then in January 1918 went to France and the 10th Canadian Stationary Hospital. Soon after, she was transferred to the 1st Canadian General Hospital in Étaples. She had only been there four weeks when the hospital was bombed in an air raid. It was one of a number of allied hospitals targeted by the Germans in late May 1918.

Her Circumstances of Death certifcate states:

Died of wounds. While at work in No. 1 General Hospital, Étaples, on May 21st, 1918 she was gravely wounded in the right chest and sustained a compound fracture of the skull from fragments of a bomb dropped by an enemy aeroplane. She was taken to No. 24 General Hospital, Étaples, where she succumbed one week later.

Lowe's funeral procession (source)

Lowe, 32, is buried in the Étaples Military Cemetery in France and commemorated on the Binscarth War Memorial and the Nursing Sisters Memorial in Ottawa. 

In all, 132 nurses from the Winnipeg General Hospital served in World War I. Four did not return.

Margaret Lowe Canadian Virtual War Memorial (includes more funeral photos)
Margaret Lowe Canadian Great War Project
Margaret Lowe War Service Record Library and Archives Canada
The Nursing Sisters of Canada WWI Veterans Affairs Canada
Finding the Forty-Seven: Canadian Nurses of the First World War

Image Sources:
Canada's First World War Experience - Women Working Overseas 
Battlefront Nurses in WWI Maureen Duffus

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