Friday, 3 May 2019

Manitoba's WWI Fallen: Nursing Sister Ainslie Dagg

© 2019, Christian Cassidy

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 some of the Manitobans who died in action. For more about this project and links to other posts follow this link.

Ainslie St. Clair Dagg was born February 5, 1892 in Selkirk, Manitoba to James G. and Emily Dagg. She had one sister, Alexandra, born in Selkirk in 1896.

Mr. Dagg was a successful merchant and involved in the commercial fishing industry. He served for fourteen years on Selkirk's town council, four of them as mayor.

The Daggs moved to Winnipeg around 1904 and Ainslie attended Mulvey and Isbiser schools up to grade seven then went to Havergal College, (now Balmoral Hall), graduating in 1909. From there, she went to Toronto to attend Bishop Stachan School in 1910 - 1911.

By 1913, Dagg was back in Winnipeg and accepted to the Winnipeg General Hospital School of Nursing. She lived in the nurses' residence while studying.

Soon after she graduated in 1916, Dagg volunteered with the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing service and in 1917 was in England. She worked for 16 months at the 2nd Birmingham War Hospital and for another six weeks at the Royal Herbert Hospital. She joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps as a Nursing Sister on April 2, 1918.

Belleville Community Archives, Grace Walters Fonds

Dagg then served at the No. 15 Canadian General Hospital, at Clivedon, England.

The hospital was actually an estate belonging to Waldorf Astor who volunteered it for use as a medical facility. The British declined the offer, but the Canadians accepted. The house itself was too old and impractical to retrofit, so it was used as a residence for staff. The hospital was constructed on the grounds and tennis courts.

Belleville Community Archives, Grace Walters Fonds

The hospital opened in December 1914 as the Duchess of Connaught's Canadian Red Cross Hospital. It was maintained by the British War office, but the equipment was supplied by the Canadian Red Cross and it was staffed by the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

The facility was renamed No. 15 Canadian General Hospital in September 1917.

December 2, 1918, Winnipeg Free Press

Dagg contracted "Spanish" influenza which was sweeping through the battlefields at the time and was admitted to her own hospital on November 19, 1918 in "seriously ill" condition. She died of pneumonia on November 29, 1918 at the age of 26 and is buried in the Cliveden War Cemetery.

According to Veterans Affairs Canada, 3,141 Canadian nurses volunteered to serve in the First World War, most of them overseas. Approximately 45 died in service.

According to a September 20, 1919 Winnipeg Tribune article the Winnipeg General Hospital had more nurses volunteer for military service than any other hospital in North America. The article didn't give a number, though the HSC Archives says more than 140 General Hospital and Children's Hospital nursing grads volunteered.

Virtual War Memorial entry - Veterans Affairs Canada
War Service Record - Library and Archives Canada
The Nursing Sisters of Canada - Veterans Affairs Canada