It’s been 102 years since the signing of the armistice to end the First World War. Armistice Day, as it was known in the earlier years, remembers and pays tribute to the brave souls who risked everything to defend freedom. Many had fallen but more returned, battered and bruised both physically and emotionally.
During the horrors of war, a Canadian surgeon, who was also a poet who would become world renowned, served on the front lines in Belgium. Apparently, John McCrae, consumed by reflection on the loss of lives, jotted down his famous war poem in 20 minutes during the Second Battle of Ypres on May 3, 1915.
In Flanders Fields has been spoken by millions of lips, whispered at dawn on battlefields and solemnly recited at countless cenotaphs across the world. It has been read to young and old alike.
One of the stories in The Coldest December is “Bluebirds and Daisies” by Bronwyn Piper. Bluebirds was the nickname given to the nurses of the time.
From Canadian War Museum
More than 2,800 nurses served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC), as fully-enlisted officers in the specially-created all female rank of Nursing Sister, with relative rank and equal pay to men – the first women among the Allied forces to do so. Nicknamed “bluebirds” because of their blue uniforms and white veils, Canada’s nursing sisters saved lives by caring for wounded and sick soldiers as well as convalescents, prisoners of war, and even civilians on occasion.
The main character, Lorena Brody, in “Bluebirds and Daisies” was training to be a nursing sister when the Halifax Explosion happened. Here’s how the story starts.
Bluebirds and Daisies
Lorena Brody adjusted her white veil, then fastened the top button on her overcoat. The brisk breeze blowing off the water sneaked beneath her long coat and skirt and brought a chill to her core. It brushed against her cheeks and cooled them in spite of her earlier thoughts of the handsome sailor who had caused them to warm. The crossing from Dartmouth to Halifax was almost completed, and soon she’d be in a warm building, listening to lectures on how to attend the sick and injured and then putting those lessons into practice in the afternoon as she worked alongside an experienced nurse.