The Call to Duty: Canada's Nursing Sisters


The incredible contribution of Canadian nursing sisters in the First World War can be best appreciated by examining their experiences during their service. Women left their families and homes to answer the call to duty and serve their country. Many worked in substandard conditions, with poor sanitation and limited supplies of water. They cared for soldiers with horrendous wounds caused by new advancements in weaponry. Canadian nurses adapted to a situation that was completely unlike their lives in Canada, and for which their work in Canadian hospitals could not possibly have prepared them. By drawing on their strengths and knowledge, they comforted and mended the soldiers in their care. Their dedication to their work, their country and, most importantly, to their patients, serves to measure their contribution to the Canadian war effort.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Service files for nursing sisters who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force can be searched in the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Library and Archives Canada also holds the following records:

File title Archival reference

Nursing Sisters who were killed or died Overseas (archived) 

RG9-II-B-10, volume 34

Nominal Rolls - Nursing Sisters - Canadian Army Medical Corps,1914-1915

RG150, Series 7, volume 442

Medical Services - Nurses - Honours and Awards,1916-1922

RG38-D-9, volume 437, file M-9-11-16 ,

Nurses and Probationers - overseas First World War - Royal Newfoundland Regiment,  1915-1934

RG38-D-9, volume 439, file M-11

Civilian nurses employed during Spanish Influenza epidemic, 1918-1919 

RG24-C-8, volume 4271, file MD2-15-5-6

Nominal rolls - Nursing Sisters, Canadian Army Medical Corps and Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Sisters 1915-1917

RG24-C-6, volumes 23187 and 23188

Nurses for Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Sisters, 1916-1938

RG24-C-1-a, volume 109, file HQ-5883-27

List of Nursing Sisters on active service 1st Contingent, 1914-1916  

RG24-C-1-a, volume 1272, file HQ-593-2-43

Nursing Sisters, sailing lists, 1914-1918

RG9-II-B-9, volumes 15, 17, 36, 39, 41, 43, 44, 47, 49, 50, 52, 53, 56

Nursing Sisters, pay lists, 1914-1917

RG9-II-F-9, volumes 648, 718, 953, 1196, 1455, 1627

Nominal rolls, Nursing Sisters (no dates)

RG9-II-B-10, volumes 34 and 43

Nursing Sisters' Association of Canada fonds (includes nominal rolls, awards, correspondence and reports relating to First World War nursing sisters)

R9986-0-1, microfilm H-3125 to H-3131

You can search for other files relating to nurses and nursing sisters in Record Group 24 (National Defence) and Record Group 150 (Ministry of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada) using Archives Search. Enter the keywords RG24 nurs*.  Also try RG150 nurs*.

Only one document from the first file on the above list is available online. That complete file and the other files in the list must be viewed on site.

How to Access LAC records

See also:

Research in Other Institutions

Many Canadian nurses served with other organizations, such as the British Red Cross and the British Forces. Consult the following websites for information about available records:

The Canadian Red Cross does not hold records relating to wartime volunteers and nurses.

Other Resources

The Canadian Great War Project: Canadian Nursing Sisters (includes names and details)

The Nursing Sisters of Canada (Veterans Affairs Canada)

In Uniform - Nurses (Canadian War Museum)

Nursing Sisters (Library and Archives Canada Blog)

Canadian Army Nursing Corps

The essay "Caregiving on the Front" provides a history of nursing sisters during the First World War.

"Biographies" presents excerpts from the personal diaries, letters and photographs of six women who served as nursing sisters during the First World War:


We gratefully acknowledge the Canadian Museum of History and the University of Ottawa Press, who gave permission, and provided the files, for inclusion of the essay "Caregiving on the Front: The Experience of Canadian Military Nurses During World War I" from their book On All Frontiers: Four Centuries of Canadian Nursing.

The digitization of Alice Isaacson's photo album was made possible through the generous financial support of the Canadian Nurses Association, and in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum. We also thank Peter Robertson for his thorough work in restoring the album to its original order, his extensive research in the preparation of photo captions, and his creation of links between Alice Isaacson's photo album and her three diaries.

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