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Ontario Military Hospital


The Western Battle Front,” in Nelson's Map Book of the World Wide War [ca. 1914-1918]
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 “The Western Battle Front,” in Nelson's Map Book of the World Wide War [ca. 1914-1918], (pages 2-3). Military Records collection, F 895, Archives of Ontario, I0073460


Orpington, Kent, England
February 19, 1916 to September 20, 1919

Ambulance trains brought wounded soldiers from Casualty Clearing Stations to General Hospitals. By the end of the war, Canada was operating 16 General Hospitals, the 16th of which originated as the Ontario Military Hospital.

Stretcher being loaded onto Ambulance Train from C.C.S., [ca. 1914-191
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Stretcher being loaded onto Ambulance Train from C.C.S., [ca. 1914-1918]
L. Bruce Robertson fonds, F 1374, Archives of Ontario, I0050274

Telegram from Minister R.A. Pyne to Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, May 28, 1915.
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Telegram from Minister R.A. Pyne to Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, May 28, 1915.
Premier William H. Hearst office records, RG 3-3, Archives of Ontario, I0073461






The Ontario Military Hospital was established in Orpington, England, on February 19, 1916. It was one of the most advanced military hospitals in the world at that time and was paid for by the Province of Ontario at a cost of $2 million.

The hospital was staffed by Canadian doctors and nurses, who treated over 25,000 soldiers between 1916 and 1919. The majority of the patients were Canadian, but soldiers from Britain, Newfoundland, New Zealand and Australia were also treated.

Canadian Army Hospital: Orpington, Kent: Operating Room, 1918
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Canadian Army Hospital: Orpington, Kent: Operating Room, 1918
Premier William H. Hearst office records, RG 3-3, S 15648, Archives of Ontario, I0052162


Ontario Military Hospital ward ca. 1916-1917
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Ontario Military Hospital ward, [ca. 1916-1917]
Ontario Military Hospital photographs, F 4386, Archives of Ontario, I0007454









Canadian Army Hospital: Matron H. Smith RRC [Royal Red Cross]; A/Matron J. Stronach RRC; A/Matron A.G. Hogarth RRC, [ca. 1916-1919]
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Canadian Army Hospital: Matron H. Smith RRC [Royal Red Cross]; A/Matron J. Stronach RRC; A/Matron A.G. Hogarth RRC, [ca. 1916-1919]
Premier William H. Hearst office records, RG 3-3, S 15683, Archives of Ontario, I0052163


The hospital is splendid and beautifully equipped. The admission department pleases me – ten tubs and it is expected that twenty patients can be bathed in half an hour. Where I have been before I’ve been so grieved to see the dirty patients put right into the nice clean beds. I have a tidy soul.
- H. L. S. [nurse] - April 19, 1916


Poor men, how tired they were. It seemed as if they would never get enough sleep. But they are lively enough now. Always ready for a smoke or a game or some reading.
- C. L. [nurse] - June 12, 1916


Our hospital is wonderful – so large and airy, and such a stack of supplies. Haven’t had a convoy yet but are daily expecting one. I hope that everyone will be more contented when we get boys.
-
H. L. S. [nurse] - April 19, 1916

Letters from nurses at the Ontario Military Hospital to Dr. MacMurchy, 1916
Correspondence of the Deputy Provincial Secretary, RG 8-9, Archives of Ontario


In addition to the Government of Ontario funding and staffing the hospital, individuals and organizations from Ontario also supported their military hospital. For example:

  • Plaques were fastened to hospital beds to acknowledge the Ontario organizations that donated them.
  • Col. Noel Marshall of Toronto partnered with the Canadian Red Cross to install a moving picture machine for the soldiers’ entertainment.
  • The Grand Trunk Railway donated tents and camp chairs so that up-patients could sit outside.

Premier William H. Hearst visited the hospital on August 22, 1916, to see the good work that was being done by Ontarians in the province’s overseas hospital.

 

Unloading Ontario Apples, Ontario Military Hospital ca. 1916-1917
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Unloading Ontario Apples, Ontario Military Hospital, [ca. 1916-1917 ]
Ontario Military Hospital photographs, F 4386, Archives of Ontario, I0007455








Interior of a military hospital showing patients, visitors and nurses during Christmas time, ca. 1918.
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Interior of a military hospital showing patients, visitors and nurses during Christmas time, [ca. 1918]
Canadian Expeditionary Force photograph albums, C 224-8, Archives of Ontario, I0004870


We have been steadily at work for several months, the wards now being half-filled with patients in various stages of convalescence. All of whom are eagerly looking forward to a Christmas in the “Canadian Hospital” as they say here – I am sure it will be a right royal and bountiful one, worthy in every way of the generous Canadian people who are providing it.

- M. M. [nurse] – December 1, 1916





Once again it is the season of “Peace on Earth, goodwill to men” and our thoughts naturally are of the land across the ocean and the friends we have left behind there.

 - M. M. [nurse] – December 1, 1 1916

Letters from a nurse at the Ontario Military Hospital to Dr. MacMurchy, 1916
Correspondence of the Deputy Provincial Secretary, RG 8-9, Archives of Ontario

In 1916, the hospital published a monthly paper called The Ontario Stretcher.

Please place your curser over the image to enlarge it.



The Ontario Stretcher (pages 1-3), August 1916
Military Records collection, F 895, Archives of Ontario, I0073456, I0073457, I0073458

The Stretcher featured news about the hospital, articles written by staff, and plenty of jokes and gags.

Material ranged from the sincere…

“Never will we forget our first wounded men. How we pitied them before they came and how we loved them after.”

The Ontario Stretcher, July 1916, “At the Nursing Sisters’ Quarters”

 “An arm gone from this one; a leg off another; bullet or shrapnel with lodgement, as it seemed to a layman, in every part of the human body – battered, mangled, and badly smashed were most of the 150 who formed the “first convoy.”

The Ontario Stretcher, July 1916, “The First Convoy”

 


…to the silly:

“Is it true that the Regimental Sergeant-Major intends putting in for six days’ leave to go fishing? Is he going to take Davis and Edwards along for fish?”

The Ontario Stretcher, July 1916, “Sergeants’ Mess”

“If you hear a funny joke,
Let us know,
Or some news about a bloke,
Let us know.”  

The Ontario Stretcher, September 1916

“A List of “Don’ts” for Patients
DON’T smoke after 9 a.m. unless the Sister’s back is turned. You will make her envious. […]
DON’T fail to enjoy your dinner. Remember you will get the same tomorrow.
DON’T tell your visitors your tale within the Sister’s hearing. She has read your case sheet.
DON’T wear your boots in the ward. Keeping your slippers on will occupy your mind.
DON’T keep your locker tidy or you will do the matron out of her job.”


The Ontario Stretcher, September 1916


Ontario Stretcher (Excerpt, Page 7), Nov. 1916.
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The Ontario Stretcher (Excerpt, Page 7), November 1916
Military Records collection, F 895, Archives of Ontario, I0073459

In September 1917 the hospital was renamed as No. 16 Canadian General Hospital and was honoured by a visit from their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary on May 29, 1919.

Ontario Military Hospital ward ca. 1916-1917
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Ontario Military Hospital ward, [ca. 1916-1917]
Ontario Military Hospital photographs, F 4386, Archives of Ontario, I0007456

The hospital was torn down in the 1960s and replaced by the Orpington General Hospital which honoured its heritage by featuring a Canada Wing and an Ontario Ward.

In this Exhibit -