Can J Surg 2016;59(6):371-73 | PDF
Alexandra C. Istl, MD; Vivian C. McAlister, MB
The Canadian government depended on chaotic civilian volunteerism to staff a huge medical commitment during the First World War. Offers from Canadian universities to raise, staff and equip hospitals for deployment, initially rejected, were incrementally accepted as casualties mounted. When its offer was accepted in 1916, Western University Hospital quickly adopted military decorum and equipped itself using Canadian Red Cross Commission guidelines. Staff of the No. 10 Canadian Stationary Hospital and the No. 14 Canadian General Hospital retained excellent morale throughout the war despite heavy medical demand, poor conditions, aerial bombardment and external medical politics. The overwhelming majority of volunteers were Canadian-born and educated. The story of the hospital’s commanding officer, Edwin Seaborn, is examined to understand the background upon which the urge to volunteer in the First World War was based. Although many Western volunteers came from British stock, they promoted Canadian independence. A classical education and a broad range of interests outside of medicine, including biology, history and native Canadian culture, were features that Seaborn shared with other leaders in Canadian medicine, such as William Osler, who also volunteered quickly in the First World War.
Accepted Oct. 14, 2016; Early-released Nov. 11, 2016
Affiliations: From the Department of Surgery, Western University, London, Ont., (Istl, McAlister); and the Royal Canadian Medical Service, Canada (McAlister).
Competing interests: None declared.
Contributors: Both authors contributed substantially to the conception, writing and revision of this article and approved the final version for publication.
Correspondence to: V. McAlister, C8-005, University Hospital, London ON N6A 5A5 firstname.lastname@example.org