March 26, 1918 (13th Parliament, 1st Session)


Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)



Mr. Speaker, I have received a telegram with regard to the great offensive now being carried on on the Western front by the enemy, but it contains nothing, I think, of importance beyond what has already been communicated to hon. members and to the public generally through the press. I have, however, a telegram from Sir Edward Kemp, which I should like to read. It is prefaced by a statement that it embodies a message which was received from Mr. Rowland Hill. It has been submitted to the Censor, and is, therefore, proper for publication. It is dated March 25th:
London, March 25 th, 1918.
War Correspondents' headquarters, France, March 21st.
"Deliberate violation of Red Cross rules marked the opening of the Huns' much advertised great western offensive. Long range guns of the Germans have searched out hospitals which have been established over two years. Two Canadian casualty clearing stations, which have worked unceasingly through battle storm and lull of more peaceful times, were among the sufferers. The railway siding on which they were situated was considered out of the zone of ordinary shell fire. It was known to the Huns as a hospital centre, for, in one of his communications, he mentioned the fact that he had bombarded it "as reprisal" for alleged dropping of bombs on one of his hospitals.
"Day by day wounded have been gathered into these four hospitals-two British units adjoined Canadians-there to be patched up and rested until fit for comparatively comfortable trip south in well-fitted ambulance trains which regularly loaded at siding. When terrors [DOT]of attack and counter attack at Passchaendaele were raging seven or eight miles away it was these hospitals that bore the brunt. One of the Canadian units has a record of over three thousand cases "cleared" in one day.
"Work went on without cessation-Australians, Imperials, Canadians, Germans, too, salved from the human wreckage on the ridge. It is hard to make an operating hut light-proof. It is impossible to operate on a wounded man 3n the dark, so the Hun bombers night after
night in those busy days forgot immunity of Red Cross and dropped their bombs around hospitals. Plucky Canadian and British nurses stuck it through the great battle which ended with our troops taking Passchaendaele, although some of these brave, devoted women, finally had to be sent south to where there was rest haven for nurses. They left their bright home in Flanders, in which they took so much pride, in as short a time as possible. It had become an oasis in this almost deserted part of Belgium. Friends in the Canadian Railway troops who worked in the sector had built them fireplaces in their huts and fitted other little touches of home, and they themselves had put the care and labour of months into making them comfortable. The luxury of arm chairs, damask curtains, polished brass, even cut glass and original oil paintings, helped these nurses from overseas to remember there were such things back in that world they had left across the Atlantic when they volunteered for duty. Their environment kept them gentle, womanly, Canadian, among all the flotsam of war, and it was reflected to the thousands of shrapnel-torn, mangled patients they helped on the first stage of the road to recovery. Then came the eruption. In the middle of the night two big high explosive shells (their bases showed they were from a German twelve-^inch naval gun) landed twenty yards from the Nursing Sisters' quarters. Steel splinters tore through the sides of their huts as though they were paper. Fortunately not a sister was wounded and, as the Canadian girls assembled at emergency call, two more shells hit almost in the centre of the hospital camp. Officers and sisters and staff worked heroically to clear out patients during the dismal rainy night. There were many delicate cases to be handled where [DOT]sudden jars ^perhaps meant death, but all through the night, punctuated by the devilishly regular explosion of other shells, wounded were loaded on hospital train and sent to safety. Only then did nurses seek shelter in another Canadian hospital out of line of fire.
"With daylight, news arrived that the storm had broken on another part of the line. ' Have surgical teams ready proceed on duty immediately '-the message from headquarters. That meant Canadian surgeons ready to go anywhere, and those steel-nerved girls from the Dominion who deftly act as surgeons' extra right hand here in these operating theatres along the front, where a second lost means the difference between life and death, to go with them. There they are to-day, working bravely and stoically, though in the spare moments they occasionally have their thoughts must go back to that home they so suddenly left-that little home in the west up in Flanders they had become so attached to. It is not always in the fighting line you feel the hardships of war."

Topic:   THE WAR.
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