Veteran Stories:
Helen Arbuthnot

Army

  • Helen (Fitzgerald) "Fitzie" Arbuthnot in uniform of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps.

  • Display of eight medals awarded to Helen. Some were for wearing on her uniform while others were awarded after her return home. Collection of Helen Arbuthnot.

  • Brown leather belt with the Medical insignia. Helen worn this belt with her uniform during the time she served overseas in Caserta, Italy. Courtesy of Helen Arbuthnot.

  • Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps beret that Helen wore with her uniform during her time overseas is Caserta, Italy. Courtesy of Helen Arbuthnot.

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"But I remember when I first went to Italy and saw the setup I thought, Oh my God! I can't believe that this is real!""

Transcript

Helen Fitzgerald Arbuthnot, a Nursing Sister that served in England and in Italy.

When we arrived in Alton after landing in Scotland... and then train trip right across the countryside and then down into Hants, England, we were billeted out with English families. I was rather upset at that point. I hated going into a new home and not knowing the people too well. But it all turned out great.

We worked very hard. Never had a moment to ourselves, but it was well worth it. One day the Matron arrived from London, England, to say that she needed nurses for Italy, and she called my name out first. We went to London to get suited up with the khaki uniforms. We always wore navy blue, but going to an active theatre of war we were dressed in khaki.

It was quite different. The hospital was huge. It was No. 15 Canadian General Hospital. Outside the hospital we had huge big tents, and had the patients there that came back from the front. And then we had barrage balloons all over the top of the hospital, and all over the nurses' residents and doctors' and so on. The patients also were just back, and they were very sick and most of them didn't make it.

All the doctors and nurses... they were all patient and always willing to help. You never felt alone. You did at the beginning. But I remember when I first went to Italy and saw the setup I thought, "Oh my God! I can't believe that this is real!" And when I visited the patients - I was appointed to a ward and all the patients were PPCLI. They were very sick and looking for comfort... we always took our time and chatted with them and reassured them everything was going to be all right. But it didn't turn out that way. They just couldn't make it. It was so sad to see them. They were so young. Probably age eighteen, nineteen, twenty - that age group.

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