Veteran Stories:
Jean Dorgan

Army

  • No. 3 General Hospital at Anaqui. “We were there when the news of the D-Day invasion reached us.”

  • “Our first hospital in Italy." No. 3 Canadian Surgical Hospital.

  • Nursing Sisters from No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (mobile surgical) on leave in Paris.

  • No. 3 under canvas at Cassino.

  • “A Canuck Goes to Italy.” An English-Italian phrasebook issued to Canadians.

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"We seemed to have been brought up there at the very last minute because it was a great big rush. Everybody was working, the officers as well."

Transcript

My name is Jean Dorgan. I was born in New Westminster November 15, 1910. When the war came in 1939 I enlisted, but they didn't want public health nurses to leave their jobs. So I didn't get into the army right away, and there were very few hospitals being mobilized anyway, so I wasn't called up until July 1942. And then in 1943, September, I went to England on the Queen Elizabeth. That was a very interesting experience because we'd traveled across Canada picking up hospitals from various towns and provinces, and there were, I believe, thirteen military hospitals on that ship. It took three days to load it, and so we were in our cabins all that time listening to feet tramping up the gangplank. I was assigned to No. 3 Mobile Surgical Unit, which was a two hundred-bed hospital station, which operated a casualty clearing station. And casualty-clearing stations were the point beyond which a wounded soldier could not go without being examined. The convoy left from the River, and it was very interesting because we were there all alone in our little ship. And then suddenly right on cue, all these ships came over the horizon. I was just amazed at the coordination. We were in Avellino then, which is about sixty miles from Naples. Then we were rushed up - I think it was May - to the third attack on Cassino. This was a big experience in Cassino because we were thirteen kilometers from the monastery. We seemed to have been brought up there at the very last minute because it was a great big rush. Everybody was working, the officers as well. They were putting the beds together. When we were getting ready the troops came by. They were on their way to battle. And we went down to the edge of the property to cheer them on. One of the men got off the truck that he was on - he was very drunk - and he had a rose, which he came and gave me and I've never forgotten that. I don't know where he got the rose. It was such a desolate place where we were. It's been some years now since I've been back to Cassino and up to the monastery, and it's perfectly restored. There's a special section for the Poles. There was a sign there that said, "We leave our bodies to Italy, our hearts to Poland, and our souls to God." I felt so... it touched me terribly.
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