Shortly before his death in April of 1915 while serving with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, English poet Rupert Brooke penned the now famous lines of The Soldier. He surmised that should he die during the course of the war, there would be some corner of a foreign field “That is for ever England”. In a similar vein, one might consider the ultimate sacrifices paid by Albertans during two World Wars and their final resting places as corners of foreign fields that are for ever Alberta.
During Canada’s two World Wars approximately 127,000 Albertans served in the country’s armed forces, of who 9,500 died. During WW2 approximately 2,000 Alberta women served in non-combat roles, including within the Royal Canadian Army Medal Corps as Nursing Sisters. One of the nurses who died in uniform during WW2 was Nora Hendry Peters of Cluny, Alberta who died in Italy in 1944. Born in Scotland in 1910, Nora followed in the footsteps of her father Andy who first came to Lashburn, Saskatchewan and later Gleichen, Alberta where he worked as a blacksmith. He established his own blacksmith shop at Cluny in 1916, a business he operated until his retirement in 1956. Andy died in 1965. Norah’s mother Joan was active within the United Church, presiding over the United Church Women organization during 1928-29 and passed away in 1935.
Nora arrived at Cluny with Sister Rita and mother Joan in 1920. After attending the local school, Nora trained to become a nurse at the General Hospital in Calgary. Upon graduating in 1933, she worked at the St. Michael’s and Galt hospitals in Lethbridge.
Peters enlisted in 1942 and went overseas the following year as a Nursing Sister. She served with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps’ No. 3 General Hospital at Caserta Italy. Killed in a motor vehicle collision, Peters is buried in the Caserta War Cemetery, Plot II C2.
Located 27 kilometres north of Naples, the town of Caserta, is famous for the Royal Palace of Charles III of Bourbon, designed by Luigi Vanvitelli in the middle of the 18th century. The palace, inspired by Versailles and the Royal Palace of Madrid is one of the largest and most lavish palaces in Europe. After the allied invasion of the Italian mainland in September of 1943, the palace served as headquarters for the Allied armies in Italy. There were a number of Allied hospitals in the Caserta area.
The Caserta War Cemetery contains 768 Commonwealth burials from the Second World War, including the remains of Nursing Sister Lieutenant Nora Hendry Peters and another 97 Canadian war dead.
For a list of Remembrance Day ceremonies taking place in Alberta this week visit: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/get-involved/remembrance-day/events
Written By: Peter Melnycky, Historian
Elliot, Jayne Canadian Nurses Association: One Hundred Years of Service, 1908-2008, Ottawa: Canadian Nurses Association, 2013.
Prowse, Rita “Andrew Peters Family” p. 538 Memories of Cluny: A Story of Cluny and the Surrounding Districts, Winnipeg: Inter-Collegiate Press of Canada, 1985.
Canadian Virtual War Memorial – http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/2067493?Nora%20Hendry%20Peters
The Maple Leaf Project – http://www.mapleleaflegacy.ca/search/Details.php?id=136968
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2067493/PETERS,%20NORA%20HENDRY