Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Coquitlam Military Hospital

        For forty days in the fall of 1918, Port Coquitlam hosted a hastily built military hospital on the Agricultural “Aggie” Park grounds, the army erected a tent city, and used the existing buildings in an attempt to halt the spread of  Spanish Influenza, by quarantining suspected cases there.  Sadly thirty-four people lost their lives here while the hospital was in existence. 

       This possibly explains why the commemorative cenotaph was at one time located in this park, even though none of the dead that died in this event are commemorated upon it, nor upon the local Honour Rolls. Although I am sure that many of the people who paid into the fund to create the cenotaph knew the story.
ca. 1949-1954. Frank Goodship fonds  IHP9267-0761

       The cenotaph was located here from 1923 until 1968 when for some unknown reason it was moved to its present location beside City hall.
Note that the date on this photograph does not agree
with the reported year of the cenotaph being erected 1923.

 Cenotaph beng rebuilt at City Hall

Chronology of Events
October 1   First report of flu on troop train.

2   Troop train of the Siberian Expeditionary Force, (S.E.F.; more detailed history) placed under quarantine in the C.P.R. yards.  Temporary hospital being built.

3   Coquitlam Military Hospital opens for business

7   Quarantine now also in effect in New Westminster.

10   First to die was, George Augustus Johns, Canadian Army Service Corps,(C.A.S.C.) Siberian Expeditionary Force,(S.E.F.)
                 1891 — October 10,1918    514729
12   William Bradley, C.A.S.C., S.E.F.
                  1891 — October 12, 1918   2688553

The Coquitlam Times:

Spanish Influenza 

        Although it was true when Dr. Sutherland reported to the City Council on Wednesday night that there had been no fatalities among the military patients suffering from the prevailing epidemic called Spanish influenza, unhappily it is no longer so. Private Johns succumbed to the disease on Thursday and was interred in Westminster.

       There seems to be a lot of puerile secrecy or a perverted conspiracy of silence in regard to the epidemic that can serve no good purpose. It is well that the public should at all times know the true state of affairs in regard to such matters.

There are at present about 160 cases in camp, but the hospital authorities’ state that they are doing reasonably well.

       In respect to the civilian population of the city, Dr. Sutherland in an interview with a Times representative, authorizes the following for publication:
From reports received from various sources Spanish Ia grippe is nothing more than a severe form of the old Russian Ia grippe. Its rapid spread and severity may be due to the ill-nourished condition of the people in the European states and to the fact of the people congregating more at the present time. No chances of infection should be taken. Avoid travelling in closely confined carriages. All living rooms should be clean and well ventilated. Plenty of open air exercise with scrupulous care of mouth and throat are necessary. The people of Coquitlam, living in sanitary houses and surrounded by large open areas, are exceptionally favorably situated.

Take no chances of infection and keep on with your work. 

Should the medical health officer here deem fit he can wire to the Provincial Board of Health requesting it to pass an Order-in-Council making the regulations applicable to Port Coquitlam That would mean power to close all public places of assembly, including schools, churches, classes, theatres, poolrooms, auction sales, trades union and society meetings, social clubs or dances. So far this has not been necessary.

Agricultural Hall Matters

       The agreement verbally negotiated with the military authorities in regard to the taking over of the Agricultural hall and grounds by the military officials came under review, over the eviction of Charles Smith from house and home. Mr. Smith had to get a house at four hours notice, and the question who was to pay the rent, which did not enter into the conference with the military men, was discussed.
      The city had agreed to give the hall and grounds for the hospital camp at 75 a month. The consensus of opinion was that he military should pay Mr. Smith’s rent. As regards Mr. Smith’s duties as janitor of the hall, it is uncertain when he will resume them, owing to the uncertainty of the soldiers’ stay in the city.
It was finally resolved to bill the military authorities with Mr. Smith’s rent and accessories.

City Health Board and Military Doctors Confer on Necessary Precautions to Prevent Spread.
On Saturday night the City Council, as a board of health, and Dr. Sutherland, city medical officer, met Col. Doherty and Major Morton and other military officers, and considered the health situation of the city as effected by the establishment of a military hospital within its confines.

         The commandeering of the Agricultural hall and grounds had been effected by the military men during the day. The subjects discussed were among others the renting of the grounds, the care of the invalids, quarantine of the uninfected soldiery, the sanitary arrangements and supply of water of the temporary hospital. The military medical men expressed the opinion that it was an indoor disease and unlikely to be contacted out of doors even at the distance of five feet. It was agreed that a strict quarantine should be enforced upon the soldiers, and the side walk next the fence of the Agricultural grounds should be closed and it was left to the military authorities to see this order carried into execution. No definite information is available at present as to how long the hospital will be stationed here.

13    Charles Bernard Kirk, 2nd Depot Battalion
                1882 — October 13, 1918      2140913
Harold Dickens McCann, driver 85th Battery, S.E.F.
                    1897 — October 13, 1918      334765
John Alexander Wood 85th Battery, S.E.F.
                           1890? — October 15, 1918     3034807
14   Brooks Wilson 69th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery
                           1898 — October 14, 1918      340590

15   Bruno Costa 11th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment
                            1886 — October 15, 1918      2024550
Thomas Richard Davies, A/Corp.11th Engineer Depot
                                 1871 — October 15, 1918      2735024 / 2735025

16   Albert Edward Candler 2nd Depot Battalion, British Columbia Regiment,(B.C.R.)     1892 — October 16, 1918        2138793
Alvin J Forler, gunner 85th Battery, S.E.F.
                      1896 — October 16, 1918      3132784

18   William Edward Finn 11th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment
                       1895 — October 18, 1918    2024356
James Robert McBain, L./Corp 11th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment,(C.G.R.)      1888 — October 18, 1918    2021272
Frederick Edward MacMillan, 172nd Battalion, British Columbia Regiment
                      1890 — October 18, 1918     688183
George Frederick Kennedy R.N.W.M.P., S.E.F.
                 1884 — October 18, 1918     2772525   George Kennedy was attached to the S.E.F. as a policeman, read more of his story

19   Elie Felix Joyal 11th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment,(C.G.R.)
                   1887 — October 19, 1918   2140278

 The Coquitlam Times:
The number of patient’s under treatment in the military hospital here 141 and they are progressing favorably. Up to date there have been eleven deaths among the soldiers, one having occurred yesterday.

20   Edward Graham Boaden, 11th Casualty Unit, District Depot
                   1891 — October 20 1918    430730
Chris Johnson 1886 — October 20, 1918   he is buried at Mountain View cemetery, Vancouver, B.C.  Johnson was a Group One defaulter, who was a prisoner brought down from Prince Rupert; it appears that he had not signed his attestation papers; so in turn he is not commemorated at all.

21   Walter Edmond Eglington, 1st Depot Battalion
               1879 — October 21, 1918     2015444
   18 more soldiers to the Coquitlam hospital.

22    Joseph Evans, formerly 172nd Battalion, prior to his death he was a Railway Service Guard, 11th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment, (C.G.R.)
         1862 — October 22, 1918    667 / 687244
Joel Frederick Haas, Army Medical Corps Training Depot,(A.M.C.T.D.)
            1897 — October 22, 1918    2139710
Roderick McKenzie, 11th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment,(C.G.R.)
                  1881 — October 22, 1918    2015349
Ernest William Reukauf   1888  — October 22, 1918
       Ernest was also a Group One defaulter, who lived at Prince Rupert, and was probably also a prisoner; also misspelt as Ernest William Renkauf
23   William Delsell, Ammunition Column, S.E.F.
                  1888 — October 23, 1918    334776
 Edward Blair Hughes, 1st Depot Battalion
                   1896 — October 23, 1918    2015426
George MacKay , 11th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment
                       1888 — October 23, 1918     2023958
25    Nick Tom, 11th Battalion, Canadian Garrison Regiment, (C.G.R.)
                        1896 — October 25, 1918    2015258

26    William Dale 1887 — October 26, 1918 buried at Mountain View cemetery, Vancouver, B.C.  William was also a prisoner and a draft defaulter from Atlin.
Allen Dale Smith, Sgt.  259th battalion
        1887  —  October 26, 1918    66287   Witness for nearly all of the death certificates was: Dr. Major Walter Stewart Baird  and the Brigade-Major arranged a bulk rate for all of the funerals with Murchie & Sons to cost $30 each.
Marjorie Beatrice Moberly, Canadian Army Medical Corps,(C.A.M.C.)
                      1895 — October 26, 1918
       The death occurred at the Coquitlam Military Hospital on Saturday of Nursing Sister Marjorie Beatrice Moberly, aged 23. She had applied for overseas' service eighteen months ago, but was not called on until the influenza outbreak, when she immediately went to Coquitlam. After a few days she contracted the disease. She was the first military nurse to die from the epidemic. She was the daughter of Major Moberly of the Board of Pension Commissioners. Marjorie was a recent graduate of the Royal Jubilee Hospital at Vernon, B.C.; she was given a military funeral. 

      Sadly she is not listed with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission nor does she have a military headstone although she is buried in a row of soldiers in a military section of the  Mountain View cemetery, Vancouver, B.C.

   A great injustice appears to have been done by not recognizing her ultimate sacrifice in the cause of helping the soldiers to regain their health.

Her obituary was briefly mentioned in an article in the Canadian Nurse 1918 issue
Some good coverage of the story at this blog
    And and ongoing researchers discussion at the C.E.F. Researchers forum
27   Roy Harris Wilson, sapper 11th Engineer Depot
                       1888 — October 27, 1918     2022597

28  John Maxel Bannon, 259th Battalion, S.E.F.
                     1890 — October 28, 1918     3236193

30   Edward Thomas Fry 259th Battalion, S.E.F.
                1890 — October 30, 1918      3033916
Summary:  845 Flu cases on the Mainland, 36 deaths so far.
Coquitlam Military Hospital had 396 flu cases; 83 others with pneumonia;  and 31(32) deaths.

4   Party of N.C.O.’s and  twelve men to  Port Coquitlam to repair drains and sewer in connection with the vacant building the Engineers had converted into a  Military hospital.

8   Toni Rosi  /  Antonio Rose, Canadian Army Medical Corps
                   1897 — November 8, 1918      2140657
404 soldiers and officers released from the Coquitlam quarantine, they retire to Vancouver to live under canvas at the Cambie Street camp.

11  Armistice signed, the war is over for some.

13  Tennison Hennis Cornwall, sapper Canadian Engineers
                         1891 — November 13, 1918    2024882
   Coquitlam Military Hospital was closed, the remaining patients were moved to the Fairmont section, of the Vancouver Military Hospital,( Shaughnessy Hospital ) 

15   Victoria:  The 15th Field Ambulance, arrived back in Victoria from the Coquitlam Military Hospital.
    And the reports then close the short chapter of the Coquitlam Military Hospital by mentioning that the tents were returned from Coquitlam in bad condition, and that they need more tent menders.
 Aggie Hall in 1914    ( Port Coquitlam Museum )
“Aggie Hall” was officially opened on September 12th, 1912. Built by the local Agricultural Society and was a well-used community building for many years. Sadly under rather strange circumstances the local parliamentarians decided secretly to have the building torn down, which was done at night on the 13th of April 1976. 
  And we lost a historical well-loved building that had one more story to tell.
   undated, but appears to be 1970’s  ( Port Coquitlam Museum )
What the area looks like today on Google StreetView ( Aug 2011 ) where “Aggie” hall once stood.
Chester Street on the above map, was also previously known as
      Cypress Street on a 1937 plan.  ( 1977 plan )

 This appears to be taken during the war; men in uniforms on the right.
Ca.1914-1918.   Photo: Coquitlam Archives
85th Battalion - Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Forces West, 1918
A15655 photographer: Stuart Thomson. this photo is also found in the New Westminster Archives as: IHP1907  their description is more telling:
Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Forces in training in Queen's Park, New Westminster, B.C. The fisheries building (later Vagabond Playhouse/Bernie Legge Theatre) can be seen in the background. The Canadian Siberian Expeditionary troops were sent to secure logistics in post revolution/pre Communist Russia during WW1 to ensure safe trans-shipment of stockpiled supplies in Russian ports via the trans-Siberian rail road.
Note:  The railways played a large role in moving people and supplies to the Coast so that the expeditions could continue; since the Armistice had just been signed there was no need to send war supplies back east, so a huge backlog occurred in the C.P.R. yards in Port Coquitlam,  which was not cleared up until late in 1919.

More detailed references and study of this part of our history:
Epidemic and Public Health: Influenza in Vancouver, 1918-1919
Margaret W. Andrews

Spanish Influenza in the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, 1918-1919
Buchanan, Sarah

The horror at home: The Canadian military and the 'great' influenza pandemic of 1918.  Humphries, Mark Osborne (2005).
Numerous nice images of the Siberian Expeditionary Force can be viewed  at the Vancouver Archives  using the search terms : Siberia  and Siberian

    The Spanish influenza did not take long to reach Essondale Hospital, only a short delay of eight days before it claimed its first victim there.

Stuartson Upjohn  1868 — October 18, 1918 
Mike Barovich       1878  — October 27, 1918 
Joseph Young           1871  — October 31, 1918 
Hobson Edwards        1898  — November 2, 1918
Carlo Cazioli                1890 — November 6, 1918
Richard Gilbert               1861 — November 6, 1918  
John William Dickenson   1891   — November 8, 1918 
George Shand                    1895  — November 9, 1918 
William Edmund Maturin  1880   — November 10, 1918 

There were 54 deaths at Essondale in 1918; 23 of which occurred from October to December, nine of those 23 died of influenza and are listed above.

   Thirty-one more souls to add to my ongoing Lest WE Forget blog, about those who served their country in WWI, locally.

          I knew some of this story, but always assumed that the hospital was based at Essondale somewhere.  So from what others have researched before me, and myself, Port Coquitlam has the dubious distinction of being where the Spanish  Influenza started to take its toll in the Lower Mainland, all because of the Army moving its soldiers across the country to fight a war in Russia.

          It is strongly believed that the Flu actually did NOT come here via Canadian soldiers coming back home from Europe, But from American’s who signed up to fight in the Siberian Expeditionary Force, and they in turn spread it along the many routes that were taken, in the Canadian Army bureaucrats quest to get over to Siberia in a hurry; and their not fully understanding the implications of not forcefully exerting a proper quarantine on their soldiers.

The flu killed quickly usually in 5-10 days, it reached its height in October-November and then subsided for a while then peaked again in January 1919.

           There should be a memorial of some type to remember what happened
    at this park in the Winter of 1918. 

Roughly 50,000 people in Canada died from influenza; and thirty-four souls in a Port Coquitlam park, are part of that number. 

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