Cemetery tour shares stories from First World War

Old Cemeteries Society will lead a tour of the historic St. Luke’s Churchyard cemetery Sunday afternoon

The grave of First World War nurses Ellanore Parker and Murney Pugh will be one of those visited during Sunday’s tour.

The Old Cemeteries Society is offering history buffs a chance to step back a century in time.

Society members will lead a tour of the historic St. Luke’s Churchyard cemetery Sunday afternoon. The tour, which costs $5 and begins at 2 p.m. at the cemetery located at 3821 Cedar Hill Cross Rd., will focus on veterans of the First World War.

“They will talk about the lives of people that fought in World War One. With the 100th anniversary of the war, they’re featuring that and the people that are buried in St. Luke’s cemetery,” said Barb Prescott, a volunteer with St. Luke’s.

The tour will be led by society members John Azar, Claudia Berry, Pam Gaudio, Yvonne Van Ruskenveld and Sylvia Van Kirk. The society members will take a look at the lives of First World War veterans Ernest Charles Ashton, Herbert Tom Goodland, Ainger Roger Berry, Henry Darley, Garnet Gibson, George Chalmers Johnston, John Stanley Priest, Hugh William Hughes, James Stewart Simpson and nurses Laura Holland, Ellanore June Parker and Murney May Pugh.

Parker and Pugh were members of the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the First World War and were dubbed “The Heavenly Twins.”

“They both received the British General Service Medal, the Victory Medal and the Allied Armies Medal for their contributions to the war effort. Murney also held the Mons Star, a memento of the fact that she was in France with the first 15 nurses called to the front,” according to Pam Gaudio with the Old Cemeteries Society.

Both women went to France early in 1915 with the Canadian General Hospital staff at Le Tresport and then worked at the newly constructed hospital at Joinville-sur-Marne.

“It was here that they treated the first mustard gas casualties from Vimy Ridge and the Somme. The medical staff also suffered from the effects of the gas poisoning as soldiers’ clothing and skin were saturated with phosgene and chlorine,” said Gaudio.

“Pugh suffered with a burned throat but Parker’s trouble was much worse.  Parker had a susceptible chest and suffered with respiratory problems.  At the end of the war Pugh and Parker, who was quite ill, returned to Canada on a hospital ship.”

The pair moved to Los Angeles following the war before settling down in a home on Victoria’s Eastdowne Road.

Parker died at age 86. Pugh outlived her by nine years and died in 1974.

“Friends forever, they are buried beside each other in St. Luke’s Churchyard,” said Gaudio.

There’s another chance to brush up on local history during a community cleanup scheduled for the St. Luke’s Churchyard cemetery Aug. 15 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Those interested in helping with the cleanup are asked to bring gloves, pruners, clippers, hoes and scrapers. Water is available for cleaning monumental markers, but volunteers are asked to bring their own bucket and scrub brush. Refreshments will be provided.

See stlukesvictoria.ca or call 250-477-6741 for more information.


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