#100DaysofVimy – March 29th, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today: 

Nursing Sister Clare Gass

Nursing Sister Clare Gass’ wartime experiences have been preserved and published in “The War Diary of Clare Gass, 1915-1918” by Susan Mann. The diary contains an early version of “In Flanders Fields”, recorded by Clare on 30 Ocober 1915.
Credit: Parks Canada, 2016.

Clare Gass was born in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia on March 12th, 1887. In May of 1915 she went overseas with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, serving at No. 3 Canadian General Hospital (McGill). While serving, Clare defied military orders by keeping numerous diaries and taking photographs. Ironically, this defiance helped preserve key elements of Canada’s most well-known poem, “In Flanders Fields”. It is believed that John McRae shared his poem with Clare, asking for her opinion, and it is alleged she may have even edited some of it for McCrae. Clare’s diary contains an entry on 30 October 1915, with an early version of “In Flanders Fields”. The poem we recite today did not appear in the Punch magazine until six weeks later, on 8 December 1915.

Clare remained in Europe well into 1919, assisting the wounded in returning home. Impressively, Clare was just one of five Gass siblings to serve in the First World War:
Nursing Sister Clare Gass (survived)
Corporal Gerald Gass 2479 (survived)
Lance Corporal Cyril Gass 67097 (survived)
Lance Corporal Blanchard Gass 69064 (KIA – Vimy Ridge)
Private Athelstan Gass 901864 (survived)