Gloria Morrisette née Clemantine Godkin (1908–2013) emigrated to Canada from Tacoma with her parents and siblings in 1915. They settled on Hornby Island and later moved to Shusharte, a small settlement at the northern tip of Vancouver Island. There, she met her husband, a fisheries patrol officer. They married in 1928 and their first home was a float house at Owen Bay on Sonora Island. Four years later they moved to Mansons Landing on Cortes Island, and later to Maple Ridge. For many years Gloria was a news correspondent for the Maple Ridge Gazette and the Vancouver Sun. (source The Kenora Great War Project, 2013, Gloria Morrisette’s obituary).
Gloria Morrisette’s husband, E. Murray Morrisette, was a First World War (WWI) veteran. You can find more information about E. Murray Morrisette in this Canadian Engineers–Murray Morrisette article published on The Kenora Great War Project website.
The Cortes Island Museum & Archives library has the Morrisette family history binder. You can find it in the family history section.
The text written by Gloria Morrisette was slightly modified for the purpose of this Museum blog, and some external links were added for the benefit of the contemporary reader. The full text is available in the Cortes Museum, in the Morrisette Family History binder.
First World War Veteran, E. Murray Morrisette
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My late husband, E. Murray Morrisette, was then (in 1918, when the Spanish Flu started) serving in the Canadian army. He had been a student in Magee High School in Vancouver B.C. in 1915 when he was fifteen years old. The First World War was on everyone’s mind.
Murray was large for his age and he found every time he met an elderly woman they would ask “Why aren’t you overseas fighting for your country?” After it happened a few times the pressure was too much for him, so he went to a recruiting office and joined the Canadian army.
When Murray’s Father, William Morrisette, realized what his son had done, he went to the recruiting officer and explained that Murray was only fifteen years old. So, he was sent back to school to finish his education.
However, the pressure was still on as to why he wasn’t overseas fighting. So, on January 19, 1917, he enlisted again by joining The Royal Canadian Engineers when he was sixteen years old.
After a period of training, he took a troop train, and in a few days, he reached Val Cartier, Quebec. From there he boarded a steamship, the Justicia. He then travelled across the Atlantic Ocean as a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to England. He received a soldier’s pay of $1.10 a day. In the fall, Murray and other members of his troop received further training in different parts of England. Murray and other members sailed for France on May 2, 1918. On arrival, they were marched about twenty-five miles to where they would serve as reinforcements for the First Tramway Company. Their work was to keep little trains running up to the front lines, just behind the trenches.
DEADLY ILLNESS STRIKES THE ARMY
The trains carried supplies, ammunition to the front and wounded and dead soldiers back. As soldiers worked the tracks, large shrapnel shells fell around them. To add to their worries, many were coming down with influenza, which soon became deadly. The flu killed so many people, not only in the army but around the world.
It has been written that the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919 killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history.
More people died of influenza in a single year than in four years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351.
“Spanish Flu” or “La Grippe,” the influenza of 1918-1919, was considered a global disaster.
Murray was one of the many people who came down with the flu. Since he was very ill, he was put in a hospital; with good care, he recovered. Soon he was back maintaining the railway tracks.
Murray watched as many of his friends became ill and many passed away.
They were given medication, but in many cases, to no avail.
Mustard gas had been spread over the battleground. It was a problem for the soldiers since it burned on contact. That was one of many unpleasant things that men had to endure when at war.
MURRAY IS WOUNDED AND RETURNS HOME
On August 20, 1918, Murray suffered severe wounds to his neck and right hip. His wounds were bandaged up in a field hospital, a large tent, and he was sent on to a military hospital in Basingstoke, southwest of London, England.
Murray remained there in the hospital until he was well enough to travel back to his home in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in February 1919. He went to his parents’ home to recuperate from his wounds. It was several years before he really got his strength back.
Later he went up the B.C. Coast around the north end of Vancouver Island where Spanish Influenza was still making people ill.
The war ended on November 11, 1918. The shooting had stopped but many people were still suffering and dying from having influenza. There were very few medical doctors in remote, outlying parts of British Columbia. People, with no medical help available, used whatever they felt would give relief, or perhaps save them, such as quinine, a bitter, crystalline powder that seemed to help clear infected lungs. Mustard plasters and liniment applied to the skin of the chest were also used. (see also The Open-Air Treatment of PANDEMIC INFLUENZA from the American Journal for Public Health)
In order to clear and disinfect the upper air passages, a mild solution of saltwater was prepared for use as a gargle and rinsing out of the nasopharynx. That was done by sniffing the solution up the nose and letting it out the mouth. People were advised to drink plenty of warm water, and take a laxative when needed, and to avoid being chilled. It all helped in fighting off the disease, but it wasn’t a cure-all, and despite every effort, people were still dying of the flu. …
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