The O’Shea Family Early Years

Although we have touched on the life of the O’Sheas in the Joe and Bridgetta stories it would be remiss for me to not write more about their life in Norquay, Saskatchewan.

The O’Shea’s stayed in Norquay till 1927 when they moved to Fife Lake and continued to live there until 1933.

Fife Lake in the 1930’s

Fife Lake was memorable for my husband because it was there that he and Eddie Belanger set fire to the relief hay. They would have been about four years old and were playing with matches. Not a good thing.

Some of the Dufour family had originally settled in Fife Lake but later moved to Norquay, Saskatchewan. Once, when they came back to the dusty, windy town of Fife Lake for a visit, they told the Doctor that he should go back up north to “God’s Country”.  I guess it didn’t take long to convince them to move again.

The brick building is still standing today

We It was not long after their return to Norquay in 1933 that they built a new brick building to encompass a drug store on the main level and living quarters for the family upstairs. Bridgetta managed the drug store and hired pharmacists.

 The Town of Norquay clerk, Dianne, sent me this write up from the Norquay history book.

              In the doctor’s window at that time:

                               “Dr. J.P. O’Shea

                            Physician and Surgeon

                                         Phone 45

                         Special Work in Maternity

                            And Children’s Diseases

                             Norquay, Saskatchewan”

Dr. O’Shea arrived in Norquay in 1921 and married the following year.  in 1927 he left Norquay to reside and practice in southwest Saskatchewan.  Dr. O’Shea returned in 1933 and built the brick drugstore with a residence above.  In 1947 Dr. O’Shea left Norquay and retired.


Dr. Joe O’Shea was well respected in the community as was the case for many small town doctors. He was one of the first doctors to buy a snow plane which enabled him to attend to patients in the wintertime when the roads were impassable for a car or truck.

Dr. Joe O’Shea looking over his new Snow Plane

Doc (Merlin) remembers how he loved to go with his Dad on emergency trips. When we would travel from Madge Lake to Norquay we passed the Key Reserve (now called the Key First Nation) and Doc said he had gone with his Dad many times to do inoculation of the children on the Reserve. The life of a prairie doctor was not an easy one when it came to collecting his fees. I’m sure many times he was paid with chickens or beef instead of money. When they planned to retire there was a lot “on the books” and by 1949 the accounts were sent to a collection agency. We have many letters “explaining” why an account was incorrect or unable to be paid at any time soon. One of many letters in response to an attempt to be reimbursed for services is priceless.

“I don’t owe no money Dr. O’Shea. Have no kid of October 2/42. Here’s other (name) that had children around that date. Send out the kid and I’ll send the money at once.”

The amount of accounts to be collected would certainly have bought a new car. However most of it was never collected. I’m sure that was a common occurrence in those days of being a prairie doctor.


Doc (Merlin) was a young lad when he was sent off to boarding school in Yorkton. He was so homesick for not only his family and friends but especially his dog: we have many letters from him pleading to his Mom and Dad to let him come home.


Beautiful blue waters of Crystal Lake

The O’Sheas built a cottage at Crystal Lake just a few steps from the water at the north end of the lake on the west side.

Doc’s summer holidays away from school in Yorkton were great fun. He and his Mom stayed out at Crystal Lake all summer long and his Dad would come out on the weekend. His friends Rudy Sterzer, Norman Robinson and Bob Challoner did everything young boys do at the lake.

Crystal Lake Golf Course

And the boys had some wonderful adventures. Once they even drove the Doctor’s Model T Ford all the way around the lake – in the water!!! They had breath-holding competitions, to see who could stay underwater the longest under a raft they had constructed. This would cause a great uproar from the mothers watching from the shore.

Rudy’s Mother, Ellie, was a German swimmer who participated in the Olympics in 1936 in Berlin. She and others would swim in Hitler’s private pool. Rudy’s Dad Matt, was a Canadian selling farm machinery in Germany when they met and were married. His marriage to Ellie meant the RCMP made many a visit to the Sterzer home! Interestingly, Rudy became a member of the RCMP and retired from the force to have the first RCMP Dog Training Academy where he trained German Shepherd!

Matt and Ellie owned the nine hole golf course at Crystal Lake. Although the boys certainly had the opportunity to golf (when the course was not busy) I think Doc would rather be on the lake. Ellie was a busy woman giving golf lessons for the kids at the lake and working in the golf shop.

Doc later attended Campion College in Regina and that was, in his opinion, worse than going to school in Yorkton where he’d been the only English-speaking kid in a school populated by Eastern Europeans. Or so the story went.

It was in the winter of 1947-1948 in Chilliwack with his Mom and Dad that Doc got interested in flying airplanes and started lessons at the flying club. The O’Sheas could have bought a section of land that is now Langley for the princely sum of $9,000.00 but a winter punctuated by violent snow storms had the family packing up and heading back to Saskatchewan, this time back to family and Wilcox. Needless to say, that $9,000 investment would have turned out very well for them, if they had made the purchase!

Life was always an adventure for the O’Sheas. Trips to family at Wilcox with visits with Father Athol Murray. And many trips to the USA. (Bridgetta had grown up in the USA) to visit friends and an opportunity for the doctor to have a break.

The Doc loved to tell this story: Doc said his Mother loved hats and wore them often. Bridgetta loved crocheting and embroidery and of course could only find the exact crochet cotton she loved to use in the USA. During WWII there was no bringing any goods back from the USA. On one trip from the USA she bought three balls of crochet cotton to “sneak” back into Canada. She put the three balls on her head and covered up all the balls with her hat. When they arrived at Customs the agent asked them all to get out of the car. Her large hat caught the doorway of the car and the three balls came rolling out onto the pavement. The customs office laughed and laughed and said, “just pick up the cotton balls and be on your way”.

These are some of the O’Shea stories I wanted to share with you. Doc’s Mom and Dad were gone when I met him. And Doc has now been gone since 1987. Luckily I saved pictures, newspaper clippings and remembered stories Doc told me, otherwise I would not be able to write this post.


Dr. Joseph Patrick O’Shea Part Two

Medical Care WW1 and Fellow Canadians who served in WW1 in France

Medical Care WWI  

This diagram from Canadian history shows the locations and types of aid posts and dressing stations that supported the 1st Canadian Division during the opening of the Second Battle of Ypres. There are six regimental aid posts behind the front line, two Advanced and two Main Dressing Stations.

Aid and Bearer Relay Posts

The casualty is likely to have received first medical attention at aid posts situated in or close behind the front-line position. Units in the trenches provided such posts and generally had a Medical Officer, orderlies and men trained as stretcher bearers who would provide this support. The Field Ambulance (see below) would provide relays of stretcher bearers and men skilled in first aid, at a series of “bearer posts” along the route of evacuation from the trenches. All involved were well within the zone where they could be under fire.

Field Ambulance

This was a mobile medical unit, not a vehicle. Each British division had three such units, as well as a specialist medical sanitary unit. The Field Ambulances provided the bearer posts but also established Main and Advanced (that is, forward) Dressing Stations where a casualty could receive further treatment and be got into a condition where he could be evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station. Men who were ill or injured would also be sent to the Dressing Stations and in many cases returned to their unit after first aid or some primary care.

This was a mobile medical unit, not a vehicle. Each British division had three such units, as well as a specialist medical sanitary unit. The Field Ambulances provided the bearer posts but also established Main and Advanced (that is, forward) Dressing Stations where a casualty could receive further treatment and be got into a condition where he could be evacuated to a Casualty Clearing Station. Men who were ill or injured would also be sent to the Dressing Stations and in many cases returned to their unit after first aid or some primary care.

Dressing Station

An Australian Medical Officer attends a wounded man at an Advanced Dressing Station during the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. Imperial War Museum copyright image E(AUS)714.

There was no hard and fast rule regarding the location of a Dressing Station: existing buildings and underground dug-outs and bunkers were most common, simply because they afforded some protection from enemy shell fire and aerial attack. The Dressing Stations were generally manned by the Field Ambulances of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Once treated at a Dressing Station, casualties would be moved rearward several miles to the Casualty Clearing Station. This might be on foot; or on a horse drawn wagon or motor ambulance or lorry; or in some cases by light railway. It is helpful to consult the war diary of the Assistant Director of Medical Services of the Division relevant to the man’s unit, for they usually have very detailed reports on the locations of the bearer and dressing stations at the time that the man was being evacuated.

A Field Ambulance wagon passing over muddy ground near Ovillers, Somme, in September 1916. Imperial War Museum copyright image Q1098. This may be on its way from a Dressing Station to a Casualty Clearing Station. Imagine what wounded men suffered when moving over such ground on this type of transport.

Casualty Clearing StationThe CCS was the first large, well-equipped and static medical facility that the wounded man would visit. Its role was to retain all serious cases that were unfit for further travel; to treat and return slight cases to their unit; and evacuate all others to Base Hospitals. It was often a tented camp, although when possible the accommodation would be in huts. CCS’s were often grouped into clusters of two or three in a small area, usually a few miles behind the lines and on a railway line. A typical CCS could hold 1,000 casualties at any time, and each would admit 15-300 cases, in rotation. At peak times of battle, even the CCS’s were overflowing. Serious operations such as limb amputations were carried out here. Some CCS’s were specialist unit, for nervous disorders, skin diseases, infectious diseases, certain types of wounds, etc. CCS’s did not move location very often, and the transport infrastructure of railways usually dictated their location. Most evacuated casualties came away from the CCS by rail, although motor ambulances and canal barges also carried casualties to Base Hospitals, or directly to a port of embarkation if the man had been identified as a “Blighty” case. (In 1916, 734,000 wounded men were evacuated from CCS’s by train and another 17,000 by barge, on the Western Front alone. There were 4 ambulance trains in 1914 and 28 by July 1916). The serious nature of many wounds defied the medical facilities and skills of a CCS, and many CCS positions are today marked by large military cemeteries. CCS’s also catered for sick men. Generally, considering the conditions, the troops were kept in good health. Great care was taken in reporting sickness and infection, and early preventive measures were taken. The largest percentage of sick men were venereal disease cases at 18.1 per 1000 casualties; trench foot was next with 12.7. Until mid-1915, the CCS was known as a Clearing Hospital. Generally, there was one provided for each Division. From the CCS, the casualty would be evacuated to a Base Hospital.

Ambulance Trains and Barges

Casualties would normally be moved from the CCS to a Base Hospital, by specially-fitted ambulance train or in some circumstances by barge along a canal.

Base Hospital

Once admitted to a Base Hospital, the soldier stood a reasonable chance of survival. More than half were evacuated from a General or Stationary Hospital for further treatment or convalescence in the United Kingdom. The Stationary Hospitals, two per Division, could hold 400 casualties each. The General Hospital could hold 1040 patients. They were located near the army’s principal bases at Boulogne, Le Havre, Rouen, Le Touquet and Etaples. The establishment of a General Hospital included 32 Medical Officers of the RAMC, 3 Chaplains, 73 female Nurses and 206 RAMC troops acting as orderlies, etc. The hospitals were enlarged in 1917, to as many as 2,500 

A ward of the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station

at Steenwerke, November 1917. Imperial War Museum 

copyright image E(AUS)4293.beds.

Home hospital

Existing military hospitals were expanded; many civilian hospitals were turned over in full or part to military use; many auxiliary units opened in large houses or public buildings; and many private hospitals also operated.

Military hospitals established at hutted army camps

Land either on existing army bases or acquired nearby for the purpose was converted into major hospitals.

Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance, auxiliary and private hospitals

Large numbers of public and private buildings (often large houses) were turned over for use as small hospitals, most of which operated as annexes to nearby larger hospitals. These are not listed below.

Specialist hospitals

Some hospitals were developed as, or became, specialist units. Categories of specialism included mental hospitals, units for limbless men, neurological units, orthopaedic units, cardiac units, typhoid units and venereal disease.

Convalescent hospitals

These establishments did not have the usual civilian meaning of convalescence; they were formed from March 1915 onward to keep recovering soldiers under military control. See also the Command Depots

Auxiliary hospitals in the UK during the First World War

At the outbreak of the First World War, the British Red Cross and the Order of St John of Jerusalem combined to form the Joint War Committee. They pooled their resources under the protection of the red cross emblem. As the Red Cross had secured buildings, equipment and staff, the organization was able to set up temporary hospitals as soon as wounded men began to arrive from abroad.

The buildings varied widely, ranging from town halls and schools to large and small privatehouses, both in the country and in cities. The most suitable ones were established as auxiliary hospitals. Auxiliary hospitals were attached to central Military Hospitals, which looked after patients who remained under military control. There were over 3,000 auxiliary hospitals administered by Red Cross county directors.

In many cases, women in the local neighborhood volunteered on a part-time basis. Thehospitals often needed to supplement voluntary work with paid roles, such as cooks. Local medics also volunteered, despite the extra strain that the medical profession was already under at that time. The patients at these hospitals were generally less seriously wounded than at other hospitals and they needed to convalesce. The servicemen preferred the auxiliary hospitals to military hospitals because they were not so strict, they were less crowded and the surroundings were more homely.

Fellow Canadians who served in WW1 in France

Georges Phileas Vanier

Georges Phileas Vanier

Vanier was with the Canadian Corps when, following the failure of the German offensive in the spring of 1918, the Allies took the initiative again and against all expectations won a brilliant victory starting with the first attack east of Amiens on August 8. The succeeding campaign inspired a number of heroic acts leading to the German defeat, but also resulting in crushing losses to all the armies there. Vanier’s battalion, for example, was decimated during the capture of Chérisy at the end of August and during the ensuing counterattacks. Vanier himself, replacing Lieutenant Colonel Dubuc who had been wounded on the first day, was put out of action the following day, and his right leg was later amputated.

Enlisting as an officer in 1914, Georges Philéas Vanier joined the ranks of the 22nd Battalion in 1915. Gradually rising through the ranks, he earned decorations for bravery along the way and even briefly commanded the battalion. After the war, Vanier had a brilliant military and diplomatic career culminating no doubt in his appointment in 1959 as Governor General. The second Canadian and first French Canadian to hold this office, he remained Governor General until his death in 1967.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae 

John McCrae

Born in Guelph, Ontario, on November 30, 1872, John McCrae was the second son of Lieutenant-Colonel David McCrae and Janet Simpson Eckford McCrae. He had a sister, Geills, and a brother, Tom. The family were Scottish Presbyterians and John McCrae was a man of high principles and strong spiritual values. He has been described as warm and sensitive with a remarkable compassion for both people and animals.

John McCrae began writing poetry while a student at the Guelph Collegiate Institute. As a young boy, he was also interested in the military. He joined the Highfield Cadet Corps at 14 and at 17 enlisted in the Militia field battery commanded by his father. While training as a doctor, he was also perfecting his skills as a poet. At university, he had 16 poems and several short stories published in a variety of magazines, including Saturday Night.

He also continued his connection with the military, becoming a gunner with the Number 2 Battery in Guelph in 1890, Quarter-Master Sergeant in 1891, Second Lieutenant in 1893 and Lieutenant in 1896. At university, he was a member of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada of which he became company captain.

In 1898, John McCrae received a Bachelor of Medicine degree and the gold medal from the University of Toronto medical school. He worked as resident house officer at Toronto General Hospital from 1898 to 1899. In 1899, he went to Baltimore and interned at the Johns Hopkins Hospital where his brother Thomas had worked as assistant resident since 1895. 

Although McCrae worked hard at his university teaching and at his increasingly busy practice, the advantage of working in a university was that he could take time off. He holidayed at various times in England, France and Europe . . . At times he worked his passage to Europe as ship’s surgeon; he enjoyed ships and the sea. These were the compensations of a bachelor’s life. (Prescott, In Flanders Fields: the Story of John McCrae, p. 70)

On August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. Within three weeks, 45,000 Canadians had rushed to join up. John McCrae was among them. He was appointed brigade-surgeon to the First Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery with the rank of Major and second-in-command. In April 1915, John McCrae was in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, in the area traditionally called Flanders. Some of the heaviest fighting of the First World War took place there during that was known as the Second Battle of Ypres.

On April 17th, 1915 John McCrae earned the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. On June 1st, 1915 McCrae left the battlefront and transferred to Number 3 General Hospital at Boulogne where he treated wounded soldiers from the battles of Somme, Vimy Ridge, Arras, and Passchendaele. The hospital was housed in huge tents at Dannes-Cammiers until cold wet weather forced a move to the site of the ruins of the Jesuit College at Boulogne. During the summer of 1917, John McCrae was troubled by severe asthma attacks and occasional bouts of bronchitis. He became very ill in January 1918 and diagnosed his condition as pneumonia. He was moved to Number 14 British General Hospital for Officers where he continued to grow weak. On January 28, after an illness of five days, he died of pneumonia and meningitis.

On January 5, 1918 McCrae became the first Canadian ever to be appointed as Consultant Physician to the British Armies in the Field. Unfortunately, McCrae died before he could he could take up his new position.

The symbolic poppy and John McCrae’s poems are still linked and the voices of those who have died in war continue to be heard each Remembrance Day.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders Fields.

Frederick Banting   

Frederick Banting

The man who perfected the use of insulin to treat diabetes in humans tried several times to join the army when war broke out in 1914, but was rejected because he had poor eyesight. He was finally accepted in 1915, did his basic training then returned to medical school. When he graduated in 1916, there was a push to get more doctors into the service so he reported to duty the day after graduation. He won the Military Cross for heroism in 1918 at the Battle of Cambrai where he tended wounded men for 16 hours while was he himself was wounded.

Lester B. Pearson 

Lester B. Pearson

Canada’s 14th prime minister, volunteered as a medical orderly when the First World War began in 1914. He went overseas in 1915 and served as a stretcher bearer with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. He began as a private but rose to become a lieutenant. He served in Egypt and Greece and even spent some time with the Serbian Army. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917. Two flying accidents left him injured and he was later hit by a bus in 1918 during a blackout and he was sent back to Canada. 

Norman Bethune 

Norman Bethune

Bethune was famous for his roles as a physician with Mao Zedong’s army and with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, but he first saw action in 1914 when he left medical school in order to serve as a stretcher bearer with the Canadian Army’s No. 2 Field Ambulance to serve as a stretcher-bearer in France. He was ultimately wounded by shrapnel then sent to England to recuperate. He returned to Canada and finished his medical degree in 1916. He later joined the Royal Navy in 1917 where he served as a Surgeon-Lieutenant at the Chatham Hospital in England

Grey Owl

Grey Owl

Archiblad Belaney, more commonly known as Grey Owl, was an early Canadian conservationist who gained fame through several books and speaking tours. He joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in 1915 during the First World War. He served with the the 13th (Montreal) Battalion of the Black Watch as a sniper in France. He was wounded on two separate occasions in 1916, the second one being in the foot which later developed gangrene. He spent time recovering in England then later in Canada. He was ultimately discharged with a disability pension in 1917. 

A . Y. Jackson 

A.Y. Jackson

An artist and member of Canada’s famed Group of Seven, A.Y. Jackson joined the Canadian Army’s 60th battalion in 1915. He was wounded at the Battle of Sanctuary Wood in 1916. While in the hospital, Lord Beaverbrook helped him get transferred to the Canadian War Records branch as an artist. During this time he painted several important works depicting events connected to the war. He became an official war artistwith the Canadian War Memorials between 1917 to 1919. 

Conn Smythe  

Conn Smythe

The man who built Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and was one of the Toronto Maple Leaf’s early and long-time owners, served in the artillery during the First World War. Shortly after winning the Ontario Hockey Association championship in 1915, Smythe joined up with eight other teammates. He went overseas in 1916 where his unit served on the Ypres salient. Smythe won the Military Cross for heroism in 1917 when his battery was attacked by Germans. He later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he served as an airborne observer. His plane was shot down and he remained a prisoner-of-war until the Armistice. 

Gen. Arthur Currie  

Arthur Currie

What Arthur Currie lacked in charisma, he made up for in strategy. He would push for more arms and plenty of lead time and preparation before mounting an attack. Currie led the Canadian Corps to a series of First World War victories including Hill 70 at Vimy Ridge, Arras, Amiens and the Canal du Nord. The general went on to be knighted and receive the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration. 

Margaret MacDonald 

Margaret MacDonald

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Margaret MacDonald became matron-in-chief of the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) with a major’s rank, becoming the first woman to receive such a designation in the British Empire.It was her job to marshal and train civilian nurses, overseeing 2,845 Canadian nursing sisters by the end of the war. They cared for soldiers beyond the fighting into the 1920s.

Thanks to Sharon for all your contributions to my blog.

Dr. Joseph Patrick O’Shea Part One

Captain Joseph Patrick O’Shea CMAC 1917

Joseph Patrick O’Shea was born in Glasgow, Scotland at 10:30 p.m. March 28th 1880, the son of Patrick O’Shea, wood sawyer (journeyman) residing at 19 Surrey Lane in the Gerbals District of Glasgow. His mother was Elizabeth O’Shea (formerly Leydon). Joseph’s birth registration includes the marriage date of his parents as November 29th, 1869 and, in addition to his mother’s name as “formerly Leydon”, is “M.S. Carlin”. The M.S. means Maiden Surname.   The Gorbals district of Glasgow at that time was a densely populated district on the south bank of the river Clyde. Many who lived there were in worker’s tenement housing.

Joseph Patrick O’Shea
Register of Births

Other children listed in census records list two sisters, Theresa, born three years earlier (1877), Bridget one year after Joseph (1881) and brother Andrew three years after Joseph (1883). Two other siblings died, each at birth. A sister Helen in 1882 and a brother who was a twin to Theresa in 1877. 

Tenements Gorbals District Glasgow

Other circumstances of the O’Shea’s family emigration to the United States is not known. One reported entry date is 1890. His father reportedly died “at sea”. Recent knowledge of sister Theresa’s existence in the U.S. indicates at least one known family member was living in the Lewiston Maine area as an adult with whom Joseph may have communicated. It was in Lewiston that Joseph’s formative years were spent. While there he spent some time at an orphanage in Lewiston that appeared to indicate that he was an orphan. 

Joseph Patrick O’Shea did have an association with the Healy Asylum for Boys, an orphanage and boarding school established in Lewiston in 1893 by the Sisters of Charity from Quebec, and he may have been an earlier student in one of the parochial schools established by the Catholic church in Lewiston as early as 1882. The Sisters of Charity, formerly Nursing Sisters, moved with 40 children to a home in Lewiston in 1888 and began to teach in a parish school. In 1893 they established the Healy Asylum for boys. At the time, children in the Healy Asylum for Boys may not have been without parents but were often from families whose parents both worked or, as may be in this case, his mother may have been a single working parent.

Lewiston was the destination for thousands of French-Canadian workers from Quebec in the 1870’s who came to work in the textile mills. The blocks where the workers settled were known as “Little Canada”. Lewiston and Auburn cities had built a railroad spur line to the Montreal-Portland Railway run by the Canadian National Railway that would have facilitated transportation of this very large French-speaking community to Lewiston.

Quebec City was a Jesuit town: the Jesuits there could help him get into the university, but the hard work would be up to him. Joe (as he was affectionately called) studied medicine at Laval University in Quebec City,graduating after eleven years of study. He would work on the railroads a year and then go to university a year! In 1911 he came to Saskatchewan along with two fellow physician classmates. Joe set up practice in Radville and one of these friends, Dr. Parent, set up practice in Sedley. Radville has a large proportion of French-speaking people. It was incorporated in 1911, the year Dr. O’Shea came to this small prairie town. One of the historic buildings in Radville today is the local restaurant. The building started as the Bon Ton Barber Shop and the first doctor in Radville, Dr. Joseph P. O’Shea’s office which later became a restaurant with a series of different owners over the years.

Joe volunteered to serve in the Canadian Expeditionary Force CAMC (Canadian Army Medical Corps) in 1917. He was 37 when he signed up. For the first two years of the war, Canada relied on a voluntary system of military recruitment but in 1917 adopted a policy of conscription, or compulsory service only after a long, difficult political debate. Canada did not have enough recruits to reinforce the Canadian Expeditionary Force, whose numbers were being depleted by the awful toll of the fighting in France and Belgium. The Military Service Act was passed in the House of Commons on July 24, 1917. On August 28 conscription became lawbut call-ups didn’t start until January 1918.  

It is not known if the debate over conscription was a factor in Joseph’s decision to enlist, but he enlisted June 26, 1917 and left for England August 13th, 1917. Although the number of conscript soldiers was small compared to the 425,000 Canadians who served overseas throughout the war, conscripts were vital in bolstering the depleted divisions of the Canadian Corps during the final, important battles of 1918. Joe served in the Canadian Army hospitals in England until June 1918 when he was posted to France. For the first three months in France he served in the Number 2 Canadian Hospital, the first Canadian general hospital established in France at Le Treport, a small port on the English Channel.

Given its limited size and experience at the beginning of the war, the Canadian Army Medical Corps performance was truly remarkable.  Altogether, 89 % of patients reaching a Canadian hospital survived their injuries.  The response of qualified Canadians to the pressing need for medical personnel is also noteworthy.  More than half of all Canadian physicians served overseas at some time during the war.

Joe was part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force at a time history records as The Last One-Hundred Days. “The hundred days from August 8, 1918 to the Armistice was Canada’s finest hour. It faced and destroyed the German divisions wholesale successfully, assaulted the enemy positions of great strength and made a huge contribution to the Allied victory. “(from Hells Corner by J.L. Granatstein 2004) 

August 17, 1918 Joe transferred to the 1st Canadian Field Ambulance attached to the 1stDivision, 3rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force also known as the Queen’s Own Rifles based in Toronto.  

Canadian Field Ambulance near the Front -It Was Very Busy, August 1918. This shot clearly shows the teeming activity in a mobile medical unit. The term “ambulance” meant a first-aid center and the vehicle used to carry the sick and wounded.

Some of the conditions these doctors worked under during that war are recorded in an excerpt from “The Battalion Doctor”:

It is the cold and nervous hour before the attack.  The Medical Officer is in a position immediately behind the “jumping off” line.  He has organized his staff to cover the battalion front and with his sergeant and corporal burdened with medical supplies, he waits the barrage.  As soon as it falls he moves off with the first wave of attack.  For him it is not a question of waiting in a dugout to receive the wounded, he must be with the battalion to do the ordinary work of first aid and to establish his dressing station the moment the “objective” is reached.  So, he goes into the smoke and tumult of action, to take his chance and, if need be, to give his life to the service of his men.

How many owed their lives to him

No man shall tell;

Into the fiery hell,

over the top in half-light din,

Unsent he went,

Seeking them there,

And to the depths of their despair

The M.O. (medical officer) in action was beloved of every man who saw him in action.  An aid post is a grim spectacle.  There are rows of stretchers, huddled groups of walking canes, blood everywhere and the sound of suffering in the air but in the midst the doctor at his merciful work, haggard and wan he may be from sleepless nights and unresting days, but he has about him an air of authority, a suggestion of undismayed confidence which, in itself, reassures and comforts weary men.  Honor to which honor is due!  Be he the battalion doctor or the officer in the field ambulance, or the surgeon in the operating room of the casualty clearing station, or the base hospital, here is a man who through courage and devotion has maintained and advanced the traditions of a professional which from its earliest days, has stood for unselfish service of mankind.

Battles fought by the CEF in the last hundred days stretched across Northern France from Amiens to Valenciennes with their arrival at Mons, Belgium on November 11, 1918. The Canadian Army was a mobile force advancing with each battle won over a distance measured in kilometers whereas previous advances were often measured only in meters. Dr. Joseph O’Shea, while serving with the 3rd Battalion was involved in these strategic battles following his deployment as of mid-August 1918.

The battles were:• The Battle of Amiens, 8 – 11 August 1918:

The Battle of Amiens was the beginning of the end of the German armies. A powerful Allied force, spearheaded by Canadian and Australian troops, nearly broke through the enemy lines on 8 August, pushing the Germans back several kilometers.• The 2nd Battle of Arras, 26 August – 3 September 1918:

By succeeding in destroying the very heart of the German defense system, the Canadians enabled the British 3rd Army to advance eastward at a great pace. The success of the operation had a positive effect all along the western front, presaging an imminent Allied victory.

The battle was actually a complex, two-operation conflict, that of the Scarpe and that of the Drocourt-Quéant Line, both part of the overall Allied strategy which consisted of exhausting the enemy who was already retreating eastward. The Battle of the Scarpe resulted in an Allied advance of no less than eight kilometers, while at Drocourt-Quéant, Allied troops expelled the Germans from one of their vital defense systems, advancing another six kilometers and taking up new positions in front of the next obstacle, the Canal-du-Nord.

General Sir Arthur Currie, in his personal War Diary wrote “One of the war’s greatest triumphs”, referring to the 2nd battle of Arras. The two phases of the Arras operation cost the Canadians nearly 11,000 men. It was during the Battle of the Scarpe that Georges Vanier, the future Governor General of Canada, lost his leg while commanding the 22nd Battalion. General Currie praised the 1st Canadian Division in particular for attacking and capturing the Fresnes-Rouvroy and Drocourt-Quéant Lines, which amounted to a penetration of almost ten kilometers.• 

Canal du Nord. Cambrai 27 September – 11 October 1918

Cambrai is situated in the Nord-Pas de Calais region in northern France. It is surrounded by an elaborate system of canals providing links to the Steele and Scheldt rivers to the northeast and drainage of marshy lands. West of Cambrai lies the Canal-du-Nord, whose construction at the outbreak of war had been left incomplete, a serious obstacle to Allied troops advancing from the west. Cambrai was also an important railway and supply hub for the German army.

The difficult task of capturing these two obstacles was given to the Canadian Corps under the leadership of Lieutenant General Arthur Currie. Currie spent the latter part of September carefully planning the attack. Canadian and British engineers were given expanded resources and manpower and ordered to construct bridges to be used in the attack across the canal, and tramway lines for transporting artillery and other supplies to the battlefield.

The operation began on September 27, 1918, with a hair-raising rush across a dangerously narrow canal passage. It continued with harrowing counterattacks coming from enemy troops concealed in woods, firing from bridgeheads, and lurking around the corners of myriad small village roads. It ended in triumph on October 11, when the Canadians, exhausted after days of unremitting fighting, finally drove the Germans out of their most important remaining distribution canter, Cambrai. It was in Cambrai where Joe suffered exposure to a gas attack that left him with chronic bronchitis thereafter.  • The capture of Valenciennes, 1 – 2 November 1918:


Though the Germans still clung to the city of Valenciennes and held firm their strong position near Marly, the day for them was a disaster. The Canadian Corps capturedroughly 1,800 enemy soldiers and more than 800 enemy dead were counted in the battle area. Canadian losses numbered 80 killed and some 300 wounded.• Arrival in Mons Belgium:


There is no official record of Dr. Joe’s service following Armistice Day but on November 18th, 1918 Canada, represented by the 1st and 2nd Divisions, accompanied by their own Field Ambulances, became part of the Fourth British Army and began its advance to the Rhine as part of the British Army of Occupation in Germany. The Medical Corps was a support element and took part in the approximately 300-mile march into Germany, with the crossing the Rhine by mid-December. One purpose of the occupation was to give France security against a renewed German attack. The Canadians remained at certain bridgeheads along the Rhine in Germany until early 1919. The official War Historian, Colonel G.W.L. Nicholson writes in “A History of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps” during their time in Germany:

While there were no battle casualties to attend to, ambulances and clearing stations were kept busy caring for many hundreds of sick and wounded Allied prisoners who were found in various hospitals, many of them in a deplorable condition from lack of proper attention.

Joe’s Canadian Army Service Record lists his return to England as March 15th, 1919. A hospital admission to Shorncliffe Hospital, a Canadian Army Hospital, lists his condition as bronchitis due to a gas attack at Cambrai, France. He was demobilized July 31st,1919 and returned to Canada. Upon discharge his health record states “fit for service in Canada only”, due to his continuing compromised lung condition.

After returning to Canada Joe spent two years at Deer Lodge Hospital in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This hospital was a convalescent hospital established in 1916 for soldiers returning from the war. Following his time in Winnipeg he returned to Saskatchewan which may have been the time he met his future wife Bridgetta. He had set up his medical practice in Norquay by the time of their marriage in 1922 where he owned a drugstore with living quarters above. His marriage to Bridgetta Connaughty took place in St. Augustine Church, Wilcox Saskatchewan and was reported in the Wilcox Times as having taken place Monday, April 27, 1922.

They hearkened to the call and thus
They found themselves amidst a rush
Of bursting shrapnel and of shell
A veritable roaring Hell
Then fell that Liberty might live
Heroes who did sincerely give
All that they loved and lived to call
Mother, Sister, Sweetheart, Wife all
And dying what a sacrifice!
Two deaths in one and dying twice
Killed down the iron crown of might
Giving to each man a freeman’s right
They who into their graves were thrust
Still live – their tombs can hold but dust
– Joseph P. O’Shea, 1921

Some of Joe’s Poems on his prescription pad

Thanks to Sharon Connaughty for the work on this post.

Bridgetta (Connaughty) O’Shea

Bridgetta Connaughty, Medford, Wisconsin

Bridgetta (Connaughty) O’Shea’s Story

Connaughty was born in Fond-du-Lac, Wisconsin in 1879. Just months
before, her
father James
Connaughty, was accidentally killed in a hunting accident October
1878. Her two brothers were listed as the surviving children as her
mother Ann was pregnant with Bridgetta at the time. Bridgetta’s
mother Ann (Mullaly) Connaughty moved
with her three children to Medford Wisconsin to be with her brothers,
Patrick and John Mullaly and their families. It was in Medford where
Bridgetta and her brothers Timothy and James spent their formative

brother Patrick Mullaly was assigned co-administrator of James’s
Connaughty’s estate and was a great support to his sister, the
young widowed Ann. Patrick had enlisted in the 17th Infantry of the
Union Army during the American Civil War in 1864 and mustered out
when the regiment disbanded July 14th, 1865. He went on to become a
local politician in Taylor County Wisconsin.

Mullaly relatives maintained contact with the Connaughty family for
years even after the Connaughty brothers Timothy and James bought
land near Corinne Saskatchewan, Canada in 1907. Ann Connaughty joined
her sons and their families in 1910.

Ann Connaughty with Bridgetta, James and Timothy – about 1892

Bridgetta had become a teacher by then. Her first recorded teaching experience in 1907, was at Mellon School in Morse, Ashland County, Northern Wisconsin near Lake Superior. In 1881 the newly formed Bad River Lumbering and Improvement Company began building a mill town where the Wisconsin Central Railroad line touched the Bad River. The company had a sawmill, a shingle and lath mill, a boarding house, a store, a blacksmith shop, and lumber sheds. 600 people lived in Morse in 1895 but this number was reduced after a fire in 1900. It would be another 10 years before the town began to recover so when Bridgetta taught there the population was less than 600.

records were found to document Bridgetta’s attendance at Normal
School. Teaching in rural schools at the time did not require such
preparation. Some classes were offered in high school for students
wishing to teach lower grades and rural schools with as little as a
grade eight education.

A rural teacher in the American mid-West between 1890 & 1920

A mid-West rural School History states:

Teaching in some rural schools presented numerous challenges. Rural districts had limited budgets, and the length of a school year varied greatly, even among neighboring schools. Seldom did a teacher stay at the same school for more than two consecutive years, making it hard to track student progress. Additionally, inconsistent curricula and the high number of non-English-speaking immigrant children in many rural schools meant teachers could not count on a student’s age to determine his or her grade level. Invariably, some older students left midyear to help on homesteads, to find wage work, or their parents felt they did not need additional education. In addition to teaching, rural teachers cleaned and maintained their schools. Rural schools lacked indoor plumbing and were heated by woodstoves, so teachers carried water and chopped firewood.


1908 Bridgetta went from Northern Wisconsin to Hunter North Dakota,
Cass County, to teach grades 7 & 8. Hunter population was about
600. Here too, fire had struck the flourishing town at about the same
time the fire had struck the town of Morse. Before the Hunter fire
could be contained, most of the buildings on Main Street had been
burned. Main Street was substantially rebuilt by 1906.

personal records place her in both the Hunter School District and in
Oshkosh School District, Wells County, North Dakota over a
five-year period from 1908 to
1913. Starting out in Hunter, she moved to Oshkosh and then returned
to Hunter upon the request of the earlier school superintendent. The
offer to return to Hunter included the opportunity to teach English
levels I, II and III and Algebra in the high school grades. A letter
of recommendation written by the school superintendent documents
Bridgetta’s teaching abilities:

whom it may concern-

is to certify that I am personally acquainted with Bridgetta
Connaughty who has been employed as a teacher in our seventh and
eighth grades for the past year. She is a lady of sterling character,
of pleasing personality and excellent attainments.

a teacher, we have been so well pleased with her work that we feel
that you can not praise her work here too highly. She possesses a
love for her work, a broad knowledge of her subjects, soundness of
judgement and much tact.

is a success as a disciplinarian having taken hold of a difficult
room she soon brought order out of chaos and did it with apparently
little effort. She is firm and soon impresses the pupil with her
earnestness which soon becomes contagious.

may be that convenient access to transportation to the family in
Saskatchewan factored in to Bridgetta’s choice of schools at the
time as she was known to have come to Wilcox over the years when
schools were out during both the summer and winter months. Bridgetta
was the main provider of financial support for her mother as both
brothers were establishing their farms and families in this new
prairie province. The County Seat in Oshkosh Township, Wells County
is on the “Soo Line”. Destinations
north go through Portal to Estevan,
Weyburn, Yellow Grass and Moose Jaw Saskatchewan with the terminus in
Moose Jaw. The line extended southeast to the Twin Cities
Minneapolis-St. Paul. Milestone Saskatchewan, was named after C. W.
Milestone, superintendent of the New Soo Line in 1893. Both Wilcox,
where the Connaughty’s settled, and Milestone were on the Soo Line.

last documentation of Bridgetta’s teaching experience in the US was
in Montana 1917-1920 where she taught at Kennedy School, Greve,
Phillips County, Montana. Throughout her teaching experience
Bridgetta had taken further qualifying exams to attain her 1st
class standing. Her Montana Teaching Certificate dated June 5, 1919
cites her passing all subjects with an average of 89%. This was the
highest level of Teaching Certificate and included the qualifications
for teaching High School. The
1920 Federal Census lists Bridgetta Connaughty, (single) teacher in
Phillips County, School District 36.

One point of interest is that while in Greve, Montana Bridgetta obtained a 320-acre homestead- Township 37, Range 32, Section 25, a township near the Canada/US border. Her application was made while teaching at Kennedy School in Greve. At the time she also applied for a livestock brand, -17. As the homestead was not developed it is not known what Bridgetta had in mind for the use of a brand, a horse? Cattle?

Under the original Homestead Act 1862 heads of family could claim 160 acres of contiguous government land. To be eligible, an applicant had to be twenty-one years of age, as well as a U.S. citizen, or an alien who had filed for citizenship. Applicants had to live on the homestead for five years and make certain improvements to gain title to the land. By Armistice Day in 1918, according to one governmental publication, Montana state’s population had climbed to an astounding 769,590. Remarkably, the population had more than tripled in less than twenty years, and with this wave of settlement, hundreds of new towns and no fewer than twenty-eight new counties had been created.

Plans, it would seem, changed! In November of 1919 Bridgetta’s North Portal Customs entry document, lists her as planning to emigrate to Canada. In 1920-21 she began teaching at a Convent School in Wilcox Saskatchewan. That year the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis and the St. Augustine parish priest Father Benoit, opened the Notre Dame of the Prairies Convent and St. Augustine residential elementary and high school for boys and girls in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. Bridgetta at age 42 became the first teacher who was not of a religious order to teach school at the convent that year. This was seven years before Father Murray was appointed to the parish and began the high school program at the school and later Notre Dame College.

the spring of 1919 drought spread over all of eastern and central
Montana, where temperatures hovered between 100 and 110 degrees.
Ominous brown-grey clouds of dust rolled across the vast horizon,
denuding 2,000,000 acres and partially destroying millions more. By
the fall of 1918—just as the War in Europe was coming to an end—the
haunting face of depression appeared everywhere and there was no end
in sight. The homesteaders left Montana even more quickly than they
had come. The exodus started in the fall of 1917 and by 1919, when
the post-war drop in wheat prices created an even more impossible
situation, they left in droves.

It is not known just how or when Bridgetta met her future husband Dr. Joseph Patrick O’Shea but his earlier medical practice had been in the South Saskatchewan village of Radville, not far from Wilcox. Her visits to family from 1911 to 1917, when Dr. Joseph O’Shea was in Radville may have resulted in communication prior to his enlistment or, they may have met when he returned to Saskatchewan after the war. An excerpt from the Wilcox Times, April 27, 1922 records their marriage of April 24th that year. A few letters from Joseph were kept for posterity by Bridgetta as they were planning details just prior to their wedding day. They were sent from Joe’s address in Norquay where he had established his practice since returning to Canada from service in England and France. The Wilcox paper records their wedding:

One of Wilcox’s most popular young ladies left town Monday night mid a shower of rice, confetti, and accompanied by a volley of cheers which well-nigh drowned the conductor’s “all Aboard” and even the whistle of the C.P.R. engine. She whom all knew well, the former Miss Bridgetta Connaughty and the present Mrs. Doctor O’Shea, on the arm of her husband was leaving for her future home in Norquay. Monday morning the wedding took place in St Augustine’s Church. Mr. and Mrs. Tim Connaughty had the honor of acting as best man and bridesmaid while the pastor performed the ceremony. A very dainty breakfast was served by Mrs. T.J. Connaughty and Mrs. James Connaughty for the newly-weds, the relatives and a few guests.  

In the evening most of the community of Wilcox was down to the train to see them off! The bride was becomingly dressed in a dark navy-blue dress, wearing a Gainsborough model hat of Iodine color embroidered with silver and in lieu of flowers at the wedding; she carried her prayer book, the gift of the pastor.

They left for Norquay after the wedding.

The O’Sheas lived in Norquay until 1927 when they moved to Fife Lake in south-central Saskatchewan. The previous year a considerable number of placer claims had been staked mostly along the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers. Family members recall hearing talk of gold findings around Fife Lake but it is not known just how much this may have been a draw. Much of the gold was called flour gold due to it being very fine. In 1931 claims were staked along a tributary of the Poplar River and Fife Lake area but there was no significant production. The O’Sheas lived in Fife Lake until 1933.

insisted that when Merlin was ready for school, he attend a proper
Catholic School located in Yorkton, 100 kms away. The village of
Norquay’s population was just around 300 people at the time. While
Merlin’s school days were not pleasant times, as he was away from
home, his summer holidays were enjoyed at Crystal Lake where he and
his mother stayed all summer long. His dad would come out on
weekends. Dr. O’Shea
bought a farm four miles north of Norquay, as an investment and
rented it out to a local farmer.

O’Shea Family Collage

In 1947 the year Dr. Joe retired. Bridgetta, Joe and Merlin spent the winter in Chilliwack, BC. It was a winter of snow storms and bad weather so the family moved back to Wilcox the next year where they bought a small house. Here they became acquainted with Father Athol Murray who had come to Notre Dame just after Bridgetta and Joe were married. Their bond was close especially as Joe, having lived and studied in Quebec, was bilingual as was “Pere”. Merlin, still living with his family at the time, became a student at Notre Dame College and, as Dr O’Shea always had a car, Merlin was frequently a driver for Pere Murray.

1951, Dr. Joe passed away. Bridgetta was in the hospital in Regina at
the time, having had gall bladder surgery when the ambulance brought
Joe, having suffered a heart attack, to the same hospital, where he
died. After this Merlin and his mother moved from Wilcox to Regina.
Bridgetta, passed away in 1954. She, too, had a heart attack walking
down Albert Street, on her way downtown to pay the power bill. Merlin
was 25 years old.

fascination with cars played a big part in the rest of his life. At
age 29 while driving back from the Norquay farm which he kept after
his parents both died, he was involved in a single-car accident where
his car, as a result of a mechanical failure, rolled over on a gravel
highway resulting in life-threatening injuries that left him disabled
for the rest of his life. He had met the young woman he planned to
marry not long before that but it wasn’t until a year after the
accident that they married. On October 31st,
Halloween, of 1959, Merlin walked down the aisle with braces on his
legs and two canes to marry Leslie Maureen Stone.

with both his parents, Merlin (Doc) died of a heart attack in 1987.
He was 58 years old. As was Doc’s experience with the death of his
parents, his children were without a father when they were in their
twenties. The youngest, Bridget, was just 14.

Many thanks to Sharon Connaughty of Vancouver, B.C. for visiting me in October 2018. This enabled Sharon to compile most of the history of Bridgetta’s journey through life from the memorabilia I had saved. Together we are bringing you this story.

Our friends Garry and Lois Allen

Garry and Lois Allen were friends of Doc’s since his early days.  They lived in Wilcox where Garry farmed south of the town and Lois was a teacher at the Public Elementary School. They moved from Wilcox to Regina in 1969. Garry drove back and forth to Wilcox to farm and Lois continued to teach at elementary schools in Regina. We didn’t see much of them until they moved to the city. Garry was the first male consummate shopper that we knew. He was always going to see cars, trucks, farm equipment and not necessarily buying anything. Garry attended many an auction sale but I don’t think Doc was along for many of  those occasions. Sometimes Doc would go with him on these “wild goose chase” as we called them! Garry even became the proud owner of  two different Mini’s. Of course that meant he was at our place quite often engaging in “Mini” repairs or talk.

Garry would phone our place almost every night at 6:00 p.m. and the first thing he asked Doc was, “what are you having for dinner tonight?” Doc always said, “Fried bologna.” (Really he said, “Fried baloney because that’s how we said the word bologna). They always had long conversations and Garry had all the news!

Lois was always a classy lady. She was teaching at Grant Road School when the school board bussed mentally challenged kids from all over Regina to her school for the Kindergarten Class. There were no teacher aide’s at that time and nobody had training to deal with these kids. I recall one girl that came to Lois’s class and screamed the whole day. (Those of us who were never teachers had no idea the things they had to contend with! Teachers deserve huge thanks for the work they do.) Lois traveled to many countries, sometimes with other teachers, in the summer months when there was no school. Lois remembers one Sunday when they went out to the Sports Car Club Ice Racing event south east of Regina and Doug Reimche raced Garry’s Mini. How exciting to see the Mini come in First Place.

Welcome to Billings, Montana

On March 31,1981 Garry, Lois, Doc and I drove to Billings, MT after work on the Friday evening. We went shopping on Saturday morning because Garry wanted a new jacket. He found a London Fog jacket and we boarded a Continental Airways flight to San Antonio. Garry had been to Canyon Lake outside San Antonio several times. The area was being developed by a group of people from Regina. There were about 40 people from Regina on this trip.

The cottage at Canyon Lake is partially finished in this picture.

Garry had bought a lot and the cottage was being built on the site.

We arrived in San Antonio and after renting a car we checked in to the Holiday Inn. We ended up with the concierge suite instead of two rooms and this was very classy. We had two bedrooms and a sitting room. In the sitting room there was a direct line to Charles Schwab Investments. Garry promptly pretended to pick up the phone and said, “Hello Chuck.”

We went downstairs to the restaurant and had dinner. We went back upstairs and Garry realized that he had forgotten to take his jacket with him to our rooms. He immediately went back to the restaurant and the jacket was nowhere to be found!

On Sunday we went out to Canyon Lake where the Woodlands Golf Course was being built. We, along with about a hundred other people, had a delicious brunch at the dining room of the club house. I remember that the clubhouse had been built to the tune of Five Million Dollars. It was truly beautiful and the brunch was delicious.

One of the mansions Lois and I toured.

Lois and I toured the stately colonial mansions one day and found them very interesting. We of course spent time at

The Alamo

the Alamo and also on the River Walk. One night the four of us went to dinner at the

Lois, Doc and Garry – Dinner at the Bayous – I took the picture!

Bayous restaurant  overlooking the River Walk. All our food was fabulous. Lois and I both had the Seafood platter and it was so good.

One night the group we came down with were all heading to New Braunsfeld. Doc and I were not interested in going for German food so we drove over to a nearby store for some Coke’s. The young couple had just opened the store a few weeks ago and were watching curling from Canada on their satellite dish. They didn’t have a liquor license yet but asked us if we would join them with a drink of Scotch and we said we’d love to. We spent about an hour visiting with them. They had been following the curling and were so excited about the sport. They said they were going to go to Canada and try curling.

A trip we made with the Allens and the McCallums was to

Doc, George McCallum, Lois Allen, Joan McCallum and Garry Allen

Plentywood, MT in our motorhome.  What a hoot that was! Of course we went for dinner and/or dancing at the Blue Moon. 
Not much dancing anymore but the food was good.

Memories are made of this.