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Medical - Nursing - Military - WWII] Trotter, Sally.

World War II Diary


A Canadian Nurse's Diary about Her Wartime Experience
[Diaries]. Trotter, Sally. World War II Diary: "The Story of a Canadian Nursing Sister's Two Years Overseas with No. 12 C.G.H." [Community General Hospital of the Canadian Red Cross]. August 31, 1943- July 26, 1945.
4to.; marbled endpapers; three-quarter navy blue cloth; faded; rubbed; frayed; red leather spine and corners; lacking spine; signatures repaired with three vinyl strips. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
Scrapbook diary of Canadian Lieutenant Sally Trotter. Trotter filled the book with handwritten entries, cleverly rendered cartoons, black and white and hand-colored photographs (including four pages of photographs titled, "German patients," with a picture of Hitler captioned, "No - he wasn't a patient of mine!"), postcards, tickets, programs, menus, brochures, banknotes, poems, song lyrics (including a four-page transcription of Noel Coward's "Tunes to an American Officer"), and newspaper articles. There are also large photographs, cartoons, drawings and articles loosely inserted, and two large patches: an embroidered insignia from a German Tank Corps Uniform, and a ribbon from the German Iron Cross.
Also included on her title page is a song titled, "Our Yell," which reads:
The Twelfth, The Twelfth, the old 1 - 2.
Smackaroo, smackaroo, smackaroo, Roo.
The best there is in Medicine we now
Present to you
Our Doctors, nurses, orderlies,
Sergeants, corporals, too.
Make one happy family
In the old 1 - 2!
Smackaroo, smackaroo, smackaroo, Roo!
And notes, "Bought this book in Glasgow, Scotland. Carried it with me everywhere/Made entries whenever possible."
Trotter meticulously arranged the scrapbook; text always appears on the right side, and photographs and cartoons appear on the left side. Entries fill at least one page, but sometimes continue through several pages. The entries are undated, save for important dates during the war - D Day and V-E Day - and holidays. Trotter also indicates place names that her unit traveled to at the top of pages, like "Bramshott," "Historic England," "A Trip to Scotland," "Army Life in General," and "A Trip to an American Air Base."  
Trotter begins with a description of her train ride eastward from her town in Petawawa, Ontario, to two military training camps in Sussex and Halifax. She provides brief character sketches of the "Petawawa Girls," and concludes, "I'll not say anything about myself. You'll know me when this book is finished - or before."
Trotter relates the first two weeks in the camps as if she were on holiday, recalling down time spent lying in the sun: "There wasn't much to do. Check ups on gas, equipment, make a well, fill in documents. A little drill now and then - taken not quite serious." Then her unit shipped out; the section that follows is titled, "Embarkation" and includes cartoons of her unit walking up the ship's gangplank, laden with suitcases, as well as her dining card and her berthing card.
The group landed on Sunday, September 19, 1943 at Gourock, in Scotland, and immediately took a train to General Hospital #18, at the military camp in Bramshott. They were moved to the #12 Canadian General Hospital at Horley, and then to the #13 Hospital in Cooksville. Trotter includes photographs and descriptions of an operating room scene in Cooksville; the photographs show a doctor giving ether and removing a bullet from a soldier's neck. A photograph captioned, "Something New" shows "the second stahers splint to be used by the Canadian Army in England/New treatment for fractures done by #13 Cdn Gen. Hospital," and she notes at the bottom of the page that the photographs were "Taken in 13 Cdn Gen. Hospital Operating Room on a Pilot 6 F.4.5. 1/20 Sec." An entry titled, "Night Duty" recalls, "There were four operating room emergencies - broken legs, cuts form bicycle falls, jeep accidents, emergency appendix. Only one death - and he was like that when brought in. Had been hit by a non-stop jeep."
Trotter's writing, the cartoons, the humorous captions and the photographs of smiling nurses combine to create a pervasive positive spirit throughout the diary. Her entry for D Day, however, introduces a somber tone, and there are dozens of photographs depicting burned-out landscapes and phalanxes of soldiers.
I was working in the operating room at the time. For months we had been planning for this day. Sterilizing supplies, piling shelves high with extra Vaseline packing, sterilized sulpha powder, rolls of absorbent, boxes and boxes of plasters…All night long June 5, we heard the bombers roaring over the hospital. Everyone remarked that something big must be doing. At 7 30 Mary Hare said paratroopers had landed behind German lines in France. 8 AM news confirmed it. Everyone stopped work for a few minutes. It was a queer feeling. It made me feel sort of sad. I was thinking of all those guys over there dying - for us.
Trotter also includes a handwritten schedule from 1944 and 1945, noting where her #12 unit had been stationed. It is written on half of one page, and where the No. 12 was moved between June and October, 1944, and then June through August, 1945. After D Day, from June to October, 1944, the unit was moved from Yorkshire, to Surrey, and Southampton in England, and to Bayeaux, France and Brussels, Belgium. The last date is form July 16, 1946: "Discg. From Cdn. Army/Refused posting to permanent force."
The photographs she includes range in subject from other women in her unit, during various training exercises and while they were traveling, as well as during down time in their barracks; landscapes of cities and towns they visited and in which they were stationed; social events with male soldiers; surgeries in operating rooms; holiday celebrations and marriages between nurses and soldiers; burnt-out cities and towns; convoys of army vehicles and tanks; parades of soldiers and nurses; making preparations (like folding gauze); with local children; flags hanging from buildings on V-E Day. In some instances, the photographs are colored by hand using watercolor paints or markers. Also, Trotter occasionally includes drawings submitted to her by other nurses in her unit; the handwriting in some of the drawings sometimes does not collate against hers.
An entry from August, 1944, features a three-page poem penned by Trotter, which includes this verse:
Peace - in a world
Of gutted homes, and torn up boulevards,
And women weeping silently for the men they loved
And lost, because
A war unfurled
Our Allied flags.
Trotter was not confined to the hospitals. In her entry marked, "Holland," she describes trips to the front lines, "Jerry & I took a run up near the Front one day in his Hup. I was on nights - so we had frequent jaunts. Nearly got sniped by a Jerry once. Got lost between German & Canadian lines. Got to a Canadian Forward gun position - bringing down enemy fire. Got sent home - told to stay there - Exciting. I loved it."
The entry for V-E Day is jubilant, and Trotter's writing is not contained within the lines of the scrapbook, but is written hastily, in large script, and slants upward across the page as if in jaunty salute.
V-E Day - At Last - 8 May 1945 - The war in Europe is over at last - thank God. It's a great day for us all. We will never forget this. The four in our family over here were spared to see this great day - Earl, Bob, Albert and myself. Mother will be very happy to-nite. We do not forget those who lost out in this war. We are deeply and profoundly grateful to them and always will be. We are proud to be Canadians - thrilled over an Allied victory - deeply grateful for this day.
Trotter's scrapbook concludes with newspaper clippings relating to the Canadian army, photographs of weddings of her fellow nurses overseas, and from sightseeing trips to European cities and villages, and this entry about her unit, the #12 C.G.H., interspersed between photographs and a colored cartoon:
After one month in England the good news came -
Posting for Canada to get going again
Back in the blues again after a year in khaki - No
Treat, everything sticks to blues.
After marching, singing, grousing, cheering, and just stringing along with No 12ers -
From Sussex N.B. to Horley - England, Whitby, Southampton on into France
Shaking alike in our tents.
Laughing together. Crying a little
On into Belgium -
Working with the very finest people I've known
Seeing new countries and places
The comradeship - the pulling together - shoulder to shoulder
Always all part of one big happy Unit - No 12 -
Well that's another chapter of my life
I'm Canada bound to-day.
A collection of memorabilia and personal reminiscences during a pivotal period of World War II, remarkable for remaining intact - surviving two ocean crossings and C.G.H's moves throughout Europe - and for communicating the first-hand experiences of these Canadian nurses who provided valuable assistance during the war.

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