Bertha Margaret Mowry

Bertha Margaret Mowry was born to father Marcello Mowry and mother Elizabeth Doris Davis. There are two different dates listed as her birthday. On her birth registry it lists her born on March 16, 1885, but on her attestation papers lists her birthdate as August 16, 1884. This is odd because she was 31 at the time of enlistment, meaning she would not need to lie about her age in order to sign up for active duty. She had four siblings at the time of her birth, brothers Mortimer Heaton and Herbert John Mowry, and sisters Ina and Cora Doris Mowry. Two siblings were born after her, a brother Percy and sister Bessie. According to the Ontario birth registry, she was born in Peterborough.

Bertha Margaret Mowry was a nursing sister during World War One (year of photo unknown). Used with permission from

In pulling information from the 1901 census, when Mowry would have been 16 years old, her occupation is listed as “Emp. Cpt. C G E Co.” It is suspected that these initials identify her as an employee and captain at Canada General Electric Company. It is not listed that that she was in school; but according to the 1901 Census she was literate in the English language. The census also lists her religion as Baptist. Her address was 588 Charlotte Street, Peterborough. This address she listed on her Attestation Papers as both her current address and her next of kin’s address in 1916. The property still stands to this day, occupied by a family with no relation to the Mowry’s.
Mowry enlisted on January 13, 1916. Her Declaration Papers list her occupation as a nurse. Her militia unit she was assigned to was the Army Medical Corps. She also declared she would be willing to serve in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. After a medical exam that occurred in Kingston, she was deemed fit to participate. She did not serve any prior military service. She had originally intended to enlist with the Queen’s Reinforcements for Cairo, but was instead deployed to Belgium and France.

In an article in the Peterborough Examiner on January 7th, 1918, it was reported that Mowry was returning to Peterborough for a 14 day leave of absence. She obtained leave by serving on transport duty on the ship Metagama on her trip to and from Canada. She had spent 18 months in Belgium and France, 9 months of which were “under canvas,” close to the front lines. She was present during a bombardment of one of the Red Cross buildings, where she was on duty in the No.3 Canadian Clearing Station, just seven miles away from Ypres. Germans soldiers deliberately bombed the area, in a raid that lasted for 3 minutes. Mowry describes the actions of the individuals involved, including herself, where they transported the injured to safety into dug outs which were set up near the hospital. There was a reported 60 casualties during the incident. According to the article, Mowry had been involved in approximately 30 air raids since July of the previous year. One incident was described as a bombing between the wards, which left no reported casualties, only a hole in the building. Her experience while deployed was in nursing wounded German soldiers. Other individuals included New Zealanders, Australians and Englishmen. She describes the patients to be in good spirits, properly fed and clothed. In hindsight, it is humorous how she relayed that the German soldiers were “confident of ultimate German victory.”

Even when Mowry was on leave and supposed to be resting, she was highly active in her community. As described in an article later in the same month, Mowry visited the Murray St Baptist Church. She gave a presentation and answered questions “concerning the treatment of the soldiers and the work of the Red Cross Society.” She also spoke about and showcased the souvenirs that she brought back from the front lines. Some of these souvenirs included “Hun helmets, privates’ caps, shells, also a German sand bag…made from [a] valuable tapestry.” The next day she spoke to the Red Cross Society about her experience as a representative out in the front lines. She complimented their work, describing it as “marvellous” for providing much needed donations of clothing and hot food and drink to the soldiers. She also discussed the need for more effort on the home front, and encouraged the making of more socks. In addition, Mowry chastised the public for being critical of the Red Cross and the C.W.C.A. She said she had heard more criticism of the organization in Canada than anywhere else she was stationed, stating that “[At the front] there is no grumbling.”

One more article in The Examiner writes on Mowry’s work during the war after her short break at home. Later that year in August, there was an article describing the work of many women who graduated from Nicholl’s Hospital, Mowry amongst them. Her section details being overseas for three years, and at the time was stationed at Orpington Hospital in England. The article repeated the mentioning of her 14 day return home and her experiences with hospital attacks. The article concludes with her wish to leave the hospital and return to the front lines.
One of the last found pieces of evidence on Mowry was an Official Passenger List of those arriving in Halifax from Liverpool in December 1918 after the war had concluded. The statement declared 776 soldiers of various rankings and 9 nursing sisters were aboard the ship. Almost all who disembarked from the ship were disabled, sick, or recovering; this included Mowry, who had appendicitis upon her return. One article in the Toronto World, published in February of 1919 stated that she was an applicant to join the Great War Veterans Association, or “G.W.V.A.”
Despite extensive research, no further information can be found about what Mowry did or where she went after returning to Canada in 1918. There has been no evidence found to state that she married after the war or had children. There is no known death registration or certificate, obituary, or any other evidence describing where or how she died, or at what age. There is no evidence of whether or not her siblings had children, which would have likely led to a living descendent of the Mowry family. Currently, Bertha Margaret Mowry’s fate remains a mystery.

Mowry’s Attestation Paper, Jan, 1916. Used with Permission from Library and Archives Canada.

Research by Bailey Allison and Amanda Stewart
Peterborough Examiner. January 7, 1918, page 5. “Nursing Sister Mowry Home On Leave Of Fourteen Days, Experienced 31 Air Raids”. Accessed from the Trent University Archives via microfilm on Oct. 30th, 2017.
Peterborough Examiner. January 16th, 1918, page unknown. “Nursing Sister Mowry At The Murray St. Church”. Accessed from the Trent University Archives via microfilm on Nov. 3rd, 2017.
Peterborough Examiner. January 17th, 1918, page unknown. “Nursing Sister Mowry Speaks To Red Cross”. Accessed from the Trent University Archives via microfilm on Nov. 3rd, 2017.
Peterborough Examiner. August 24th, 1918, page 12. “Nicholl’s Hospital Is Well Represented In France and England By Graduate Nurses.” Accessed from Trent University Archives via microfilm on Nov. 3rd, 2017.
Toronto World. February 18th, 1919, page 5. “Veterans”. Accessed via web.
 “Officer’s Declaration Paper.” Canada, WWI CEF Personnel Files, 1914-1918 for Bertha Margaret Mowry.,[Accessed Dec 2017].
 “Nominal Roll of Men Returned to Canada.” Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 for Bertha Margaret Mowry.,[Accessed Dec 2017].
Ancestry. Photograph of Bertha Margaret Mowry. Date unknown.
Library and Archives Canada, “Census of Canada, 1901.” Library and Archives Canada.