An intriguing photo of a Newfoundland nurse who served in the First World War is tormenting me because I can’t seem to find any details of her story. What I do know is that she was my Aunt Alice, my mother’s oldest sister, but I only saw her once when I was seven years old. In the photo above, she is in the top row among soldiers resting within the ruins of a war damaged stone wall, apparently somwhere in France.
Alice M. Fitzgerald was born in St. John’s March 22, 1885, the oldest daughter of William B. and Katherine (Hagan) Fitzgerald. Thus she would have been between 29 and 33 years old during the First World War. All that I have been able to confirm about her World War 1 nursing career is that she is listed in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment as a nurse from St. John’s but with no further information recorded. According to a heritage Nfld. account of Newfoundland and Labrador’s WW1 service, there were about 175 women who served overseas as graduate nurses or with the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) – a corps of semi-trained nurses. So she was most likely one of those graduate nurses.
After the war, Alice Fitzgerald married another Newfoundlander, Norbert Burke Dec 18, 1918, at St. Joseph’s Church, presumably in St. John’s.
They settled in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, where Norbert worked with Nova Scotia Steel Company, and raised one daughter, Frances.
Norbert Burke’s family lived in St. Jacques, Fortune Bay, and he too served in the war overseas, one of four brothers who volunteered for active service.
One of them, Leonard, was seriously wounded in the Battle of Cambrai. His other brothers also survived the war – Dr. John Burke conducted a dentistry practice in St. John’s, while Dr. Vincent P. Burke, had a distinguished career in Newfoundand education, and as a member of the Canadian Senate.
Alice Fitzgerald Burke died in North Sydney March 21, 1947 at the age of 62. Her daughter Frances, who married Jerome Rabnett and lived in Belleville, Ont., passed away in 1998.