"I could not bear to be a Slacker": Sybil Johnson, volunteer aid detachment nurse during the First World War

Lay Summary 

This research focuses on the life of Newfoundland's Sybil Johnson with particular interest in her experience as a Volunteer Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse during the First World War. Johnson was from an elite Newfoundland family, being the daughter of Supreme Court Judge George Johnson and Elizabeth (Bown) Johnson. When the war broke out in 1914, she shared the patriotic fervour of her relatives and friends and looked for ways to contribute to the war effort. In 1916, she joined the VAD and sailed to England to take up a position as a nursing assistant at the 1st Western Military Hospital in Fazakerley, a suburb of Liverpool. Although her privileged and sheltered upbringing in St. John's would not have prepared her for the harsh realities of nursing war-wounded men, she persevered and completed nineteen months of service at the 1st Western Military Hospital. This project will reconstruct the life of Sybil Johnson, compare her war experience with those of other British and Canadian VADs, and examine themes which have emerged in the academic literature surrounding First World War nurses and VADs.

The Living Memorial Commemoration Fund
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Start date 
1 May 2014