People in Profile - More than a dishwasher - Tofino's nursing sister Lilly Garrard



Article by Stephanie Ann Warner, guest curator of Vargas Island ranchers at home and at war

This exhibit is at the museum until the end of May 2019

When Lilly Garrard was born in 1890, her dad was told “it is a dish washer this time, you must do better next.” This “dish washer” did more than that in her life — she graduated from St. Joseph’s nursing school in Victoria and served overseas as a Nursing Sister with the Canadian Army Medical Corps and privately nursed for over 20 years.

Nursing Sister Lillian Annie Garrard of Tofino in Buxton England in 1918. (Front row second from right).

Image from the Canadian Hospital News, March 16 1918, Library and Archives Canada.

Lillian Annie Garrard was born in Comox in September 1890. Her parents were Frank and Annie Garrard, recently arrived from England. Over the next 20 years, Lilly would follow her adventurous family to Nanaimo, Alberni, Nahmint River, Lennard Island lighthouse, Vargas Island and then to Tofino, where Frank Garrard became the telegraph operator in 1910. (You can read an article on the Garrard Family that we published on the website blog in 2017).

Lilly's dad, Frank Garrard, who ran the Tofino telegraph office.

From a snapshot in Harold Monks' photo album.


While in Tofino, Lilly started helping Dr. Melbourne Raynor at the local Methodist Mission. Frank Garrard later wrote in his memoirs: “She was beginning to consider nursing as a career, which in the course of time we helped her commence…” Lilly attended the nursing school at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Victoria. She was financially assisted by her parents, Dr. Raynor, and Father Maurice, of the Christie Industrial School. Frank Garrard recalled that “besides the initial expenses, we paid during the first year or so, about ten dollars a month, towards her expenses, pocket money etc.”

St. Joseph’s Hospital, Victoria. Lilly Garrard trained as a nurse here between 1911 – 1914.

Image from Henderson’s Greater Victoria Directory, digitized at

Lilly entered the School of Nursing in August 1911 and graduated May 4 1914. Lilly’s parents received an invitation to her graduation but they were unable to attend. There was a far distance by steamer to Victoria and it was often hard for Frank Garrard to get away from the telegraph office.


NS Lillian Annie Garrard’s service record – digital service files, Library and Archives Canada.

Lilly Garrard was one of 28 St. Joseph’s Hospital nursing school graduates who later served with the Canadian overseas forces. On May 5 1917 Lilly enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. She arrived in England on July 8 1917 and soon transferred to the Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington, Kent. According to the Ontario Archives, the Ontario Military Hospital was “one of the most advanced military hospitals in the world at that time and was paid for by the Province of Ontario at a cost of $2 million.” (source Ontario Archives online exhibit about the Ontario Military Hospital) In September 1917, the Ontario Military Hospital was renamed the No. 16 Canadian General Hospital.

Lilly was taken on strength on July 23 1917. She would have immediately been busy. The War Diary for the No. 16 Canadian General Hospital shows that on July 27 1917 a convoy of 170 stretcher cases came from France. On July 29 1917 a convoy of 190 stretcher cases came from France. On July 31 1917, there was heavy rain. During the month of August, 1408 overseas cases (including 442 Canadians) and 64 local troops were admitted to the hospital. A band from the Reserve Battalion was attached to the hospital for one week. Band concerts were given every morning and afternoon to patients.

Letters to Frank Garrard give more details about Lilly’s nursing experiences. Lilly's brother Noel wrote a letter to his dad, in which he mentioned Lilly being stationed at the Ontario Military Hospital, Kent and rather hoping to change roommates as a particular friend of hers was there. Noel said “she will be lucky if she can, as they don’t seem to study one’s wishes, either in the Army or Navy.”

In August 1917, Lilly had a visit from her brother Noel and also a chance encounter with a patient — Murdo McLeod from Tofino! Murdo was having a “plastic operation” (nose reconstruction), a result of an injury in October 1916 at Courcelette. Murdo later wrote to Frank Garrard: “met two of your family namely Sister L Garrard and Noel, Noel was on leave and had called to see his sister, what a surprise I got when I met Lilly, didn’t know she was over on this side of the water, was awful glad to meet them…”

The War Diary for No. 16 Canadian General Hospital on November 7 1917 notes: “Struck off Strength….N/S L.A. Garrard…proceeded for duty at Granville Canadian Special Hospital, Buxton.” This hospital had recently moved to Buxton after it had been bombed in Ramsgate, Kent during German air raid on August 22 1917.

Lilly’s grandmother in Ealing was glad she had been moved away from Greater London. Frank Garrard later noted: “two letters from mother on the 5th and 10th November 1917. She mentions having been in touch with Lillian who was then at Buxton Derbyshire and Mother thought she was safer there than at Orpington. She says "the air raids keep us on the alert, to us they are only an excitement but to London and its near suburbs a terrifying trial.”