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Nuclear Warfare

War where atomic weapons are used. This first happened on August 6, 1945, when the American dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, followed by a second atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki three days later, effectively ending the Second World War. At this time, only the United States had the knowledge to make nuclear bombs, but the USSR developed a bomb four years later, and Great Britain and France followed in the 1950s. More recently, China, India and Pakistan have also developed nuclear weapons.

During the Cold War, the threat of nuclear war was ever present and led to an enormous reserves of nuclear weapons, especially in the USA and the USSR, that would, in case of war, destroy humanity, resulting in the saving "logic" of mutually assured destruction. The "Ban the Bomb" movement began in Great Britain in 1957, and quickly spread to all western countries while governments secretly tried to find ways to prevent the launch of nuclear weapons in times of crisis. In the 1960s, collaboration between the USA and the USSR led to the ‘Strategic Arms Limitation Talks’ (SALT) that resulted in agreements to destroy some of the vast collection of nuclear weapons.

For its part, Canada has been familiar with nuclear science since the Second World War. The uranium oxide used to produce the atom bomb came from the shores of Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories. There, a highly secret facility operated in 1943 to supply the US Manhattan Project, which constructed the first atom bomb in New Mexico. A nuclear reactor was built at Chalk River, in a remote part of Ontario. Nuclear research led to a distinct Canadian atomic energy technology by the 1950s. Canada has long had the capacity to make nuclear weapons but, as a nation, has chosen instead to promote the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

See also: Cold War

Nurses (Canadian Military)

One who tends to sick and injured servicemen. Military nursing in Canada goes back to the early years of the French Regime, when such duties were carried out by religious orders, such as the Sisters of Charity, whose vocation was nursing and founded and ran hospitals in New France. As in Old France, they received royal subsidies to maintain the hospitals in return of which they treated wounded and sick officers of the royal troops. From 1759, the same arrangements were made with the British authorities. In the field, there were no nurses in British units although the soldier’s wives were expected to help the regimental surgeons. Nursing as a profession was largely the result of the efforts of Florence Nightingale who, horrified at the deplorable sanitary conditions in which wounded soldiers were treated during the Crimean War (1854-1855), set up a service with trained nurses. In Canada, the first nurses to serve in the field did so in the 1885 Riel Rebellion. A few were attached to the Yukon Field Force (1898) and to the Canadian contigents in South Africa (1899-1902.

In 1904, a small permanent nursing service was set up within the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC). Aside from this group, nurses across Canada could volunteer for active service in wartime according to an agreement between the government and the country’s civilian nursing associations (notably the Canadian Red Cross, St. John’s Ambulance and the Victorian Order of Nurses). Thousands of Canadian nurses volunteered their services in the First World war, a time of great change and innovation in the field of military medical services. At first, medical units were set up in hospitals, but the eventual establishment of Casualty Clearing Stations provided faster and more effective treatment to the injured at the front line. One of the innovations of the First World War Medical Services was the introduction of the hospital ship. On the night of June 27, 1918, the Canadian hospital ship Llandovery Castle was torpedoed and 234 people lost their lives including all 14 Sisters on board. A total of 3,141 nursing sisters served in the Canadian Army Medical corps and 2,504 of those served overseas in England, France and the Eastern Mediterranean at Gallipoli, Alexandria and Salonika. By the end of the First World War, 46 Nursing Sisters had given their lives.

The RCAMC nursing service went back to its very small cadre of nurses during the 1920s and 1930s. Within months of the outbreak of the Second World War, thousands of nurses had volunteered into the RCAMC and were to serve in nearly all theatres of the war attached to units such as field ambulances, general hospitals and convalescent centres overseas and in Canada. There were two Canadian hospital ships, the Lady Nelson and the Letitia, who carried 28,000 allied and 2,700 Prisoner Of War (POW) casualties. Some 3,656 nurses served in the RCAMC with over 2,600 posted overseas.

The RCAF Nursing Service was authorized on November 28, 1940 and grew to 481 by 1945, about one in seven serving overseas. The RCN began its Nursing Service with three nurses on December 4, 1942, and grew to 343 by war’s end. In all, Canadian nurses staffed over a hundred major hospitals treating some 60,000 Canadians as well as thousands of Allied and enemy wounded soldiers. Their average age from 24 to 26 years and, as in the First World war, all were commissioned officers. Canadian nurses have since served in the Korean War and in countless United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian missions. Today, they continue to bring relief to combatants and civilian victims by treating battle inflicted injuries and infectious diseases.

See also: Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC)