The Dirt Hounds (Bailey Andrichuk, Brandon Kuczynski, Brad Cappon) and Lois Maurer showing the nurse’s VAD medal earned by C. Whittle. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

The Dirt Hounds (Bailey Andrichuk, Brandon Kuczynski, Brad Cappon) and Lois Maurer showing the nurse’s VAD medal earned by C. Whittle. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

VIDEO: Long-buried silver medal returned to B.C. family of war nurse

Metal detectors found war medal in field, researcher linked it to Chilliwack family

The surviving Chilliwack niece of a First World War nurse was presented with a medal her aunt earned caring for soldiers more than 100 years ago.

“It’s as though I’d been chosen for something.”

Lois Maurer, 95, described how it felt to have the medal back in the hands of family in an interview outside her care home, on Sunday (March 14), with her daughter, Nada Reid.

“Because how did this come to me? Why did it get to me? I’m kind of a fatalist,” Maurer told the small crowd.

It turns out the silver medal engraved with “C. Whittle” had belonged to her aunt, Carrie Whittle.

“She must have been quite a lady,” Maurer said about the relative she never met.

Whittle had left Chilliwack by the time Maurer was born in 1925. “And my mom was too, a real hard worker and got things done.”

Handing over the medal to Maurer on Sunday was Brandon Kuczynski of Langley, who dug it out of a field in Chilliwack last spring. Together with his fiancée Bailey Andrichuk, and friend Brad Cappon of Chilliwack, they are metal-detecting hobbyists, The Dirt Hounds.

Kuczynski’s said his equipment started beeping like crazy when it detected the silver medal in the old field. It was down fairly deep. Up to that point they’d recovered coins, gold rings and cellphones in previous sessions.

Never a rare item like a nurse’s medal from the Great War like this.

“I think the museum is a great spot for it,” said Dirt Hound Brad Cappon.

It was the research of ancestry sleuth Marion Robinson, who tracked down the living relatives of C. Whittle in Chilliwack.

CTV storyteller Mike McCardell did a segment weeks ago on the Dirt Hounds trying find any living relatives of the medal recipient: C. Whittle.

Robinson said she saw the story when it aired, and got right to work on her laptop researching the Whittle family roots.

RELATED: Medal was down deep in a field

Kucynski said that finding the medal has put the spotlight on the life of a nurse who cared for people most of her life, which is timely during a global pandemic with the primacy of front-line healthcare workers.

The image of the wartime nurse is gradually coming into focus. Whittle was born in England in 1881, but had family who moved to Chilliwack. She eventually joined them by 1911 in a home on Camp River Road.

Caroline (Carrie) Whittle enlisted in 1914 to go overseas as a nursing volunteer and served in England and France. She was awarded the nurse’s VAD medal, Two Scarlet Efficiency Stripes, and in May 1919 was honoured with the silver British War/Victory Medal, according to Robinson’s research.

The image of King George is on one side of the medal, and a figure on horseback is on the other. The medal was a type of nurse’s honour attached by a ribbon bestowed on those who served with the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) by caring for convalescing soldiers. She was posted to a hospital in Bristol, and elsewhere around London.

Her story is becoming clearer now that the medal has resurfaced.

“Caroline was a nurse dealing with trench warfare, and all the horrors that brought,” said Robinson.

She‘d also been engaged a soldier who she met overseas, but he was killed during the war.

Following the war Whittle joined a religious order, and by 1920 had became Mother Juanita Noel, and eventually founded hospitals and schools in the U.S. She worked with children suffering from polio and saved lives.

“Your auntie is truly a hero,” Robinson told Maurer. “Here we have a person who gave herself to the saving of hundreds and hundreds of people, children and adults, in the days when we didn’t have much hope for polio and neither for tuberculosis. She sets an example for us because of how she gave. And she reminds each and every one of us that we can all give, each in our own little way.”

One mystery remains, the question of how the medal ended up buried in that field in Chilliwack.

“Caroline had no kids and became a Mother Superior in Colorado. She apparently was not to have any belongings so she must have given the medal to her sister?” was one scenario Robinson was considering to explain how it got there.

Research showed that Whittle’s sister, Laura Whittle married a man named Mr. Bessette, and had kids. One of their daughters was Lois.

The family has decided to donate the medal to the Chilliwack Museum for posterity and safe-keeping, but wanted to share the extraordinary story of their family member with the public now that it has resurfaced decades after her death in 1971.

READ MORE: More to metal detecting than treasure hunting

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


@CHWKjourno
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

chilliwackFirst World War

 

Ancestry researcher Marion Robinson helped find the Chilliwack family of nurse Carrie Whittle. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

Ancestry researcher Marion Robinson helped find the Chilliwack family of nurse Carrie Whittle. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

Medal found by metal detectors handed over to Chilliwack family of First World War nurse. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

Medal found by metal detectors handed over to Chilliwack family of First World War nurse. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

Just Posted

Gerry Thiessen, mayor of Vanderhoof shown talking to students on May 17. Thiessen and other members of council officially announced that the rainbow crosswalk will be a reality. They were ready to paint a few lines of of paint onto the crosswalk, but weather wasn’t suitable for it. District staff will be jumping onto the project as soon as the weather allows it. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
School District 91 holds first ‘Share the Love Day’

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia recognized

Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. Toxic illicit drugs have claimed the lives of 498 British Columbians in the first three months of 2021, said the BC Coroners Service. (BCEHS photo)
Increase in overdose cases a concern: Fort St. James RCMP

Police issue public health announcement

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A forest of dance-protesters outside the BC Legislature on April 11. These participants were doing the Dance for the Ancient Forest in support of the Fairy Creek blockade and against old-growth logging. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Arrests begin at Fairy Creek blockade on Vancouver Island

Five protesters arrested as RCMP begin to enforce injunction

A thunderstorm pictured in Fraser Valley in 2021. (Black Press Media/Jaimie Grafstrom)
Wildfire concerns sparked after 320+ lightning strikes blasted B.C. yesterday

Approximately one-quarter of the province is currently listed as being at moderate risk of fire

A restaurant server on White Rock’s Marine Drive serves customers on a roadside patio. Indoor dining and recreational travel bans have been in effect since late March in B.C. (Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate falls to 411 cases Tuesday

360 people in hospital, up slightly, two more deaths

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Minister asks Canadians to camp carefully in national parks as season starts

Kitchen shelters in Banff National Park closed, trails on Vancouver Island will only be one-way

Names of those aboard the ship are seen at Komagata Maru monument in downtown Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The City of Vancouver has issued an apology for its racist role in denying entry to 376 passengers aboard a ship that was forced to return to India over a century ago. Mayor Kennedy Stewart says discrimination by the city had “cruel effects” on the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims aboard the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says sorry for city’s role in turning away South Asians in 1914

Kennedy Stewart has declared May 23 as the annual Komagata Maru Day of Remembrance

A crew of WestCoast WILD Adventures employees tackled an onslaught of litter left at the ‘Locks of Love’ fence at Wally Creek on May 2. (Anne-Marie Gosselin photo)
Litter woes consume popular ‘Locks of Love’ fence on B.C.’s Pacific Rim

Popular view spot near Tofino plagued by people hanging masks and other unwanted garbage

Vincent Doumeizel, senior advisor at the United Nations Global Compact on Oceans, as well as director for the Food Programme for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, pulls up some sugar kelp seaweed off the French coast in April 2020. He was the keynote speaker during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Seaweed Days Festival. (Vincent Doumeizel/Submitted)
Let’s hear it for seaweed: slimy, unsexy and the world’s greatest untapped food source

Experts talks emerging industry’s challenges and potential at Sidney inaugural Seawood Days Festival

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
B.C. teen’s 23,000-name Coastal GasLink petition gets him an audience with the minister

15-year-old Saanich high school student and George Heyman discussed project for about 30 minutes

Most Read