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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Strathcona Gardens is one of many recreation opportunities that could be investigated during a feasibility study. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Strathcona rural and municipal directors disagree on recreation study

Rural directors say study would not affect them, don’t want to pay for it

Red dresses hang on the Longhouse at Campbell River’s Robert Ostler Park on May 5, which is designated as Red Dress Day to commemorate murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. A gathering at the Longhouse was held to mark the day and the MMWIG. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Campbell River gathering commemorates murdered and missing women and girls

Red Dress Day marked by ceremony at Robert Ostler Park

City of Campbell River crews work to repair a four-inch water main near Carihi Secondary School. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Main break leaves Campbell River neighbourhood without water

Students sent home early from Carihi Secondary, businesses closed

The arena at Strathcona Gardens could be in the running for the 2022 Kraft Hockeyville competition. File photo – Campbell River Mirror
Strathcona Gardens eyes 2022 Kraft Hockeyville competition

Winner gets to host a pre-season NHL game and $250,000 to help fix their arena

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police photo of suspected cat thief was just a woman with her own cat

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports first vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

Most Read