Nursing Sister Mary Elizabeth Bunting enlisted in February 1916 at age 22. She served for three years at hospitals in England and France and returned to Canada in April 1919.
Mary was the oldest daughter of Thomas Henry Bunting and Elizabeth McDonald of Indian Head, Saskatchewan. Thomas came from a large Irish family in Middlesex County, Ontario and his wife had emigrated from London, England. They were married in 1892 in the North-West Territories, in what would become the province of Saskatchewan. They had three children: Mary Elizabeth (4 July 1893), Irene Florence (1896) and Thomas Cecil Stanley (1901). When the 1901 census was taken Thomas was listed as a carriage builder. Also in the household were his brothers Edward, a carpenter, and Wesley, a farmer. Thomas passed away in October 1901, when Mary was eight years old. At the time of the 1906 census Elizabeth and the three children were living on Eberta Street in Indian Head. Within a few years they moved to Winnipeg then to the town of Kenora in northwestern Ontario. Elizabeth was married again in Kenora on 25 May 1910. Her husband William Andrews was a fisherman and they lived on Third Street South in Lakeside
The war started in August 1914 and Mary enlisted in Toronto on 5 February 1916. She was 22 years old, 5'7" and 150 lb with blue eyes. Her home address was Kenora and she was working as a nurse and serving in the active militia. Another nurse from Kenora, Margaret Sullivan, enlisted in Toronto the same day. They both left Canada on the SS Olympic on 2 April 1916 and arrived in England nine days later. For the next year Mary served at the Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington, Kent. In April 1917, a few days before the start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, she was transferred to No. 7 Canadian General Hospital in Étaples, France, where she served for six months. In late October she began suffering abdominal pain from an old appendectomy scar, which was aggravated by her nursing duties. She was admitted to a local hospital then evacuated to England.
Mary was a patient at Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service Hospital in Vincent Square, London from 9 November to 11 December. On 12 December a medical board recommended a further one-month leave and in January 1918 she returned to work at the Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington, now renamed No. 16 General. She served there for ten months, getting two weeks leave in August. On 28 October Mary was attached to the hospital ship HMT Neuralia, which was making its third trip returning wounded soldiers to Canada. The ship embarked from Liverpool on 30 October and a few days into the voyage Mary became ill. When they arrived in Halifax on 10 November she was admitted to Camp Hill Military Hospital and diagnosed with broncho-pneumonia and pleurisy. The following day the Armistice was signed.
Mary was discharged from the hospital on 28 November and given two weeks leave, which she spent with her family in Kenora. Sadly, her brother Thomas died on 29 November, at age 17, a victim of the flu pandemic that Mary had just survived. His body was sent to Indian Head, Saskatchewan for burial in the family plot. On 16 December Mary was back in Halifax where she spent a short time at Pine Hill Convalescent Hospital before resuming her nursing duties. She returned to England later that month on the SS Essequibo and she was back at work at the hospital in Orpington on 5 January 1919. She served in England for another 2-1/2 months. She returned to Canada on the HMTS Canada on 23 March, landing at Halifax on 1 April and getting her discharge on 9 April in Ottawa. Her intended residence was listed as Vancouver.
Around 1921 Mary moved to the U.S. and settled in San Diego, California where she met Randolph McCall Pate, an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Randolph was born in 1898 in Port Royal, Beaufort County, South Carolina and he started his military career at age 20. Mary and Randolph were married on 2 July 1926 in Kitsap County, Washington. From 1927 to 1929 Randolph was stationed in China. When the 1930 census was taken he was back in the U.S., living with his wife at the military barracks on Parris Island in Beaufort County. He had a long and distinguished military career, getting promoted to Colonel during the Second World War, serving as a Major General in the Korean War, and becoming a General and commander of the Marine Corps in 1956. He retired in 1959 and died two years later after a brief illness. He and his wife had a home in Beaufort, South Carolina and Mary continued living there until her health declined. She passed away at the Bay View Nursing Home in Beaufort on 31 December 1975, at age 82. Randolph and Mary are both buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
Canada's Nursing Sisters are commemorated on the Nursing Sisters' Memorial in the Hall of Honour at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.
By Kenora Great War Project