A Wigan Canadian’s Hospital Romance

This article appeared in the Wigan Observer on 25th March 1916. A true life romance of how a wounded soldier married the nurse who cared for him.  

According to his Attestation Paper, signed by Arthur on September 26 1914, Arthur was born on January 15 1891 in Wigan. His father worked in the coal industry. Arthur left Wigan for Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia in 1913.

‘Bombardier Arthur Coll, the son of Mr & Mrs. Peter Coll, who left for Sydney Mines, Cape Breton, Canada, two years ago, is the hero of a hospital romance. After being wounded in France he was brought to this country and has just returned to Canada, taking his nurse with him as his wife.

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Bombardier Arthur Coll

Mr Coll spent his school days at the Wesleyan School, Dicconson Street, Wigan. On the outbreak of war he offered himself to active service with the first Canadian contingent and he was serving with his battery when he was severely wounded during the second attempt of the Germans to reach Calais.
Whilst in the City of London Military Hospital having his wounds cared for, he became engaged to his nurse, Miss Alice Gertrude Bailey and was married on his discharge from hospital.

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Alice Bailey

Mr Coll and his bride were accorded a combined civic, military and church welcome on reaching Sydney Mines; the Carman Methodist Church being profusely decorated for the occasion. The church choir and town band  played patriotic music and addresses of welcome were spoken by the Rev. Prestwood…and Mr John Johnston (Superintendent of Collieries).

A marble tablet is affixed to the front wall of Carman Church containing the names of the volunteers associated with the congregation, 48 in number. Mr Coll is named first on the list; it is an interesting coincidence that he was also the first of the number to be wounded and invalided home. The chairs the young husband and wife occupied were placed underneath this tablet and thrill after thrill went through many in the audience as they began to realise the significance of the scene.

The young soldier who had been more than a year in Europe and nearly a year at the Front amid the din of battle and exposed to its peril now sitting in place under his own name at home. “He who went forth at the outbreak of the war with his life in his hands now sitting there with two lives to his name.”says a Sydney Mines contemporary, in recording the event. “The young women who had devoted herself to saving life in the theatre of war and death now came across the sea with one whom she had helped to save – the two representing the two great enterprises to which the nations overseas are now bending all their energies –  in the act of fighting and the art of healing. ”

Well, it was, to put it mildly, a very impressive sight. The young bride’s head drooped often as references were made to her by the speakers expressive of compliment, humour and cordial welcome, while the groom sat erect, evidently proud and happy, as good fortune and congratulation gave him right to be. ‘

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Sources

Wigan Observer – 25th March 1916

 

 

 

 

 

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