MATRON JESSIE BROWN JAGGARD
CANADIAN ARMY MEDICAL CORPS
29TH SEPTEMBER 1915 AGE 44
BURIED: PORTIANOS MILITARY CEMETERY, LEMNOS, GREECE
This is yet another of those famous quotations that I, and I suspect many other twenty-first-century readers, have never heard of. It comes from the seventh stanza of Robert Browning's thirty-two-stanza poem, 'Rabbi Ben Ezra'. To Browning, death brings the soul's release into the next stage of its journey so we should not concern ourselves too much with what happens to us in this life. Whatever happens is the will of God and he has his reasons. We are not animals so we will have doubts and uncertainties and failures; if our ambitions were so limited that we achieved them all then we would be like animals.
For thence, - a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks, -
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale.
Jessie Brown Jaggard died of dysentery on Lemnos barely a month after she had arrived on the island. Dysentery and typhoid were rife among the soldiers on Gallipoli and conditions in the hastily erected hospitals on Lemnos were very difficult - initially no sanitary provision, precarious and inadequate water supply, scarcity of food and the ever present heat, dust and flies - that disease spread among the medical staff too.
Born in Nova Scotia, Jessie Jaggard was a trained nurse, who gave up her career when she married. However, soon after the outbreak of war, she volunteered to join the nursing services - despite the fact that she was married, had a seventeen-year-old son and lived in the United States. She sailed for England in May 1915. On 1 August, she was despatched to Lemnos to set up the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital, . The blog Remembering First World War Nurses has more details about her life and death.
Her inscription was chosen by her husband, Herbert Armstrong Jaggard, a director of the Pennsylvania Railway Company.