Canada in the Second World War

People

Dorothy Irene Mulholland

Surname: MULHOLLAND
Given name: Dorothy Irene
Nationality: Canadian
Date of Birth: January 5, 1915
Place of Birth: Grimsby, Ontario, Canada
Rank: Nursing Sister, F/O
Corps:.No. 2 Mobile Field Unit

Molly and Kipper

BEFORE THE WAR

Dorothy Irene Mulholland was born on January 5, 1915, in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada, to James and Ethel Mullholland. James and Ethel had three daughters: Kathleen, Doreen and Irene, with Irene being the eldest. The Mulholland family resided in Georgetown, Ontario.

Upon graduating from St Joseph’s School of Nursing, in Guelph, Ontario in 1936, Irene started her career as a nurse at Peel Memorial Hospital. It was during this time that she met Robert “Kipper” McKillip, who was the son of a local businessman and enlisted in the RCAF to become a pilot. Irene and Kipper became engaged in 1941 but deferred their wedding. Irene had decided to volunteer to be a Nursing Sister for the RCAF. Were she to become married, Irene would not have been permitted to serve overseas.

ACTIVITY DURING THE BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC & THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN

Like most new recruits to the military, Irene received a nick name “Molly”, which is short for Mulholland. Molly initially spent time in St Thomas, Ontario and then moved on to Gander, Newfoundland where she began to distinguish herself as an exemplary nurse, appointed as the supervisor of the operating room.

In 1942, while departing from Halifax for service overseas, Molly reviewed the latest casualty listing. Much to her profound sadness, she discovered Kipper’s name among those missing in action. His fighter plane was shot down in the Mediterranean – though he was never found.

EXPERIENCES IN GREAT-BRITAIN

Molly’s time in England is not well documented, however, it is known that she continued to provide care to the injured soldiers returned from the front lines.

Molly in a field with Poppies

D-DAY & BATTLE OF NORMANDY

Early on the morning of June 19, 1944, Molly’s unit, the No. 2 Field Mobile Hospital, was called to join the offensive, which had been underway since June 6. Several hours later, Molly and another nursing sister, Winnifred “Pit” Pitkethly, became the first Canadian women to land as part of the Normandy offensive. A third nursing sister, Edna “Millie” Millman, arrived later on that same day.

After landing at Juno Beach, they focused on setting up the mobile hospital and tending to injured soldiers. Molly recalled spending most of the first week in a trench and she described those times as being cold, damp and very uncomfortable. She also mentioned that in the early days after their arrival, she spent most of her time sleeping or providing care to the injured. She described one exhausting 72 hour shift in the operating room (which was nothing more than a tent) while bombs exploded around them.

Although initially scheduled to stay for 3 months, a series of events prevented Molly’s replacement from arriving, stretching her tour to 8 months.

The No. 2 Mobile Field Unit’s primary role was to support the 2nd Tactical Air Force as they advanced through Europe. They pushed forward through France into Belgium and Holland. As a result, Molly’s unit played a supporting role, in the now famous, Battle of the Bulge.

For the remainder of 1945, Molly was assigned to the RCAF Burn Unit in East Grinstead, England.

AFTER THE WAR

Molly was honourably released on November 14, 1945. She suffered from a severe case of “battle fatigue”, known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Loud sounds triggered panic attacks and she suffered from regular nightmares of the soldiers that she was not able to save.

Molly returned back to her family in Georgetown. She gave up being a surgical nurse, and worked for a local company, later becoming a public health nurse at Georgetown High School until her retirement in 1980. She never married.

On November 10, 1985, just a few hours shy of Remembrance Day, surrounded by family and friends, Molly passed away, her battle finally ended.

This account, written by Molly’s nephew, James Pasichny and her niece Christen Shepherd.  It was based on the memories of family members, various newspaper stories and government records. It is not intended to be a historically correct account but personal recollections of one nurse.

 

Molly at the Officers Club

Molly Operating at the Front

The girls sleeping in a trench