The Dirt Hounds (Bailey Andrichuk, Brandon Kuczynski, Brad Cappon) and Lois Maurer showing the silver medal earned by C. Whittle. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

The Dirt Hounds (Bailey Andrichuk, Brandon Kuczynski, Brad Cappon) and Lois Maurer showing the silver medal earned by C. Whittle. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)

VIDEO: Long-buried silver medal returned to Chilliwack family of war nurse

Metal detectors found war medal in field, researcher linked it to Chilliwack family

The surviving niece of a First World War nurse was presented with a medal her aunt earned caring for injured soldiers more than 100 years ago.

“It’s as though I’d been chosen for something.”

Chilliwack’s Lois Maurer, 95, was describing 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 said.

The British War Medal medal engraved with “C. Whittle” 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 silver 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 said his equipment started beeping like crazy when it detected the silver medal. It was buried fairly deep. Up to that point they’d recovered coins, gold rings and cellphones in previous sessions.

Never a rare item like a medal from the Great War like this. They thought it was a coin of some sort at first.

“I think the museum is a great spot for it,” Cappon said.

The research of ancestry sleuth Marion Robinson helped 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.

Robinson said she saw the story when it aired, and got right to work on her laptop researching the Whittle family roots.

Kuczynski 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 Two Scarlet Efficiency Stripes, and in May 1919 was honoured with the silver British War Medal and the Victory Medal, according to Robinson’s research. The image of King George is on one side of the British War Medal, and a figure on horseback is on the other.

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 to 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. She 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.

chilliwackFirst World War

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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)

Caroline Whittle was Mother Juanita Noel. (Whittle family archives)

Caroline Whittle was Mother Juanita Noel. (Whittle family archives)

The medal earned by C. Whittle in 1918 and found by Brandon Kuczynski in 2021, now in the hands of niece Lois Maurer.

The medal earned by C. Whittle in 1918 and found by Brandon Kuczynski in 2021, now in the hands of niece Lois Maurer.

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