Etaples France 1917

Accoriding to Wilipedia the major UK troop staging and hospital camp in Étaples in France has been theorized by researchers as being at the center of the Spanish Flu. The research was published in 1999 by a British team, led by virologist John Oxford. In late 1917, military pathologists reported the onset of a new disease with high mortality that they later recognized as the flu. The overcrowded camp and hospital was an ideal site for the spreading of a respiratory virus. The hospital treated thousands of victims of chemical attacks, and other casualties of war, and 100,000 soldiers passed through the camp every day. It also was home to a piggery, and poultry was regularly brought in for food supplies from surrounding villages. Oxford and his team postulated that a significant precursor virus, harbored in birds, mutated and then migrated to pigs kept near the front.

Marion, my grandaunt and Edith, my grandmother, were nurses along with her future husband, Frank A Smith, served as a surgeon with the Royal Canadian Medical Expedition at Etaples through 1916 into 1917. Edith was transported back to the States in 1917 and I often wondered why until I read the above passage. I phoned my Aunt Sally in Marblehead and asked a question about a story more than one hundred years old. Sally pondered my query for several seconds and then said, “I do remember something about that, but not much.”

Global anyplace from seventeen million to fifty million lost their lives to this killer influenza.

Thankfully my grandmother survived into the early 7Os.

To this day she remains one of my favorite people in the world.

Then, now, and forever.

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