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The “Spanish Flu” in Newfoundland, 1918

Prof. Terry Bishop-Stirling, Dr. Ean Parsons, and Dr. Heidi Coombs

Volunteer nurses at the King George V Seamen’s Institute in St. John's during the Spanish influenza pandemic.

In September 1918, the second wave of the global influenza pandemic reached the shores of Newfoundland. The pandemic, colloquially known as the Spanish Flu, became one of the deadliest outbreaks of infectious disease in history.

This panel presentation focuses on the history of the influenza pandemic on the Island of Newfoundland specifically and its impact on military personnel. Dr. Ean Parsons will present the medical basics of influenza and provide an overview of the origins of the 1918 pandemic and its spread through the military. Dr. Parsons will review the effects on Newfoundland military personnel both in Europe and in Newfoundland, using examples of individual stories. Professor Terry Bishop-Stirling will highlight the Spanish Flu on the Island, how communities large and small were affected by the Flu, and how the country’s doctors and government responded to the crisis. And finally, Dr. Heidi Coombs will discuss the role of the Grenfell Mission’s King George V Seamen’s Institute as a temporary emergency hospital during the pandemic and the tragic fate of a local nursing aide volunteer, Ethel Dickinson.

Please note that the history of the Spanish Flu in Labrador will be the topic of our January 2019 lecture, which will be presented by Anne Budgell.

Listen to this lecture: