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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bringing Home Bodies After World War I: The Case of Norene Royer

There was one death among the women of Base Hospital 46 in France during World War I. I've been posting information about the death of nurse Norene Royer and suggesting that the information about her death can tell us a great deal about the experience women and World War I.

The staff of Base Hospital 46 in Bazoiilles-sur-Meuse France held a funeral for and buried Royer's body on September 18, 1918. But like many family members of those who died in World War I, her family wanted to have her body returned and repatriated to the United States.

Lisa Budreau, author of Bodies of War: World War I and the Politics of Commemoration in America, 1919-1933 (New York University Press, 2011) notes that the return of the American war dead was "disorganized" and "unplanned for." Problems of transportation, labor, and mismanagement were the rule. Budreau notes that by "the close of 1921, the gruesome burial work was nearly complete after the American military had shipped close to 46,000 dead to the United States."

The army shipped Royer's body home in June, 1921, first to Portland and then to her home in Spokane. 
"Nurse's Body Due Today," Oregonian, June 2, 1921, 7.
The Oregonian noted that Stella Brown would represent Base Hospital 46 at this reburial.

Frances Estella Browne, Grace Phelps Papers, Box 3, Binder 5, Base Hospital 46 Staff Files, Historical Collections & Archives, Oregon Health & Science University. Courtesy Historical Collections &Archives, OHSU.

Frances Estella Brown, R.N. was from Fossil, Oregon and trained at the Good Samaritan Hospital Training School for nurses. That the represented Base Hospital 46 at Royer's reburial in Spokane suggests suggesting a strong and continuing group identity for many of the women of the unit after the war.