Margaret Martha Brooke, MBE, dietician, naval officer, war hero, paleontologist (born 10 April 1915 in Ardath, SK; died 9 January 2016 in Victoria, BC). Brooke was a nursing sister during the Second World War and survived the torpedoing of the SS Caribou. For her heroism immediately after the sinking, she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), the first Canadian nursing sister so recognized.
Margaret Martha Brooke served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1942 to 1962. She was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her heroism after the sinking of the SS Caribou.
Margaret Brooke was brought up in rural Saskatchewan, where her father was a farmer and her mother a schoolteacher. In 1933, she left home to attend the University of Saskatchewan and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in household science. She then moved to Ottawa to complete her dietetic internship and earned a certified dietician designation.
Second World War
In March 1942, Margaret Brooke enrolled in the Royal Canadian Navy at HMCS Unicorn, the naval reserve division in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Since there was no naval category for her profession (dietitian), she was made a nursing sister with the rank of sub-lieutenant. She went on to serve in various naval hospitals across Canada and in Newfoundland. ( Newfoundland became part of Canada in 1949).
Sinking of the SS Caribou
While she was stationed in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Margaret Brooke survived the torpedoing of the SS Caribou. This was a ferry that regularly crossed Cabot Strait from Sydney, Nova Scotia, to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. Due to the threat of German submarines in the Atlantic, the ferry was escorted by ships from the Royal Canadian Navy. (See Battle of the Atlantic.) Brooke and her friend, Sub-Lieutenant (Nursing Sister) Agnes Wilkie, were passengers on the ferry when it was struck by a German torpedo in the early morning hours of 14 October 1942. The minesweeper HMCS Grandmère immediately set off in pursuit of the German submarine U-69, in accordance with naval orders.