Kathleen Jones

“I’m afraid I’m a very poor sort of lover my dear. I can’t express all the beautiful things that are inside."

The night before Gerald Blake left to serve in the Great War, he asked young Kathleen Jones to marry him. To his delight, she said yes and the two promised to be reunited upon his return.

The next morning, Blake left Toronto for New York City en route to sign up with the British military.

Blake was Canadian—indeed, he was the grandson of former Ontario Premier Edward Blake—but after the Canadian service refused his cousin Hume Wrong, due to the blindness in one of his eyes, the pair decided to cross the Atlantic and commission the British together.

It’s clear that Jones was foremost on his mind as Blake made his way. On June 19th, 1915, as he waited to ship out for England, he put pencil to paper and poured his heart out to his new fiancé.

“I’m afraid I’m a very poor sort of lover my dear. I can’t express all the beautiful things that are inside. I’m just struck dumb. I haven’t an idea what I said to you—only I felt most immensely and I expect you know what I wanted to say.”

It’s likely that Blake spent many moments while in the trenches thinking of home, of Jones, of the life he would lead once the fighting ceased. A law student at Osgoode Hall prior to the war’s outbreak, he took pride in his education. Jones arrived in England at the end of October 1915 and studied physiotherapy at the Great Portland Street hospital, graduating in early June of 1916.

The couple had a promising future, but it was not to be.

Blake was killed at the Battle of the Somme in France, only a month after Jones’ graduation. He was 24 years old.

It was cousin Wrong who broke the news to Jones. She was working in various hospitals around London at the time. Heartbroken, Jones returned to Canada.

Jones was hired by the Dominion Orthopaedic Hospital in Toronto to be the institution’s first head masseuse in 1919. Physiotherapy surfaced out of the Great War as an important and emerging field. It was a medical profession dominated by women, many of whom, like Jones, had trained overseas. The hospital was established to serve the needs of the growing veteran population that was returning home. It was there also that she found love again, meeting, treating, and eventually marrying one of her patients, veteran Robert Mills.

In 1978, Jones prepared a package of the letters Blake had sent her from the front and forwarded them to her grand-daughter Patricia Staunton saying, “I did hope that some of the younger generation would be interested in a first-hand account of life in the trenches in France — and so I am grateful to you, dear. I could not bring myself to destroy them and leave them to you to do what you think is best... It was a tragedy for me and for Canada that so many thousands of young men were lost — for what?"

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