The Canadian government established the Army Medical Department in June 1899. In doing so, the government also created the first formal Nursing Sisters Unit, and eight Nursing Sisters were included with the medical services staff that accompanied the Canadian contingent to South Africa in 1900. These women were granted the relative rank, pay, and allowances of an army lieutenant.
The medical units provided vital service to the British forces in South Africa. The hot climate and poor levels of sanitation resulted in large outbreaks of disease and infection. Of the 20,000 deaths suffered by the imperial forces in South Africa, only 6,000 were battle related.