Recently, I was loading and editing a database into Florence War Cemetery in Italy. I was nearing the end of my review when I spotted an unusual name.
The last name was Steane, but the first name was Maude. A woman… no problem. After all, there were a number of nurses serving in Italy in 1944/45.
But Maude Steane, of Toronto, Ontario was not a nurse. She was a wireless operator. Even more interesting was, although she was Canadian, she was serving on a Norwegian ship, the S.S. Viggo Hansteen, which was attached to the Canadian Merchant Navy.
So, being a good Investigator, I decided to dig into Maude’s story. Maude, 23-years-old when the war broke out, was a blood donor for the effort. Within a couple of years, she wanted to contribute more so she went to study to become a wireless operator. She graduated in 1943, second in her class and the only woman. She applied to the Canadian Navy but was turned down… no girls allowed. She then went to the Royal Navy… same result for the same reason.
Undeterred, Maude talked with the Norwegians who said, “come on in, we are happy to have you”. She served on her ship all the way to Naples, where she was killed on 14 August 1944 at the age of 28 years.
But how did Maude die? It is unconfirmed but reported that she was shot by another crewman. Carl Reinhard Eidsoren, the unnamed man who killed her also shot himself and was buried at Naples War Cemetery.
Maude Elizabeth Steane… a tragic end for a real Canadian hero.