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Transcript: The Cartridge Case from the Funeral of Nichola Goddard

The Canadian War Museum holds millions of objects in the National Collection. Each one tells a story.

Shots rang out in three volleys. Spent cartridge cases—including this one—fell into the grass.

These rounds were not used to end a life, but rather to honour one: they were fired as a rifle volley military salute during the 7 June 2006 funeral of Captain Nichola Goddard at the National Military Cemetery in Ottawa.

Goddard joined the military after high school, drawn by the promise of free education and a good job. She was posted to the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, and excelled in her training and domestic deployments fighting wildfires and controlling avalanches in British Columbia. She was promoted to captain, and deployed to Afghanistan in January 2006.

Goddard was proud of her accomplishments. As her former mentor, Major Anne Reiffenstein recalled, ”She wanted to be remembered as a really, really good soldier, not as a female officer, a female soldier or a first of anything.” Yet, today Goddard is remembered as a tragic “first” in Canadian military history: she was the first woman killed while serving as a Canadian officer on combat duty.

Women have been part of the Canadian military for more than 135 years.

From 1885 until the beginning of the Second World War, women served as military nurses. This work could be dangerous. During the First World War, more than 60 nurses died while in service.

When the Second World War began in 1939, nurses were still the only women in the military. This changed in 1941, when the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Army established women’s service branches. The Royal Canadian Navy followed in 1942. Some 50,000 women served in the Canadian military during the Second World War, all in non-combat roles. After the war ended, the women’s services were disbanded.

In the following decades, the number of women in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the opportunities open to them increased gradually, reflecting new legal rights and other changes in society.

Fifteen years after Canadian women were first sent into war zones in combat roles, Goddard was deployed to Afghanistan. She served as a forward observer controller. As an artillery officer, it was her job to accompany soldiers into battle to direct air and artillery fire.

On May 17th, 2006, she was among more than 200 Canadian and Afghan soldiers clearing enemy fighters from the village of  Pashmul, near Kandahar City. The platoon Goddard and her team were accompanying was ambushed. Goddard’s vehicle was hit with rocket-propelled grenades. Shrapnel struck Goddard in the head, killing her instantly.

Goddard was the first Canadian woman killed in combat in Afghanistan. In total, 158 Canadian military personnel, including 4 women, lost their lives in service in Afghanistan.

Goddard is remembered as a skilled gunner and excellent leader. She was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal on October 27th, 2006. Her memory lives on, with a school, coast guard ship, lake, award and charity named in her honour.