Gravenhurst – Norman Bethune Memorial House

The Norman Bethune Memorial House is in Gravenhurst and not far from the Torrence Barrens Dark Preserve. It is a National Historic site which is one of the best we have visited thus far.

Dr. Henry Norman Bethune was born March 4, 1890 and died November 12, 1939.

Inspired by a sense of duty to others, he become a battlefront surgeon, communist, humanitarian, inventor, teacher and artist.

He is best known for his humanitarian contribution in China where he is considered a hero for his service with the Communist Eighth Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War and is buried in the Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery, Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, China.

Dr. Bethune effectively brought modern medicine to rural China and often treated sick villagers as much as wounded soldiers. His selfless commitment made a profound impression on the Chinese people.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out, Dr. Bethune went to Spain to offer his services and there, developed a mobile blood-transfusion service for frontline operations.

In Canada, he was an early proponent of socialized medicine and formed the Montreal Group for the Security of People’s Health. He often provided medical care to the poor and continually challenged his colleagues and agitated for medical service reforms.

Many of his innovations are still used today, the best example being the rib shears.

Dr. Norman Bethune was a communist and a veteran of the first world war. He professed that wars were motivated by profits rather than priciples.

If you are in the Gravenhurst area, you will not regret a visit to the Norman Bethune Memorial House. But, if you don’t get the opportunity to visit, there are several books and movies made of our Canadian hero. A post such as this does not come close to covering Dr. Bethune’s life and the magnitude of his role in history.

His selflessness, humanity and determination is truly an inspiration.


  1. Nice post: as I recall, Bethune’s Memorial House is the most visited National ‘Park’ site in Canada – visited still by Chinese tourists who still revere Dr Bethune for his work in China. I’m very happy to have visited it too in 2016 on our ‘cross Canada’ trip. – across the southern part of Canada anyway!!

    • The visitor book had reams of comments by Chinese visitors. Even after all this time, his legacy remains. Too bad more Canadians are not aware of one of the greatest heroes in Canadian history.

      On another note, did you make it to the Reil House National Historic Site. Unfortunately, it was closed on the day we were there. (I should fire my planner).

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