Our brave ladies who nursed our brave men

This is the third in an oc­ca­sional se­ries of ar­ti­cles by Rochester RSL sub­branch pres­i­dent JOHN GLOVER which will pro­vide an on­go­ing con­nec­tion as com­mem­o­ra­tions of World War I con­tinue through its cen­te­nary.

Campaspe News - - NEWS -

CHARLES Bean, the noted war his­to­rian, in­tro­duced the phrase “sis­ters of our fight­ing men” when he wrote the ac­claimed ANZAC Re­quiem which is so lov­ingly read each ANZAC Day.

The ladies to whom he re­ferred in­cluded some for­mer Rochester nurses who had served abroad dur­ing World War I.

The tra­di­tions those ladies es­tab­lished then have con­tin­ued and grown by Army nurses ever since.

The Aus­tralian Army Nurses Re­serve was es­tab­lished by Sis­ter El­iz­a­beth Glover (the last of the Glover fam­ily to mi­grate from Eng­land) in 1904 and from their ranks came the first nurses to travel with the 1st AIF in 1914.

Sis­ter Glover de­clined ap­point­ment as the ma­tron of the first Aus­tralian field hos­pi­tal but she used her em­i­nence within the nurs­ing pro­fes­sion to im­prove the con­di­tions of both the nurses and sol­diers dur­ing WWI.

Those first nurses had a sta­tus very dif­fer­ent to that en­joyed by Army nurses to­day.

Nurses at­tached to the 1st AIF had no Ser­vice Num­ber or Army rank but were treated as of­fi­cers.

They did not en­list in the AIF but were ap­pointed the day their ship em­barked from Aus­tralia and were struck off soon af­ter re­turn to Aus­tralia.

Mul­ti­ple ap­point­ments were pos­si­ble and the rou­tine hon­ours and awards were con­ferred on many of them.

These nurses served across all the­atres of war and the Rochester nurses served in In­dia, Egypt, the Mid­dle East, Eng­land and France.

Few peo­ple would be aware that of the nearly 1000 cit­i­zens from the for­mer Shire of Rochester who en­listed in WWI, seven were nurses. They were:

■ Dorothy Richards Gre­gory, Rochester;

■ Elsie Katharine Jack, Tim­mer­ing;

■ Inez Frances Lip­scomb, Rochester;

■ Fanny Is­abella Ni­col, Bal­len­della;

■ Jenny Penny, Dig­gora;

■ Enid Sabine Wells, Tor­rum­barry; and,

■ Edith Wilson Yea­man, Pan­nooba­mawm. Sis­ter Jack was Men­tioned in Despatches for her ser­vice in In­dia whilst Sis­ters Gre­gory and Ni­col were both dis­charged be­cause of ill­ness aris­ing from their ser­vice.

Thank­fully none of our lo­cal nurses died whilst on duty.

A to­tal of 2139 sis­ters served abroad between 1914 and 1918, while a fur­ther 423 served in Aus­tralia, 25 of these sis­ters died over­seas, and 388 were dec­o­rated for their ser­vice.

Not only did the nurses in WWI have to cope with the same try­ing con­di­tions faced by all of our sol­diers, they also had to cope with a bu­reau­cracy that was not en­tirely sup­port­ive of them.

Colonel Sir Neville Howse, VC, the med­i­cal hero of Gal­lipoli, was an ut­ter misog­y­nist who re­fused to en­list fe­male doc­tors de­spite an acute doc­tor short­age and felt he had his hands full whilst deal­ing with 2000 nurses.

He also could not en­vis­age any ad­van­tage that a fe­male nurse could bring to a pa­tient over what was al­ready been done by male order­lies.

Later events proved him to­tally wrong in his views.

Aus­tralian Army nurses have done much since WW1, they even have their own Royal Aus­tralian Army Nurs­ing Corps, and the other Ser­vices have fol­lowed.

Events of WWII showed that nurses suf­fer with their pa­tients in every re­spect, e.g., the Banka Is­land mas­sacre, Changi POW camp, the sink­ing of the Cen­taur, and sol­diers have ad­mired their skills and com­pas­sion re­peat­edly.

My per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence has shown there is much com­fort de­rived from an Aus­tralian nurse wear­ing Aus­tralian uni­form whilst in a hos­pi­tal in a for­eign na­tion when re­cov­er­ing from in­juries in the field.

Ad­just­ing ban­dages to re­store com­fort, a sooth­ing pres­ence whilst re­cov­er­ing from the night­mares that ac­com­pany drug-in­duced sleep, Aus­tralian nurses have done so much for Aus­tralian ser­vice­men in dan­ger­ous places.

“The lady with the lamp” was a term coined by ad­mir­ing sol­diers to show their re­spect for Florence Nightin­gale who mod­ernised nurs­ing fol­low­ing her ob­ser­va­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences of the Crimean War.

Aus­tralian nurses have al­ways ex­em­pli­fied her com­pas­sion and pro­fes­sion­al­ism so it is so very fit­ting that the new memo­rial to be con­structed at the REDHS site in Rochester will com­mem­o­rate nurses as well as sol­diers.

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