AGGS nurses go to war
IN April 1915 the first contingent of New Zealand nurses set sail for England to care for soldiers wounded at the front in World War I.
By the end of the war, more than 500 New Zealand nurses and doctors had served in military hospitals in Samoa, Egypt, France and England.
Ten of them were honoured last week in a ceremony at Auckland Girls Grammar School. The women were pupils at the 126-year-old school in its early days.
Since 1992 the school has held an annual Founding Day Assembly to recognise the achievements of past pupils.
AGGS head of social science Margaret Cotter says the World War I centenary makes it an appropriate time to honour these former students.
‘‘It’s about cherishing the past, and the school, and making sure the girls now are aware of the history of the school.’’
School archivist Isobel Gillon says these young women were unusual in their day because school was not compulsory for girls then.
‘‘The boys got the preference,’’ she says. ‘‘ The fact that they branched out to be nurses or doctors was really something considerable.’’
Gillon, a former pupil and teacher at the school, says she started researching the history of past pupils and World War I nurses and doctors at the beginning of the year.
She says the New Zealand nurses worked mainly with New Zealand soldiers ‘‘because they helped the soldiers recover’’.
They got on much better with the soldiers because they were more relaxed than the ‘‘very formal English system’’.
One of the nurses, Winifred ‘‘Freddie’’ Scott, attended the school from 1899 to 1902 and was part of the first nursing contingent who set sail for England in 1915. Her story was presented at the assembly by pupil Livne Ore.
She says Scott, who was born in Onehunga in 1883, was the daughter of William George Scott, a well-known surgeon at Auckland Hospital and also a general practitioner in Onehunga.
Scott trained as a nurse, qualifying in 1912, after which she studied massage in England.
She was working at Auckland Hospital as the country’s first massage sister when she and 11 other nurses were given just a few days’ notice of their departure for Sydney. From there, they left for Egypt on April 13, 1915, on board the Kyarra.
She served four years in Cairo in a British-run hospital and despite the constant danger she survived and was awarded the Royal Red Cross second class by King George V.
Current student Mareta Monga presented the story of Cora Anderson who lived in Remuera and attended the school from 1895 to 1898.
Monga says Anderson was also one of the first nurses to serve in Egypt but then was transferred to England, where she nursed at Lady Hardinge Hospital at Brockenhurst and was matron at Hornchurch Con- valescent Hospital in Essex. She, too, survived and was awarded the Royal Red Cross and the Associate of the Royal Red Cross.
Gillon has not been able to trace any of the nurses’ families.
‘‘A lot of women at that time didn’t marry because the young men were killed in the war,’’ Gillon says.
‘‘And those who did, it was so long ago we couldn’t find them.’’
Nurse volunteers: Winifred ‘‘Freddie’’ Scott, back left, with members of the Australian Army Nursing Service.
Founding assembly: Isobel Gillon and Margaret Cotter helped to organise the Auckland Girls’ Grammar School Founding Assembly.
Founding day: Antonia Ramji and Shannon Cockerton stand proudly in their Auckland Grammar School uniforms
Brave nurse: Cora Anderson was awarded the Royal Red Cross for her service in World War I.