AGGS nurses go to war

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By RACHEL STURGES

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.

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