REPORT ON THE WORK OF THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY NURSING SERVICE IN FRANCE
CROWN COPYRIGHT: THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES WO222/2134
CROWN COPYRIGHT: THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES WO222/2134
NO.1 AUSTRALIAN GENERAL HOSPITAL
No.1 Australian General Hospital arrived at Marseilles from Egypt with a nursing Staff of 117. They disembarked on 6.4.16, and after a few days’ rest, proceeded to Rouen, where the unit took up the site on the racecourse vacated by No.12 Stationary Hospital. Fifty members of the Nursing Staff proceeded with the unit to Rouen, where they were temporarily accommodated in Imperial units pending the preparation of their quarters. The remainder were distributed temporarily in the Havre, Etaples, and Boulogne areas, but were to rejoin No.1 Australian General Hospital as soon as accommodation was ready for them. As however, the hospital had at first only 750 beds, it was found that a Nursing Staff of 75 was ample, and authority was requested to employ the remaining 47 members temporarily in British units. D.G.M.S. sanctioned this, and the surplus nurses remained for some time in Imperial units. Amongst the Nursing Staff of No.1 Australian General Hospital were two certified masseuses (not trained nurses) and 3 Red Cross ladies accompanied the unit from Egypt and remained with them at Rouen, where they were billeted out and attended the Hospital daily.
The Matron of No.1 Australian General Hospital on its arrival in France was Miss M. M. Finlay A.A.N.S. In January 1918, she was recalled to England and was replaced by Matron E. Cornwall A.A.N.S., who however, did not arrive until 21.2.18 owing to illness.
On 7.12.18 the Hospital at Rouen was closed, the whole unit being under orders to proceed to Sutton Veny, England, where it was re-opening. The nursing Staff was transferred to England in parties as follows:
1 Matron 20 Sisters 17.12.18.
20 Sisters 18.12.18.
20 Sisters 21.12.18
15 Sisters 23.12.18
5 Sisters who were on leave in England were retained. S/Nurse Shadforth, who was on leave in the South of France, proceeded on her return.
On 25.5.16 No.1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station was opened at Estaires in the 2nd Army, and a selected staff of 7 members of No.1 A.G.H. (who were doing temporary duty in our units) was instructed to join, with Sister F. F. Whipham in charge. The O.C. was Colonel Dick A.A.M.C.
The following were Sisters-in-Charge from that date till its closing on 23.2.19.
Sister M. F. Whipham 25.5.16 to 22.2.17.
Head Sister H. E. Tait 22.2.17 to 20.7.17.
Head Sister A. Anderson 20.7.17 to 20.3.18.
Head Sister E. Fleming 20.3.18 to 19.10.18.
Head Sister E. M. Menhennet 19.10.18 to 23.2.19.
NO.2 AUSTRALIAN GENERAL HOSPITAL
No.2 Australian General Hospital arrived at Marseilles from Egypt on 1.4.16 with a Nursing Staff of 115. (Principal Matron E. J. Gould A.A.N.S. in charge) plus 4 fully trained masseuses not trained Nurses. They arrived by the “Braemar Castle”, and disembarked the next day, proceeding to Moussot, and taking over the Hospital there temporarily.
The Nursing Staff proceeded in parties of 10 to Wimereux from June 20th to June 29th, the last party leaving on that day with the Medical staff and equipment on a special train. They arrived at Wimereux on 1.7.16, and the Hospital was ready for patients the next day. Sister Norma Heritage was left at Moussot with 19 Sisters and Staff Nurses, and she re-joined the unit on 18.8.16.
In November 1916, Principal Matron E. J. Gould R.R.C. was recalled to England for duty, and was replaced at No.2 Australian General Hospital by Matron E. Gray A.A.N.S.
The Hospital at Wimereux closed on 7.2.19, and was instructed to hold itself in readiness to proceed to Australia in March. The Nursing Staff returned to England in parties of 10, beginning on 12.3.19 and the last party with Matron Gray leaving on 19.3.19. Six members were on leave in the South of France, and returned to England on the expiration of their leave.
No.2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station opened at Trois Arbres near Bailleul, in the 2nd Army on 29.7.16, and was staffed with selected Sisters from No.2 Australian General Hospital with Sister A. B. Pocock A.A.N.S. in charge. Great care was always taken that suitable sisters should be selected for duty in Front Areas, and lists of suitable people were obtained at intervals from Miss Conyers R.R.C. Matron-in-Chief A.I.F. at Headquarters, London.
The following were Sisters-in-Charge of No.2 Australian C.C.S. until its closing on 2.3.19.
Sister A. B. Pocock 29.7.16 to 11.4.17.
Head Sister E. S. Davidson 11.4.17 to 12.7.17.
Head Sister L. Stobo 12.7.17 to 9.2.18.
Head Sister C. M. Keyes 9.2.18 to 28.2.19.
NO.3 AUSTRALIAN GENERAL HOSPITAL
No.3 Australian General Hospital arrived in France on 27.4.17, with a nursing staff of 91, with Principal Matron G. M. Wilson A.A.N.S. as Matron. They were temporarily accommodated in the Abbeville and Treport areas until the unit, which was opening on a new site at Abbeville was ready to receive them.
By the first week in June the Sisters’ quarters were completed, and the whole staff rejoined.
In September 1917, Principal Matron G. M. Wilson was recalled to Headquarters, London for temporary duty as A/Matron-in-Chief A.I.F. during the absence in Australia of Miss Conyers. This necessitated several other changes in France. Matron J. Miles Walker AANS (5 Staty) took Miss Wilson’s place at No.3 Australian General Hospital, whilst Head Sister P. Boissier became Acting Matron of No.5 Stationary Hospital.
During the last week in March 1918, the Military situation was considered sufficiently critical to cause all Hospitals in the Abbeville area to be reduced to a number of Nursing Staff sufficient for Casualty Clearing Station duties. On the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of April, 60 A.A.N.S. Sisters were sent in groups of 10 or 20 by passenger or Ambulance Train to Boulogne, so that by April 4th, the staff was reduced to 26 trained Nurses, and 2 Red Cross workers.
Ambulance Trains were obliged to continue unloading at Abbeville and the convoys admitted to the Hospitals were very heavy ones, so that it was very shortly found necessary to increase the Staff, and as the Military situation improved, it was brought back to its full strength.
No.3 Australian General Hospital closed for admissions on 16.4.19, and was instructed to be ready for withdrawal from France by May 20th. The Nursing Staff returned to England in parties of 10, beginning on 17.5.19, and the last party with Principal Matron G. M. Wilson proceeded on 23.5.19. Fourteen members of No.3 who were due or overdue leave were given leave warrants to their destinations before proceeding to the United Kingdom.
No.3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station opened in the 5th Army in October 1916, and the staff, who had been sent out from England and who had done temporary duty in Abbeville joined, with Sister I. O’Dwyer A.A.N.S. in charge.
The following were Sisters-in-charge from this time until it closed in May 1919.
Head Sister I. O’Dwyer Nov. 1916 - 14.11.17.
Head Sister A. G. Douglas 14.11.17 - 14.5.18.
Head Sister E. W. Jeffries 14.5.18 - 15.12.18.
Head Sister V. Woinarski 15.12.18 - May 1919.
A.A.N.S. IN IMPERIAL UNITS
In February 1917, 111 members of the A.A.N.S. were sent over by the Australian authorities for duty in Imperial units in France. From time to time they were re-inforced, until in May 1917, there were 155 serving in Imperial units, apart from detached members of the Staff of the three General Hospitals.
At the beginning of June, 1917, a War Office letter was received, requesting that these members on duty in Imperial units might be grouped together in three British units, working under Matrons of their own service. It was decided therefore to hand over:
No.25 General Hospital requiring staff of 100
No.5 Staty. Hospital requiring staff of 20
No.38 Staty. Hospital requiring staff of 35
The Matron-in-Chief A.I.F. was asked to suggest the grouping of members, and to nominate the Matrons. The Matrons chosen were:-
No.25 General Hospital, Hardelot. Matron A. M. Kellett who took over on 10.7.17.
No.5 Stationary Hospital, Dieppe. Matron J. Miles Walker, who took over on 11.7.17.
No.38 Stationary Hospital, Calais. Matron E.S. Davidson – opened on 14.7.17.
It was with considerable regret that this change was effected, as the services of the A.A.N.S. sisters were valued, and much needed in the units where they were then serving, and as the three Hospitals had to be staffed with trained nurses only, the percentage of trained people in other units was considerably diminished.
The O.C. 25 General Hospital, requested that V.A.D. members might be retained for service in the Recreation Hut. It was pointed out that V.A.D. members were urgently required for nursing duties, but 4 were left temporarily for duty in the Recreation Hut and Sisters’ Mess, until other arrangements could be made. These ladies were not transferred to other units until March 1918, when the need for Nursing members became so pressing that their services could no longer be spared.
On 5.5.17, 25 Staff Nurses A.A.N.S. arrived as re-inforcements for Imperial units, and were posted to No.25 General Hospital. This left a surplus of 27 A.A.N.S. still working in our units after 25 General, 5 and 38 Stationary Hospitals had been staffed. Approval was given by D.G.M.S. for their retention, as their services were much needed at that time, but gradually they were recalled to Australian units to fill vacancies caused by sickness etc.
In September 1917, Matron J. Miles Walker from No.5 Stationary Hospital, took Miss Wilson’s place at No.3 Australian General Hospital, whilst Head Sister P. Boissier became Acting Matron of No.5 Stationary Hospital. In November, however, Miss Boissier asked to return home, and Sister A. Kidd Hart was appointed Acting Matron of No.5 Stationary Hospital.
On November 11th, 1917, instructions were received by wire that No.38 Stationary Hospital (together with No.11 General Hospital) was to proceed with Nursing Staff to Italy for duty. Various orders and counter orders were received, as to the numbers required, but finally it was decided that a nursing Staff of 27 (War Establishment for a Stationary Hospital of 400 beds) should proceed with No.38 Stationary Hospital. Matron E. S. Davidson was in charge and as many of the original staff as possible were sent with her.
Very short notice was given for this transfer to be effected, but the staff was collected at the Nurses’ Home Abbeville, and proceeded by No.21 Ambulance Train to Italy on 15.11.17.
On 24.12.17 a wire was received from the War Office requesting that 13 reinforcements might be sent immediately to 38 Stationary Hospital, and that they would be replaced. Accordingly, 8 members of the A.A.N.S. and 5 V.A.D’s were sent, it being impossible to send 13 Trained nurses, owing to the shortage of trained staff at that time. The A.A.N.S. chosen were the original members of 38 Stationary Hospital staff, who had not been able to go with the unit in November as they were on leave at the time or working in front areas, and Miss Davidson wrote a grateful letter, saying how pleased they were to get their own members back.
On 4.4.18 a draft of 20 A.A.N.S. arrived in France for duty with Imperial units, and were posted to 74 General Hospital, Trouville, which had recently opened. On Miss Wilson’s return to No.3 Australian General Hospital on 22.4.18, Miss Miles Walker resumed her duties at No.5 Stationary Hospital, and Miss Kidd Hart reverted to Head Sisters’ rank and was posted to No.1 Australian General Hospital.
In August, 1918, notification was received from the War Office that 100 Australian nurses were coming to France from India, where they were being replaced by 100 nurses fresh from Australia. These re-inforcements however, never arrived, and it was presumed that other arrangements had been made.
In September 1918, a War Office letter was received requesting that the Nursing Staff of No.5 Stationary Hospital (including the Matron) plus 18 nurses from No.74 General Hospital should be transferred for duty in England. Arrangements were made for a British staff to take over No.5 Stationary Hospital, and on 5.10.18, Miss J. Miles Walker and 19 Sisters proceeded from No.5 Staty. Hospital with the 18 nurses from Imperial units.
No.25 General Hospital closed for admissions at Hardelot on 8.2.19, preparatory to moving to Cologne, where it is opening without a nursing staff. Orders were received on 20.2.19 for the Nursing Staff (all A.A.N.S.) to proceed to England in parties of 10, and this was carried out, the first proceeding on 26.2.19, and Matron Kellett with the last party on 10.3.19.
Each of the three General Hospitals had a nursing establishment of 91, fixed by Australian Headquarters, this giving them a considerably larger staff than that allocated to Imperial units, but the fact that the staffs for their C.C.S’s had to be drawn from these units was also taken into consideration.
TRANSFERS AND EXCHANGES
From the beginning, the Australian authorities in England took up the question of replacement of casualties in a regular and methodical manner. Every nurse who went to England on Sick leave was seen by the Matron-in-Chief, and if it was considered that she would benefit by Home Service, she was retained and replaced in France by a fresh nurse.
In addition to this, members were constantly recalled in small numbers and exchanged with sisters from the Australian units in England. Others were replaced for transport duty to Australia, and replaced in the same manner. This automatic replacement of casualties was of the very greatest help as one was always able to depend on a fixed number of nurses.
Members of the A.A.N.S. in France were promoted from Headquarters, London, and a notification of such promotions was sent to this Office. In a few special cases where members serving in Imperial units were considered specially deserving of promotion, recommendations by the Matron under whom they were serving were forwarded for the consideration of the Matron-in-Chief A.I.F. Thus Staff Nurses E. E. Brown, E. M. Dement, and B.M. Collopy were promoted to Sister’s rank on 4.4.17, on the recommendations of the Matron of 6 Stationary Hospital, who spoke very highly of their work. The Matron of No.13 Stationary Hospital forwarded a recommendation for the promotion of S/Nurse M. E. Lineham on 13.4.17, but the Headquarters A.I.F. regretted that they could not approve it as she was not due for promotion.
The establishment of the A.A.N.S. does not include the rank of an Assistant Matron, but the duties of an Assistant are performed by one of the Head Sisters. A number of Sisters were promoted Head Sisters during their term of service in France. The Sisters-in-Charge of Casualty Clearing Stations always held the rank of Head Sister, and each General Hospital included 3 or 4 Head Sisters (in charge of Divisions etc.) on its staff.
The outdoor uniform of members of the A.A.N.S. is a grey coat and skirt and grey hat with brown band. On the shoulder straps they wear the badges of their rank – one star for Staff Nurse, two for Sister, 3 for Matron or Principal Matron, and a crown for the Matron-in-Chief.
The indoor uniform consists of grey washing dresses, white aprons, Army cap, and a red cape somewhat similar to the scarlet cape of the Regular Service.
PAY AND ALLOWANCES
All Sisters of the A.A.N.S. draw their pay on a Pay-book (A.B. 64) which shows the rates to which they are entitled, which is as follows:
Matron-in-Chief 19/2 plus 10/- per diem to cover all allowances.
Principal Matron on Staff duties, 17/6d per diem, and 10/- per diem to cover all allowances.
Other Principal Matrons and Matrons 15/- per diem *
Sisters 12/- per diem*
S/Nurses 9/- per diem*
Masseuses 9/- per diem*
*Dress Allowance 10d per diem
Extra Mess Allowance 10d per diem
Ration Allowance of 2/6d per diem paid when cooked rations not provided.
Billetting Allowance of 3 francs per diem where quarters are not provided.
The system of a pay book being held by each individual sister is an excellent one, which obviates many explanations and acts as an identification paper and record of service on transfer from a unit or command.
In June 1917, Colonel Martin A.A.M.C. Consulting Pathologist, attached No.25 Stationary Hospital, requested that Sister F. E. Williams A.A.N.S. might be sent out from England to be attached to No.25 Stationary Hospital, as she was a competent Bacteriologist, who had worked with him in Egypt. This was sanctioned by Headquarters A.I.F., and she arrived on 13.7.17, and was posted to No.25 Stationary Hospital for duty in the laboratory. She did good work there until her return to England on 29.12.18.
In June 1917, Lt.Col. Taylor-Young, Surgical Specialist at No.3 Australian General Hospital visited Dr. Carrel’s Hospital at Compiegne, and on his return wrote a report, in which he stated that it would be a distinct advantage if some of the Nursing Staff could visit Compiegne, and lean something of the methods of this treatment at first hand. The O.C. No.3 Australian General Hospital asked permission to send the Matron and 2 Sisters. After referring the matter to Headquarters, sanction was obtained, and on June 25th, Miss Wilson and Sisters Morrice and De Maestre went to Compiegne for 3 days to study the treatment.
Six surgical teams from the Australian Hospitals were specially detailed by Headquarters A.I.F. in March 1918, 2 to be attached to each General Hospital, to be available as required for the Front or Base. The Theatre Sisters were:
No.1 Australian General Hospital
Staff Nurse M. Miles A.A.N.S.
Sister L.R. Tyers A.A.N.S.
No.2 Australian General Hospital
Staff Nurse [K]. I. Macdonald A.A.N.S.
Sister D. H. Birks A.A.N.S.
No.3 Australian General Hospital
Sister K. Smith A.A.N.S.
Sister N. F. Hill A.A.N.S.
Changes were made from time to time in the Team Sisters. Sister K. Smith was replaced in August by S/Nurse M. Brown. Sister N. F. Hill, on duty with Colonel Fiaschi’s surgical team, was replaced with Sister N. P. Fitzgibbon, and in due course owing to various difficulties with Colonel Fiaschi’s special methods, the Operating Sister was altogether withdrawn from this team.
Other Sisters who did team duty were:-
No.1 Australian General Hospital
Sister F. E. McMillan A.A.N.S.
Sister A. O’Neill A.A.N.S.
Sister E. L. Connelly A.A.N.S.
Sister M. F. Murray A.A.N.S.
No.3 Australian General Hospital
Sister E. S. Grieg A.A.N.S.
Sister E. M. Linklater A.A.N.S.
Sister E. McLelland A.A.N.S.
Sister D. F. Webb A.A.N.S.
Sister C. Bonnily A..A.N.S.
Of the 75 members of the Nursing Services who were selected to undergo the first course of training in the administration of anaesthetics, which began on January 14th, 1918, nine were specially selected from among the 43 members of the A.A.N.S. who had sent in their names as volunteers for this branch of work. The names of those selected and the particulars of their training are as follows:-
No.5 Stationary Hospital
Sister M. Aitken A.A.N.S.
Sister B. McMinn A.A.N.S.
S/Nurse E. M. Tranter A.A.N.S.
These nurses took their Base course at No.1 General Hospital (Presbyterian Unit) U.S.A.
Their final course was begun at 29 C.C.S., but was interrupted by the Retreat, and was completed at No.3 Canadian Stationary Hospital. They were certified competent anaesthetists on 7.5.18, and rejoined their unit.
No.1 Australian General Hospital
Sister M. M. McNulty A.A.N.S.
Sister A. C. Cameron A.A.N.S.
S/Nurse F. Graham A.A.N.S.
These nurses took their Base course at No.12 General Hospital (St. Louis unit U.S.A.). Their final course was begun at 55 C.C.S., but owing to the Retreat and the withdrawal of all nurses from the 3rd Army, these ladies were obliged to take their final month’s course at the Base. They rejoined No.12 General Hospital, and followed the same syllabus as others who were able to remain in C.C.S’s to complete their course. They were certified competent anaesthetists on 17.5.18, and rejoined their unit.
No.3 Australian General Hospital
Sister E. Smith A.A.N.S.
Sister E. S. Grieg A.A.N.S.
Sister M. Linklater A.A.N.S.
These nurses took their Base course at No.1 South African General Hospital. Though they had had 4 days leave to Paris before their training, they then wished to take their ordinary leave to England after the completion of their course at the Base. They were therefore not required to take their final course.
On May 16th, a request was put forward that those members of the A.A.N.S. who had completed their training might be employed as anaesthetists in British units. The reply received was to the effect that after careful consideration of the question, the D.M.S. A.I.F. did not desire that members of the A.A.N.S. should undertake the administration of anaesthetics. These members, therefore, who had completed their course were not available for posting as Anaesthetists, and no others were trained in these duties.
In March 1918, three A.A.N.S. sisters were detailed from No.3 Australian General Hospital for duty on an Ambulance Train, in order that they might have experience in this branch of work. Head Sister E. A. Watts was posted in charge, with Staff Nurses E. Smith and A. Darragh. After these sisters had been on the train for 6 months, the staff was changed, and Sister H. Chadwick, No.2 Australian General Hospital was posted in charge, with Staff Nurses M. E. Fuller and E. M. Ellis. This staff remained on the train until March 1919, when they were demobilised.
In November 1918, instructions were received by wire to detail 6 A.A.N.S. sisters for duty on Hospital Ship “Karoola” for transport duty to Australia. The staff was to join at Marseilles, and the staff then serving on the ship were to be exchanged. The Sisters proceeded to Marseilles, but meanwhile a wire was received stating that H.S. “Karoola” had gone to England, and asking that the staff should report at Headquarters, London. They were recalled from Marseilles, and proceeded to London on 25.11.18.
The following deaths occurred amongst the members of the A.A.N.S. whilst on Active Service in France, unfortunately two of them under peculiarly sad circumstances.
Sister H. M. Knox A.A.N.S. This sister was one of the first group of Australian sisters who were sent over for duty with Imperial units in February 1917. She was posted to No.11 Stationary Hospital, but shortly after her arrival, she complained one afternoon of not feeling well. She rapidly became worse, and was taken immediately to the Sick Sisters’ Hospital, a friend accompanying her, but unfortunately she died on admission. It was suspected that her death was due to cerebro-spinal-meningitis.
Miss E. Riggall Red Cross Worker. This lady was attached to No.1 Australian General Hospital, and had been with the unit since 1915, and had served with them in Egypt. On the afternoon of the 31st of August 1918, she left the Hospital seeming quite well. A few minutes after, word was brought across from the French billet where she lived, that she was very ill. The C.O. immediately saw her and found her unconscious. She was transferred to the Sick Sisters’ Hospital, but died the same evening without regaining consciousness. The cause of death was cerebral haemorrhage. Miss Riggall was very well-known and popular at all hospitals in the Rouen area, where she had regularly visited Australian patients.
Sister E. A. Moorhouse No.1 Australian General Hospital temporarily attached to No.1 Australian C.C.S. was admitted to 39 Stationary Hospital on 13.11.18 suffering from influenza. She developed bronchial pneumonia, and after a short illness died on 24.11.18.
On June 4th 1917, Sister R. Pratt AANS attached to No.1 Australian CCS was wounded during a bombing raid. She received a severe chest wound, (penetrating), and was evacuated to No.10 Stationary Hospital, where she was placed on the Seriously Ill list, but her condition improved rapidly, and on 28.7.17, she was able to be evacuated to the United Kingdom by Hospital Ship.
In November, 1918, 2 Sisters from No.3 Australian General Hospital – Sister E. C. Pidgeon and S/Nurse McAnene – were slightly injured in a motor accident, caused by the skidding of the car. They were brought back to their unit by Lt.General Sir John Monash G.O.C. Australian Corps, and subsequently admitted to Hospital, but their injuries were not severe.
The health of the A.A.N.S. on the whole was excellent, and this was in part, no doubt due to the fact that the Matron-in-Chief A.I.F. saw all members returning to England on leave or sick leave, and if they were looking at all tired, they were seen by a Medical Board, and retained for service in England. Fresh members were posted to France in their place.
Members of the A.A.N.S. were granted leave to the United Kingdom under the same conditions as other Nursing Services. They were also permitted to spend periods of ordinary leave (besides sick leave) at Convalescent Homes in France.
In February 1917, a request was made by Miss Finlay that her staff might be permitted to spend their leave in France, if they wished. The rule for Imperial Sisters was that no Nursing Sister was permitted to spend leave in France unless at recognised Convalescent Homes, or Clubs; so the matter was referred to the Matron-in-Chief A.I.F. who stated that she was not in favour of any exception being made.
In June 1917, the question again arose through complaints being made to General Sir William Birdwood, Commanding the 1st Anzac Corps, whilst inspecting Australian Hospital. General Birdwood wrote to the D.G.M.S. asking if it would not be possible to remove the restriction on leave being spent in France, and the D.G.M.S. thereupon issued instructions that there was no objection to these ladies taking their leave in Paris.
In November 1917, the Convalescent Homes at Cannes and Mentone opened, and in December 1917 H.R.H. Princess Victoria’s Club at Paris was opened, so that greater facilities were offered to those who wished to spend their leave in France. In January 1918, after again visiting the Australian Hospitals, General Birdwood wrote that the Sisters had much appreciated the privilege of spending leave in Paris, and would be still more grateful if they were permitted to spend shorter periods of leave there also (from 4 days upwards). It was immediately pointed out that many periods of short leave to Paris had already been granted, as the following table showed:-
Granted to A.A.N.S. during Dec. 1917 and Jan. 1918
Leave to Cannes 28
Leave to Roquebrune 11
Leave to Paris 14 days 17
Leave to Paris 8 days 12
Leave to Paris 4 days 11
I also visited General Birdwood’s Headquarters with Miss Wilson, Acting Matron-in-Chief AIF and explained the methods of arranging leave for members of the Nursing Services, showing him from statistics that preference had always been given to Overseas members for special leave to the South of France and Paris, and it was fully realised that many of these ladies had no homes to go to. The General agreed that every consideration had been shown the Australian Nurses, and later wrote a charming letter thanking me for my visit, and for the trouble which I had taken in making clear the leave question.
The total number of A.A.N.S. who spent leave in Paris and the South of France is as follows;
Paris Season 1917-1918 85
Season 1918-1919 100
South of France Season 1917-1918 95
Season 1918-1919 111
RED CROSS WORKERS
When No.1 Australian General Hospital arrived from Egypt, there were three Red Cross ladies attached to the unit – Miss E. Reggall, Miss E. Smith and Miss M. Smyth. These ladies were billeted out and attended the Hospital daily, where they were employed in mending linen, doing special invalid cookery, supervising the issue of Red Cross Stores, writing letters and visiting Australian patients in other units.
In May 1916, the O.C. applied for authority for the number of voluntary workers to be increased to 10, as he wished to have some other lady workers who had been attached to the unit in Egypt, but this application was not recommended as the Nursing Staff was ample, and it was not considered that the facts put forward in support of the application were sufficient to warrant the employment of this extra staff. Miss Smyth was later replaced by Miss A. Alston.
At No.2 Australian General Hospital, Miss C. Birdwood, daughter of General Sir William Birdwood, and Miss P. Murdoch worked in the capacity of Voluntary Representatives of the Australian Branch B.R.C.S.
In October 1917, after discussing the question of Australian Red Cross Workers with the Acting Matron-in-Chief A.I.F., the advisability of their being made members of the Sisters’ Mess of the Hospital to which they were attached was officially represented. It was suggested that they should reside in the Hospital, and should be subject to the same rules as the Nursing Staff, and should be classed as Australian V.A.D.’s.
This proposal was not approved as the Australian Red Cross Commissioner was anxious that these ladies should remain under his jurisdiction.
In November 1917, the B.R.C.S. Authorities, at the instance of the Commissioner of the Australian Branch, asked that sanction might be given for an Australian Red Cross Worker to be posted to the Trouville area for duty, that she should be permitted to reside at a Hospital, being a member of the Sisters’ Mess, and coming under their rules and regulations. This application was approved, and it was again suggested that the ladies engaged in similar work in other areas should be in like manner, attached to Australian units. However, the original decision in respect of these ladies was not altered.
In March 1918, instructions were sent from Australian Headquarters, London, to O.C. 3 Australian General Hospital, to make arrangements for the Red Cross Workers there (Miss Murdoch and Miss Birdwood) to have accommodation in the Sisters’ quarters and for the purposes of discipline etc. these ladies were to be under the Matron. Authority was also granted by D.M.S., A.I.F. for Miss Birdwood to work in the wards as a V.A.D.
This arrangement was considered more practical both as regards the question of work in the Hospital, discipline etc. and as regards the workers themselves, their comfort and general welfare. The workers at No.1 and No.2 Australian General Hospital were not brought under this ruling.
In November 1918, Miss Birdwood was recalled to England, and she has since been married.
The remaining Red Cross workers stayed with their units until demobilisation.
In January 1918, owing to a statement made to General Birdwood, by some Australian Sisters to the effect that their quarters were not sufficiently heated, an Inspection of the 3 Australian General Hospitals was made, in order to ascertain what were the facilities existing with regard to lighting, heating and bathing. The conditions at Nos.2 and 3 Australian General Hospitals were found satisfactory. At No.1 Australian General Hospital the comfort and general arrangements of the quarters were found very satisfactory, but the heating arrangements were not sufficient, and the facilities for bathing inadequate. Steps were immediately taken to remedy this, and to provide adequate heating arrangements, and an adequate supply of hot water for bathrooms.
Members of the Imperial Nursing Service are given an outfit allowance of £8. 5s. 0d., when proceeding on active service, and with this they are able to, and required to provide themselves with an oil stove. One pint of oil per day is issued to each Sister during the winter months. Had such a stove formed part of the outfit of members of the A.A.N.S. there is no doubt some of the discomfort which they experienced would have been avoided. This was represented to the Australian authorities, who stated that oil stoves were issued to members proceeding for duty with British units in France, but that in view of the onset of summer, and the shortage of stoves, it was not considered advisable to take steps to extend this issue to members of the A.A.N.S. serving with Australian units.
The total number of decorations received by members of the A.A.N.S. in France is as follows:
Military medal 7
Medaille des Epidemies 1
These decorations included R.R.C. 1st Class to Matron Finlay in January 1017, and C.B.E. to Miss G. M. Wilson in January 1919. Principal Matron Wilson and Principal Matron Gould and Matron Gray had all received the R.R.C. prior to their arrival in France.
The first Military Medals to be gained by members of the A.A.N.S. were those of:
Sister D. G. Cawood
Sister C. Deacon
Sister A. Ross-King
S/Nurse M. G. Derrier
of No.2 Australian C.C.S. who “displayed great coolness and devotion to duty during the bombing of No.2 C.C.S. by the enemy on the night of July 22nd 1917.” The following details in connection with raid will give some idea of its severity.
One of the wards was struck, 2 orderlies (Pte. Wilson of this unit and Pte. Cox of the 9th Australian Field Ambulance temporarily attached) were killed, 2 patients were also killed, 13 patients injured, and 2 had shell shock. The bombs fell between the Mortuary and the ward. The end of one tent was torn and broken, the other tent was completely down, and the two attached tents punctured with fragments. There was an immense hole at the rear of the ward, and the trees thereabouts being scarred and the mortuary in pieces. The body of one of the patients was found on his stretcher, the stretcher being embedded in the ground. During the same day, a piece of shell had fallen within a few feet of the same man. Another patient was not to be found, and it was believed that he was blown to pieces.
The work at No.2 C.C.S. continued heavy for some time. In addition to the Military Medal gained on this occasion, Sister A. Ross-King was mentioned in Despatches in January 1918, and awarded the A.R.R.C. in June 1918.
In September 1917, the Military Medal was awarded to
Sister A. M. Kelly No.3 Australian C.C.S.
Sister R. Pratt No.1 Australian C.C.S.
Nos.3 and 1 Australian Casualty Clearing Stations had been frequently shelled and bombed and Sister R. Pratt as previously stated was severely wounded during a bombing raid.
The seventh Military Medal was awarded to Staff Nurse P. Corkhill in August 1918, whilst temporarily attached to No.38 C.C.S. This unit was subjected to two severe air-raids during the week ending July 27th. On the 19th, three bombs were dropped, one falling in the middle of the camp, wrecking the sterilising room. A few days later, bombs were again dropped right into the camp. Fortunately on both occasions, the casualties were small. Miss Corkhill was on night duty at this time and displayed great courage and presence of mind.
In January 1919 Head Sister C. M. Keys A.A.N.S. No.2 Australian C.C.S. was awarded the Medaille des Epidemies (en vermeil) in recognition of the valuable work done for the French at this unit, where many poor civilian refugees had been cared for.
Miss Conyers R.R.C., Matron-in-Chief A.I.F. arrived in France on her first visit of inspection in July 1916. she visited all the Australian units in company with the Matron-in-Chief B.E.F. and returned to England on July 17th. Her second visit was in December 1916, and her third in August 1917.
In November 1917, Miss G. M. Wilson visited France to represent the Matron-in-Chief A.I.F. (absent in Australia) at a Conference of Matrons-in-Chief held at Headquarters Abbeville on 23.11.17.
On January 28th 1918, Miss Wilson again visited France on a visit of inspection, and went round all the Australian units.
On her return from Australia, Miss Conyers came to France (March 8th 1918) inspecting all the Australian units and returned to England on 22.3.18. Her next visit was from 10.6.18 to 20.6.18, during a bad air raid period, and whilst at Abbeville inspecting No.3 Australian General Hospital, she experienced several air-raids.
On 5.12.18, Miss Conyers came to France on a visit of inspection en route for Italy, where she wished to inspect No.38 Stationary Hospital, which was staffed by A.A.N.S. Her final visit to France was in April 1919, when in company with Miss G. M. Wilson she visited Charleroi, Brussels, and No.3 Australian C.C.S. in Germany, returning to England on 29.4.19 on completion of her visit.
In November 1916, an application was received from the French Mission Marseilles, for authority to be given to Mrs Joseph Hyacinthe Niau, who had come over with a detachment of Australian Nurses from Australia, to visit the British Front, in order that she might report to her Committee on their welfare. Authority was obtained from Headquarters L. of C. Mrs Niau visited Rouen and returned to Marseilles.
The work accomplished by members of the A.A.N.S. during their 4 years service in France, has been much appreciated. The ready assistance which has always been given by the Matrons and Commanding Officers in times of stress when they were called upon at little notice to send up re-inforcements to British or Australian units, has been of the greatest value.
At all times, and whenever they have been called upon to work, the Australian Nurses have rendered cheerful, valuable, and devoted services. They have, throughout their service, maintained a very high standard of work and discipline.
All questions, whether of administration or discipline, in connection with members of the A.A.N.S. have invariably been referred to the Matron-in-Chief A.I.F., and I am greatly indebted to her for the help and support which she has always given me.
E. M. McCarthy
Matron-in-Chief, British Troops in France and Flanders