Sister Kathleen Lillie Doyle AANS, Southampton UK c.1916. Photo: Singleton Historical Society

Sister Kathleen Lillie Doyle AANS, Southampton UK c.1916. Photo: Singleton Historical Society
Kathleen wears the ward uniform of the Australian Army Nursing Service.  The dress is grey, the wool cape is red.  Veil and collar are white.  Note the rising sun badge at the neckline.

This research by Christine Bramble was first published as Sisters of the Valley:  First World War Nurses from Newcastle and the Hunter Region, Royal Newcastle Hospital Graduate Nurses’ Association Inc., The Junction, with assistance from the Australian Government ‘Saluting their Service’ program.  It tells the stories of the trained nurses from the region that were military nurses in Australia or overseas during the Great War.

Find a nurse from your area.

About 10,000 men from the Hunter region signed up to fight with the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) raised to assist Britain and its allies against Germany and the Central Powers.  It might be argued that the story of eighty-one women is insignificant by comparison.  This is not so.  By the nature of the work that they did they influenced the fate of many thousands of sick and wounded men.

Matron Ida Greaves, a graduate of Newcastle Hospital, was one of the first Australian women to serve in a field hospital during the War. She and Sydney nurse Matron Nora Fletcher were the first Australian women to be awarded the Royal Red Cross during the War.  Few people from Ida Greaves’ home town are aware of this.

Since publication of the book additional information has come to light about individuals. I have also identified more nurses with a connection to the region and will be adding their names gradually as I continue the research.  This website and blog provides a means of updating the story and gives descendants and others the opportunity to contribute.

© Christine Bramble 2013

13 thoughts on “

  1. Gary Mitchell

    Great work Christine.Have not bought your book as yet,will certainly do so.Do you know of a Mary Ellen Briggs who joined the AIF in 1917?She was born in Newcastle and is buried at Sandgate Cemetery.
    Gary Mitchell

    1. Robyn Talbot

      I have a photo with Briggs in it with the pyramids in the background. I think Christine has posted it on this website (also has my grandmother Stewart and other Hunter Valley nurse Michie
      Robyn Talbot

      1. Gary Mitchell

        Hi Robyn, thank you for information on Miss Briggs. I have not seen photo as yet, would love to add to Sandgate database. Cheers, Gary.

    2. Therese Alexander

      To Gary Mitchell – if possible for contact I wd be most grateful, my name is Therese Alexander , and Mary Ellen Briggs was a great aunt. I am attempting to find a photo and other details of her please. She was killed in a car accident being driven by my elderly grandfather William eathorne Alexander.

      1. Great War Nurses from Newcastle & the Hunter Region Post author

        Hi Therese,

        My apologies for not replying sooner, I had a very hectic week and am now doing catch-up: the following is everything I have about Mary, including a summary written some years ago. The addresses of the National Archives newspaper articles at the end of this message may not work from here, but copy and paste an address into your browser and should take you to the item on Trove. As more material has been added to Trove since I did the research, it would be worth your while to do a search of her name.

        Unfortunately I don’t have a photograph other than the group photo with other nurses, on my website.

        Hope this helps. Cheers, Christine


        Staff Nurse Mary Ellen Briggs joined the ANNS on 26 June 1917.

        Born in Newcastle, NSW, her age was 39 years her profession was given as “hospital nurse” at the time of her enlistment. Mary’s next of kin was her mother, Margaret Briggs, of High Street, Newcastle, NSW. An annotation in red ink notes “Notice to be sent to sister Mrs W.E. Alexander at same address.

        She is described as being 5 feet 4 inches tall, 10 stone 5 pounds, with a fair complexion and grey eyes and brown hair. Distinguishing mark was vaccination scar. Her religion was Roman Catholic.

        She embarked for overseas duty on 10 September 1917 on the Hospital Transport “Runic”, with a stop at Durban 7 October where she was accommodated in a hotel. She transferred to the Hospital Transport “Caronia” for Egypt via Bombay on 3 November. She reported for duty at 69th General Hospital in Alexandria, Egypt, on 23 January 1918.

        On 12 July she was attached to the 31st General Hospital in Abbassia.

        She went on 10 days leave on 10 December and returned from leave on 20 December 1918. on 28 December she was transferred to 71st General Hospital in Abbassia. On 12 February 1919 she was transferred to 14th Australian General Hospital, Abbassia.

        She embarked for Australia on the Hospital Transport “Burma” at Suez, for duty, on 26 July 1919. She disembarked on 1 September 1919 and was discharged on 1 October 1919 from the 2nd Military District. A medical report following an examination at the Anzac Buffet in the Domain Sydney on her return contains a signed statement by Mary that “I am not suffering from any disability due to or aggravated by War service, and feel fit and well.”

        A letter from James & James Solicitors of Newcastle, dated, 28 January 1931, refers to Mary Briggs having been killed on 21 December 1930. The letter seeks information of the whereabouts of the witnesses to Mary’s will dated 29 August 1917. The letter is addressed to the officer in charge of base records in Melbourne. A reply on 3 February provides the last known address of one of the witnesses.

        She received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

        Above summary, based on service record of Mary Ellen Briggs, B2455, BRIGGS M E, National Archives of Australia,
        compiled Christine Bramble 2011

        Other references:

  2. Great War Nurses from Newcastle & the Hunter Region Post author

    Thanks for the feedback, Gary. Yes, there is a page for Mary Ellen Briggs – go to “The Nurses” and scroll down to find her name. It was sad that her life was cut short in a car accident. Are you related to her? Would love to know of any additional information you have about her life.
    Local Studies at Newcastle Library has a few copies of the book still. There are also copies for loan from both Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Library and a reference copy in the State Library and the Australian War Memorial if you are not local.
    Cheers, Christine

    1. Chris

      Hello Christine. I read with interest the article in Satruday’s NMH. Ida Greaves is my great aunt and my mother owned her Royal Red Cross. Can you contact me for further information please. Regards, Chris

      1. Great War Nurses from Newcastle & the Hunter Region Post author

        Hello Chris – I’m delighted to hear from you! The lack of recognition of Ida Greaves is one of my hobby horses, I would love to have a chat and and perhaps fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge of Ida’s war service. I away from home at present on family business, but it would be great if you could contact me at to suggest a way we can meet or at the very least have a talk on the phone. Cheers, Christine

  3. Lisa

    Dear Christine,
    I am trying to purchase a copy of the current book “sisters of the valley” for my mother for Mother’s Day. She has been a nurse for over 30 yrs. I can’t seem to get a hold of the current version of your book anywhere. I realise you are updating it however am just hoping to buy a copy up till now.

    1. Great War Nurses from Newcastle & the Hunter Region Post author

      Newcastle Public Library should still have some copies for sale in Local Studies – top floor of Laman Street Library. Let me know if they have run out and I will contact the Graduate Nurses’ Association to see if they still have copies. Thanks for your enquiry. Regards, Christine

  4. Patricia

    Additional information on WW1 Nurse Catherine Kitty Hughes THOMAS of Plattsburg, the 8th child of Elizabeth nee DICKEY (said to be a Maori Princess) m1879 Wallsend John Hughes THOMAS widower. Kitty’s eldest brother John 17 was killed in Co-operative Colliery in 1897, while her youngest brother E Cedric Thomas was the Last Mayor of Wallsend.

    1. Great War Nurses from Newcastle & the Hunter Region Post author

      Thanks for your contribution, Patricia! Interesting to hear about her brother being Mayor of Wallsend – many of the women who became military nurses during the Great War had family members who were leaders in their communities in one way or another. More examples of this in Chapter One of my book “Sisters of the Valley.”


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