The first Armistice Day – “the dead are still dead and will not return”.

SePoppy1en through the eyes of nurses and medics, the war was far from over when the Armistice came into effect.  The fighting might have stopped, but efforts to care for the wounded, sick and dying continued with an added poignancy.

Newcastle Hospital graduate Sister Amy Mathews was serving on the Western Front on 11 November 1918.  Read about her experiences in her own words –  “I was in the Resuscitation Ward, and it was extremely sad.”

Sister Anne Donnell, a nurse from Adelaide, was working in a convalescent hospital near London at the time.  In her diary she noted, “November 11 Monday – The Armistice is signed – The guns went off at midday – There’s a certain amount of quiet excitement with most of us – some are overjoyed – I wish I could feel happy – but I’m terribly depressed – am thinking of Ross & Stewart – & how things have changed.” (Diary of Anne Donnell, MLMSS 1022/Box 2 Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.)

Sister Elsie Tranter from Melbourne was nursing an 18-year-old boy – “One very young, fair-haired boy … was practically dying when we went on duty in the morning.  When the noise started at 11 a.m. he wanted to know the meaning of it –  he thought it was the commencement of another barrage.  When we told him that the war was over he seemed unable to realise it.  During that last few hours remaining to him, he called out frequently asking, ‘Is the war really over? ‘ Won’t I have to go back?’  He seemed so happy each time we reassured him.  This poor little lad finished his battle to survive towards evening. …  We did not feel able to enter fully into the meaning and joy of the Armistice.  The dead are still dead and will not return.” (Quoted in Susanna de Vries, Australian Heroines of World War One, Pirgos Press 2013.)

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