“our hours off duty fluctuated with the stress of work”

Sister Pearl Nowland, a graduate of Coast Hospital, was from Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter.  Her war service included hospitals in England and France between late 1917 and 1919.  In 1919 she provided an account of her experiences for the official medical history of the War.  The following extract shows how nurses were exposed to a variety of work and living environments, some more hazardous than others.  The full transcript is available from the Australian War Memorial, AWM41/1072. Reproduced with the permission of the Australian Army.

I was detailed for duty to the Croydon[i] War Hospital, which was a British hospital staffed by Australian sisters, and divided into five separate divisions, all a short distance from each other.  I was in the massage department while here, and the work was not very heavy, but extremely interesting, the cases being principally old fractures.

We worked under very good conditions and were very comfortable.  While at this Hospital, we had many air-raids, but only the shell-shock patients were at all upset by them, and although we had cellars for protection we seldom went into them.

[At] 2 A.A.H., Southall[ii]  I did relieving work as I was only temporarily attached.  I stayed there for about three or four weeks, and was then sent to No 1 A.A.H., Harefield[iii].  I was in the surgical ward for about two months, and the work was very hard as they were the very heavy cot cases awaiting transport to Australia.

This was a very well-equipped Hospital, and we worked under very good conditions, and were very comfortably billeted.

In April … I went to France, to the 74th General Hospital, Trouville[iv], which was another British Hospital, and we were 20 Australians loaned to them.  They were very good to us, and we enjoyed out stay.

The work was heavy but most interesting; we got the wounded almost direct from the line.  It was a very well equipped hospital, and we worked under extremely good conditions, but our hours off duty fluctuated with the stress of work.

We were billeted in very comfortable shacks, and had a fair amount of amusements.  As there were big convalescent camps attached to the Hospital, we saw a lot of their sports and concerts, etc.

I remained there until August, 1918, when I crossed to England, and reported back to No 2 A.A.H. Southall, and remained there until May 1919, when it closed.

[i] Croydon is approximately 15 kms south of central London.

[ii] 2 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Southall.  Southall is approximately 18 kms west of central London.

[iii] 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Harefield.  Harefield is a village approximately 30kms north west of central London.

[iv] Trouville is a coastal village on the French side of the English Channel

Click here for other first hand accounts.


© Christine Bramble 2013

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