“We felt the extremes of weather very much indeed…” – on the Salonika Front

Staff Nurse Ivy Robbins was a recent graduate of Newcastle Hospital when she enlisted aged just 26 years and was sent to the Salonika front in northern Greece, where the British and French were fighting the Bulgarians.  A G Butler the medical historian of Australia’s involvement in the War said of the women who nursed in this mountainous country that “few Australian nurses in the war can have found themselves among associations more inspiring, scenes more beautiful or conditions more damnable.”    Butler, A G [ed] – The Australian Army Medical Services in the war of 1914-1918, Vol III, The Australian War Memorial, Canberra 1943, p.571

In 1919 Staff Nurse Robbins provided information on her war service for the official medical history of the War.    The full transcipt is available from the Australian War Memorial, AWM41/1072.  Reproduced with the permission of the Australian Army.

Arriving at Salonika we were met by ambulance transports, and taken to the 60th General Hospital, which was about 15 kilometres out of Salonika up in the hills.  It was a large tented hospital capable of taking 1500 patients.  The conditions under which we worked were fair.  It was fairly well equipped.   We were very short of food owing to transport difficulties, and the fact that Salonika had been burnt down a few days after our arrival.  Of course things improved after a while.

I cannot speak too highly of the help we received from the Australian Red Cross.  They supplied us with plenty of food stuffs and other comforts.

Most of our patients were suffering from malaria, who, however, responded very well to the treatment.  There were no amusements for the patients owing to being so far from the town, and every place being out of bounds.  We had to be in camp at sundown.

Unfortunately many of our sisters contracted malaria, some of them [the] malignant form, and many of them were invalided to Australia absolute wrecks.

We felt the extremes of weather very much indeed, the heat being unbearable, and the cold even more trying as we were so short of fuel.

We remained in this camp for the summer, and then the whole unit moved down to Lembert, where we nursed principally prisoners of war, Bulgars and Turks, and a few Germans.  They were very good patients especially the Bulgars, but of course they were difficult to manage owing to their being unable to understand English.  We had to get them to carry out our orders by making signs.  The conditions here were very much the same as up at Hortiach.


© Christine Bramble 2013

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