Staff Nurse Annie Hocquard from Stockton and a graduate of Newcastle Hospital began her army service at hospitals in London. Later transferred to France Annie arrived at No 3 Australian General Hospital on the Western Front in September 1918. The unit had been working at high pressure but in December the celebration of Christmas must have been made the more enjoyable by the knowledge that the guns at last were silent following the Armistice of 11 November. The mood was lightened with a dance for the nurses and officers of No 3 AGH as well as invitations for the nurses to attend social events organised by other hospitals. On Christmas Eve Annie and the other nurses dined with the medical officers in the Sisters’ mess.
Annie Hocquard was amongst the last Hunter nurses to leave the Western Front in 1919 and was one of the earliest battlefield tourists. Day trips were organised for those nurses who had not previously been to forward areas. We can only imagine how they reacted to the blasted landscape that greeted them. After returning to Australia Annie Hocquard applied for a Returned Services badge. What is interesting about Annie is that she lost her badge no fewer than four times over the years and applied for a replacement each time. Could a nurse trained to the standards of Newcastle Hospital and the AANS possibly be forgetful and careless? Perhaps the experience of patching up broken bodies and the knowledge of the terrible destruction wrought on the villages and farmlands of France and Belgium had taken their toll. Perhaps she wore the badge frequently with feelings of pride and sadness and so there were more opportunities for it to be lost. We will never know.
© Christine Bramble 2013