The usual methods of identifying nurses from a specific area – eg place of birth, address on the Embarkation Roll, address of next-of-kin, name on school honour roll etc – only go so far. In More than Bombs and Bandages, Australian Army nurses at work in World War I (Big Sky Publishing, Newport 2011) Kirsty Harris has included a very useful appendix of training hospitals of AANS nursing members (pp.239-259). Kirsty’s research has allowed me to identify more women who graduated from Newcastle and Maitland hospitals. I am gradually adding these names as I research their service records. Today’s additions are Staff Nurse Aimée Michie known to her patients as Sister Mick and Sister Jessie Elizabeth Slack – Jessie Slack’s service record indicates that she was mentioned in despatches although as yet I have not discovered the particular action that led to this.
Friend and fellow researcher Ed Tonks has pointed out to me just how special these medals are (see previous post for a photo) – the 1914 Star is very rare, with only approximately 123 awarded to Australians including a small number from Matron Ida Greaves’ unit, the Australian Voluntary Hospital. Not to be confused with the 1914-15 Star which is much more common.
The oak leaf on Matron Greaves’ Victory Medal ribbon denotes Mention In Despatches. Ed tells me that although Ida Greaves was mentioned three times, irrespective of how many mentions, only one oak leaf emblem was to be worn. The first mention, which preceded the award of the Royal Red Cross was as follows:
Despatch of J.D.P. French, Field Marshall, Commanding-in –Chief the British Army in the field, dated 5 April 1915 for gallant and distinguished service in the field.
These are the Great War medals of Matron Ida Greaves of the Australian Voluntary Hospital, Wimereux France. Left to right, they are the Royal Red Cross 1st Class, 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. This set of medals is exceptional not only because the Royal Red Cross 1st Class was only awarded to approximately 44 Australian women during the course of the War but because this particular medal was one of the first two to be awarded to an Australian. Matron Greaves and Matron Nora Fletcher BRCS of Sydney received their awards at Buckingham Palace on 12 July 1915.
Medals of Matron Ida Greaves, RRC. Courtesy Greaves family archive.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported the award on 25 June 1915, p5, with the comment that “Nurse Greaves is a native of Newcastle and is very well known here.” What a pity that the memory of this exceptional woman seems to have faded, unlike that of the Hunter’s Victoria Cross recipients.
Additional information on Sister Kitty Hughes Thomas provided today by Patricia – see comment on About page.
Visitors to this website have enquired regarding buying a copy of “Sisters of the Valley – First World War Nurses from Newcastle and the Hunter region”. You can download an order form from the website of the Royal Newcastle Hospital Graduate Nurses’ Association – www.rnhgna.com or call in to Local Studies at Newcastle Public Library, Laman Street, Newcastle.
I happened to be in London last week and was able to attend the ANZAC Day commemoration – this consisted of a wreath laying at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and a service in Westminster Abbey. In the vastness of the Abbey, the Last Post was even more haunting than usual. The Turkish consul read the words of Kemal Ataturk – “You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.” – these words always reduce me to tears – why do human beings have to wade through rivers of blood before arriving at a realization of our shared humanity?