“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
– For the Fallen, L. Binyon.
The photo above is of the staff of the 3rd Australian General Hospital (AGH) at Lemnos Island, Greece in 1915. (credit: Gallipoli.gov.au)
On the 25th April Australians around the world will stop and remember the bravery and sacrifice of the Australian men who stormed the beach at Gallipoli. However, few remember the nurses. Nurses who looked after the hundreds of men who were wounded and ferried out to the nurses’ ship, the Gascon. Even though the hospital ships were a place of relative safety, they still sometimes came under fire. Sister Daisy Richmond tells of bullets firing at her and her patients “We are well under fire many bullets coming on the decks. I was speaking to one boy, moved away to another patient when a bullet hit him and lodged in his thigh. It just missed.”
Nurses involved in the Gallipoli campaign treated patients either on hospital ships, or at tent cities erected on nearby islands such as Lemnos and Imbros. Water was sparse, so nurses often went without their own baths in order to have enough water to look after patients. Dysentery was common for the war nurses, and many had to cut their hair short to help keep burrs and lice away.
And then, of course, there was the suffering. The diaries kept by ‘the other ANZACs’ tell us of the grief and hopelessness they felt. Matron Grace Milton, who kept a very well-known diary of her experiences at war, wrote “Just laid the men on the ground and gave them a drink. Very many badly shattered, nearly all stretcher cases … Tents were erected over them as quickly as possible … All we can do is feed them and dress their wounds … A good many died … It is just too awful — one could never describe the scenes — could only wish all I knew to be killed outright.”
We think it’s important to reflect on the bravery and kindness of these ‘Nightingales in the Mud’, especially on April 25th each year.
For more information about the Nurses at Gallipoli visit these sites:
Nurses at Gallipoli – The nurses’ experience
Nurses at Gallipoli – The 3rd AGH (Australian General Hospital) Lemnos Island
Australian War Memorial – Great War Nurses