Today is ANZAC Day. The Anzac legend and the events at Gallipoli form an important part of what it means to be an Australian today. In particular, the courage, camaraderie and sacrifices that were made at Gallipoli continue to resonate in the hearts of many who live in Australia and New Zealand today. There are so many different facets to this time in our Nations history and one area that shines brightly is the exceptional dedication and courage displayed by Nurses.
I came across a number of sites that provide important information and glimpses into the life of Nurses during this time. As Nurses, we can only imagine the myriad of challenges faced by members of our own profession, so I thought I’d share some snippets with you.
“On 15 May 1915, the newly-formed 3rd Australian General Hospital (3AGH) unit sailed from Circular Quay, Sydney, on the RMS Mooltan. By 7 August, the hospital site on Lemnos had been pegged out and some marquees were erected. At about 7 pm on 8 August, forty of the nurses were landed and, accompanied by a piper, were marched into their new tents. Before breakfast on 9 August, more than 200 wounded and sick had been admitted to the new hospital. Four days later, there were more than 800 patients.”
The wounded from the landing commenced to come on board at 9 am and poured into the ship’s wards from barges and boats. The majority still had on their field dressing and a number of these were soaked through. Two orderlies cut off the patient’s clothes and I started immediately with dressings. There were 76 patients in my ward and I did not finish until 2 am. [Ella Tucker, in Barker, Nightingales in the Mud, p.30]
I shall never forget the awful feeling of hopelessness on night duty. It was dreadful. I had two wards downstairs, each over 100 patients and then I had small wards upstairs — altogether about 250 patients to look after, and one orderly and one Indian sweeper. Shall not describe their wounds, they were too awful. One loses sight of all the honour and the glory in the work we are doing. [Lydia King, in Goodman, Our War Nurses, p.39
The travelling kitchens would burn on windy days, and people got dysentery from the Greek bread … we did not even have a bath tent as water was so short, and as well the centipedes were very bad! Our hair used to be full of burrs, and in the end, many girls cut their hair short. It saved a lot of trouble.[Louise Young in Bassett, Guns and Brooches, p. 8
As Nurses working in Australia today, we are blessed not to have to face the dreadful circumstances and surrounds experienced by our colleagues of yesteryear! As a profession, I’m sure we all feel for our peers throughout the world who in 2018, work in areas of conflict and see death and suffering on a daily basis. Anzac day is special for many Australians and as Nurses, we should each take the time to reflect on the courage, kindness and grace demonstrated by the Nurses who served in Gallipoli.