1914 – 1918  NURSES OF

About The Book

The life stories of 33 First World War Nurses who had a presence in the South West of Western Australia.

These stories are full of spirit, determination, selfless dedication and devotion to duty by our women who have been grossly under-acknowledged for more than one hundred years.

Read about Collie Nurse COLEMAN who was the first Australian Nurse to enlist for service in the First World War, was taken as a Prisoner of War and is regarded as Australia’s first truly International Nurse. Australind born Nurse CLIFTON was awarded an MBE for her contribution to nursing in Western Australia.

Ex- Bunbury Hospital Matron KIERNAN was chosen to act as private nurse to Lord John FORREST on troop ship HMAT74 “Marathon” from Albany WA to London to be the first Australian to be awarded a peerage. Tragically he died on 2nd September 1918 while the ship was anchored off the coast of Sierra Leone Africa.

This new book is acknowledged as a valuable reference tool to support informed presentation of the School curriculum and provide local stories for inclusion in Anzac Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies.

What’s inside


Nurses Awards & Commendations


Nursing in India


Hospital Ships


Sea Transport Section


33 Unique Stories


Poem by Author

Chapter 1


During the course of the war more than three thousand Australian Nurses served with the AANS, QAIMNSR, British Nursing Services, Australian Voluntary Hospitals and a number of branches of the Red Cross Society. Australian Nurses worked in almost two hundred different locations and on more than forty Hospital Ships during the course of the war. Our South West Nurses were posted for war service in more than fifty different nursing facilities in eight separate nations; Belgium, Egypt, England, France, Greece, India, Italy and Serbia. The average age of our South West Nurses at enlistment for war service was thirty years.

A number of our nurses were posted for duty at Casualty Clearing Stations (CCS) which were established very near to the front line. It was also preferential that the CCS be established in close proximity to railway networks. Nurses often risked their lives by being in locations that were targeted by enemy aerial bombardments. The CCS units were regularly ordered to relocate to a more advanced area, rebuild the hospital and swiftly respond by treating new casualties. Some nurses were transferred to service aboard Ambulance Trains which provided a highly effective means of moving many thousands of wounded and injured to Base Hospitals and Hospital Ships for repatriation to Britain.

Military Nurses were dedicated to the daily battle of saving lives. Careful Military Nursing prevented the onset of secondary pneumonia or further infection which often proved fatal. Nurses also assisted in preventing dehydration, excessive blood loss and aided in reducing depression and increasing the patients will to live. A substantial number of soldiers believed that they survived their wounds or illness, solely due to the dedicated and devoted work of our nurses.


(1) Applicant to be between twenty one and forty years of age (later extended to a maximum age of forty five years),
(2) Applicant must have completed three years probationary nursing training and gained qualification,
(3) Applicant must be unmarried or widowed ( if a nurse married during her service, she was immediately issued with a mandatory discharge from the AANS),
(4) Applicant must pass a Medical Examination,
(5) Applicant must acknowledge the requirement to obey Military Regulations,
(6) Applicant should provide references recommending their suitability for Military Service (a Medical Officer had to certify that each nurse was in sound health, capable of doing hard work and undergoing fatigue).
(7) Nurses were initially reimbursed at half the rate paid to males of similar rank.
(8) It was also preferential that nurses were members of the Australasian Trained Nurses Association (ATNA).

Working Hours were stipulated to be as follows:-
Day Number One- 7.00a.m – 8.00p.m
Day Number Two- 7.00a.m -1.00p.m.

This roster was meant to remain in place on a continuous basis; the nurses were also expected to take turns in working within a night duty roster for at least forty eight hours.
After six months service a nurse was to be approved two consecutive weeks of leave.
It appears there were many instances where nurses did not benefit from the proposed working hours and leave arrangements.


The most dominant theme of the Nursing Profession was to serve the sick and wounded. On the first outward voyage of the AANS aboard the H.S. “Mooltan” which embarked Fremantle in May 1915 there were two Senior Medical Officers on board who provided the nurses with hints on treating bullet and shell wounds. The medical and nursing staff were required to treat injuries which were not commonly encountered in Australia. The vast majority of soldiers wounds were caused by bullets, shrapnel, high explosive shells, trench mortars and hand grenades. Nurses were charged with providing formalized medical care to heal as many of the wounded as possible to enable their return to the battlefield. Nurses were expected to adapt professionally to encompass a full range of duties, including:-

To work as an integral part of surgical teams, set up close to the front line and occasionally coming under enemy fire,

Posted to duty on sea transport hospital ships carrying sick and wounded from battle zones to England for treatment or return to Australia for discharge,

Managing hospital wards that were overrun with patient numbers,

Coping with makeshift hospital locations and the associated lack of basic amenities and hospital necessities.
Skills and roles of Military Nurses differed significantly from the skills required for general nursing in Australia. The Florence NIGHTINGALE principles of Nursing were widely adopted in practical nursing whether in peacetime or military situations. Our Australian Nurses were also confronted with significant language and cultural barriers, particularly evident in Indian Hospitals where nurses often had to work with local orderlies who spoke little or no English.



Unique Stories


This book acknowledges the outstanding contribution of South West nurses in the Great War 1914-1918, with a focus on education for school age children who celebrate the commemorations of Anzac Day and Remembrance Day in ever increasing numbers.

Every student in Australia is taught a very brief account of what happened at Gallipoli; the horror of what occurred on that fateful day. This book brings humanity to the madness; the histories of our soldiers who bravely fought, with accounts and letters of what they experienced on the ground. A truly humbling testament to the brave West Australians who gave their lives for our freedoms.

Damian Ots

About the author.

Jeffrey PEIRCE has spent the past 12 years identifying, researching, documenting and publishing the war service histories of more than 3000 men and women from the South West towns of Western Australia in the Great War 1914-1918.

Whilst publishing details on a number of very successful websites he uncovered a diversity of astounding individual stories to be honoured by a new series of books.

His first book features inspirational and emotional stories of fourteen service men and their actions at Gallipoli.

A number of stories focus on those men who survived the horrors of war to make significant contributions to their communities on return home.

Jeffrey is committed to publish further amazing stories that in future books will include actions on the Western Front in France and Belgium, Light Horsemen in Egypt and the Middle East as well as volumes dedicated to the Nurses and First Nation soldiers who enlisted from the South West.

Jeffrey was very proud to have been selected as a finalist in the 2014 Australian of the Year Awards Local Hero Category. This award nomination was in recognition of his innovative development of the website.

 Jeffrey’s four earliest websites, three on local military history and one featuring the Bunbury Cemetery Heritage Walk were sought by the State Library of Western Australia for inclusion on their Pandora Archives and confirmed as significant contributions to Western Australian Heritage.

Jeffrey A Peirce