Ministering Angels in time of suffering

Ref: James D Richardson, Steamship Maheno used as First World War hospital ship, no date, no location, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-1624
During the First World War not all women saw their role as the person to keep the home fires burning. Those armed with nursing qualifications and the spirit of adventure enrolled to serve their country overseas. These dedicated professionals included nurses from the South Auckland area, who served in the New Zealand Army Nursing Service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

This post is dedicated to some of these nurses who trained in Auckland between 1912 and 1916, with the exception of Ethelwyn Carruth who trained in Thames in 1914.

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, on board the Maheno where wounded soldiers receive expert attention, no location, 1915, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19150715-46-4
May McGee (Finlayson) served as a Staff Nurse. Born in Auckland, May lived at Walmsley Road, Otahuhu. May set off for Plymouth, England, with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force 20th Reinforcements New Zealand Army Nursing Service on 30 December 1916. While overseas she served as a nurse in Egypt and France. May was made Sister in 1919 and returned home to NZ on board the transport vessel Giessen in July 1919.

Mabel Maida Illingworth (Coates) was born in Australia in 1882 but went on to serve as a Staff Nurse with the New Zealand Army Nursing Service. Mabel was sent to Egypt where she worked in the nursing service as a masseuse. Mabel was awarded the British War Medal (1914-1920). She was discharged on 24 October 1917 having become dangerously ill and was invalided home.

We can follow Mabel's recovery in Kai Tiaki (the journal of the nurses of NZ): 'Staff-Nurse M.M. Coates, 22/355, has been at the convalescent home at Sandwich, but has now been discharged to duty' (July 1917, p76). Following the war, Mabel and her husband began a family (see newspaper clipping below). She was buried at All Saints Anglican Church Cemetery, Howick, aged 68 years old.

Ref: Births section in Kai Tiaki, Volume XII, Issue 3, July 1919, p145, from Papers Past
Maud Montgomery (Glacken) was born in September 1888 and trained to become a nurse, graduating in 1914. She later enlisted to serve as a Staff Nurse. Leaving her home in Papatoetoe at age 28, Maud set off on Hospital Ship No. 1 Maheno (Second Charter) with the New Zealand Army Nursing Services Corps on 25 January 1916.

Before Maud left, she attended an afternoon tea function held in January 1916 in the Parliamentary dining-room in Wellington. Here the Hon. Minister of Public Health entertained both the nursing staff of the hospital ship Maheno, and the nurses leaving as passengers. The Prime Minister and Mrs Massey were present at the function along with other dignitaries. The Prime Minister made a farewell speech in which he mentioned the highly impressive behaviour of the nurses on board the torpedoed Marquette.

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, NZ nurses before beginning their duties abroad the hospital ship Maheno, no location, 1915, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19150715-47-3
In an article in the Dominion - ‘New Zealand Army appointments and promotions’ it was announced that Maud Montgomery had received a promotion to the position of Staff Nurse. Kendall and Corbett (1990) record that Maud served at Bagthorpe Military Hospital, Nottingham, England and later on in France (Volume 11, Issue 16, 13 October 1917, p3).

Whilst in France, Maud was moved to St Omer, then to Amiens and later on to Abberille, where she served on the front line. She was awarded the British War Medal (1914-1920), the Victory Medal and was made Associate of the Royal Red Cross (ARRC). You can visit The Armoury at the Auckland War Memorial Museum to view Maud Montgomery’s medals and nursing badges.

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, arrival of sick and wounded heroes by the hospital ship Maheno, Queen's Wharf, Auckland, 1916, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19160106-43-1
Aileen Catherine Miller, Staff Nurse, of Station Road, Mangere Crossing, Otahuhu, sailed on the Hospital Ship No. 2 Marama (Fourth Charter) as a member of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service on the 1 June 1918. The April 1919 issue of Kai Tiaki listed nurses who had recently returned to NZ and been posted to duty at various military hospitals - this included an A.C. Miller, who is recorded as having been posted to Trentham. While this has not been verified to be the same Aileen Catherine Miller, the information does fit within the general date range, occupation and name. Aileen was promoted to the position of Sister in 1921.

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, steamer Marama, NZ’s second hospital ship, no location, 1915, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19151209-35-1
Ethelwyn Carruth’s (Motion) family lived at Kolmar Road, Papatoetoe at the time she enlisted as a Staff Nurse for the New Zealand Army Nursing Service. Ethelwyn trained to be a nurse at Thames Hospital and passed her 'Nurses Examinations' in January 1914. She worked as a Staff Nurse until late 1917 when she was promoted to the position of Sister. Ethelwyn was on board the Hospital Ship No.2 Marama on its Second Charter. Ethelwyn embarked on the 10 November 1916 at Wellington.

Ref: Photographer unknown, Sister Ethelwyn Carruth during a lifeboat drill aboard NZHS Marama, location and date unknown, reproduced with kind permission of Sherayl Kendall
There will have been many tales of adventure and sorrow relayed by these First World War nurses to family and friends during their lifetimes. Hopefully some family members can pass on their reminiscences about these brave women at the upcoming First World War centenary commemorations event, which is being arranged by the New Zealand Military Nursing organisation.

Keen to find out more? Here are the sources used for this post:

Author: Sharon Smith, South Auckland Research Centre