ANZAC Day – Nurses of the Great War

ANZAC Day is a big deal to Australians and New Zealanders.

With a different meaning to so many, it’s usually regarded as an unnecessary and sad loss of life in a British Empire backed bloodbath, or it’s the most memorable of losing military conflicts that defined both countries and shaped their futures.

Remembrance celebrations for the ill-fated campaign at Gallipoli began exactly a year after the event on April 25th 1916 and there have been services every single year since in Australia, New Zealand and anywhere on the planet where Aussies and Kiwis live, serve their country, work or travel.

Anzac Day is important to Australians and New Zealanders

Invocations of what has become the ANZAC Legend generally only include soldiers experiences, but for the more than 4,000 Australian and New Zealand nurses who volunteered for active service during World War 1, their story is rarely heard. This was the first time in the two countries histories that women worked alongside men as equals – and their work was equally extraordinary and heroic.

Women of this era had only just recently been given the right to vote but were still, more often than not, confined to housekeeping so even signing up for active service was an extremely courageous and bold move for these amazing and inspiring women.

These ANZAC nurses cared for thousands of casualties in hospitals all over Europe during the conflict from makeshift facilities on transport ships, remote islands, in churches and underground to proper hospitals in the UK and Western Europe. Always at risk of attack from the Axis of Evil the conditions were often gruelling with sadly depleted medical supplies, lack of fresh running water, rudimentary equipment and an endless stream of sick and wounded soldiers from all of the allied countries. They performed their duties with the utmost respect, courage and tenacity and indeed, thousands would’ve died if not for the ANZAC nurses. The hospital on Lemnos during the Gallipoli Campaign itself records 7400 patients of which only 143 died, a testament to the will and skill of these incredible ANZACS.

Upon their return to their homes in Australia and New Zealand many nurses of World War 1 received little to no financial benefits, little to no recognition and most shockingly, were seemingly omitted from yearly ANZAC Day Commemorations. Many soldiers however, remembered, and the contributions the nurses (and other women) made to the war effort for the ANZACS is thankfully, now also remembered each year as well as the service given by all women in the Great War and in every subsequent conflict where ANZACS have been present.


To find out more about ANZAC Day and to get further information regarding the Gallipoli Dawn Service please have a look at the Gallipoli information and links on the website.

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