World War 1 Adelaide Hospital Nurse Kathleen Conway

World War 1 Nursing Staff – Adelaide Hospital



Kathleen Conway was born in Adelaide in 1891. In 1911 she began training as a nurse at the Adelaide Hospital, completing the course in 1914. When the war was declared in August 1914, among many other aspiring army nurses, Kathleen offered to serve with the Australian Army Nursing Service. After initial selection had been made, there was a lull in recruitment, and Kathleen and several associates chose an alternative course of action – to travel to England and join the British Army nursing service.

 With five companions she left Australia in April 1915. When the ship in which they were travelling reached Suez, the nurses were ordered to disembark and travel to Cairo, whether they came under the supervision of Miss Margaret Graham, formerly matron of the Adelaide Hospital and now a matron in the A.A.N.S. From Cairo they were attached to the staff of a hospital ship which went to Lemnos, and thence to the Dardanelles, to evacuate wounded soldiers soon after the opening of the Gallipoli campaign.

Kathleen became engaged to an English R.A.F officer Arthur Turner, in Egypt, and after a short visit to her home in Australia, she returned to Egypt to marry Arthur. After his discharge from the Air Force, Kathleen and Arthur resided in England, then in the 1950′s Kathleen and her husband came to live in South Australia.

The following interview was conducted by Joan Durdin on Anzac Day, 1976, with Mrs Kathleen Turner, then a resident at Dunbar Nursing Home (Goodwood)

We had been on a civilian ship, and it went on to London, with its passengers. The authorities in Egypt knew that we were on board, so they arranged for us to (disembark) go to Cairo. I was at the Hotel Heliopolis, in Cairo, and Miss Graham was there (Miss Margaret Graham, matron of the Adelaide Hospital). That was lovely! She was so good to we six who has been taken off the ship. We had nothing – no uniforms, or anything. We were still civilians. We had some ordinary uniforms with us, and we went to Prince Ibram’s Palace, and stayed there for a month. It was a lovely place. I have a photograph of us sitting on the steps, and there were peacocks in the garden, and that sort of thing.   Then next I went to Lemnos, not to stay, for we went straight on to Gallipoli and Lemnos was halfway. There was a big Australian hospital on Lemnos. I was on a hospital ship.

 We went to Gallipoli and the injured soldiers were brought in barges to the ship. We had to stay there until another hospital ship came, and there was some delay, and there was no hospital ship to relieve us. We couldn’t leave, and we had crowds coming over in barges and people dying all the time, and being buried in the sea. At last, when the decks were covered with people, another ship came.

We didn’t rest at all. We were fifty-two hours without rest. Never a wink of sleep. Doctors were the same of course. They were operating day and night.

 I wasn’t in the theatre. I was just an ordinary nurse. We had a pocket fill of morphia, and another pocket full of aspirin. We gave them out just as we saw fi. And you had to remember that you had given a dose, and could not give a second does too soon.

 We just went where we could. We stepped over them. We didn’t know if we were stepping on them or not, sometimes. They were just lying there! The beds were all full. Poor old things, they had dysentery, and some couldn’t get into their bunks, so they got underneath.

 We had enough (supplies prepared)for the surgical cases. We had been getting ready on our way out, making dressings and bandages and so on. We knew that we’d be terribly busy when we got there.

 We went with the patients, to Alexandria. And one trip we went to London. That was a trip! We had terribly rough weather, and the ship rolled so. Beds were broken, everything was broken. So we had to stay in London while the ship was re-fitted. We were there for three weeks with no money.

 We went to the Ivanhoe Hotel. There were about six of us, all Australian nurses. We were still not in proper uniform. While we were in London we decided to go and see the Matron-in-chief, and get some uniforms. They hadn’t got any in Egypt. We had a hard job. Stacey and I were together, and we couldn’t get in to see the Matron-in-chief. We went to the War Office, and we were not allowed in. Oh, no! So we watched the man going up and down, up and down, and when he turned his back we slipped in. We found where the Matron-in-chief was, and we thought that we’d get some satisfaction. Oh, we were dressed down like anything! We came out with our tails between our legs! However, she gave us something to get uniforms, and we went to the firm who were making them. But we got no money from her! I had a little money sent from Adelaide, to the Bank of Adelaide in London, when I had left home, so I went there and got that out. But that soon went. Stacey and I couldn’t leave the hotel because we couldn’t pay our bill. No one cared about us. So we thought that we’d go and see the manager of the Egyptian Bank, because I had some money in there, from Cairo. We asked to see him, and we told him what we wanted. He believed us, and he said “Well, these are unusual times. I’ll lend you the money.” He took our word that we had money in the bank in Egypt, but he could not get it for us. So he gave us twenty pounds each. But that soon went! So we went back again – we had the cheek to go back and see him again! He must have found out by then that we were genuine, so he gave us another ten. That saw us through. We were three weeks in London.

 But we were young, and it didn’t matter. We went down to the ship when it was ready, and I gave the porter who took my luggage sixpence – all that I had left. I said: “This is all I’ve got. You can have it!” I went on to the ship with not a penny”.

Posted in Courage and Compassion - War and Peace, Histories