• Mary Ann Benallack

Army / Flying Corps
  • Other
  • Sister

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  • 1914 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal
  • Birth

    Victoria 3250, Australia

Stories and comments
    • BENALLACK, Mary Ann (RRC) – Sister, BRC, AVH & QAIMNSR
    • Posted by FrevFord, Wednesday, 4 March 2015

    Born 24/8/1876 Colac, Vic – daughter of Stephen Staton BENALLACK (Pastoralist) & Mary Ann ROCK – who married in Victoria in 1855 – Stephen died suddenly on the 20/5/1886 at his residence at Barongarook (near Colac), age 63; and Mary Ann d.22/11/1899 Colac, age 60 Siblings: John Rock b.1856 Newtown – d.1942 Colac, age 86; Amy Frances b.1858 Newtown – marr T.W. JOHNSTONE – d.1923 Colac, age 64; Stephen b.1860 Fyan – d.1897 Colac, age 36; James b.1862 Fyan; George b.&d.1863 Fyan (3w); George Brown b.&d.1864 (10w); Andrew b.1865 Geelong – d.1945 Colac, age 79; Margaret b.&d. 1868 Batesford (7w); James b.1869 Fyan – d.1954 Elli, age 85; Samuel b.&d.1872 (8m); Margaret Steenson b.1873 Colac – marr MORRISON – d.1964 Geelong, age 91; Alexander Francis b.1879 Colac – marr Elizabeth – LH 2 yrs – WW1 Depot, discharge approved for family reasons – d.1969 Park, age 90; Robert Henry b.1882 Colac – d.1885, age 2 Connected with Elliminyt Methodist Church and Sunday School [listed on Honour Roll] Educated in Geelong Appointed probationary nurse Colac District Hospital July 1901 – resigning her position Jul 1902, due to ill health She completed her three years nursing training at Maryborough Hospital, Vic from 1902 to 1905 After qualifying, she remained at Maryborough Hospital as a Sister from 1905 to 1906, and Matron from 1906 to 1910 Matron of the Royal British Nurses’ Association at Hackney, Adelaide 1910 – 1914 Travelled to England in 1914 with a group of nurses WW1: British Red Cross – Military Hospital, South Wingfield, Derbyshire Joined the Australian Voluntary Hospital (AVH) 12th Nov 1914 France Joined the QAIMNSR 1/7/1916 when the AVH was taken over by the War Office and renamed No.32 Stationary Hospital She remained with the 32nd Staty Hosp until 14/9/1916 when she was sent to England sick with Gastritis, having reported sick with this condition on the 2/9/16 Medical board 17/10/1916 Hosp for QAIMNS, Vincent Squ, London – Gastritis – likely to be unfit for another 3 weeks Medical board: 17/11/1916 Hosp for QAIMNS, Vincent Squ, London – Gastritis – now fit for duty She also suffered an attack of Bronchitis during November Joined the 5th General Hospital 30/11/1916, and transferred to 10 Staty Hosp, Rouen 3/4/1917 Wounded 22/7/1917 during an enemy bombardment while doing Barge duty at Aire-sur-le-lys – a scar over her left eye & occasional headaches still remaining in July 1919 [letter p.23 of SR] To Marseilles Stationary Hospital 14/11/1917 – and admitted as a patient 11/1/18 – discharged back to duty 15/1/18 Returning to England 6/7/1918 – arriving Southampton 9/7 on the Gloucester Castle Resigned 9/7/1918 – needing to return home urgently to attend to business that needed her personal supervision – boarding at “Avalon”, 12 Highbury New Park, London Nth whilst awaiting a ship home Living Rothesay, Grant St, Colac in 1919, 1925 Met the Prince of Wales on his visit to Australia in 1920 Mary Benallack, age 58 (Trained Nurse) – traveled in 1935 on the SS Balranald from Melbourne – arriving London 20/6/1935 – intending to stay in England? (but didn’t) Along with Helen Bowie, age 59 (Home duties) Jean B.M. Buckham, age 58 (Trained Nurse) Resident of Sharp St, Chilwell, Geelong in 1937 Died Tuesday 18th May 1937 at a private hospital in Melbourne, age 61 Buried 19/5/1937 at New General Cemetery, Geelong The Colac Herald (Vic), Tue 15 Jul 1902 (p.1): COLAC HOSPITAL CORRESPONDENCE From Mary Benallack, resigning her position as probationary nurse, owing to ill-health. The resignation was accepted. The Colac Herald (Vic), Wed 25 Jul 1906 (p.2): NOTES AND EVENTS It will be of interest to the numerous friends of Miss Mary Benallack (late nurse at the Colac Hospital) to know that she had been appointed to the important position of matron to the hospital at Maryborough, in lieu of Miss Ryan, who was recently appointed to take charge of the hospital at Perth, WA. The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Fri 6 Oct 1911 (p.13): ROYAL BRITISH NURSES’ ASSOCIATION – HALF YEARLY REPORT Miss Benallack commenced duty as matron and secretary on May 1. The committee tender their best thanks to Nurse Umbehaum and Miss Bidmead, who undertook the work in the interval between Miss Wark’s departure and Miss Benallack’s appointment and arrival. The Advertiser (Adelaide), Tue 14 Apr 1914: CAMP SANITATION. CLEANLINESS AND HEALTH. THE MEDICAL SERVICES. HOW THE TROOPS ARE FED. (By our Military Reporter) Gawler, Monday Evening With a body of troops one and a half times as large as the population of Gawler, it was only to be expected that a small proportion of the men would be found suffering from sore feet and other minor affections. …………………………………………………………. Army nursing sisters have visited camps previously, but this year, for the first time, they have remained for several days together. Accommodation has been provided for them in a room under the grandstand, and it has been arranged for four nurses to be available for duty daily during the whole period of training. Sister Knowles is in charge. They have come to Gawler in batches, and so far Nurses Benallack, McGregor, Thompson, Morris, and Davidson have taken up the work of looking after the sick soldiers and studying army nursing generally. The Advertiser (Adelaide), Sat 19 Sept 1914: NURSES FOR THE FRONT The committee’s report presented at the half-yearly meeting of the South Australian branch of the Royal British Nurses’ Association on Friday stated: - …………………………………………….. All our nursing sisters are eagerly awaiting a call. The matron of our home (Miss Benallack) is at present in Scotland, and states in a letter received this week that she is ready for active service at the front should her services be required.” The Colac Herald, Mon 11 Jan 1915 (p.2): A COLAC NURSE AT THE FRONT It will interest some of our readers to hear that Miss Mary Benallack, who partly received her training as nurse at the Colac District Hospital, and who afterwards acted as matron of the hospital at Maryborough, and later received the appointment as matron of the Royal British Nurses’ Association at Hackney, in Adelaide, is at present nursing the wounded soldiers at the Australian Voluntary Hospital (Lady Dudley’s) in France. Miss Benallack some months before the war broke out went on a holiday tour and also to gain further hospital experience in company with other nurses through England, Scotland, and Ireland, with the intention later of going to France, Belgium, Germany and Italy. They had just finished their touring in the Old Country when war broke out. Miss Benallack then registered her name at the Commonwealth Office in London for service abroad. In a letter to her sister (Mrs T.W. Johnstone, Colac), she writes that her first appointment was on Red Cross duty at Wingfield, in Derbyshire. Our patients here are mostly all Belgiums [sic], and they are very nice people, but we do get tangled up when speaking to each other. A few of them speak French, but Flemish (their language) is the limit. This is a glorious part of the country. The hospital is quite close to Wingfield Manor, where Mary Queen of Scots was once imprisoned. This is a terrible war. The wounded men’s stories of the atrocities in Belgium are too terrible to relate. After a few weeks’ nursing here, I got word from the Commonwealth Office to go on duty in France. I am pleased, for I may be on the spot to render some service to some of “our boys,” if necessary. In a later letter from France Miss Benallack wrote: - I cannot write as fully as I would like, as all our letters are censored. Writing letters to please censors is not in my line. One feels a sort of restraint that takes away the interest in writing. You have to be careful and not say too much, otherwise the letters would not be forwarded. We have had plenty of frost and snow here. Mt Buffalo in Victoria is like being in the tropics compared to the weather here at present. I’ve come to the conclusion that this town in Northern France (the name of which I cannot disclose) must be in the Arctic regions. We are right on the sea front, with no protection whatever from the cold winds. A gale rose last night suddenly, and blew out one of the windows in our ward. We are housed now for the winter, unless the Germans give us notice to quit. We sleep in a house built by Germans. It has one of their famous concrete floors, and the sea front is also concreted very suspiciously. There is also a watch tower that we are not allowed to investigate, but I hope there are no mines underneath. It is a glorious situation, commanding a good view of the Channel, and is about 30 miles from the line of battle. I have not yet been inoculated against enteric fever. The majority of the nurses have been, but I have my two doses ready should they be required. I am not too keen on being inoculated, as it makes one very ill indeed for a few days. I can’t pretend after my experience here to be anxious to see our Colac boys at the front, as it is too ghastly and awful to speak about. We are kept very busy, as there are lots of medical and surgical cases to attend to. Our patients at present are mostly all British and German, with a few French. The maids are all French girls, and I am beginning to pick up a few French phrases. Our hospital has done good work, and is doing so as far as treatments and results go. Patients are coming and going, and eighty cases have this week been discharged as convalescent, thus making room for other unfortunates who have fallen in the fray to take their places. Her letter concludes with Christmas and New Year greetings to her relatives and all enquiring friends. The Colac Herald, Mon 8 Feb 1915: A COLAC NURSE AT THE FRONT Miss Benallack, who is a nurse at the front, writing to a friend from France, speaks as follows: - “Here we are, only four days off Xmas and I have to pinch myself to remind me of the fact, it scarcely seems like it I assure you. Little we thought last Easter when ‘playing at war’ and soldiering it would become reality so soon, and the grim reality of it words cannot picture. The men are having an awful time in the trenches (the reference to “playing at war” refers to their meeting in camp at Gawler, S.A., last Easter). The weather here is like nothing I’ve ever met before – wind and rain, snow and frost, and so on, on the sea front overlooking Dover Straits, but we are housed in comparative comfort. Why, I have a mattrass [sic] this week, but what the trenches are like no one without seeing them can know. Our patients say they don’t care a button for the German bullets, but the weather is knocking them out – frost bite, chest troubles of all sorts, and rheumatism are very prevalent, to say nothing of typhoid and wounds. I’m not even pretending to be anxious to see our men in it all, and am more than thankful they are being spared “under canvas”. I just love London, and have enjoyed my trip up to now, well, even the war is not worrying me so much now that I’m busy; it did for a while when I had time to think about it. I could not read the papers, they were too harrowing, but now I’m quite happy, and will be so long as my health remains good. Am on night duty (34 beds) with two orderlies. To-night we are near empty; been shipping them more quickly; trouble seems to be expected at the firing line. Three of us walked 1½ miles to church on Sunday, Presbyterian in English – it was great. All in khaki, and nurses in uniform. I wonder when this awful business will end. I do not let my mind dwell much on the reality of it, but we are not far advanced from the old barbarians after all. I must try and get in touch with the A.A.M.C. when they come somewhere near. I should like to see some of our boys. I wonder if they will see the firing line here. Oh, if so, many will be missing. The “Roll of Honor” is – well, I wonder will they ever know just how very great it will be. The Sydney Morning Herald, Wed 23 Jun 1915: FROM NEAR AND FAR Miss Benallack, who was matron of the Maryborough (Vic) Hospital for many years, is another who could not resist the call to service at the front. She is now at the Base Hospital, Boulogne. The nurses undergo many hardships, she states, but as a rule they accept discomfits cheerfully. Recently Miss Benallack enjoyed a brief holiday at the home of the late Duke of Argyll, in France, which has been lent as a rest camp. Colac Reformer (Vic), Thur 15 Jun 1916 (p.2): LETTERS FROM THE FRONT NEWS FROM A NURSE Nurse Mary Benallack, sister of Mrs T.W. Johnstone writes under date of 17th April, from the Australian Voluntary Hospital, France – “You can imagine we were cheered up wonderfully to see some of our Australian boys, even though sick or wounded. It does our hearts good, as it makes us feel that we are not far away from home. I do hope our men will take proper care of themselves, and not risk their lives rashly, as the Germans are not to be trifled with. We got our first consignment of Australians after I posted my last letter. They did not know where they were being sent, and they were delighted and surprised to find that they were to be attended to by nurses from Australia. We had a visit from two Taubes to-day, and possibly a Zeppelin may follow later, but “sufficient unto the day, etc.” There is a soldier in one of the wards who used to attend the Colac Grammar school, I have forgotten his name.” The Colac Herald (Vic), Mon 24 Sept 1917 (p.2): NOTES AND EVENTS Mrs T.W. Johnstone has received word from the Defence Department that her sister, Nurse Mary Benallack, who has been engaged in hospital duties since the inception of the war, has received injuries to the head, caused by the shelling of the hospital river barge on which she was engaged at the time. She is at present in a military hospital in London, and from private cables received since, it has been learned that she is making favourable progress towards recovery. The Register (Adelaide), Tue 4 Dec 1917: THRILLING STORY OF BRAVE NURSE WOUNDED AND MISTAKEN FOR SOLDIER The following article in The Weekly News is from the pen of Sister Mary Benallack, of the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve), who has been on duty behind the lines in France since November 1914. Sister Benallack is an Australian, and is at present recuperating from the effects of wounds and shell shock, after a sojourn of five weeks in a London hospital. She graphically describes some of her experiences in the war zone, and pays a touching tribute to the heroism and endurance of the gallant defenders of the Empire. Special interest will be felt locally, because Sister Mary Benallack was matron of the Adelaide Royal British Trained Nurses’ Home until she left to take up work in the British military hospitals. She is staying in Wormit with Mrs William Young, sister of Mr C.J. Young, of Adelaide. In the roll of honour Sister Benallack’s Christian name was accidentally omitted. Before referring to my own little adventures in that grim area of titanic combat – euphemistically termed the western front – I desire to avail myself of the privilege of adding my tribute of admiration for the dauntless valour and splendid fortitude of the men now fighting in defence of righteousness and justice. The courage of the heroic lads of the Empire in the field is only matched by their calm, unmurmuring endurance under physical pain in the hospitals. I write of that which I know. For nearly three years I have had the honour of tending the sick, the wounded, and the dying, and, looking back, I cannot recall a single instance of a British warrior whose agony made him regret that he donned the uniform, or whose glazing eyes showed a trace of fear as he approached the dark valley of the shadow of death. - A Memorable Day - My most exciting day in France – from a strictly personal viewpoint was Sunday, July 22, 1917, for it was then that I obtained a practical lesson of what it means to be wounded. It happened in this fashion. I was on board a barge which had been converted into a hospital. The flotilla comprised four of these barges, which were proceeding along a canal “somewhere in France” for the purpose of bringing back wounded men from the front. About 8 o’clock on that lovely summer morning we reached a small town fully a dozen miles to the rear of the firing line. The bells were ringing for church service, and but for the booming of the guns in the distance one would have found it difficult to believe that the scene of the world’s most fearful conflict was near at hand. There were three other nurses besides myself on board, and after breakfast we went up on deck to enjoy the fresh air, and, probably, to pass under review the Sunday attire of the French women of the provincial town. That, alas! was not a difficult task. The great majority of the women of France are in mourning. The four of us – representing England, Scotland, Ireland, and Australia – were seated on one of the hatches, chatting away about nothing in particular, when the peacefulness of the picture was rudely shattered by the arrival in a neighbouring field of a great German howitzer shell. One of the town’s officials informed us of the character of the unwelcome visitor, and added that the place had frequently been under the fire of the Kaiser’s most powerful guns. “They are trying to smash up our foundry,” he said, “but they haven’t registered a hit so far.” During the next two hours over a score of monster shells landed in and about the town, and the bombardment had the disturbing effect of making one ponder over the uncertainty of life. Shortly after 10 o’clock the unforgettable event occurred. A shell collided with a potato field bordering the canal, and at a point not more than 20 yards distant from our barge. The concussion treated us in a most undignified manner. We were hurled off the hatch and thrown violently to the deck. “What next?” was the question that flashed through my brain as I struck the boards. I had not long to wait for an answer. The atmosphere suddenly became filled with earth and stones – and potatoes! My recollection of what took place within the next few seconds is of the vaguest description. In fact, there are blanks in the film. - Frightened the Doctor – For instance, I was informed by one of the doctors that I gave him the fright of his life. It appears that I was completely buried beneath the debris created by the bursting of the shell. Subconsciously I must have fought and struggled against this premature burial, for the medical man informed me that my head suddenly emerged from the mass. “And you were a pretty sight, I can assure you,” he said. “Your face was covered with blood, and just at that stage you wouldn’t have run the ghost of a chance in a beauty show. I didn’t know you at first. It was only when you spoke that I became sure of your identity.” “What did I say, doctor?” “That was the funny part of the business,” he laughingly replied. “You looked round dazedly, and then remarked – “We are all right, aren’t we? Is anybody hurt?” Later in hospital I learned that I had got the worst of the deal. My real features were concealed behind a discouraging mask of cuts, bruises, and abrasions, while I also suffered rather severely from shellshock. One man in the barge next to ours was struck by a bit of shrapnel as he lay in bed down below, and a few of the nurses on that same barge met with quite a number of hair-raising adventures while crawling about beneath the beds in search of shelter. The cook on our barge, who escaped without a scratch, afterwards quoted the old proverb, which announces something about its being “an ill wind that blows nobody good.” The reason for his joy was the discovery of a quantity of potatoes on the deck of the barge sufficient to supply the whole outfit for fully a week. And I still cherish the opinion that it was a potato which presented me with one of the most radiant black eyes that ever adorned a human countenance. Verily, I looked a most disreputable creature. - Mistaken for a Man – Just how many yards of bandages they wrapped around my devoted head I shall never know. One thing is certain – they tied me up so voluminously that at one stage of my journey I was actually mistaken for a man! It was after leaving the Channel steamer at Dover that this horrible “tragedy” occurred. Hundreds of wounded Tommies had crossed in the same boat with me, and also a number of sick nurses. I was a stretcher case, neatly folded in the regulation blanket, and my head and hair concealed from view beneath the aforementioned bandages. My destination was London, while the wounded soldiers were en route for Bournemouth. Dusk was falling as the stretcher on which I lay rested on the Dover platform. My stretcher was in the right flank of those of the sick sisters, and next to those of the Tommies. In due course two stretcher bearers suddenly materialized, and without speaking a word they carried me into the ambulance train and deposited me in a lower berth. My mind was not particularly active at the moment. I was feeling faint and tired with the journey and my injuries, and longing for the peace and rest of a hospital bed. Then it gradually dawned upon me that there was an extraordinarily large number of male voices sounding in the carriage. I failed to understand why there should be so many male orderlies to look after a few sick nurses, and I decided to investigate. Raising myself on my elbow, I glanced around with the solitary eye that had been left uncovered and was still capable of active service. On the other side of the carriage I beheld to my great astonishment several wounded Tommies. They glanced in my direction, and one of them smiled and said, “Well, old fellow, and how are you getting along? That’s a fine bunch of linen they’ve tide round your cranium.” Merciful goodness! The bold warriors regarded me as being of the male gender. This was a serious matter indeed, and when an orderly passed along the corridor I hailed him and asked, “Are you sure I am on the right train for London?” I shall always remember the look of amazement that crept over the features of that orderly. He recognized my voice as being that of a woman, and he was not the only one in the carriage to do so. The Tommy who had referred to my “bunch of linen” sat up in his cot and gasped, “That fellow over there must be a woman, boys. At least he’s got a woman’s voice!” Immediately I became the cynosure of all eyes. Every man who was able sat up and had a look at me, and the fellow in the cot above me almost tumbled out in his anxiety to catch sight of the novelty – a women returning from the war zone with a very dilapidated head. Fortunately, the train had not started, and I was hurriedly removed from my cot and carried over to my proper quarters in the midst of the wounded sisters. And, would you believe it, they had never missed me! But when they learned of my mischance they teased me most unmercifully, the chief and most unfounded allegation being that even when wounded I could not keep away from the boys! - A Gay Gordon’s Philosphy – One of my most poignant memories of France centres round the death of a handsome young Glasgow lad, a member of the Gordons. I shall call him Jack Macdonald, although that was not his real name. Jack was brought to us at Wimereaux in the summer of 1916, and it was apparent from the first that his hours on earth were numbered. “I have not long to live,” he said to me as I stood by the side of his cot. “You are very ill,” was the reply I made, adding, “but one should never despair of recovery.” “But there’s no hope for me, nurse, and I know it,” continued the wounded soldier. “I’m not afraid of death. There is peace and rest in the grave.” I was at a loss for words, and remained silent. I had seen many men die, but had never stood by the deathbed of one who spoke so stoically of his passing into the Great Beyond. From his speech I judged him to be a man of considerable education, and this impression was strengthened when he said: - “Like Lucretius, I believe in the everlasting death. And it is that belief which has helped me to do my duty as a soldier.” The confession of faith took me by surprise. I was aware that many soldiers gave but little thought to religion, being content to leave their future stat in the hands of a just Omnipotence. But never before had I heard a dying man express in words his conviction that death was the end of all things. I tried to persuade him not to talk anymore, so that he might conserve his strength. “I want to talk as long as I am able,” Macdonald declared. “I want to tell you of the hope that has sustained me and helped me to play the man in moments of grave danger, when otherwise my courage might have faltered.” - “Peace is there Below” - I decided to humour the poor lad, and the following is a summary of what – with occasional pauses – he told me: - “Shortly after joining the army I became the servant of an officer, and it was while acting in this capacity that I renewed my acquaintance with the writing of Lucretius. This officer had two little paper-covered volumes of ‘The Bibelot’, an American publication. Their contents consisted of a translation of Lucretius on ‘Life and Death’, in the metre of Omar Khayyam, the author being W.H. Mallock. I obtained permission to read the poem, and it comforted me. It removed from my mind any lurking fear I ever had of death. I wrote down some of the verses in my notebook, but I remember them even now. Listen, nurse, and I will repeat the verse I love the best of all.” And then, in a voice that trembled a little, Jack Macdonald recited the following lines: - “Oh forms of fear, oh sights and sounds of woe…The shadowy road down which we all must go, leads not to these but from them. Hell is here, here in the broad day. Peace is there below.” Jack Macdonald passed away that night. He took me by the hand and whispered, “Good-bye. It is growing dark – so dark.” From his notebook I copied the verse which I had quoted. Jack was a philosopher, and his philosophy, right or wrong, stood him in good stead. He died the death of a hero, and can any man travel into the unknown with a finer deed to his credit? Those years in France! So dark with sorrow and suffering, and at times illumined with a glory unknown in the days of peace. I shall be going back soon, and I am pleased to go. But I trust that the end of the strife may not be far distant, and that the happy day may soon dawn when the brave and noble sons of the British Empire shall return to their homes with the light of a great and decisive victory shining in their eyes. The Australasian (Melb, Vic), Sat 5 Jun 1920 (p.59): [Photo of Sister Benallack talking to the Prince of Wales at Colac] http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/140242175 The Argus, Wed 19 May 1937: FUNERALS BENALLACK – The friends of the late MISS MARY ANN BENALLACK are respectfully informed that her remains will be interred in the New General Cemetery, Geelong. The funeral is appointed to move from her late residence, Glenalvie, 50 Sharp street, Chilwell, THIS DAY (Wednesday), 19th May 1937) at 3.30pm. The Argus, Thur 20 May 1937: OBITUARY Sister Benallack The death occurred in a private hospital in Melbourne on Tuesday of Sister Mary Ann Benallack, of Colac. Sister Benallack was in England when the Great War broke out, and she left for the front almost immediately with the staff of the Lady Dudley Hospital. While on duty in France she was severely wounded during an air raid. Sister Benallack was awarded the Royal Red Cross.