• S M Furnifull

  • British War Medal
  • Victory Medal
  • Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
Stories and comments
    • FURNIFULL, Sarah Margaret – Staff Nurse, QAIMNSR, (MID Mar 1918)
    • Posted by FrevFord, Saturday, 1 September 2018

    Sarah Margaret was born on the 10th of July 1887 at Albany, WA – the daughter of Benjamin Edwin FURNIFULL and Annie Isabella FARRELL, who married in Walcha, NSW in 1883 Annie died in June 1919 at Canterbury, NSW, from influenza – Benjamin died on the 18/8/1934 at his daughter’s home in Randwick, NSW, aged 79 Siblings (8): Jane A b.1883 Walcha (Nurse), NSW; Annie b.1884 Kempsey, NSW (Nurse) – d.1939 NSW; Marion – marr GIVNEY; Frances Grace b.1891 Albany, WA – (Nurse, AANS); Hannah G. b.1894 Walcha – marr CABAN; Mabel b.1896 Walcha – marr THURSBY; Robert Charles b.1898 Walcha – d.1977 NSW For three years from the age of 16, Margaret (as she preferred to be called) worked at the Macleay District Hospital, until she was old enough to train as a nurse – she then went to the Coast Hospital, where she trained for 4 years 1913 Electoral Roll: Coast Hospital – nurse After receiving her Sister’s certificate she took up the position of assistant matron at the TB Sanatorium, Waterfall – before relieving the Matron at the Berry Public Hospital in 1914 WW1 Service: Having volunteered to join the Australian Army Nursing Service, Margaret was instead offered the alternative of joining the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR), along with other Australian nurses. Having accepted, they embarked for England on the Karoola on the 18/12/1915 In 1973 Margaret remembered their journey: “After a very seasick trip we disembarked at Suez and were taken on to Cairo in a very dirty hospital train carrying typhoid cases. After a week there we joined a New Zealand hospital ship, Nevassa, which took us to Naples to join the Britannic.” “We were put on duty and ordered always to have life belts handy, as the Germans had vowed they would sink the Britannic. It was a very frightening trip. We landed safely at Liverpool and were ordered to report to a military hospital at Rubery, near Birmingham.” The Britannic had arrived at Southampton on the 10/2/1916, and their posting was to the 1st Birmingham War Hospital at Rubery, which was a converted lunatic asylum. Margaret had contracted typhoid, apparently from the Suez hospital train and was isolated for 3 weeks at Rubery – being well looked after by her Australian nursing companions. Although not fully recovered when orders came through for them to proceed to London, she refused to be left behind, and travelled with them to London. “There we received our uniforms and kit and sailed for Boulogne. We went then to a base hospital at Camier, near Etaples, where a camp of Australians had just been set up. Convoys were coming in frequently but we were able to see our friends and relations among them.” Their first posting in France was to the 11th General Hospital on the 2/4/1916 Eventually the unit was broken up and Margaret never came into contact with any of her Australian companions for the rest of the war. She was posted to the 1st Casualty Clearing Station on the 2/12/1916, before receiving a week’s UK Leave from the 14/12 1916 to the 22/12/1916 Following her return from Leave, she was posted to the 1st General Hospital on the 13/1/1917, and later served at the 2nd General Hospital from June 1917 Another 14 days Leave was granted from the 27/6/1917 During this time she also received a surprise posting: “A Scottish medico had asked for me to be relieved so I could go to a hospital at Le Havre to learn a new treatment for the dreadful wounds from gas gangrene. Two French doctors had developed the treatment, which was called “Carrel Dakin” after them. A ward of 30 patients was kept on the treatment and it really was a miracle. I was honored to be able to share in it. Then came a week’s trip around France with the doctor showing other hospital teams how to apply the treatment.” In 1918 she received Leave from the 8/3/1918 to the 23/3/1918, during which time she was Mentioned in Despatches, and met the 2nd love of her life – who unfortunately was later Killed In Action. 1918 also saw her shunted around various Casualty Clearing Stations (CCS), starting at the 48th CCS on the 31/5/1918. This was followed by the 3rd Stationary Hospital, before being admitted to the 8th General Hospital on the 5/7/1918 until the 17/7/1918 with influenza. She returned to the 48th CCS on the 29/7/1918, followed by the 50th CCS on the 5/8/1918; back to the 48th on the 10/8/1918 and then to the 53rd CCS on the 21/10/1918. During this time it turned out that one of her postings had been taken over by the Germans, but luckily this was discovered before it was too late. Although, while taking refuge with the French she was reported as ‘missing,’ which caused some anxiety in her family. In the dying days of the war her Unit followed in the wake of the advance as they crossed the Hindenburg Line: “Although meant to be out of range, we were within shell fire most of the time. About half an hour after we had been working in one tent, a shell hit it and killed three orderlies who were cleaning up. We were only a few miles from where the Armistice was signed, and I vividly remember the silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day. All the guns stopped firing. We were hysterical, laughing and crying. But it was quite peculiar, we didn’t feel much like celebrating. Only crying. That night in my tent 18 men died of pneumonic flu.” Following the Armistice she was posted to the 6th General Hospital on the the 24/11/1918. On the 17/2/1919, having received news that her mother was very ill, she asked to be allowed to break her contract and return home. She was eventually returned to England on the 17/3/1919, but it wasn’t until the 8/5/1919 that she embarked on the SS Roda for return to Australia, disembarking 10/7/1919 Many years later she stated that: “The trip took nearly three months and I arrived in Sydney to find my mother had died of flu the day before.” However, the trip only took 2 months and her mother had died in the June. On her return she took up the position of Matron at Brentwood Hospital, Muswellbrook, NSW; resigning in 1927 to marry her 3rd Love and leave the district 1924: Nurse, Brentwood Hospital, Muswellbrook, NSW Margaret married Bruce WHITE on the 1st of March 1927 in the Newcastle Cathedral, NSW Bruce, a Grazier, was born in 1886 at Muswellbrook, NSW – the son of James Cobb, M.L.C. and Emmeline Eliza (nee Ebsworth) Following their marriage, the couple took over Tucka Tucka Station, between Boggabilla and Yetman, near the NSW / Qld border Child: Ben born 17/8/1932 NSW – married Pat President of the Yetman Women’s Voluntary War Service in 1939 Resigned from the position of President of the Yetman Centre (Bush Nursing Association) in 1945 Having visited England, Margaret returned to Australia from London on the Himalaya, passing through Fremantle on the 30/3/1951 In 1963 Margaret’s Branch of the RSL wished to nominate her for Life Membership of the League and asked for a copy of her discharge papers Still living at Tucka Tucka, Yetman, NSW in 1968 Bruce died in Qld on the 24/8/1973, late of Tucka Tucka, Yetman, NSW Margaret later moved to Cremorne, NSW Margaret died in hospital on the 7th of July 1984, NSW She was cremated at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium, NSW Sunday Times (Syd, NSW), Sun 16 Jul 1916 (p.25): HOME ans SOCIETY Sisters Nora Gilchrist, Mollie Arthur, Gladys Webster, Dene Douglass, Eva Thornton, Rose Sweeney, and S.M. Furnifull, all from the military hospitals in Sydney, are now at the 11th General Hospital, B.E.F., France. The Macleay Chronicle (Kempsey, NSW), Wed 11 Sept 1918 (p.4): Local and General Staff Nurse S.M. Furnifull, one time of the Macleay District Hospital, has been mentioned in despatches by Sir Douglas Haig. Her sister, Staff Nurse Frances Furnifull, now in Egypt, also served her probationary period at the local hospital. The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW), Sat 14 Sept 1918 (p.4): Nurses S.M. and F. Furnifull Amongst the names in Sir Douglas Haig’s despatch of 7th April noted for special mention was that of Staff-Nurse S.M. Furnifull, since promoted to the rank of Sister, daughter of Mr and Mrs B Furnifull, of “Gibraltar,” Gould-street, Canterbury, Sydney. Sister Furnifull was trained at the Coast Hospital, and left Australia in the “Karoola” in December, 1915, to join Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Australia). She has seen duty in various hospitals, and at casualty clearing stations. For some time she was attached to No.2 General Hospital, France, but has just lately been transferred again to a clearing station near the line. Her sister, Staff-Nurse Frances Furnifull, is on active service in Egypt. At the time of enlistment she was a “Sister” on the staff of the Royal North Shore Hospital. The mother of these two ladies (before her marriage) was a Miss Farrell, daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Charles Farrell, and a grand-daughter of the late Mr Jeremiah Warlters, one of the pioneers of the Hastings, and was born at Port Macquarie. The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), Sat 12 Jul 1919 (p.17): FROM WAR SERVICE – OFFICERS AND NURSES The Melbourne express yesterday brought a small number of Imperial officers, returned nurses, and Red Cross workers. ……….. They were part of the Roda contingent. With the party were Nurses F.M. Bartlett, E.M. Coperman, S.M. Furnifull, ……………….. The Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW), Fri 30 May 1924 (p.4): DIGGERS’ SOCIAL The local returned soldiers are holding a social on Monday, June 9, in connection with which a meeting of ladies was held last night. Matron Furnifull was elected president to supervise the supper arrangements, and she will be glad to hear from any one wishing to donate cakes, etc. The Scone Advocate (NSW), Fri 4 Feb 1927 (p.2): Personal We learn that Mr Bruce White will shortly be leaving Muswellbrook to take over the charge of “Tucka Tucka,” near Yetman, and that Mr Jas. White will take charge of “Edinglassie” (says the “Chronicle”). Muswellbrook will lose a good citizen in Mr Bruce White, who has always, like his late esteemed father, been identified with public movements. He was an energetocl member of the Show Committee and a director of the Muswellbrook Dairy Co., Ltd. Mr White was also associated with the hospital, and carried out good work every year when the annual ball was held. We welcome Mr James White to Muswellbrook. The Maitland Daily Mercury (NSW), Tue 22 Feb 1927 (p.2): HOSPITAL MATRON RESIGNS Miss Furniful, who had ably filled the position of Matron of Brentwood Hospital for over seven years, has resigned, and will shortly be leaving Muswellbrook. While in control of the management of the nursing departments of the institution, she by efficiency and courtesy, won the approbation of all concerned in the work. Having been at the war, she took a deep interest in the welfare of the returned soldiers, who will show their appreciation of her prior to her departure. The Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW), Tue 22 Feb 1927 (p.2): Farewell and Presentation TO MATRON FURNIFUL A pleasant social evening was held at the Soldiers’ Club Room last night, when the ladies’ committee and members met to farewell Matron Furniful, who had taken a very prominent part in the affairs of the club during her residence in Muswellbrook. During the evening dancing took place, and a vocal solo was rendered by Mrs F.E. Arnoult. The president of the ladies’ committee, Mrs Parkinson, presided, and in the course of her remarks extolled the services which their guest had always so generously and ably carried out in the interests of the club. It was with very much regret they had learnt Matron Furniful was leaving this town, but the speaker assured the guest that she would be leaving Muswellbrook with the very best wishes of the ladies’ committee, the members of the club and the community. Mrs Parkinson handed to Matron Furniful, on behalf of the ladies’ committee, a set of cut-glass goblets and water jug. Matron Furniful said it was a wrench for her to leave Muswellbrook, where she had made very many friends. She thanked the members of the gathering for their kind remarks, and the ladies for the handsome gift. The health of Matron Furnifull was proposed by Mr F.E. Arnoult, and supported by Messrs H.A. Priest and G.W. Scholes. The toast of the “Ladies’ Committee” was proposed by Mr H. Priest, supported by Mr W.R. Nowland, and responded to by Mrs R.G. Bray (vice-president). The Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW), Fri 4 Mar 1927 (p.2): WEDDING WHITE – FURNIFUL A wedding of considerable local interest was quietly celebrated at the Newcastle Cathedral on Tuesday afternoon last, when Mr Bruce White, son of the late Hon. J.C. and Mrs White, of “Edinglassie,” was married to Miss Margaret Furniful, formerly matron of Muswellbrook Hospital. Mr and Mrs White are leaving for New Zealand on Tuesday. Their future home will be at “Tucka Tucka.” The Sydney Morning Herald, Sat 5 Mar 1927: MARRIAGES WHITE – FURNIFULL – March 1, at the Cathedral, Newcastle, by the Rev B.C. Wilson, M.A., M.C., Bruce, second eldest son of the late J.C. and Mrs White, of Edinglassie, Muswellbrook, to Sarah Margaret, third eldest daughter of the late Mrs Furnifull and B.E. Furnifull, of Sydney. The Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW), Tue 8 Mar 1927 (p.2): Returned Soldiers’ Club The social evening tendered to Mrs B. White (nee Matron Furniful) at the Soldiers’ Club prior to her marriage was organised by the members of the club and the ladies’ committee, and the presentations were made on behalf of both sections of the club. The Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW), Tue 12 Apr 1927 (p.1): PERSONAL Mr and Mrs Bruce White have returned to Muswellbrook after a tour of New Zealand. The Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW), Tue 28 Apr 1931 (p.2): Returned Soldiers’ Club ANZAC DAY RE-UNION DINNER Apologies for absence were received from Miss Ruth White, Mrs M. White (nee Matron Furniful), …. The Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW), Fri 31 Jul 1931 (p.2): PERSONAL Mr H.R. Griffiths, of the electrical staff of Messrs M. Campbell and Co., Ltd., is at present installing a large electrical plant at the home of Mr and Mrs Bruce White, at Tucka Tucka. Warialda Standard and Northern Districts’ Advertiser (NSW), Mon 9 Nov 1931 (p.2): Yetman Sports In the point to point race Robert Roach, one of the contestants was thrown heavily from his horse, which struck him on the head with its hoof as it went past. He sustained a nasty cut on the forehead and probable concussion. First aid was rendered by Mrs Bruce White of “Tucka Tucka.” The Inverell Times (NSW), Mon 12 Sept 1932 (p.4): ABOUT PEOPLE Mr and Mrs Bruce White, of Tucka Tucka, are rejoicing in the birth of a son, which event took place on August 17. The Inverell Times (NSW), Wed 15 Aug 1934 (p.6): BOGGABILLA BUDGET Mrs Bruce White, of Tucka Tucka, has been called to Sydney, where her father is seriously ill. Guyra Argus (NSW), Thur 9 May 1935 (p.2): Personal The Returned Army Nurses held a joyous re-union at the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney on Anzac Day, and foregathered with the wives of Anzacs, while the menfolk attended their various battalion reunions. Among the country visitors were Mrs Bruce White (Yetman), Miss M.A. Hutton (Glen Innes), Miss Ethel Jackson (Guyra), Miss Barry (Narrabri), Mrs Bartholomew (Barraba). The Inverell Times (NSW), Fri 22 Dec 1939 (p.6): DISTRICT NEWS – Yetman FUNCTION AT TUCKA TUCKA A social evening organised by Mrs Bruce White, of Tucka Tucka Station, Yetman, was held at Tucka Tucka homestead on Friday night 8th inst., in aid of Yetman Women’s Voluntary War Service. Visitors were present from Wallangra, North Star, Texas, Yelarbon, Goondiwindi, Inglewood and Inverell. The function was run on carnival lines, with stalls set out on the lawn. Swinging hammocks and deck chairs were placed at suitable places on the lawn and gardens. The whole of the garden and lawns were lit by electricity, standards, and wiring being extended from the house supply by the employees at Tucka Tucka. The spacious verandahs were made available for dancing which was well patronised by the young folk. At midnight a tasty supper was served in the grounds which was enjoyed by all, and the function came to a successful conclusion at 2 a.m. At a meeting held at Yetman by Yetman’s Voluntary War Service in which the President (Mrs Bruce White) presided, an amount of £100 was paid to the treasurer, which represented the net profit from the function. In opening the meeting Mrs White stated that she desired to take the opportunity of thanking her staff at Tucka Tucka for the way in which they assisted her. It was necessary for them to work long hours for some weeks previous to erect the stalls, light standards and extend the electric light, and dozens of minor jobs which required to be attended to. She also wished to thank gatekeepers, stallholders, ladies who gave provisions, the gentlemen who ran free lorries, and all others who assisted to make the function the success it was. ……………. A similar function is being organised at Tucka Tucka on 20th January, 1940, in aid of Yetman Bush Nursing Association and Church of England. Warialda Standard and Northern Districts’ Advertiser (NSW), Mon 22 Jul 1940 (p.2): Yetman News A committee meeting of the Yetman branch of the New South Wales Bush Nursing Association was held at the Memorial Hall, Yetman, on Saturday, 13th inst. …………………….. Mr Davies said he was pleased to see so many present and he hoped they would take the opportunity of expressing their views on the question as to whether the home should or should not be kept open. ………………………………………… Mrs Bruce White stated that all efforts should be made for patriotic work, as she being an old soldier, knew the sufferings of the men at the front. She concluded by stating that she favoured the closing of the home during the period of the war. Mr Coleman said he appreciated all Mrs White had done for the Yetman Centre but he said children fall sick whether there is a war or not, and the home should be dept open so that they can be properly treated. …………………………….. Warialda Standard and Northern Districts’ Advertiser (NSW), Mon 19 Aug 1940 (p.3): Yetman News Mrs Bruce White, ex army nurse, and privileged to rank as a returned soldier, writes as follows: – I wish to add to the ex service men’s thanks my gratitude to all those people who contributed so generously towards the “Win the War” appeal; also to thank all those who lent flags and decorations, extra chairs and tables for the Diggers’ Ball held at Yetman recently; and the people who patronised the Ball and helped to make it the success it was. From these efforts we have over £200 to add to our funds. I would also like to thank the ladies who brought along such lovely cakes and for their valuable aid in assisting me in the preparation and serving of the supper. My thanks are also due to the hall trustees for being so propmp in answering the women’s appeal to build a kitchen in time for the ball; also to the Dight family for giving the stove which was a wonderful asset and made the supper an easy job. Warialda Standard and Northern Districts’ Advertiser (NSW), Mon 30 Jul 1945 (p.3): Bush Nursing Association YETMAN CENTRE ANNUAL REPORT ……………………………. Regret is expressed that our esteemed President, Mrs Bruce White, has been reluctantly compelled to resign from this position. We cannot lavish in our praise and thankfulness for her untiring work and unflagging interest in the centre; also for her unbounded hospitality and the interest and generosity of both her and her husband in all movements connected with the Centre. Warialda Standard and Northern Districts’ Advertiser (NSW), Mon 15 Dec 1947 (p.2): Christmas Tree at Yetman Over 100 children and their parents congregated at the Yetman Memorial Hall on Saturday, 6th December, for a Christmas Tree and dance. ……………………….. Later in the evening Mrs B. White, of “Tucka Tucka” presented book prizes, which she had donated, to the top child in each class. ……………………… The Australian Women’s Weekly, Wed 31 Oct 1973 (p.41, 43, 46): A World War I nurse remembers… By SARAH MARGARET WHITE When the minister from a nearby town dropped in one weekend to ask my mother if she could spare one of her daughters to do some work in the local hospital, I little thought it would lead to me journeying to the other side of the world and becoming involved in the greatest war the world had ever seen. I was 16, the third of a family of eight children, and had lived a happy childhood on my parents' cattle property near Kempsey, on the north coast of N.S.W. I was quite pleased that mother let me go to the hospital, for I felt it was about time I did something. Not that the family had much faith in me. They knew what a coward I was at the sight of blood and said I wouldn't last a week at a hospital. But this determined me to go on and prove myself. The day after the minister's visit, my sister took me to town in a sulky to interview the matron and thus I started my nursing career. It was the Macleay District Hospital. There were only three or four nurses apart from Matron, and I was paid seven shillings and sixpence a week. The weeks went by, with lots of heart-aches and tears, but I became interested in my work, and thrilled to be able to do numerous chores and provide comforts for the patients. I was particularly inspired by a large portrait in the board room of the former matron. She had died of bubonic plague shortly before I started at the hospital, giving her life in nursing her patients. I used to take the patients' temperatures and count pulses, but my biggest worry was being sure that a sound sleeper was not dead. Many of the patients had rather disturbed nights with me shaking them to make certain they were still alive but I gave them cups of tea if I woke them up and as far as I know they never told Matron! Another of my duties was to assist in the operating theatre, and this often meant simply standing and holding a kerosene lamp. The first time I didn't last long. The doctor was amputating a man's gangrenous leg, and I just fainted. Diphtheria was very prevalent in those days and the isolation ward was 60yds from the hospital. They were very busy nights running between wards. We had a number of typhoid fever patients too, as it was before the inoculation. It was very useful to me in later years to have had the experience of nursing typhoid. There wasn't much spare time and our recreation was humble, but we had fun. There were musical evenings in the little parlor, with sing-songs round the piano, local concerts, gipsy teas on the river, bike rides, the show, races, and once a year, the circus. After three years, when I was old enough to take on formal training in a city hospital. Matron urged me to do this. She told me I had the makings of a nurse. So, with regret, I left the place where I had been so happy. I met my first love there, but absence made his heart grow fonder of the girls who took my place… I took the steam ship to Sydney there were no trains then and after 24 hours of sea sickness you can perhaps guess how tired and lonely I felt when I arrived at Circular Quay. I was taken by horsedrawn ambulance to the Coast Hospital, now called Prince Henry Hospital. Matron interviewed me and spelled out the instructions and rules. There were many "thou shall nots" but I was thankful for my previous experience. The senior nurse took me to my ward and she did not help at all by saying the Sister in charge didn't like fat nurses. My starting pay was four shillings and eight pence a week less than I was getting at my first job. I had to work 12 hours on one day and ten the next, with one day a month off. The first year was spent scrubbing white pine lockers and tables, attending to patients' food and needs, taking temperatures and pulses, learning to do and apply foments and poultices, and of course attending lectures and studying. Ups and downs We all had our ups and downs, naturally. I remember one new nurse being told to sweep the verandas, meaning those belonging to her ward. After two hours she was found crying at the end of half a mile of verandas. She had swept four on each of the eight wards. I had my own veranda adventure. I was walking along one on a gusty day and was blown off by a gale from the ocean. It was about 5ft. from the ground and I broke my ankle. No one saw me fall and didn't know what happened until I hobbled into a ward grimacing in pain. Second year was spent mostly in infectious wards, and we would often get a chance to do ambulance duty. Two dear old horses pulled the ambulance, and this to me was a real holiday. Once I was chosen among a dozen other nurses to go to the quarantine station to look after the smallpox patients who had come in on a ship. In the third year we got a rise to ten shillings a week and felt quite rich. That year we spent mostly in surgical wards. One day there was great excitement at the hospital when the man Chidley was brought in. He was a well-known Sydney eccentric who used to stand in Pitt Street, clad only in his beard and a tussore silk shirt, selling copies of his book, "The Answer". We nurses wondered if Chidley would have his pants on when he was brought in. He did and we were so disappointed! Times change, but what a blessing it would have been for us if the present fashion in dress had been in vogue then. I remember getting all the different layers of clothes off a helpless 20st. man. Once I had to undress a man who had six waistcoats, all buttoned up. I got the fourth off but he absolutely wouldn't have the last two removed I heard later that part of one was removed but he kept the last to be buried in. In the fourth year nurses were mostly in charge of wards and did general work. We took care of special cases and worked in the operating theatres. The years had reallyflown and now exam time was upon us. Thankfully I got through to Graduation Day. At last the pride of being able to wear the Sister's cap – and a salary of 30 shillings a week. I took the position of assistant matron at the TB. sanatorium, Waterfall. In those days the illness held scarcely any hope of cure, but I have never had such a happv and wonderful time. The patients were full of courage and always bright. There were a lot of young people, and we had concerts, entertainments, and never a grumble. It was sad in a way but they didn't make it sad. It was an eye-opener for me and I am always glad to have had that term. After that I went to the public hospital at Berry to relieve the Matron, who had gone to the War. It was 1914. But it was a happy time for me with some bright and cheerful girls to work with. There was a sulky and horse for the staff and we were able to go driving. An old wardsman who did general work there would harness the horse to a spring cart if more than two wanted to go to a dance in the neighboring town. He would drive them down, wait till morning, and bring them home. My time at Berry ended suddenly for I received my call to active service. Within a fortnight I was on the high seas I had volunteered to join the Australian Army Nursing Service as soon as I received my sister's certificate. Early in 1915 I was asked if I would be prepared, along with 19 other nurses, to fill vacancies in Queen Alexandra's Imperial Nursing Service as an Australian unit. I was happy to be part of this unit and we set sail in the hospital ship Karoola. After a very seasick trip we disembarked at Suez and were taken on to Cairo in a very dirty hospital train carrying typhoid cases. After a week there we joined a New Zealand hospital ship, Nevassa, which took us to Naples to join the Britannic. The Britannic was waiting there for smaller vessels bringing wounded soldiers from the Dardanelles. She was a sister ship to the Titanic, which had recently been sunk. The Britannic had been hastily refitted as a hospital ship and was very unfinished and rough. Life Belts I don’t know how many troops were on board – hundreds, I’m sure – some wounded or sick and a lot of walking cases. We were put on duty and ordered always to have life belts handy, as the Germans had bowed they would sink the Britannic. It was a very frightening trip. We landed safely at Liverpool and were ordered to report to a military hospital at Rubery, near Birmingham. On her return journey to Naples the Britannic was sunk, and two of my nursing friends were lost. Our train went to Birmingham but we were told it wouldn’t be going as far as Rubery, some miles along the line. So we refused to get out of the train, and demanded to be taken on. “We’re Australians, you know!” we told the officials. “We can see you’re Australians,” they answered. But we won the day. They took the train on to Rubery, where they practically chucked us out. Our baggage was hurled down an embankment, and we didn’t recover it for days. It was a blinding snow storm and there was no one there to meet us. We had no idea where to go so the station master left his post and guided us through the snow to the hospital, which was a converted lunatic asylum. An orderly saw our frost-bitten faces peering at him through a window at the hospital and dropped his tray in fright. We staged another revolt while at the hospital. There seemed to be no plans to send us to France and we feared we would be used to replace English nurses who wanted to go. So we protested to the Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr Andrew Fisher. We took up a petition and pointed out that we had come from Australia to serve with the Army. Finally it was arranged for us to go. At this point I came down sick myself – with typhoid, which I had apparently contracted on the dirty hospital train from Suez to Cairo. I was put in isolation for three weeks at Rubery, and was very glad I had my Australian friends to look after me, as I didn’t have a great deal of confidence in the Englis nurses’ ability to tend typhoid. I was not fully recovered when the orders came to go to France, but I refused to leave the unit and went on with them to London. There we received our uniforms and kit and sailed for Boulogne. We went then to a base hospital at Camier, near Etaples, where a camp of Australians had just been set up. Convoys were coming in frequently but we were able to see our friends and relations among them. The first Anzac Day commemoration was held here – April 25, 1916 – and it really was a wonderful sight. The bands were in the hollow and the soldiers lined up all around on the hills. Clearing camps Now came the time for our unit to be broken up. We had become very close but now had to be sent individually to clearing stations. I didn’t come in contact with any of the other girls again. Clearing camps didn’t stay long in any one place. We were always on the move, either forwards or back. They were busy times. I remember the Somme with the mud, duckboards, and the nearer sound of guns. We were in tents with dugouts deep enough to take the camp beds so we would be out of shell fire. We wore only burberry coats and gum boots now, and tin hats and at times gas helmets. Sometimes a mail would come in. One would wonder where it was from and it was a great thrill to get letters from home. Occasionally a parcel of sugar or sweets would arrive but one got used to the army biscuits and bully beef. Most of the time it was just hard work. There would be a respite in the fighting and then another battle and a rush of wounded to attend to. We would work round-the-clock, and just go on as long as we had to. There were terrible wounds. It was a dreadful war. One day we go a real thrill when the Prince of Wales arrived at the camp. He had ridden a motor bike into the Somme. I remember him as a very good looking young man – but unfortunately he arrived during one of our panic periods, and I didn’t get a chance to meet him. At Christmas, 1916, a friend and I were given seven days’ leave and we went to London. But we missed the boat train and were a day late back to the casualty clearing station. Nothing was said but I was sent to a base hospital, apparently as punishment. I was upset about this but was pleased to see the lovely little spot Etretat. It was beautiful tourist resort, and all the patients were housed in luxurious hotels. The operating room was a casino. After two months there my punishment was evidently over, and I was put on a hospital train. This was a heart-breaking time. There was little anyone could do for the soldiers except give sedatives and drinks. The train was so slow. We would travel up and down the lines, picking up the wounded from clearing stations. The bunks were packed closely together on top of each other and you couldn’t get near enough to the sick and dying to give them any attention. After a month I was posted to another clearing station, but this one didn’t last long. We had to retreat at very short notice, walking some miles before an ambulance met us. Only the patients who could walk were able to go with us – we had to leave the rest behind. We wondered what happened to the poor fellows. I was sent back to headquarters for a few weeks and my next move was a strange and unexpected change. A Scottish medico had asked for me to be relieved so I could go to a hospital at Le Havre to learn a new treatment for the dreadful wounds from gas gangrene. Two French doctors had developed the treatment, which was called “Carrel Dakin” after them. A ward of 30 patients was kept on the treatment and it really was a miracle. I was honored to be able to share in it. Then came a week’s trip around France with the doctor showing other hospital teams how to apply the treatment. After this, I had another seven days’ leave to go to London. On the journey to …………………. all night rescuing passengers from a ship that had struck a mine. I had my seven days in a London fog – not very pleasant, but I was glad to relax. I was careful to catch the right boat back to Boulogne and there received word to proceed to headquarters for orders. During this break I had been mentioned in despatches for devotion to duty. I also met my second love. Now came another adventure. With four other ………….. by train to a destination known only as a number. We were to report to a Railway Transport Officer for orders. After 46 hours of train travel we arrived at the station to find there was no one to meet us. We waited for hours, not knowing where to go or what to do, when a staff officer drove by and said he was going to the same destination. He drove us a short distance when the sound of guns began getting louder and louder. The staff officer kept driving until, finally, I piped up and asked if we were on the right track. He answered with some embarrassment that he didn’t think we were. Reported missing Then a car came speeding towards us from the direction we were heading, with the occupants waving their arms and singing out “Get back!” It didn’t take us long to do so. When we eventually got to a French hospital for refuge, we learned the Germans had been occupying the hospital to which we were going for the past three days. We were with the French more than a week. I was reported missing, causing my folks at home great anxiety. After returning to base four nurses and myself, four orderlies, and two medical officers made a hurried move in an ambulance to the Champagne district – Epernay. The wounded there, two or three hundred of them, were in a hotel. We were bombed every night and spent most of the time in the cellars, where wine seemed in plenty. Suddenly a train arrived, all the wounded were taken away, and we, the staff, were off in an ambulance again – destination unknown. We arrived at a huge place that was a mental institution before it was evacuated. This was at Villers Bretoneux. A battle had been raging for hours or days – I don’t know which – and the dead were still on the field and the wounded in rooms or in the garden. Many Germans were among the casualties. So far we were the only staff but some stretcher bearers and ambulance men helped us. It was a dreadful sight and we were helpless to do much. We just kept going, doing what we could for three days and nights, until help came. A train managed to get through to take the wounded. I had taken part in retreats before but this was the beginning of the advance. Our medical unit followed on every few days. But I missed the first move. The night before we were due to go, and after the patients had been taken away, one of the sisters produced a bottle of cherry brandy, that I think she’d picked up at the cellars in Epernay. She poured me a mug full and I greedily drank it. I went out like a light, and was fast asleep for three days. We had advanced miles when I came to. The Captain said they couldn’t leave me behind, so they put me in the last load with the privy. I don’t know if that was true, but anyway I woke fine and dandy and ready to carry on. I think the rest did me good. We moved every few days, hearing more gun fire each day, seeing the troops marching into the trenches and only some coming out. We crossed the Hindenburg line and went through the dreadful germ-infested area where Germans were said to have died like flies. Although meant to be out of range, we were within shell fire most of the time. About half an hour after we had been working in one tent, a shell hit it and killed three orderlies who were cleaning up. We were only a few miles from where the Armistice was signed, and I vividly remember the silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day. All the guns stopped firing. We were hysterical, laughing and crying. But it was quite peculiar, we didn’t feel much like celebrating. Only crying. That night in my tent 18 men died of pneumonic flu. We moved on to Cologne and I asked to be relieved as my mother was sick and I was anxious to get home. I was mentioned in despatches a second time, but I didn’t hear of it until I saw the notice in the paper after I had arrived home. The trip took nearly three months and I arrived in Sydney to find my mother had died of flu the day before. Hard to forget I have tried to set down my memories of that terrible period and, at my age, find it difficult to remember some things. But I remember a lot of things that I try hard to forget and that are not included here. I also remember the happy times and the great privilege I had in giving small comforts and help to the men who fought. Above all I remember the wonderful courage and bravery of these men. My second love was killed in action before I returned. A few weeks after my return I accepted the position of Matron at Muswellbrook Hospital. It was strange coming back to a civilian hospital but I soon settled down to the routine. It was good hospital with 50 to 60 beds, and we had three trained nurses and five probationers. I was there for seven happy years. There was mine disaster but life went along smoothly for the most part. I had a little T-model Ford and sometimes went out into the country with the nurses. There I met my last love, got married, and lived happily ever after. http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/47229724?searchTerm=furnifull&searchLimits=exactPhrase|||anyWords|||notWords|||l-textSearchScope=*ignore*%7C*ignore*|||fromdd|||frommm|||fromyyyy=1973|||todd|||tomm|||toyyyy=1973|||l-title=%7C112|||l-word=*ignore*%7C*ignore*|||sortby The Sydney Morning Herald, Mon 9 Jul 1984 (p.27): DEATHS WHITE, Sarah Margaret – July 7, 1984, at hospital, of Cremorne Point, formerly of Tucka-Tucka, Boggabilla, dearly loved wife of Bruce (deceased), loved mother and mother-in-law of Ben and Pat and loving grandmother of their children. FUNERALS WHITE – The relatives and friends of the late SARAH MARGARET WHITE, of Cremorne Point, are kindly invited to attend her funeral, to leave our chapel, 100 Glover Street, Cremorne, tomorrow (Tuesday), after a service commencing at 1 p.m., for the Northern Suburbs Crematorium.