REPORT ON THE WORK OF THE NEW ZEALAND ARMY NURSING SERVICE IN FRANCE
CROWN COPYRIGHT: THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES WO222/2134
CROWN COPYRIGHT: THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES WO222/2134
The New Zealand Stationary Hospital arrived in France from England in July 1916, and took over the site of the South Midland C.C.S. at Amiens on the 12th. The British Nursing Staff of the C.C.S., with Miss K. Bulman, Q.A.I.M.N.S. Retired, in charge, were temporarily retained with the Unit until the arrival of the N.Z.A.N.S. Sisters. The question of accommodation was a rather difficult one, as the convent where the Sisters of the C.C.S. had lived, could not accommodate the New Zealand staff, but finally a suitable empty house was secured. The New Zealand Staff arrived on 31.7.16, and consisted of 1 Matron, and 26 Sisters, the authorised War Establishment for a Stationary Hospital of 400 beds. They were posted temporarily to Units on the Abbeville area, until accommodation at Amiens was ready for them. The O.C. of the Unit was Lieut. Colonel O’Neill, N.Z.M.C., and the Matron Miss F. Price, N.Z.A.N.S. The British staff was gradually withdrawn, and the New Zealand staff replaced them, Miss Bulman remaining for several weeks to assist Miss Price in taking over. In the autumn of 1916, the work in our Units was very heavy, and 6 N.Z.A.N.S. Sisters were lent temporarily for duty in British C.C.S.’s. They were much please at this opportunity of having the experience of work in a C.C.S.
In December 1916, an application was forwarded to the War Office for 5 reinforcements to replace casualties. There was a very bad form of influenza about at this time, and several of the Sisters contracted it. Three members of the Q.A.I.M.N.S.R. were meanwhile posted to the New Zealand Stationary Hospital for temporary duty. At the end of the month no reinforcements having arrived, and the New Zealand Staff having been reduced to 21, owing to further casualties (sickness), 3 more Q.A.I.M.N.S.R. Sisters were sent. On 18.1.17., Sister J. Gilmer and S/Nurse E. F. Stanton arrived from England as reinforcements.
EXPANSION OF HOSPITAL AND EXTRA STAFF REQUIRED
At the end of January, 1917, another section of this Hospital was opened for Officers only, and accommodated in a separate building so that the Unit was now in three different buildings. This Officers’ Section was staffed by 12 British Sisters, Sister V. Rogers, TFNS being in charge. On February 5th, 1917, an urgent demand was sent to D.G.M.S. for 16 New Zealand Nurses to replace the 16 British Sisters then on duty with the Unit. These were required in addition to the 5 originally asked for, as the Hospital had now 500 beds for Other Ranks and 100 for Officers, and to nurse the 3 sections a staff of 36 was necessary. Six reinforcements arrived from England on 21.2.17., and 7 on 23.2.17., and a corresponding number of British Staff were withdrawn. On 29.5.17. 1 more reinforcement arrived from England.
MOVE TO HAZEBROUCK
On May 31st, the Unit moved to Hazebrouck and the Hospital at Amiens was taken over by 42 Stationary Hospital. Two of the New Zealand Sisters, Sister M. Sutherland, and S/Nurse A. B. Smith, remained behind temporarily with a special case, but rejoined their Unit at Hazebrouck on 28.6.17. On 7.7.17. seven N.Z.A.N.S. reinforcements joined from England.
SHELLING AND CLOSING OF UNIT
On August 20th, 1917, Hazebrouck was heavily shelled, and the Unit was forced to close down. The Nurses were temporarily dispersed, those who were due proceeding on leave, the remainder being accommodated in British Units in St Omer. Permission was obtained from Miss Thurston, Matron-in-Chief, N.Z.E.F., to employ some of the Nurses temporarily in our C.C.S.'s, and 4 were posted to 36, C.C.S., 2 to 2, C.C.S. and 2 to 11, C.C.S.
In 1917, the New Zealand medical authorities expressed a wish that all Nurses who had completed 1 year's service in France, should be exchanged with those now serving in England. This system of exchange first took effect in September, when 8 members on ordinary leave, and 3 on sick leave from the New Zealand Stationary Hospital, were retained for service in England and replaced.
MOVE TO WISQUES
On 20.9.17., the New Zealand Hospital re-opened at Wisques, a site about 5 miles outside St Omer, and the Matron and 14 Sisters rejoined. This unit was selected as the special Hospital for the reception of N.Y.D.(N) cases in the 2nd Army.
On 10.10.17., 5 Sisters and 7 Staff-Nurses, N.Z.A.N.S., arrived from England and were posted temporarily to 10 Stationary Hospital until their Unit was ready for them. By the beginning of November, all N.Z.A.N.S. Sisters had rejoined their Unit, which now had a Nursing Staff of 1 Matron, 7 Sisters, and 25 Staff Nurses. They were accommodated in huts and tents and had their mess in a big Nissen hut. The hospital was very busy at this period. Five Sisters who had completed 1 year in France were recalled to England on 6.11.17., and S/Nurse J. Mercier, on temporary duty at 2, C.C.S. was recalled to New Zealand on 21.12.17. S/Nurse Evans who proceeded on leave on 20.1.18., was retained for duty.
CHANGE OF MATRON
Matron F. Price was evacuated sick to England on 10.1.18., and on 13.1.18. Matron E. G. Brooke arrived and took over her duties, Sister Edmonton also arrived on 13.1.18., replacing S/Nurse Mercier.
Miss Willis, who had been Assistant-Matron of the Unit since its arrival, was transferred to England on 3.3.18. en route for New Zealand. On 6.3.18., Sister M. Mair and S/Nurse P. Cook arrived as reinforcements.
FURTHER EXPANSION OF UNIT AND INCREASES OF NURSING STAFF
A request was put forward by the O.C. on 27.2.18., for the Nursing strength (then 35 of whom 3 were detached for anaesthetic training) to be made up to establishment, which he quoted at 43. In forwarding this request, it was pointed out that as this Unit had now 1,000 beds, the Nursing Establishment should be 73, and 43 would be insufficient. On 2.4.18., a War Office Letter was received, stating that no New Zealand Nurses were at present available, but that Nurses would be sent on arrival of reinforcements from New Zealand. On 10.4.18. 7 Sisters N.Z.A.N.S. arrived from England, and on 7.4.18., 7 Sisters who had completed over a year’s service were transferred to England, (two of these being already in England on sick leave). During April, the New Zealand Stationary Hospital, like all other Units on the Army, did some very heavy work, and Reserve Nurses were temporarily attached to supplement the New Zealand staff, some of whom remained until July. It was from April onwards that the night bombing raids became very frequent and all units in the 2nd Army had a hard time, but fortunately the New Zealand Stationary Hospital escaped being actually hit. On 13.6.18., Sister G. K. Garrard and S/Nurse A. C. McKercher arrived, to replace casualties. On 25.6.18., 3 members who had completed over a year’s service were recalled to the United Kingdom, and on 26.6.18., 8 more reinforcements arrived. During August, the Unit was very busy, and Reserve Nurses were again temporarily attached.
OPENING OF WARD FOR SICK SISTERS
In October the Hospital opened up a temporary ward for Sick Sisters from the Army, as 10, Stationary Hospital had moved forward and there were many cases of Influenza at this time. The Unit which up to this time had been included in the 2nd Army was now transferred to the L. of C. area, which had been extended to include the St Omer district.
On 6.11.18., 6 reinforcements arrived, and on relief, 5 members returned to the United Kingdom. No more reinforcements were received after the Armistice.
CLOSING OF UNIT
On 15.12.18., notification was received that the New Zealand Stationary Hospital was closing down with a view to transfer to England. Instructions were asked for regarding the Nursing Staff, and it was ascertained that they would proceed with the Unit. Accordingly on 27.12.18., Matron Brooke, 28 Sisters, and 9 Staff-Nurses left for England. Two Sisters had been evacuated sick during December, and S/Nurse Porteous had been retained on leave, and this accounted for the 41 members on their Nursing Strength. Every endeavour was made to give all who desired an opportunity of visiting Paris before they left the country.
PAY AND ALLOWANCES
The pay of the N.Z.A.N.S. was as follows:
Matron 8/3 per day, Sister 6/7, Staff-Nurse 5/9. This included everything except Uniform Allowance (£8 p.a.) and laundry allowance of 8d per day.
Rations were issued free but when not drawn a board allowance of 3/6 per day could be claimed. Considerable correspondence took place over the question of messing allowance for New Zealand Sisters temporarily attached to Imperial Units, as they were not authorised to draw rations on repayment as out Sisters did. It was the custom among the New Zealand Staff for 1/3 to draw messing allowance and 2/3 to draw rations, but when small numbers were temporarily detached in our Units, this led to endless complications, and a request was finally made to the Paymaster N.Z.E.F. that all detached members might draw the allowance in lieu of rations. This was approved and much simplified messing accounts. In January, 1918, the O.C. New Zealand Stationary Hospital, put forward a request that members of the N.Z.A.N.S. might draw rations “on repayment”, but this was not sanctioned until June, when information was received from the D.G.M.S. that the issue of rations on repayment to New Zealand Sisters had been approved.
Members of the N.Z.A.N.S. when sick, were admitted to the Sisters’ Hospitals, and if necessary, evacuated to the United Kingdom in the usual way. Several of the members spent periods of leave and sick leave in the Convalescent Homes in the South of France and at the Paris Club. Matron Price spent 14 days leave at Villa Roquebrune in January 1917. During the winter 1917 – 1918, 11 members of the N.Z.A.N.S. spent periods of leave at the Convalescent Home, Cannes. During the winter 1918 – 1919, 8 went to Cannes, and 2 to the Villa Roquebrune. In all, 21 members of the N.Z.A.N.S. spent their leave at the Paris Club.
Members of the N.Z.A.N.S. were given the opportunity of serving in British C.C.S.’s both on detached duty, and with surgical teams. Amongst those who did duty with surgical teams as Theatre Sisters were Sisters A. B. Smith and R. A. Sanderson, S/Nurses A. M. Kenny, E. I. Schaw, T. d’Emden, and M. Watt. Sister A. B. Smith was attached to 47 C.C.S. with a surgical team in March 1918, and took part in the general hurried evacuation.
Three members of the N.Z.A.N.S. were selected to take part in the first course of training for N/Sisters in the administration of anaesthetics, beginning January 1918. They were Sisters M. G. Atkinson, S/Nurse B. M. Huddlestone and S/Nurse S. Nicholas. They were posted to 13 General Hospital (St. Louis, U.S.A.) for the first two months training and then proceeded to C.C.S.’s in the 2nd Army for the final month’s course, after which all three were certified competent and rejoined their Unit. Sister Atkinson and S/Nurse Huddlestone both worked as anaesthetists later on in surgical teams.
In the second course which began in May, 1918, Sister M. G. Davies, S/Nurse J. B. Porteous and E. I. Schaw underwent training at 2 Stationary Hospital. On completion of 2 months they were recommended for a further period of instruction at the Base as they were not considered sufficiently advanced to proceed to a C.C.S. On 23.8.18., they were posted to 10, C.C.S. for their final month, and on completion were all certified competent. Later these Sisters worked on Surgical Teams as Anaesthetists.
In August, 1918, the D.M.S., N.Z.E.F. wrote requesting that no more Sisters of the N.Z.A.N.S. should be trained as Anaesthetists, owing to the limited supply of New Zealand Nurses available, and also to the fact that they were transferred to England on termination of one year’s service in France and were not there required as anaesthetists. The D.G.M.S. ruled that those undergoing training should complete their course. A request was then put forward by this Office that the three who were under training and the 2 who had completed their course and were employed as anaesthetists (the 3rd having been transferred to the United Kingdom) might be considered as additional to establishment and their vacancies filled, but the D.G.M.S. considered that in view of the shortage of Nurses, they should be returned to their Nursing duties. On instructions being issued, however, the D.M.S. 2nd Army, asked that they might remain temporarily, until the need for their services was less urgent, and this they did, returning to the New Zealand Stationary Hospital at the beginning of November.
The New Zealand Hospital Ship ‘Maheno’ called at Havre, while I was inspecting there in October 1916, and I took the opportunity to visit it. The Matron was Miss J. Bicknell, N.Z.A.N.S. Later this ship returned to New Zealand on Transport duty. Other Hospital Ships staffed with N.Z.A.N.S. were engaged on transport of sick to New Zealand, but were never attached to the B.E.F.
VISITS OF THE MATRON-IN-CHIEF N.Z.E.F.
In February 1917, Miss Thurston, R.R.C., Matron-in-Chief, N.Z.E.F. arrived in France on a visit of inspection to the New Zealand Stationary Hospital. I met her at the Unit (Amiens), and we went thoroughly into the question of accommodation which was at that time not very satisfactory. The staff of the Officers’ Hospital were accommodated on the top floor of their section, and the remaining Nursing staff had another house, but this was not big enough. Eventually accommodation was arranged for the over-flow on the top floor of the Lycee, and in addition extra beds were arranged there for British sisters passing through Amiens, so that they could be put up for the night.
Miss Thurston’s next visit was from July 3rd to 10th, 1917, after the Unit had moved to Hazebrouck. She again visited France in November 1917, to attend a Conference of the Matrons-in-Chief, Overseas, at Headquarters, Abbeville, on 15.11.17., and afterwards spent a few days at the New Zealand Stationary Hospital before returning to England. Miss Thurston’s next visit to France was from 21st May to 29th, 1918, during a bad air-raid period. Her last visit was at the end of November 1918, shortly before the New Zealand Stationary Hospital closed. After the return of the Unit to England, Miss Thurston wrote “I should like to thank you and your staff for all the kindness and courtesy they (her Nurses) received, and which we so much appreciated during their stay in France. They are taking back to New Zealand happy remembrances of their stay in France.”
During their two and a half years in France, the Unit had done much valuable work, and at no time had there been any trouble or friction with regard to the Nursing Staff. Very cordial relations always existed between them and the other Nursing Services, with whom they were brought into contact. Their work and their readiness to help at all times of emergency have been much appreciated; and while at Amiens the hospitality extended by the Matron to Nurses passing through on duty was of the greatest assistance and justly valued.
The good work accomplished by the Nursing Staff of the New Zealand Stationary Hospital, was officially recognised by the award of Honours to some of its members, and by the Mention in Despatches of others for the devoted manner in which they carried out their duties. The number of Awards and Mentions are as follows:
Bar to R.R.C. 1
Mentions in Despatches 8
Matron Price received the R.R.C. in January 1917. Matron Brooke received the R.R.C. in England, and a Bar in June 1919, for service in France.
E. M. McCarthy
Matron-in-Chief, British Troops in France and Flanders
26th June, 1919.