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Our Committee is raising funds to create a lasting legacy telling the story of Lemnos' link to Gallipoli and Australia's Anzac story. Our projects include the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial in Albert Park, the publication of a major new historical and pictorial publication and more. To make a donation you can also deposit directly by direct debit into the Committee's bank account: Account Name: Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee Inc; Bank: Bendigo Bank; Account No: 188010037; BSB No: 633000; Include your surname in the reference section. For further information on our legacy projects or to make a donation please contact either Lee Tarlamis 0411553009 or Jim Claven 0409402388M

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Vera Brittain and Lemnos - The Sisters Graves at Lemnos

VAD Nurse Vera Brittain
After a visit to the graves of the two Canadian nurses buried on Lemnos, the famous British write and memoirist, Vera Brittain, wrote her famous poem about the burial of these two nurses on Lemnos. The two nurses were Matron Jaggard and Nurse Munro of the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital, who had died of illness and would be the only nurses to die on the Island during the Gallipoli campaign.

Vera had volunteered to served with the Voluntary Aid Detachments of nurses and untrained assistants who helped with non-medical work in wards and on hospital ships. She had already served in military hospitals in England  when she received her first foreign posting. In September 1916, Vera was ordered to board the Hospital Ship Britannic on a voyage from England to Malta and the Mediterranean. This voyage would bring her to Lemnos.

In early October 1916, Vera's hospital ship dropped anchor at Mudros Harbour in Lemnos. After passing the mined entrance to the harbour, she reported in her diary that there were still many battleships in the harbour and the surrounding hills remained dotted with various camps - nine months after the evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula.
Greek Red Cross representatives pay their respects at the Canadian nurses graves - visited by Vera Brittain in 1916 - during the Anzac Day service at Portianou Military Cemetery, Lemnos, April 2013. Photograph Jim Claven

While on the Island, Vera heard about the these two Canadian nursing sisters buried at Portianou Military Cemetery. She was much moved by their story and the views of the Island and the Aegean. She wrote in her diary that the vision of Lemnos and the Aegean would remain with her much longer than many other experiences of the war.

As a result she wrote the following poem - The Sisters Graves on Lemnos:

She later served in military hospitals in France and England until the end of the war. A number of her close friends were killed in the war, including her fiance Roland Leighton. She would write of her experiences in Testament of Youth and her war diaries would be published as Chronicle of Youth - both are important records of the experience of the generation who lived through the First World War.

In 2012, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a documentary on the life of Vera Brittain, including readings from her writings and interviews with her husband and daughter, Lord Shirley Williams, the former MP and Minister. Click here to listen to it.
There is also a reading of this poem on youtube, to listen click here.

Jim Claven
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

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