Help us promote Lemnos' link to Anzac - Make a donation now

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: Delphi Bank; Account No: 204299-020 BSB No: 941300; 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

Friday, 10 July 2015

From Kyabram to Lemnos and Thessaloniki - The Odyssey of Sister Alice Marion Prichard

Sister Alice Marion Prichard

On the 8th August 2015, at Albert Park in Melbourne, our major new commemorative memorial will be erected to honour the service of some of Australia’s WW1 nurses.
The Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial will commemorate the 130 Australian nurses who served on the Island during the Gallipoli campaign, as well as the diggers who served there, the 148 buried there and the support of the local Greek population.
This will be first significant memorial in Australia dedicated to the role of Australian nurses serving in WW1. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, both its Federal and Victorian Branches, are proud supporters of our Memorial.
130 nurses served on Lemnos, at its two principal field hospitals – the 3rd Australian General Hospital and the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital. One of those nurses was Sister Alice Marion Prichard.

Sister Alice Prichard's enlistment papers. NAA
Alice was 36 years old when she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service.
Born in Kyabram in country Victoria, Alice received her 3 year nursing training at Melbourne Hospital (now the Royal Melbourne Hospital), graduating in 1907. She was also awarded a certificate for the treatment of infectious diseases.
Prior to enlisting in the Australian Army Nursing Service, Alice had experience not only as Ward Sister for 2 years at Queen Victoria Hospital but also as a superintendent and matron at both Albury and Mildura Hospitals.
And she recorded on her enlistment form her membership of both the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses Association and the Australian Trained Nurses Association, precursor organizations of today’s Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
Her mother was Mrs M. A. (Mary) Prichard of “Greenvale” at Glenrowan in north-east Victoria. One of her siblings – Florence May - also served in as a nurse in WW1.
When she left Albury Hospital for her departure from Melbourne, the local newspaper The Mildura Cultivator reported on 8th May 1915:
“Matron Alice Prichard, formerly of Mildura is expected to leave for the front this week. The Border Morning Mail (Albury) has a record as follows: “Miss AH Prichard, matron of Albury Hospital, has placed herself at the disposal of her country and tendered her appointment as a sister to go to the front with the Army Nursing Corps of an Australian Imperial Force. Miss Prichard has tendered her resignation as matron of the Albury Hospital. The people of Albury and surrounding districts, her many friends particularly, will laud her patriotic sprit and action, and wish her a safe return to the sunny skies of Australia in the tranquil days to come.”
She departed from Port Melbourne’s Prince Pier, joining other nurses of the 3rd Australian General Hospital (3AGH) aboard the RMS Mooltan in May 1915. She sailed from Australia to England before the 3AGH was sent to the Greek Island of Lemnos in response to the medical crisis emerging at the Gallipoli campaign.
Amongst the nurses who served with her were two other nurses trained at the Melbourne Hospital, Sister Edith Yeaman who served with Alice at the 3AGH and Sister Hope Weatherhead who served at the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital.
Alice arrived on Lemnos in August 1915, serving alongside the other eighty Australian nurses of the 3AGH under Matron Grace Wilson. The hospital was set up on the exposed Turks Head peninsula, jutting into Lemnos great Mudros Bay.
Within days Alice and her nurse colleagues and the other medical staff were dealing with hundreds of injured diggers from the failed August Offensive on the peninsula. This was despite the lack of medical equipment, little shelter and little water. As Matron Wilson described these early days on Lemnos, the conditions were “too awful for words”.
By September, many of the diggers Alice was treating were suffering from diseases rather than the wounds of war. The lack of sanitation on the peninsula resulted in the diggers being constantly debilitated by dysentery and other stomach diseases. Some developed typhoid.
Despite the conditions they had to work in Alice and her colleagues were able to achieve a 98% survival rate.
Yet the diseases of the troops affected their carers. As a result, many medical staff became invalided. For example, up to November 1915, almost 60% of the male staff at the 3rd AGH were treated for illnesses, many being invalided off the Island.
The prevalence of diseases was such that dysentery on the Island was referred to as “Lemnitis”.  Two Canadian nurses died of illness – the only nurses to die during the Gallipoli campaign and be buried on Lemnos. And so Alice was stricken, being admitted to the 3AGH with jaundice on 25th November 1915.
Along with the rest of the 3AGH, she left Lemnos on 25th January 1916 on the transport ship Oxfordshire, disembarking at Alexandria on 27th Jan 1916. She served with the 3AGH at Abbassia in Egypt until returning to Australia aboard the Demosthenes, which left Suez on 19th March 1916.

Australian nurses of the AANS prior to departure from Adelaide bound for Salonika front, 14th June 1917. Sister Prichard is second from right. AWM image H16005.

After returning to Melbourne, she embarked on the SS Mooltan on 12th June 1917 for service on the Salonika where she served at various military field hospitals until the end of the war, 1918. She arrived in Thessaloniki on 30th July 1917 on the SS Gorgon, having travelled by ship from Melbourne via Suez and Port Said on the SS Mooltan – the ship she sailed from Australia first in 1915.
The Salonika front lasted for three years, involved over 620,000 Allied soldiers and saw some of the fiercest fighting of WW1. It was also a campaign dogged by diseases, especially malaria.
Alice served here with some 450 other Australian nurses and soldiers. It was on this front that two Australian female doctors, Sydney’s Agnes Bennett and Mary De Garis from Mildura. And the well-known Australia author, Miles Franklin served here as a medical orderly.
At the Salonika front Alice served with three of the British field hospitals were AIF nurses served – the 66th, 52nd and 44th General Hospitals.   Alice was promoted to temporary matron of the 42nd General Hospital on 9th Feb 1918. Like Alice, another Victorian nurse on the Salonika front had also served at Lemnos in 1915 – Sister Mary Florence Young.
Like Lemnos, the nurses at Salonika suffered the diseases that plagued the soldiers at the front. The only Australia nurse to die and be buried in Greece during WW1 is buried at Thessaloniki. She was Nurse Gertrude Munro from Ballarat.
Alice herself was admitted sick with “debility” to the Sisters Convalescent Camp on 21st Sept 1918. But fortunately she recovered and was discharged 26th Sept 1918, rejoining the 42nd General Hospital on the 28th Sept 1918
On 11th Dec 1918, she traveled from Thessaloniki for leave in London, via train and ship from Taranto in Italy. While in London, she was awarded the Royal Red Cross medal 1st class on 1st Jan 1919:
“…in recognition of her valuable services with the British Forces in Salonika”.
After her period of leave in the UK, she returned to Thessaloniki and was transferred from the 42nd to the 52nd General Hospital in February 1919.
However by then she was declared surplus to establishment and embarked on her journey of return to Australia, leaving Thessaloniki on the HT Gorgon on 26th February 1919. She had a brief stop in Alexandria and Abbassia, where she was attached to the 14th AGH. She then embarked at Suez for Australia on 1st April 1919, sailing on the HT Kildonian Castle. She was discharged on 3rd September 1919 as medically unfit. After the war, Alice became Matron of St George Hospital in Sydney.
To add to her Royal Red Cross, Alice was awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal at the end of the war.  In 1951 she was awarded The Order of the British Empire (Member (Civil).
Just as her service at the Saloniki front was recognised, so that of Alice and the other nurses on Lemnos was recognised by Australia’s military medical authorities.   
The Director-General of Medical Services, Lieutenant General Featherstone, concluded in his formal review of their service, stating:
  “I believe that the Hospital would have collapsed without the nurses. They all worked like demons and were led and guided by Miss Wilson …”
Lest we forget

The Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial will be unveiled by the Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee on Saturday 8th August 2015, at Foote Street Square, Albert Park, proceedings commencing at 11am. 

Come along and join us in commemorating the service of the Anzac nurses like Sister Alice Prichard. 

All welcome.

Jim Claven
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

No comments:

Post a Comment