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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: 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

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Lemnos Hero - WA Nurse Olive Hall, Lemnos and Gallipoli

Sick sisters of the 3rd Australian General Hospital, enjoying some air. Savage Collection. State Library of NSW
Staff Nurse Olive Goldridge Hall served under Matron Grace Wilson at the 3rd Australian General Hospital on Lemnos in 1915.
Olive was born in 1887 at Geraldton, WA. Prior to the outbreak of World War 1 she lived with her mother Ellen Margaret Hall on George Road. She trained at Perth Public Hospital. At the time of enlistment she was a trained nurse, 28 years old and unmarried. She enlisted in North Perth as a Staff Nurse in the 3rd Australian General Hospital Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) on 6 August 1915 and left from Fremantle on the RMS Orontes on the 11th of August 1915.
Olive's Service Record. NAA
Olive arrived on Lemnos on 4th September 1915 and served there with the 3rd Australian General Hospital. In  November she was admitted to the hospital with influenza. After returning to duty, Olive was evacuated with the rest of the 3rd Australian General Hospital from Lemnos in January 1916.
She also saw service in Egypt and on the Western Front, Olive returned to Australia in October 1918.
She was awarded the 1914/18 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
She died in Perth in 1974 aged 87.

The transport ship - RMT Orontes - that Olive sailed from Perth to war in. Pictured here in 1016 leaving Port Melbourne. AWM image
The following story was written by Helen Hewitt, a descendent of Nurse Olive Hall. This is the story of her visit to Lemnos in 1985 and met a local villager who remembered the Allies on Lemnos. This is her story.
Thank you to Helen for sharing this with us.

Jim Claven
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

Lemnos and Gallipoli

A rocky, mountainous outcrop in the north Aegean close to the Turkish coast and the Dardanelles, the island of Lemnos has been settled and used as a stepping-stone since 5000 BC when Neolithic people lived here. A pre-Hellenistic temple lies in ruins on a windy northern promontory from which both the Turkish coast and Mount Athos can be seen on the hazy, dissolving horizon. A rambling Venetian fortress stands over the harbour capital, Myrina. Ottomans and Germans have occupied the island.

The island was liberated from Turkish domination in 1912, and was used by the Allies as a base during World War I. Soldiers sailed from the horror of Gallipoli into the safe harbour of Mudros on the south-east coast of Lemnos. My great-aunt Olive Hall was an Australian nurse at the military hospital there. Back in 1985, while I was visiting the island with my then husband, a Lemnian Australian, we made the trip to Mudros to see what remained from that time.

The town was quiet with many of the stone buildings boarded up and tumbling down. Many Lemnians left the island in the diaspora following World War II; some 5000 came to Melbourne. We had a coffee at the dusty wind-swept harbour taverna and asked about the military hospital, which, we learned, had never been anything more than a few tents. We were directed, however, to the British Military Cemetery on the outskirts of town.

Getting lost for about the fourth time (there were no road signs on Lemnos at that time) we stopped to ask an old man leaning on a fence watching his sheep. Shrewd blue eyes surveyed us from beneath his battered straw hat. Yes, he would come with us and show us the way, my husband interpreted.

Triandafilo (a popular old-fashioned name that means ‘Rose’), was born in 1903 and remembered the Allied base well. As a boy, he and his mates watched the soldiers come off the boats: British, French, Russian, Gurkhas, Singhalese, Egyptians, Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians. Those who could, rode donkeys through the town to their country’s camp. The badly wounded and dead came up in carts and litters to the ‘hospitals’ in each camp which were large tents.

Low bare hills surround the cemetery. They were all covered in tents then, Triandafilo said, sweeping his arms. Twenty-five thousand Russians, with their families and servants, their furniture and samovars; the more Spartan British camps, and the Hindu and Moslem camps, all fascinating to the village boys. The Indians did not bury their dead, they burned them in a great pit; the Moslems would not put headstones to their graves. The boys liked the Australians, who were always laughing and joking. As Triandafilo talked, phantoms rose in the dry, empty landscape where a few goats nibbled at the trees around the cemetery walls.

A large obelisk in the cemetery commemorates those ‘who died for the Empire Dardanelles Campaign 1915-1916’. Inscriptions on some of the Australian headstones testify to that imperial ideal: ‘He Died for King and Country’; briefly, ‘Did his Duty’. More than one hundred Australians lie buried at Mudros, mostly teenagers. ‘Only Beloved Son.’ ‘Our Peter.’ ‘Buried Hopes.’ 

My great-uncle, Captain Tom Hewitt, fought at Gallipoli and came to Mudros following the evacuation of the Allied troops on the nights of 18 and 19 December, 1915. He wrote home from Egypt:

‘We had a good rest in Lemnos but were quite content to leave it. It is an extraordinary little island – all hills and harbour, all the rough places cultivated – wooden ploughs pulled by shaggy little bullocks – all the people living together to protect themselves from the Turkish raiders who come every now and then to replenish their harems. There are no women on the island between sixteen and forty years old. The last raid was two years ago.’

Tom died in action at Pozieres several months later.

Triandafilo took us to his spotless little stone house, built by him in the 1930s. His wife matched him in looking as if she had been moulded out of the local elements. Bread, feta, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, potatoes and ouzo appeared, all their own produce. After a few thimbles of ouzo Triandafilo began to dance, and then showed us photos of himself as a fierce moustachioed young man in the Greek Army, when all Greek soldiers wore the traditional costume of skirt, sabre, fez-like hat and pom-pom shoes, now seen only on the guards in Syntagma Square in Athens, performing their elaborate slow-motion rituals. Another photo showed a tall, handsome brother who had emigrated to Melbourne in the 50s, and had died dancing.

According to myth, Zeus hurled Hephaistos, the lame god of fire and metal-workers, from Olympus to Lemnos,  where man first forged weapons out of fire and metal. Today, the roar of fighter jets periodically shatters the calm. Lemnos is Greece’s second-largest military base. The island has played a strategic military role during thousands of years, while the islanders, continuing to live quietly and self-sufficiently, have watched and suffered the repercussions of the rise and fall of empires time and time again.

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