|Medical and nursing sisters of 3rd Australian General Hospital (3AGH) in the tent lines with patients J01438|
Lemnos became the location of the major Allied medical hospitals supporting the Gallipoli campaign. These hospitals were staffed by British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian army medical staff. Wounded soldiers and sailors would be treated initially on the peninsula, repatriated by ship to Lemnos and then on to Egypt if necessary.
Two Australia field hospitals would be established on the island – the 3rd Australian General Hospital (AGH) at West Mudros and the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital (ASH) at East Mudros, staffed with Australian nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service (as well as nurses from the civilian nursing profession). There were other allied hospitals on the island staffed with nurses from the respective allied countries (i.e. Canada and Britain) such as the 1st and 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospitals. By October 1915 there were an estimated 9,000 beds on Lemnos with the Australians providing almost half the total accommodation.
The 96 Australian nurses of 3rd Australian General Hospital were led by Matron Grace Wilson. A sad note is that prior to her arrival, Matron Wilson’s brother, Lance Corporal Graeme Wilson of the 2nd Australian Light Horse had been killed on the peninsula.
While male orderlies provided initial nursing care to troops on Lemnos from March 1915, the main body of Australian nurses arrived at Mudros on 5 August 1915, having sailed from Australia, via Plymouth, London and Alexandria in Egypt. Following the erection of the hospital site and tents, the Australian nurses came ashore on 8th August, led by a piper. The hospital began operation on 9th August 1915. The nurses were also seconded to transport ships carrying the sick and wounded from Gallipoli to Lemnos.
|Members of the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance practising boat drill in the harbour on the Aegean island of Lemnos in preparation for the landing at Anzac Cove. C01632|
Before breakfast on the 9th August, 200 wounded and sick had already been admitted to the new hospital. Four days later the number of patients had risen to 800. In the two months to October 1915, 57,000 sick and 37,000 wounded were evacuated from the beaches of Gallipoli to the allied hospitals on Lemnos and from August more than 100,000 casualties were shipped from Mudros to other facilities in Egypt, Malta and England. These field hospitals were remarkably successful in that despite the conditions and the fact that they dealt with the most serious injuries suffered by the soldiers, the death rate was a mere 2.5%.
|2nd Australian Stationary Hospital, Lemnos 1915. Australian War Memorial image C02097|
The 3rd Australian General Hospital treated the wounded and sick of all allied armies engaged in the campaign. For example, up to October 15th out of a total of 3,906 cases admitted to the hospital 30% were Australian, 13% New Zealand and 57% British and Indian. The great number of wounded and dysentery cases from the peninsula placed a heavy burden on the nurses. While initially deaths of patients were those who had suffered gunshot wounds, after August 1915 most of the deaths resulted from disease.
For further information on the the 3rd Australian General Hospital at Lemnos go to the Australian Department of Veteran's Affairs Gallipoli and Anzacs website here.
Anzac soldier memoirs record the affection and admiration felt towards the AANS nurses on Lemnos. The tent hospitals developed homely national touches, with the main thoroughfare of one called “Macquarie Street”, with flower gardens decorated with white stones in the shapes of kangaroo’s and emu’s. The nurses also attended troop concerts. Records report the nurses presenting troops leaving for their second tour to Gallipoli with extra rations, chocolates and “a fine Australian flag”.
One of the most celebrated events on Lemnos was the marriage of Sergeant Ernest Lawrence and Staff Nurse Clarice Daley at West Mudros in the Church Camp at West Mudros on 21 October 1915. They both survived the war and lived in Elwood, Victoria.
|Some Australian medical orderlies looking after Turkish wounded in a hospital Australian War Memorial image G00748|
There is information on Lemnos and the Australian Nurses, including the work of Matron Grace Wilson from a special exhibition held at the Australian War Memorial - its weblink is here.
For further information on the Nurses at Lemnos go to the Australian Department of Veteran's Affairs Gallipoli and Anzacs website here.