by Susanna de Vries
This outstanding book tells the stories of eight courageous women through diaries, letters, photos, paintings and specially drawn maps. These women had the courage and strength for which the Anzacs are renowned and the compassion and tenderness that only a woman can bring. Sister Hilda Samsing from Melbourne became a whistleblower when nursing aboard the hospital ship Gascon, outraged by the bungled evacuation of wounded Anzacs.
She defied censorship and kept a very frank diary, reproduced here for the first time. In 1914, Louise Creed, a Sydney journalist, was caught in the besieged city of Antwerp and made a hair-raising escape from a German firing squad. Brisbane’s Grace Wilson, ordered to establish an emergency hospital on drought-stricken Lemnos Island, arrived there to find suffering Anzacs but no drinking water, tents or medical supplies. Grace and her nurses saved the lives of thousands who had been wounded at Lone Pine and The Nek. In France, Florence James-Wallace, Anne Donnell and Elsie Tranter nursed near the front line in Casualty Clearing Stations, treating soldiers with hideous wounds or blinded by mustard gas.
In 1918, they had to deal with an epidemic of Spanish flu, killing some nurses. These brave women returned to Australia but their heroism was quickly forgotten. Two of these women received such meagre pensions, they died destitute. Publication of this book with its numerous illustrations has been facilitated by a generous donation from Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, keen that these stories become known to Australians of all ages.