Memoir - World War I, Nurse, A. E. Williams (nee Cocking), 1915-1918 Document Reg. No: ST 041095

'Remembrances of War Service in the AANS - AIFC 1st World War by One of the Nursing Sisters'. Inscribed on front 'Cr Selleck Lord Mayor of Melbourne'. Francis (Frank) Palmer Selleck was Lord Mayor of Melbourne 1954-1957. The link between him and the memoir is unclear, and the author is not named.

The memoir records life of a nurse on transport ships, in hospitals and on leave. It is written in a school exercise book some time after the event - possibly even after World War II. The author was probably sister Alice Elizabeth Cocking, later Sister Williams.

With the memoir are four photographs and a postcard relating to the hospital ship 'Kanowna' in 1916; seven postcards, four photographs and one newspaper cutting relating to war nursing service in Salonica, Greece in 1918; five postcards relating to war service on the transport ship 'Miltiades'; two postcards and seven photographs of war nursing service at the 14th AG (Australian General) Hospital in Abbassia, Cairo, Egypt; and a hand-painted card featuring a poem and a desert/pyramid scene. (Note - these do not all appear to be correctly grouped under the author's original headings.)

The author begins: 'On July 17th 1915 I with 239 Nursing Sisters left Port Melbourne wharf in the transport ship 'Orsova' for Active Service Abroad. The 1st [?] left in the 'Karoola' 2 months before & were in Egypt to nurse the Gallipoli Wounded Anzacs. Besides the AANS there were on board also the 4 AMC [Army Medical Corps] Units 1000 Infantry for Egypt & the 1st & 2nd Siege Brigade Batteries Soldiers of our Permanent Army from Queenscliff [sic], Vic. Some of whom had seen active service on Thursday Island. After passing the Heads our thoughts on friends left behind we were feeling a bit homesick then of course many began to be seasick...'

She went on to work in hospital(s) in London, 'where we had our first experience of shrapnel wounds with their green septic discharge', and then served on board the 'Kanowna'. She describes an air raid in London: 'Returning with a Sister from the Lyceum Theatre we failed to catch a bus - a Police-man told us to walk up Bow St & there to Southhampton Road. Those policemen were good friends to us - we did then suddenly we saw a flash & heard a crash - I was advised to go down a cellar with many others. When we came out the city was in chaos - the firemen were out & soldiers & people thronged the streets. Fortunately I also saw 3 Australian Soldiers, they came to my aid and took me to my hotel. Sister had a similar experience. We learned afterwards that 200 were wounded & killed that night. The Bus we missed was blown to pieces.'

The diary ends with several poems, amongst which is one by Sister A.E. Williams and one by H. H. Wilson.
Exercise book with checked blue cover on white ground, and blue spine. Its cover indicates that is intended for use for school notes, and includes the words 'APPROVED BY THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT' and a white map of Australia at top. Off-white paper inside, ruled with lines. About two-thirds written in ink.
Acquisition Information:
Donation & Subsequent Transfer from Returned Servicemen's League of Australia Limited (RSL) Victorian Branch, 1986
Discipline: Technology
Dimensions: 225 mm (Height), 175 mm (Width)

More information

Tagged with: military memorabilia, wars conflicts, world war i 1914-1918, world war ii 1939-1945
Themes this item is part of: Public Life & Institutions Collection
Primary Classification: MILITARY HISTORY
Secondary Classification: Personal Effects
Tertiary Classification: diaries
Inscriptions: On cover: 'Embassy / EXERCISE BOOK / NAME Cr Selleck / GRADE Lord Mayor of / SCHOOL Melbourne / APPROVED BY THE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT'. (The words in title case are hand-written in ink; the remaineder is printed).
Author: Alice Williams nee Cocking, 1915-1918
References: The State Library of Victoria holds a manuscript that may be similar or identical to this - MS 10476, described as 'Fragment of memoirs, ca. 1916, of Sister A. E. Cocking, AANS, World War I; describes hospital ships, nursing cameleers and includes some poems'. The first page of the memoir is quoted from a source cited as Sister A E Williams (nee Sister Cocking), 'Echoes of War Nursing Service in 1914-1918 War - Europe, Palestine, Egypt' in 'Women Working Together: Suffrage and Onwards'. Women's Web,';s%20Work%20in%20WW1.html, accessed 27 Nov 2008.

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