World War I and Australia

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Women at war

Women were able to serve in the Australian army as nurses and other medical workers, but only if they were already trained.

They served in places such as Egypt, Lemnos, England, France, Belgium, Greece, Palestine and India. About 2139 nurses served overseas between 1914 and 1919, while many worked in military hospitals in Australia. Seven women received the Military Medal during the war.

War diaries and letters written by women who served

We have a number of diaries of nurses and volunteer workers including:

  • Edith Florence Avenell
    Avenell enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a nurse when she was 25 years old. On 15 May 1915 she left on the HMAT Mooltan with the No. 1 Australian General Hospital unit from Sydney, New South Wales. She nursed at No. 13 Hospital, Boulogne, France and No. 2 Australian Auxillery General Hospital, Southall.
  • Anne Donnell
    Donnell was a South Australian nursing sister who served with the 3rd Australian General Hospital at the Lemnos field hospital on 12 October 1915. She then moved in January 1916 to the Abbassia Barracks in Cairo until October when she travelled to England to the Kitchener War Hospital in Brighton. From May 1917 Sister Donnell worked in hospitals in France. In January 1918 she became ill and was sent to recover in England after which she worked at the No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield Park in Middlesex.
  • Nora Kathleen Fletcher
    Fletcher trained as a nurse, graduating from the Coast Hospital in 1906 and later left Sydney to work in England. Fletcher served as Principal matron in France with the Joint War Committee. She received several awards for her services including the Royal Red Cross in 1915 and the Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1920.
  • Miles Franklin (Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin)
    Franklin was a noted Australian feminist and author. In June 1917 she joined as a voluntary worker in the 'American' Unit of the Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service stationed at Ostrovo, Macedonia. In February 1918 she returned to London as she was unwell. Her diary describes her day to day activities in wartime London and the effects of malaria and depression on her health.
  • Florence Holloway
    Holloway was born in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales in 1874 and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at the age of 43. She served as a nurse in England and Egypt.
  • Florence McMillan
    McMillan served as a nurse in the Middle East, including at the 3rd Australian General Hospital at Lemnos during the war. Her correspondence is part of the McMillan family papers collection.

Florence McMillan and a Gallipoli kitten from Photographs of the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Egypt & Brighton taken by A. W. Savage.




Grace Wilson served as a nurse in both world wars. In World War I she was principal matron of the 3rd Australian General Hospital in England, Greece, Egypt and France. She was awarded the Royal Red Cross in 1916 for her work in the Australian Army Nursing Service and was appointed as Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1919 for her work in France.



Louise Mack — one of the first women war correspondents (image 31).

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