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Nursing in New Zealand: History and Reminiscences

Chapter XXXVII. — Return to New Zealand

page 183

Chapter XXXVII.
Return to New Zealand.

While I was in Egypt, the second transport of sick and wounded were to be despatched to New Zealand, I had to select the sisters to go with it. The first transport had left while we were still on our way, and Australian nurses had been sent with it. These nurses on arrival in New Zealand were given a good time by the Government during their stay. They were given free passes over the railways and entertained quite royally. Our own nurses were glad that they were ready for duty with the next lot of wounded. The Tahiti was the ship going; I detailed Sisters Elizabeth Nixon and Janet Moore. Sister Nixon on that voyage met her future husband, the chief officer, so always tells me I sent her to her fate!

The poor old Tahiti, which recently came to a sad end near Raratonga, where she went down, made many trips during the War, one very disastrous one during the influenza epidemic in 1918, when acting as transport, men died like flies; all the medical officers were ill and some of the nurses, and the remaining few nurses had to carry on alone. Sister Maxfield, who was in charge was afterwards mentioned in despatches. One sister was landed in England very ill and died soon after.

I was grieved to say good-bye to Egypt and all the sisters. I left instructions with Miss Nurse that she was to, as far as possible, take my place, and occasionally travel to the other hospitals where our nurses were on duty at page 184 Cairo, Port Said, or Alexandria, to see how they were getting on. Later on I heard that she had not been able to do this, and not long afterwards the New Zealand hospitals were moved to England.

Miss Bell and I left by train to Suez in September—a large number of doctors and nurses came to see us off. Colonel Fenwick told me he had made all necessary arrangements with the Australians for me, but to my dismay when we arrived at Suez, to embark on the transport Euripedes, the officers there knew nothing of my coming. Whether this was his fault or the fault of the Australian Office, not notifying the Commanding Officer on the Euripedes, I never ascertained. However, Miss Bell was able to state that arrangements had been made, and that as Matron-in-Chief of the New Zealand Nursing Service, I had been given a free passage to Australia, so I was taken on as a passenger. There was no cabin allotted to me, but Miss Bell kindly offered to share hers. We were both passengers on a condition that if our services were required we could be called upon. However, there was quite a sufficient staff of sisters on board for duty so we were not needed.

The voyage was long and rather dull. We remained at Suez for a day or so after we joined the ship, so I took the opportunity of visiting the Military Hospital at Suez and found a New Zealand nurse, Sister Lalla Miller, on duty there.

Everyone else but ourselves on board having some definite duty to perform, Miss Bell and I kept to ourselves almost entirely. We used to spend our days on the top deck reading and working. I read the whole of Carlyle's French Revolution during the voyage. Much to our regret we did not call at any ports, passing far south of Colombo, page 185 till we reached Albany. At Adelaide we lay far out, and there was no opportunity of landing. We were both glad when we reached Melbourne and were able again to set foot on land! I left the ship at Melbourne as I desired to visit my sister there, so I stayed a few days before going on to Sydney.

In Sydney I had a few days with my own people before the boat left for New Zealand, and I arrived back at Wellington on October 11th, six months almost to the day from the time I left with my 50 nurses.