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Nursing in New Zealand: History and Reminiscences

Chapter XLII. — Meeting Returned Sisters

page 207

Chapter XLII.
Meeting Returned Sisters.

A busy time ensued for me in all of my official positions. Miss Bicknell, my assistant, was anxious to have the chance of serving during the War, so I arranged for her to take the post of Matron of the second trip of the hospital ship Maheno.

The Maheno arrived back from her voyage as a hospital ship on the 11th of April, and I went to Auckland to meet her. Several of the surviving nurses who were on the torpedoed ship Marquette, were being invalided home, the chief of these being Miss Cameron, the Matron of No. 1 Stationary Hospital, who had been the greatest sufferer surviving the disaster. Her great friend Miss Newman, who was taking her place as Acting-Matron of St. Helens Hospital, Christchurch, was taken out with us, and Miss Cameron's delight at seeing her, while she was unable to express it in words, was pathetic. I arranged for Miss Newman to remain on board with Miss Cameron, who was being taken to Lyttelton, where she was being sent to a private hospital. Poor Miss Cameron though looking well, was paralysed and her speech so affected, that she would utter only a word or two. This made her appear to be mentally affected, but although certainly not so alert as formerly, her memory was good and she understood what was said to her, and took a keen interest in all around her.

Other sisters invalided back, were Misses Walker, Florence Gill, and Bennett. They were all granted further page 208 sick leave, and given railway passes to their homes. All sisters on return to New Zealand were allowed leave, and a three weeks' pass on the railways in any part of the Dominion, a privilege they much enjoyed.

Before this, I had gone to Dunedin in December, to meet the first of the sisters of the Marquette to return to New Zealand. They were on the transport Tahiti. I was very anxious to see these first to return and it was reassuring to see their faces looking down from the deck as we approached with bright expressions of welcome. Four other sisters not on duty, also were invalided out.

Miss Myles, the Military Matron for Dunedin, had accompanied me, and we remained on board for some time listening to all the sisters could tell us of their experiences.

Having been widely separated from each other during those long hours of that terrible day, the details of the loss of those who were killed in the lowering of the boats, or so injured that they had no chance of escape, could only be vaguely described, but even so, their story made us more than ever realise vividly the sadness of it all.

It was in memory chiefly of these sisters, that the Nurses' Memorial Fund which I have mentioned before, was started.

At York Minster, there is a very beautiful memorial to the British sisters who lost their lives in the War. The fourteen New Zealand sisters' name are all inscribed together there.