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Sister O’Meara

Great War Nurse Bear

Listen to Sister O’Meara’s Story

When news of the war spread across Australia in August 1914 a lot of we younger nurses at the Children’s Hospital wanted to do our bit. Like the boys, we thought it might be a bit of an adventure and a chance to see the world. No one thought the war would last more than a few months anyway.

Because I had three years hospital training the Australian Army Nursing Service was pleased to sign me on, and before I knew it I was a nurse in the 2nd Australian General Hospital. We sailed from Sydney fully expecting to go to England but we stopped at Egypt. My hospital was right beside the Great Pyramids and with thousands of boys in training camps to look after we nurses were busied with sprains, sickness and a few serious injuries. But when the boys landed at Gallipoli in April 1915 we saw some really terrible wounds. It was horrible and we thought nothing could be worse, but in 1916 we shipped off to France and our boys joined the fight on the Western Front. It is more horrible than anyone could imagine.

My hospital is way back from the fighting but on some days you can hear the big guns like thunder in the distance. The real heroes of this war are the doctors and stretcher bearers at the front. Before the wounded soldiers get to me they have lots of stops. The Aid Posts and Dressing Stations are right near the fighting and the stretcher bearers and doctors there patch the lads up as best they can and send them further back to the Casualty Clearing Stations. These are hospitals in big huts or tents where doctors and nurses look after everything from broken bones to major operations. After a big push – that’s what the soldiers call battles like Pozieres and Fromelles – there can be thousands of wounded lads lined-up in a Clearing Station.

At my hospital we mainly tend their wounds and make sure they heal properly after surgery. Some lads are sent home to Australia, others go to England to recover more, and others get sent back to the front. This war makes me so sad and cross sometimes.