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Nellie Gould

Among her many achievements, Nellie Gould led the first group of military nurses to be sent to any war by an Australian colony.

Honour Roll

Nellie Gould was born in Wales on 29 March 1860, the daughter of a mining agent, Henry and his wife, Sarah, who died in childbirth eighteen months later. She was educated in England and Portugal. She taught in England and Germany before travelling to New South Wales in 1884. She trained as a nurse then worked at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney and the St Kilda Private Hospital in Woolloomooloo before becoming Matron of the Hospital for the Insane at Rydalmere, 1898-1900.

When the Boer War began in October 1899, hundreds of women offered to nurse there. Colonial authorities were reluctant to send women to a war zone. Nonetheless, early in 1899, Colonel Williams, the Principal Medical Officer for the Army in New South Wales, had asked Nellie to help him found a NSW Army Nursing Service Reserve. She would be the Lady Superintendent of Nurses and there would be 25 nurses underneath her. In 1899, she also helped found the Australasian Trained Nurses' Association.

On 17 January 1900, Nellie and thirteen other nurses left the colony with a contingent of the NSW Army Medical Corps. This was the first group of military nurses to be sent to any war by any of the Australian colonies. On arrival they were sent to hospitals in Cape Town, East London and Sterkstroom.

Nellie was in charge of nursing in the Orange River District which included Bloemfontein, considered the most undesirable posting in that war. It was a pestilential city where dead horses and human sewage had infected the water. The sick tents were crowded and conditions in the makeshift hospital were hopeless. Nellie and her nurses were commended for their devotion to duty and kindness to their patients.

On her return in 1902, Nellie and her friend, Sister Julia Bligh Johnston, opened Ermelo Private Hospital at Newtown, Sydney. Nellie also organised the Army Nursing Service Reserve in New South Wales. Ermelo was sold in 1912 and Nellie and Julia joined the Public Health Department. In 1914, Nellie enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and was appointed matron. She left with six other nurses bound for Alexandria, Egypt. Soon they had two hospitals with a total of 1500 beds established in order to treat the casualties from Gallipoli. In 1916, they were transferred to France.

After a long period of arduous duty she was posted to England in 1917, where she worked in an Australian convalescent hospital. She was very weary when she returned to Australia in January 1919 and was discharged from the AIF. Nellie was unfit to take up nursing duties again and received a war service pension. Her service was recognised by the Royal Red Cross (1st class) award she received in 1916. Nellie was a highly professional nurse with excellent administrative skills. She had impeccable manners and good humour and lead the other nurses by example. After her retirement she lived with Julia Johnston at Miranda, Sydney. She died on 19 July 1941, in Neutral Bay, Sydney.