Penshurst Women at War

WW1 Nurse - Winifred Garden

Winifred Garden was born at Penshurst on the 16th July1887; her parents were Alexander and Annie (Todd) Garden. Alexander was a Station Manager on Blackwood (The estate of Daniel Twomey) and he also owned a house and shop in Penshurst (allotment 5 Section 13).

Winifred was mobilised on the 30th June 1917. Her enlistment papers show she signed up for Australian Army Nursing Service Reinforcements on the 11th July 1917. She was 30 years old, and had 3 years service with the Geelong Hospital. Winifred’s papers state that she had previous service with the AANS, however we have not found any official record of it.


HMAT Wiltshire (A18)

She embarked from Sydney on the 31st August 1917 aboard the HMAT (A18) Wiltshire.

For technical minded; the HMAT Wiltshire (A18) was one of the steamships requisitioned by the Australian Government for use as a troop transport. It was 10,390 gross tons it was 160.5 x 18.7 metres. Twin screw, quadruple expansion engine 2 x 4 cylinders each 6500 hp. 14 knots. Passenger/cargo (refrigerated) steamship built 1912 by John Brown, Clydebank for the Federal S N Co Ltd, London. Serviced Britain - Australia - New Zealand trade Leased by the Commonwealth until 2 October 1917

The ship arrived at Suez on the 5th October 1917. Four days later Winifred was assigned to the 78th General Hospital at Hadra. This was a British war hospital, and specific information about these hospitals is very hard to find. The Commonwealth War Graves website gives this description;

“Hadra is a district on the eastern side of Alexandria and is south of the main carriageway to Aboukir, known as Al Horaya, near the University of Alexandria. In March 1915, the base of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force was transferred to Alexandria from Mudros and the city became a camp and hospital centre for Commonwealth and French troops. Among the medical units established there were the 17th, 19th, 21st, 78th and 87th General Hospitals and No 5 Indian Hospital. After the Gallipoli campaign of 1915, Alexandria remained an important hospital centre during later operations in Egypt and Palestine and the port was much used by hospital ships and troop transports bringing reinforcements and carrying the sick and wounded out of the theatres of war.”

There is a lot of controversy regarding the actual numbers of Australian nurses that served overseas. Even the official history of the Australian Army Medical Corp has had a lot of critics on how the information was collected. We have had some luck in finding a book on the history of the British Medical Units in Egypt. The following text was taken from this book and describes General Hospital work;

“With the R.A.M.C. in Egypt by "Sergeant-Major, R.A.M.C."

“The General Hospital forms part of the War Establishment of the R.A.M.C., and its normal capacity, as officially laid down, is that of 520 beds, the odd twenty being for sick officers. Its organisation, equipment, and personnel are akin to those of the larger military hospitals in time of peace; but the General Hospital has, in addition, the means of supplying to patients, on their discharge, such articles of clothing, equipment, and odd necessaries as they may stand in need of. In war-time it is no unusual thing for a wounded man to arrive at a base hospital shorn of all his previous belongings, or his clothing may have been so completely destroyed as to render it fit only for the incinerator. Of these General Hospitals two are officially allotted to each Division taking the field.

On page 28 of the book the author quotes an extract from a diary written by a medical orderly. It describes a load of wounded arriving in a convoy;

" There were a couple of hundred in the convoy, perhaps; and each man had to be got to bed his clothes gently drawn or cut from him; his body washed; splints and bandages readjusted, perhaps; food given; his small personal belongings, if he had any, neatly arranged in the locker by his bedside; his hospital-kit drawn for him; his military equipment taken to the pack-store, and there left until he was well enough to reclaim it, or until it was certain he would need it no more. Then came the medical inspection. The doctor visited each bed in turn, and made a thorough examination of the case, deciding on future treatment. The cases were of all degrees of gravity. Some needed only care and rest and nourishment, to give Nature all the chance she asked for; others required close attention, the constant vigilance of doctor and nursing-staff through long weeks, perhaps, before the patient would have drawn away from the danger line. Others required special complicated appliances and apparatus. Here and there a man was marked down for operation as soon as the busy theatre could find time to deal with him, or as soon as his strength had been raised to the necessary point of endurance.

And all of them meant increasing care and hard work for the orderlies, sisters, and nurses of the ward dressing and bandaging, blanket-bathing, the preparation and administration of food and medicine, constant sanitary service, the preservation of cleanliness everywhere, the hundred-and-one nameless little offices due to the helpless sick. And then there were the special things dictated by the sub-tropical climate in which we were working. It was bad enough to have to endure bodily pain; it was too much to have to put up with the added torment of heat and dust, flies and mosquitoes. Little could be done to mitigate the heat that is when it was really hot in Cairo 120 or so in the shade. But the dust-storms could be somewhat mitigated by wire-meshed screens over windows and doors; and mosquito-nets over the beds would do the rest”.

On the 13th June 1918 Winifred embarked for Salonika aboard the “Gorgon”. She disembarked at Salonika on the 22nd June 1918 and was allotted to the 52nd General Hospital (British). (She also served in the 42nd BGH during that time)

The Salonika campaign was often referred to as “The Forgotten War”.

“The Army was formed in Salonika under Lieutenant General Bryan Mahon to oppose Bulgarian advances in the region as part of the Macedonian Front. The army arrived in Salonika (along with French troops) on October 15, 1915. In May 1916 Lieutenant General George Milne replaced Bryan Mahon as commander of the Army. It eventually comprised two corps and remained in place until 1921. The Salonika Campaign of 1915-1916 marked a shift away from the conflict on the Western Front by the Allies. French and British troops were deployed in Northern Greece to protect Serbia from a German invasion. However, despite a spirited effort by the typhus-ravaged Serbian army, the Serbs were forced into a disastrous winter retreat through the Albanian mountains.


Part of the 60th General Hospital

The Allies found themselves confined for nearly a year within their own “concentration camp” around Salonika and were unable to break out decisively to the north until 1918. The Allied force was “guarded” by half of the Bulgarian army with some German reinforcement. Disease (notably malaria, in the marshy lowlands of the Vardar and Struma rivers) took a heavy toll of Allied troops. Greek political intrigues and Allied suspicions of the neutral Greek government served to exacerbate a difficult situation.” [Arthur Banks, A Military Atlas of the First World War, Pen & Sword/Leo Cooper,1989 & 2001]

Ashleigh Wadman wrote this in Mettle and Steel: the AANS in Salonika. 

“On orders of the Director of Medical Services, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, they were distributed to various British and Australian hospitals in Egypt. After the successful outcome of the campaign the nurses were sent to Salonika and arrived there in August 1918.

“On orders of the Director of Medical Services, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, they were distributed to various British and Australian hospitals in Egypt. After the successful outcome of the campaign the nurses were sent to Salonika and arrived there in August 1918.

The nurses were stationed at several hospitals during the Balkan campaign. The first contingent took over No. 66 British Hospital, a tent hospital at Hortiach, about 20 kilometres from the city, high in the hills towards Bulgaria. However they moved down to No. 52 British General Hospital (BGH) at Kalamaria in about November 1917. The second contingent took over No. 50 BGH, a hut hospital at Kalamaria. The third took over No.60 BGH at Hortiach. These nurses moved several times, spending summers at Hortiach and winters close to the coast at Lembet. The fourth took over No. 42 BGH, a tent hospital at Kalamaria, and later moved with it to Uchanta. For the duration of the campaign each contingent battled adverse conditions to ensure not just the welfare of their patients, but their own as well. AANS nurses suffered from deprivations and hardships, yet they proved their mettle and contributed to a legacy of military nursing of which we can only be proud.

To understand the privations and challenges that underscored their Salonika experiences we can look to papers kept by the nurses themselves. Matron McHardie White described the difficulties of obtaining fresh food and how the sisters drew rations just as the soldiers did (though they did not use their rum ration!) Once a week they had iron rations, that is bully beef and biscuits. At other times the ‘home sister’ allocated to each hospital for the purposes of attempting to obtain fresh vegetables, eggs or milk would be successful. Matron McHardie White mentions that once the nurses were settled on the ground, their Red Cross supplies began to arrive and were of immense value. However, the water always remained of poor quality and had to be chlorinated.


A group of Australian Army Nursing Service nurses at the 52nd British General Hospital at Kalamaria, Greece ready for night duty wearing headdress provided for protection against mosquitoes.

Matron McHardie White also painted a graphic picture of the climatic conditions in which the nurses found themselves, “the winter was exceedingly severe; the wind known as the Vardar wind, being almost a blizzard. There were heavy falls of snow, and very low temperatures at night”. The extreme temperatures caused drugs, ink and hot water bottles to regularly freeze in the morning. Wintery conditions were a danger to the nurses as some fainted, while others were affected with carbon monoxide poisoning as fuel was almost impossible to obtain and the only means of heating came from charcoal burnt in braziers. Staff Nurse Lucy May Pitman wrote of the challenges of her first autumn and winter in Salonika when she was working at No. 60 BGH at Hortiach:

Despite the harsh winters, there was little respite in the warmer months as the heat of the summers was as intense as the cold of the winters. As in India, permission was granted for nurses to wear white uniforms. Due to the scarcity of suitable material this led to improvised uniforms using white aprons and used sheets.  The heat also contributed to the malaria which dominated the difficult summer months.  The many ravines and streams in the area made ideal breeding grounds for mosquitos and Matron McHardie White later reported that ‘most of the nurses were affected by it [malaria] one time or another…’ By August 1918 45 nurses had been sent back to Australia from Salonika and another 14 were waiting to go, mostly on grounds of ill health.

The extraordinary courage and professionalism with which nurses in Salonika faced these challenges was recognised by the high praise lavished on Matron McHardie White and the other matrons, as well as all members of the AANS”.

“Although a request from the British Director General of Medical Services for additional Australian nurses was made in February 1918, it was opposed by Major General Neville Howse, the director of the AIF's medical services. In early September 1918 Howse recommended to AIF headquarters in France that the Australian nurses be withdrawn from Salonika. He argued that the original reason for sending them (the shipping threat in the Mediterranean) no longer applied, they were not nursing AIF soldiers and could be elsewhere, and that many were suffering from ill health. Despite this, the nurses remained in Greece until after the war ended”.

After nearly seven months spent in Salonika, Winfred embarked for Marseille on the Carisbrook Castle” on the 14th January 1919. Her papers show that she was also heading for some well earned leave in the UK.


3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital Dartford, Kent

On the 4th February 1919 Winifred was assigned to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital Dartford, Kent. (Shown left).

Winifred became ill on the 11th June 1919 and was sent to Hospital suffering from “furunculosis”. (pernicul abscess).

She was discharged from the 3rd AAH at Dartford on the 11th June 1919 for return to Australia aboard the “SS Orsova” where she was loaded as a cot case. Her next of kin was advised that she would disembark at Melbourne and proceed to the nurses Hostel, Grand Hotel Spring Street.

She was discharged from the Army on the 12 February 1920.

Winifred married William Hellier Long on the 3rd June 1922 at Presbyterian Church Corowa NSW. William was a Doctor. He served in the Australian Army Medical Corp for two years during World War 2 (VX15180).

William died on the 17th February 1955, his residence was at Nth Balwyn.

Winifred died on the 13th March 1976 at Newtown Geelong.

Extra notes:

James Alexander Garden (Winifred's eldest brother) served in the Boer War.

Effie May Garden (Winifred's younger sister) joined the 1st Australian General Hospital very early in the war on the 20th April 1915. She was awarded the Royal Red Cross 2nd Class and also Mentioned in Despatches. A copy of Effie being interviewed about her war service can be heard at the Mount Rouse & District Historical Society.

The interview covers Early life; nursing training in Bendigo; joining army; voyage to Egypt; conditions at Heliopolis in Egypt; types of wounds suffered by the Australian troops; moving with the 1st Australian General Hospital (1AGH) to Rouen in France; living conditions; transfer to casualty clearance stations; living conditions of nurses at casualty clearance stations; description of doctors and orderlies; description of nurses uniform; food; bathing; recreation; helmets and gas masks; gassing victims; trench feet; leave from France; voyage back to Australia on "war brides ship" in 1919; marriage in 1920; serving in VAD during Second World War; lasting physical effects of service in First World War; formation of Returned Nurses Club; the Edith Cavell Trust Fund; brief mention of her sister Winifred's nursing service in First World War.

Albany Advertiser (WA), Monday 28 September 1936.



The death occurred at a private hospital in Albany on Monday last, of Mr. Alexander Garden at the age of 93. The late Mr. Garden, who had lived in Albany with his daughter, Mrs. W. H. Carson for the past eight years, was born in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and at the age of 18 years set out to seek his fortune in Australia, the sailing vessel in which he arrived in Victoria taking 90 days to do the trip from England to Melbourne. His first job was as "jackeroo" on a station in Victoria and he remained connected with this type of business most of his life, climbing from the position of jackeroo to manager, and eventually to owner of considerable station property. About 1911 he came to Western Australia and took up farming at Kellerberrin on the Eastern Goldfields line, and he remained in that district till about ten years ago, when he retired to live in Perth. After several years there, however, he came to live with his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. And Mrs. W. H. Carson in Albany. Although he had been failing in health during the past- twelve months, the deceased gentleman retained all his faculties and could recount most interestingly his experiences during his early years in Victoria. In Victoria he was prominent in Masonic Lodge circles and was at the time of his death one of the oldest living Freemasons in Australia. He was a member of the Grand Lodge of Victoria, and a life governor of the Freemasons Homes in Victoria.

He is survived by a family of four sons and four daughters, his wife having predeceased him about five years ago. The remains were privately interred in the Presbyterian portion of the Albany Cemetery on Wednesday last, the Rev. J. H. G. Archibald officiating. Floral tributes were received from Mr. and Mrs. Carson, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Long. Mrs. Enid Gelding, Mrs. Effie Fussell, Mr. Murray Garden, Aurora Lodge No. 35 Inglewood (Vic), Don. Alan and Phil Carson, Mr. and Mrs. P. J. Davey, Mr. And Mrs. Keyser, Miss Aileen Keyser.

by Ron Heffernan, Mount Rouse & District Historical Society

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