100 Years

1918 - 2018

Marking the end of World War I

Miss Brown Comes Home

By Sandra Stirling

Miss Brown drew a deep breath, enjoying the scent of eucalyptus from the giant gums that surrounded her small house. She pulled the cardigan around her thin shoulders, moving to the edge of the verandah to stare at a sky filled with stars. How happy she was to be home.

World War I nurseWorld War I nurseAleutie/Shutterstock.comLike the brave young men in her country town, she had answered the call to support the Mother Country in her time of hardship and war. Joining the Australian Army Nursing Service in 1916, she was sent by hospital ship to the Army camp on Lemnos Island.

Standing here now, in the comfort of her cottage, there were only echoes of the merciless winds that had lashed their tents, the freezing conditions, the lack of food and sleep while trying to treat the endless stream of wounded men. There had been no time to mourn the damage caused by machine gun bullets or the pneumonia or sepsis too often cruelly ending their young lives.

Only dimly now she recalled the days of staggering from the nurses' tent to the hut where the wounded lay, praying for the strength to perform her vital duties. And it was often only the camaraderie of the other nurses, with their bursts of laughter and wise-cracking comments that held her intact. But it was the painful image of her close friend, Edith, herself a young Australian nurse, dying of pneumonia she found the most difficult to erase. Perhaps though, it was her duty never to forget, given that her friend was without family.

On her return home, she had carefully washed and pressed her uniform, starched her veil and with her cape, folded the end of service life into the suitcase under her bed.

Over the months, she had slowly smothered her nightmares, healing coming from walks through the surrounding bush, the splashes of yellow from the wattles, and the remembered carolling of the magpies.

Bill, the timber merchant, had this morning delivered wood, chopped into manageable logs for the fireplace.
"How are you today, Mr Henry?" she had enquired, conscious of the wounds he carried from the war.
"Can't complain, Miss," he'd smiled, raising his cap. "Can't complain."
And the wonder was, he never did.

She brushed the quick swell of tears from her eyes before turning to walk inside. She was home, and she knew her recovery was well on the way.

Hospital ward, World War OneHospital ward, World War OneImage MS9627/PHO2 Courtesy of State Library Victoria

Sandra Stirling, 2018

Search This Site