War Nurse Chat: Second World War
I found in my papers “The History of The Royal Australian Naval Nursing Service 1942-1974”. The author appears to be Patricia Vines, RANNS, and the book is held at the AWM. Here are some extracts:
In 1937, the Australian Army Nursing Service had an established reserve of trained nurses willing to serve in time of national emergency. Neither the RAN nor the RAAF possessed such a pool from which to draw. During peace time, the car of the sick and injured was carried out by male orderlies or Sick Berth Attendants and, occasionally, a State Registered female nursing sister was employed.
In 1937 the RAN made its first tentative move to obtain the consent of a number of trained nurses in Sydney who, in the event of war, would be willing to serve in a hospital ship, to be commissioned in the RAN. About twelve nurses were passed to Navy Office. On the outbreak of hostilities these nurse volunteers expected to be called up, but time went by and nothing happened. Most of them joined the AANS when it became known that the Army would control all hospital ships.
26 July 1940 saw the introduction of the RAAF Nursing Service.
The Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) was formed in April 1941 and suitable recruits were selected and given a course of training equivalent to that given to the men but modified to meet the special conditions. It was regarded as uneconomical to employ trained nurses in the treatment of minor ailments of WRANS personnel. More serious conditions were being transferred to the large establishments of the Army.
From late 1941 to 1942 the RAN called for volunteers from among trained nurses and about fifty sisters were interviewed in Sydney by a selection panel consisting of Miss MK Doherty, Principal Matron of the RAAF; Surgeon Captain L Darby RAN; and Surgeon Lieutenant Commander E Susman, RANR. Twelve sisters were placed on a short list and were appointed. During the same period things were moving along similar lines in Melbourne. The Royal Australian Naval Nursing Service (RANNS) was officially formed in October 1942 with a strength of 24 nursing sisters. Annie Ida Laidlaw was appointed Matron of the RANNS and held this position throughout the war years.
The nursing sisters held officer status until March 1943 when nursing members of all three services were commissioned. Seniority in the Army dated from 1943 for members of the AANS, and from date of enlistment for members of the RANNS and RAAFNS.
By October 1943 there were 33 sisters out of 1748 women in the RAN and a high of 57 nursing officers in June 1945.
Photos from the AWM of nurses from the 3 services.