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A PERSONAL ACCOUNT BY A NURSE.

EVERYONE AT HIS OR HER POST. "The outstanding impression of the disaster that remains in my mind is that there was absolutely no confusion. We all feel that we owe a great deal to Colonel Cleve, the officer commanding the detachment of the 29th English Division on board, who insisted that all the lifebelts should be kept at the top of the companion way. "We did not realise what had happened quite at once, but the vessel soon commenced to lie over on her side, and as soon as that occurred all of us went straight to our posts, having been well schooled in boat drill during the voyage. There were eighteen sisters on each side, and all were at their stations, but the boats were not well launched, and in

many instances the tackling blocked altogether. "I managed to get into one of the boats, but was pitched out again, and, after turning several somersaults, landed in the water, where I commenced to swim. It all happened very suddenly, and the vessel sank very quickly after being struck by the torpedo, the time being variously estimated at from seven to fifteen minutes. Our watches all stopped at different times, but it was about ten minutes past nine in the morning when the ship was struck. The day was a dull one, and as it was the winter season the water got very cold, especially towards the evening. A BRAVE MINISTER. "After swimming about for some time I was picked up by the Rev. Mr. Burridce, a Presbyterian minister in Invercargill, and. with the help of some other men, he took me to a raft. At this time there were about twenty persons on the raft, and as there were more than it could carry Mr. Burridge left it and swam away to a mast, from which he was subsequently rescued. Our raft was the second last to be picked up by the French torpedo boats, and I had then been in the water for close on eight hours. When the boat came to take us off there were only four boys and myself left alive. "So far as I could see all the sisters behaved splendidly. All those who were rescued saved themselves mainly by their own efforts, and they also helped to save others when the opportunity presented itself. Throughout the whole of the trouble everyone was bright, and except for the vacancies in our ranks, it was difficult to realise the serious nature of the catastrophe that had overtaken us. After the disaster we were all taken to Alexandria, where we went into hospital, and those of us who wore suffering more or less severelv from shock were sent home for a rest. I think we have all recovered by now, and are anxious to get back to service again." EXTRACTS FROM SISTER 'S LETTER. They were so brave, and all three of them died from exhaustion and cold. The rescue boats were in sight when dear died. I did not see her myself, but the

other girls have told me. She was kept afloat for five or six hours by her friends, Sister Popplewell and Sister Walker. She just said to Miss Popplewell "that she musn't hold her any longer/' Sister Hildyard was wonderfully merry and bright, and singing "Tipperary" and "Are We Down Hearted/' but she also had heart failure and died in the water. We were seven hours in the water. I was not in a boat, but my life was saved by holding on to a raft which was occupied by three men. About a dozen were holding on all round, including Sisters Gould, Christmas, and myself, and one New Zealand boy. We three and the New Zealand boy were the only survivors. It was dreadful to watch these strong men fall off and die, one after the other. Some of them went raving mad. During all this we often wondered how long we ourselves would last, but somehow I had a feeling that I was not to die. French destroyers picked us up. The sailors were most kind and attentive. It was wonderful how quickly they undressed the survivors, put them into dry shirts, and rolled them in great coats, and administered rum and hot wine. . . . After spending a few days in Salonika it was decided to send us back to Alexandria to equip ourselves. We feel rather nervous coming back over the fated waters, but, of course, being on a hospital ship we are safe. Sister is not very well. I really marvel that she is alive at all. She was quite insensible long before she was picked up. One sister has a bad leg, Miss Cameron is very ill, suffering from traumatic pneumonia, and another sister has a fractured base. Hospital Ship, Grantully Castle. From Sister Popplewell.— We left Port Said by special train on the evening of the 18th October. I was rather disappointed to miss the journey by daylight. It was bright moonlight, however, and bright moonlight in Egypt is a wonderful thing and it was very fascinating. We arrived at the port of Alexandria at about 3 a.m. and were told our bunks were made and tea was ready for us, so in the moonlight we climbed the steep, steep gangway to our new abode— the Marquette. It was such a huge ship and when we got up next morning we found ourselves very import-

ant indeed, travelling to Salonika with a big British ammunition column ! We were proud! We had not known before this what we were going to do or where we were going. About 5 p.m. of that day we left and had three of the happiest and most peaceful days I have ever known at sea. It was calm and sunny and everyone was so well. No one even tried to be seasick. The Imperial officers were so good to us. It was all very nice and very comfortable, indeed, and No. 1 New Zealand Hospital very much felt the honour that had been conferred upon it by being sent to so important a field. There were rumours of torpedoes, of course, and we had lifebelt drill for two days, but we really hardly took it seriously I am afraid. On Friday we were picked up by a convoy — a French torpedo destroyer — and L ( think we girls were only then aware that they were really afraid for the Marquette, and even then took it for granted that it was only precautionary on account of our very valuable cargo of mules, etc., especially as the destroyer left us that night. At breakfast next morning they told us that we would be in port by midday, so the danger seemed past, and we were mostly enjoying a brisk walk on deck, as it was very cold and we felt it after Egypt, when the crash came, and it was simply awful and no one had any doubt as to what had happened and several saw the periscope quite near. AVe all rushed for our own lifebelts. Everyone was so calm, and although men and girls alike were as white as sheets, no one cried or spoke even, except to give orders. We had had our places at the boats detailed to us, but it was then the trouble arose. They were not managed properly and the ropes refused to act. We werehowever, put into the boats, and the next minute we were floundering in the sea, and the Marquette appeared to be tipping right over on top of us. Some of them struck out, but to me and those quite near me an absolute miracle happened. In what seemed barely a second a high wave had washed us rijrht aft past the very end of the boat. I'll never understand that part, for she was a huge boat and we were at the other end. It was all pretty awful then for a whilo, and then the Marquette sank as if she had been a

tiny cockle shell, and so quietly. There was no explosion, and that also was a miracle. After a fearful experience of what seemed to me touching the bottom of the sea, I found myself and my friend and a Tommy clinging to a bit of wreckage and perished with cold, and my little chum terrified. We were thrown with a lot of the others for a while, but bye and bye we all got separated. Another sister joined us, and we four just managed to hang on by our hands to our life-saving board. It was all to awful and too harrowing to write about. My friend died some time in the afternoon, and the only thing that made me let her go even then was the thought that we would be the next. The Tommy went off, too, and then Sister and I climbed right up on to the board, and lay front down on it and let the waves do as they liked. Then we saw the smoke of a steamer. It seemed so far off though, and then another of those big and miraculous weaves came and washed us, all in a half-minute, right up to the very side of the life boat they sent out — or so it seemed to me. We were taken on board a British mine sweeper, and never can I tell you how good those men were to us. It was almost four o'clock then and we had been tossed and tossed for miles since 9 a.m., so I needn't tell you how we felt. Later, about midnight, we were taken to a hospital ship. More kindness and comfy beds in lovely, big, two-berth cabins, but the suspense of waiting for the others to come was awful. By the morning fifteen of the sisters were on board, and eleven more came that afternoon. We had all been rescued, and about the same time the others were picked up by the French ships. Some of them had managed to keep to the Marquette lifeboats or to be picked up by them, but it was doubtful blessing for they were almost under water and kept tipping over and over. One sister sat on an upturned boat with a couple of men all the time. The awfulncss of being tipped out so often terrified and exhausted others. In all we found no less than ten of our sisters had srone — nearly all wo knew to have died of exhaustion. I think about n dozen of our New Zealand men too, and the rest were the R.F.A. boys, in all I think about 160. So awful — and yet T

think so wonderful that so many were saved, and all except two or three quite well except for shock and bruises and a very troublesome lachrymose condition, and even these minor complaints quite gone now. • Our matron is very ill, and we did not think for a few days she could possibly recover, but she is better now. They got her into a boat after two hours. There is so much I have felt tempted to write, but then I dare not. The censor would only score it out, and anyway no good would be done, and it is all over now, and surely its all for the best, though it seems so strange and beyond our comprehension. • We were in Salonika till Friday evening, and on Wednesday all the survivors got orders to go ashore. We were billeted in two hotels, the boys and men in a cotton mill, and when we left they were beginning a form a camp and about fifty bed hospital to start with, which was all the equipment they could get from headquarters. A couple of the officers are returning to Alexandria to see about the rest of the equipment. It is very sad losing such a grand hospital. It had been wonderfully equipped on leaving Egypt. X. Ray plants and dynamos for electric lighting the whole camp, and one hundred European pattern tents, etc., and had we been landed as we expected we were to have proceeded right to the front at once. Instead they had to send a clearing hospital forward. Our medical officers were fearfully sad at that ; thev wanted the New Zealand hospital to bo in the thick of it. It was hoped enough of us would have been able to volunteer to remain, but only about eight were fit. We were ordered back on Friday to our friend, the hospital ship, bound for headquarters at Alexandria for equipment, and with a very urgent demand from our officers that we shall be sent back again as soon as possible. We were at Lenmos all day yesterday. It is so wonderfully interesting, < n nd today we are out on the ocean again, and it's a sad and sorry feeling to be going back; nothing would matter if we were all here ; that is the awful part. This is the most beautiful hospital ship. How little we knew when we fondly

imagined the Maheno the best ship afloat ! 1 believe the operating theatre is more elaborate than any other, but that is certainly all. This is beautiful, but they say not nearly as good as some of the other English ships. Our clothes have been Avashed and dried, and the ones with cotton uniforms were the best off, as the woollen ones have shrunk so. The ship 's nurses have given us all their mufti, and we have red cross singlets and woollen golf coats of khaki. The town of Salonika is in such a state of political upheaval that we were not allowed out in the streets at all. You have no idea what a plight it is to be in. Talk about the destitute ! However we laugh and joke now, that part of it matters least after all. One feels ashamed for sometimes grieving over sunken treasures. We were all so well stocked, too, and we were told to prepare for hardships and possibly months without shopping, and we bought Port Said quite out of woollens and every possible thing. Our equipment will, I expect, be replaced. (This was done at once and each sister given £50). There was an inquiry on H.M.S. Talbot, Another sister and I had to go. It was very trying, but when over the commander insisted on our staying to lunch. The commander of the battleship H.M.S. Albion was also present. Never have I met two such charming English gentlemen. They were so good and kind, and made us laugh and petted and flattered us as though we were queens instead of two very dra ggled looking nurses in shrunken dresses and no hats and black eyes, and when they couldn't show their sympathy and kindness any more and we were just leaving, the commander called for cheers for New Zealand nurses from his bluejackets, and I wish you could have heard those three British cheers. It made one thrill. To-day (Monday) we will be in Alexandria, and such a sad coming back. We are experienced soldiers now, and should. I daresay, feel proud, but I'm only a tin soldier. Strange that we should have had AH Saints' Dav services yesterday. It helped to comfort us. for those who have gone.

KINDNESS OF THE FRENCH. A nurse writing from the Grantully Castle when returning to Alexandria after the torpedoing of the Marquette speaks warmly of the kindness of the men on the French torpedo destroyer, which came to their rescue. She says: "They were simply splendid with their hot drinks, hot brandy, coffee and dry clothing. You might have been almost amused to have seen us packed away, two at the head and two at the feet of their ship bunks. M Sister also remarks on the French hospital ship "beautiful beyond words, M where the sisters were put into cabins with little bathrooms leading out and every comiort, The sisters on the staff were so kind, giving shipwrecked ones clothing, hairpins, toothbrushes, etc., as they found it very awkward to be suddenly bereft of the most common necessities. MEMORIAL SERVICE AT CHRISTCHURCH. Address to the Nurses at the Memorial Service held at Christchurch for the nurses lost in the Marquette, by the Bishop of Christchurch : Nurses, I wish to speak to you especially. We are gathered here in this Church with the names before our eyes of those whom many of you knew and loved, and who were closely bound up with you in the community of your calling, of discipline and of service. What was the character of the worship that morning? It was first to consider the solemnity of death, for death was very solemn, and it was not right to make light of it. We had not come to grieve, or to mourn, or to pity, but rather we had come to give God thanks and to rejoice at His servants' deliverance from the pains and sorrows of this world. There was, he thought, no more blessed thing in all the world than a life spent in service, such as theirs had been, with an ending as swift as theirs. What should we pray for ? We turned to the prayers of early days, so very real and so very simple, prayers for rest, place and refreshment for the souls of those who had passed away. In our

prayer that gathered round our earthly life even lest and we entered into the spiritual presence, praying in the language when soul met soul, and even altogether filled with the presence of God. Thirdly we thought and meditated on the examples shown by those who had passed. Christ did much for women in the early days. He lifted them up from their bondage, and He found in them a power of service. Women came to the front in so many gifts of mercy. But afterwards women, like the men, fell away. Women's work for the Church died, with infinite loss to the Church. He could remember the day when it was thought to be a terrible and dreadful thing for women to take up nursing, but all that was now changed. The women had now their place and work in the Church, and their guild of service throughout the world. And so with those few who had gone out on active service at the front, with their lives suddenly cut short. They stood as an example to all, as to what our lives should be. The Church was still making much of the All Saints' festival, and the saintliness of the Church was largely composed of the heroic unknown. Nurses should not be ambitious of preferring such work, like that of whom they were thinking, nor refiret that they could not go to the front, or be drowned in the Aegean Sea, nor think they could not do their work unless they died the death of the martyrs. St. John, living in his old city at Patmos, was just as great as his brother St. James, slain early in his ministry. MEMORIAL CHAPEL. It is purposed to erect a chapel at the Christchurch Hospital in memory of the nurses, three of whom belonegd to the staff of that Hospital, who were lost in the Marquette, and for this purpose a collection was started at the memorial service in Christchurch. At Kumara two beds were recently dedicated to the memory of Helena Isdell, who was matron there when she left on active service, and of Mabel Jamieson, who belonged to that district.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/periodicals/KT19160101.2.18

Bibliographic details

Kai Tiaki, Kai Tiaki : the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, Volume IX, Issue 1, 1 January 1916

Word Count
3,277

A PERSONAL ACCOUNT BY A NURSE. Kai Tiaki : the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, Volume IX, Issue 1, 1 January 1916

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