To all forgotten nurses

HONOUR: BHS trained nurses league's Trina Jones and Ballarat General Cemetery Trust's Anne De Jong at Westcott family grave. Picture: Kate Healy
HONOUR: BHS trained nurses league's Trina Jones and Ballarat General Cemetery Trust's Anne De Jong at Westcott family grave. Picture: Kate Healy

ANNIE Westcott’s final resting place in Ballarat will finally record her name and recognise her service to this nation. Pipers, a bugler and two WWI uniformed nurses will accompany a commemorative ceremony in the Ballarat Old Cemetery next weekend, acknowledging all forgotten nurses, like Nurse Westcott, from WWI.

Ballarat Base Hospital Trained Nurses League raised funds for Nurse Westcott’s headstone, once they learnt one of their own was buried unmarked in a family grave in the old cemetery.

A similar ceremony was held in the Ballarat New Cemetery last year for a forgotten soldier. Ballarat General Cemeteries’ chief executive officer Annie De Jong said it was lovely to have a soldier representative to share in this ceremony, paying tribute to nurses’ contributions in war.

“It’s beautiful for us to recognise the role of nurses in the war,” Ms De Jong said. “There is more and more awareness for nurse contributions during war...conditions in World War I were pretty horrible.”

Nurse Westcott’s story came to light during research for Ballarat General Cemeteries’ book They Answered Their Country’s Call. She started training, aged 24, at Ballarat Base Hospital on January 16, 1899 and graduated three years later. Nurse Westcott worked in Ballarat, as a sister at Maryborough and as matron at Maldon and Inglewood.

Ms De Jong said working conditions for nurses were tough, but the long shifts and dilapidated nurses’ quarters prepared most for greater challenges near the battlefields of Gallipoli and France. 

Nurse Westcott joined the Australian Army Nursing Service in October 1915 and arrived in Egypt just in time for an influx of soldiers evacuated from Gallipoli. To join the AANS women had to be unmarried and aged 21-40, so Nurse Westcott’s service was cut short. She married Frederick Smith in 1917 and moved to Gippsland but later returned to Ballarat where she died in 1951 and buried with family.

The forgotten nurses service will start from Ballarat Old Cemetery gates on Macarthur Street at 10.20am on Saturday, February 27.