The Great War: Part 1. The hospital scene – there were few to match Jane Bell

INNOVATOR: A STUNNING PORTRAIT OF LADY SUPERINTENDENT JANE BELL, OBE, ON HER RETIREMENT. JANE BELL WAS APPOINTED TO THE ROYAL MELBOURNE IN 1910. SHE INTRODUCED MANY ICONIC “FIRSTS”: THE FIRST SISTER TUTOR, THE FIRST DIET KITCHEN, THE FIRST SISTER IN CHARGE IN THE OPERATING THEATRES. THE FIRST NURSING BADGE FOR GRADUATES OF THE NURSE TRAINING SCHOOL AND MANY OTHERS. VERNON JONES, ARTIST AND SCULPTOR.

She was determined to introduce these respective changes for the sake of nursing in our hospitals.

ADAPTED BY FRANK MORRIS

“Today, the word ‘Hospital’ suggests an establishment where sick or wounded persons can receive elaborate medical or surgical care,” said Rene Dubos in his book, Man, Medicine and Environment. “The word had not always had this meaning.

“It has progressively changed in the course of history; and it will probably continue to change with medical philosophies in the future. The evolving hospital concept provides a striking interplay between individual and collective medicine.”

Hospitals in the Middle Ages provided shelter and succour to pilgrims. They were also places which care for the poor when they were sick, injured or dying. Hospitals were part of a society in which religious practices and institutions held sway.

The words such as “Sister”, “ward” and “patient’ derive from this tradition.

The appalling conditions in many hospitals in the nineteenth century reflected a loss of cohesion and humanity … which was compounded by ignorance of the basis of hospital acquired infections and illness.

Crimean War, ill-managed

This deterioration was brought to notice of a complacent English public by the public collapse of the British Army Hospital in the Crimean War after the Battle of the Alma on September 20, 1854.

William Russell, the correspondent of The Times, reported that “there were not sufficient surgeons, no dressers and nurses, no linen for bandages.”

The decision to despatch Florence Nightingale and her band of nurses to deal with this disaster was made by Sidney Herbert, Minister of War, a lifelong friend and admirer of hers. The historic reforms she introduced into the Military Hospitals at Scutari in 1854 were continued after the Crimean War.

Alas, the Crimean War was probably the most ill managed campaign in British history.

Nightingale’s tireless assaults on the army establishment continued: she was supported for many years by Sidney Herbert until his death put an end to her dream of a reformed War Office.

The reforms by Nightingale brought about much needed change in civilian hospitals as well.

On the Australian scene there were few to match Jane Bell in her determination to introduce these changes in the organisation of nursing in hospitals.

Appointed Lady Superintendent

Bell was born in Scotland in 1873. Then, after both her parents and four of the children died of tuberculosis, Jane and her surviving brother and two sisters migrated to Sydney, with the help of their local Presbyterian congregation, in 1886.

As a result of a request from Henry Parkes, a School of Nursing had been established under the guidance of Florence Nightingale. Its first director was Lucy Osburn. An experienced Nightingale Trainee, Osburn had arrived at the end of 1867 with a party of five nursing sisters.

They established a school at the Sydney Infirmary, later to become The Sydney Hospital.

In December 1894 Jane Bell began her training at Prince Alfred Hospital, completing her Certificate in February, 1898. 

After a period of nursing in Australia and further training overseas, part spent as Senior Assistant Lady Superintendent at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Jane Bell was appointed Lady Superintendent at the Melbourne Hospital in 1910. It later became the Royal Melbourne.

She was the fourth Lady Superintendent.

Next: Like Florence Nightingale, Jane Bell had major problems with the Army during the First War.

Illustrations: Innovator: Miss Jane Bell, the nurse’ statesman and administer, took nursing from what it was like in 1915 to what it is today.                    


RESOLUTE: WHEN BILLY HUGHES TRIED TO INTRODUCE CONCSRIPTION IN OCTOBER, 1916, HE DIVIDED HIS OWN PARTY AND THE PEOPLE OF AUSTRALIA. HE LOST. IN DECEMBER, 1917, HIS INTRODUCED THE SECOND CONSCRIPTION WITH SOME CHANGES. AGAIN, HE LOST. HISTORIAN MANNING CLARK WROTE: “A BITTER EXPERIENCE OF LIFE DROVE HIM TO MAKE OTHERS SUFFER FOR ALL HE HAD BEEN THROUGH.”

THE GREAT WAR: PRIME MINISTER ‘BILLY’ HUGHES AND THOSE CONSCRIPTION ISSUES

Speeches were made, meetings held … and letters written to newspapers!

RONALD W. LAIDLAW

Just about everyone called him “Billy” Hughes. Hughes time in power lasted over 7 years; and with 58 years of his life spent in Australian politics, he hold the record for being the “longest-serving parliamentarian ever.

During the war he became known as “the Little Digger”. Hughes belonged to fives parties and he was expelled from three. He is remembered for being the most clever and controversial member of his day.

In 1916, Hughes paid a visit to England to discuss the progress of the war. He met Herbert Henry Asquith, the British prime minister, and other members of the cabinet. He complained about the way Australian troops had been used at Gallipoli and went on to make a number of requests.

He attended the “special” Economic Conference in Paris where he argued passionately for “an aggressive post-war commercial policy.”

Defeated by the Government.

Hughes got back to Australia on July, 1916. He launched the introduction to conscription in a bid to make up troop numbers.

By doing so, he divided his own party and the bulk of the Australian people. Even many politicians – including the Labor premier, Arthur Holman, most newspapers, capitalists, patriots and conservatives.

But Hughes managed to oppose Daniel Mannix (who became Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne in 1917) as well as anti-conscriptionits, farmers and many others.

Speeches were made, meetings held, posters displayed and letters written to newspapers.

On October 28, 1916, was the referendum. It was a landslide for ‘No’. The voting was 1,087,557 for ‘Yes’ and 1,160,033 voted against.

In 1917, Hughes and his government asked the people to vote a second time on the issue of overseas service. Basically, the people were fed up with the war and defeated the government most soundly.
The referendum went on to reinforce the previous decision. The tally was 1,015,159 for those in favour and 1,181,747 against. It was another whitewash.

Four and half years later, November 11, 1918, World War l ended. Hughes reign ended in 1923. He was born in 1862 and died in 1952.

<< Adapted by Frank Morris from Australian History; The MacMillam Company, 1988.

Illustration: Prime Minister Billy Hughes: Two conscriptions beat him.


LONE PINE: HAROLD “POMPEY” ELLIOTT, COMMANDER OF THE 7TH AUSTRALIAN BATTALION TAKE TIMES OUT BETWEEN THE BLOODY BATTLE OF LONE PINE DURING THE GALLIPOLI CAMPAIGN. IN THE LETTER HE TELLS HIS WIFE: “I SAW WITH MY OWN EYES THE TRENCHES CHOKED  WITH THE DEAD AND DYING …”

THE GREAT WAR: PART 1. LETTER FROM HAROLD ‘POMPEY’ ELLIOTT ON ‘LONE PINE’

During the attack 344 rank and file and 12 officers fell – either killed or wounded.

TEL EL KEBIR, EGYPT

25TH Jan. 1916

My Dear J.C

Your letter of the 22nd Oct. reached me this day … apparently delayed in transit.

I was very interested indeed to hear that your brother was with the 7th. They are out on parade at present, but I will see him when they are return. With reference to my last letter to you and my expectation of going out, I owe my deliverance to one thing.

At the time I wrote I had orders to attempt the capture of a position with a totally inadequate force in my opinion.

We were saved from meeting the fate of the 8th and 10th Light Horse, who were practically exterminated attempting a similarly hopeless task … that we were … urgently needed  for another task … namely, to hold the position known as ‘Lone Pine’.

(‘Lone Pine’ had been captured by the first Brigade. FM)

All these attacks were ordered with one object: the distraction of the Turks’ attention from landing at Suvla Bay, then in contemplation.

My task was (with a Battalion that … did not amount to quite 700 men) to attack a formidable enemy’s work known as ‘Johnston Jolly’. We knew it was held by a large number of men with machine guns giving three tiers of fire. We have since ascertained that it was held by three complete battalions.

We sustained the attack

You can guess whether my doubts were justified.

However, just as we were making preparations for the attack by making blanket pathways attached to wooden poles to throw over the enemy’s wire entanglements as we rushed forward; I was sent for hurriedly; I was ordered to cease all preparations for the attack, move at once to the support of the 1st Brigade whose remnants were being hard pressed in Lone Pine.

Owing to the haste and to some of the men being engaged on fatigue, carrying food and water from the beach to the firing line, and to our machine guns (were) being already engaged with the enemy, I had to move off with only 511 men and 16 officers.

Our task here was comparatively simple compared to the previous attack which we were preparing for; merely, to hold a position already won. Although only partially prepared for defence … we sustained the attack of some 3000 Turks for about 20 hours practically without food and no rest.

Blew him to pieces

The worst attack was made at dawn (at) about 4.30 and kept up till nearly 8 o’clock.

During this attack 344 rank and file and 12 officers fell, killed and wounded. I, myself, my signalling officer and two other officers (were) the only unwounded officers; and 167 men were unwounded.

My Adjutant had had his arm shattered by a bullet after a hand to hand fight with a Turk, who jumped into the trench and tried to bayonet him … he (the Adjutant) with his revolver shot him in the stomach and so saved further trouble.

As he fell, his friends threw a bomb over which burst and blew his head to pieces …

Four of my boys got a VC in the fight which is a record for one Regiment in one fight. I account for it by the fact that the Divisional Commander himself came down about 2 o’clock … He saw with his own eyes the trenches choked with the dead and dying … Three times I, myself, thought it was all over …

<< Letter adaption is from Behind the Lines; Andrew Carroll; 2005; Ebury Press, Random House, London.

Next: Final! The six men were brave enough to jump into the trenches … and they were death before their feet touched the bottom.

Illustration: Harold “Pompey” Elliott”: Four of my boys got a VC; A statue of “Pompey”.


DUCK FOR COVER: ITALIAN INFANTRY ADVANCING ACROSS A STREAM UNDER RIFLE FIRE. MUSSOLINI WRITES: “A SHELL BURSTS NEAR A COLUMN OF MULES, BUT CAUSES NO CASUALTIES. ANOTHER FALLS … SENDING UP A WHIRLWIND OF SPLINTERS. ONE CRIES OUT THAT HE IS WOUNDED.”`

THE GREAT WAR: PART 2. BENITO MUSSOLINI AND THE MOTOR-CYCLES OF DEATH

Their hand grenades rend the air … and luminous rockets furrow the sky.

BENITO MUSSOLINI

Saturday, September 18: At 10 pm the action began. There is the dry, sharp pam of the Italian rifles. The Austrian rifles hasten to return their ta-pum. The motor-cycles of death begin to gallop. Their ta-ta-ta-ta has a fantastic velocity. Six hundred rounds a minute. The hand grenades rend the air.

After midnight the firing is of an infernal intensity. Luminous rockets furrow the sky … while there is desperate firing all along the line. Showers of bullets whistle over our heads. Cries of “Lie down! Lie down!”

I have to get up to yield my place to a wounded man whose arms are dreadfully damaged by the bursting of a bomb. He asks me for water in a pitiful voice, but the stretcher bearer asks me not to give him any. I cover the wounded man with my woollen blanket.

It is cold.

Just after midnight a formidable explosion makes us leap to our feet. An Austrian mine has blown up a part of the hilltop occupied by a platoon of the 8th Company. The stormy sky is cloven by a huge flash and an immense roar fills the valley.

Flattened and levelled by bombs

Other slightly wounded men go by, who are going, without help, to the dressing station. The rifle fire diminishes. Toward dawn it stops. The first night of life in the trenches has been full of incident and excitement.

Early in the morning our guns plaster the enemy positions with projectiles. Then even the guns are silent. There is a mist in the valley. On the hilltop where we are, the sun is shining. In the encampment, the complete and thoughtful silence of soldiers on the morrow of a battle.

Monday, September 20: Day has hardly broken when the captain calls me. I go with him to the most advanced trench. Sheltered by two sandbags full of earth, I can observe the contested ground with a relative tranquillity.

It is a space of about one hundred and fifty square yards. The hummock has lost its special features. It has been flattened and levelled by bombs and mines.

Smashed boulders, large stakes, barbed wire, tatters of uniforms, packs, water bottles – signs of the storm. The Austrians are hardly thirty yards away from us. They do show themselves. There is no joking with our machine guns. The man who shows himself is struck down at once.

We embrace

A Sicilian of great courage, a certain Failla, is standing outside the trench and throwing bombs. At one moment he has no more. Corporal Morani volunteers to take him some. He has hardly reached him when an Austrian bomb falls close to him. For a moment I lose sight of him.

Great anxiety! But he gets up again and comes running towards us. He falls into my arms. He is only wounded. His face is filthy with dust and blood. His wounds are in the leg. He asks me to accompany him to the dressing station.

We carry him on a stretcher; the stretcher bearers, Greco and I. Morani is calm and tranquil. Not a cry nor a groan. A true soldier’s bearing. The medical lieutenant gives a first summary dressing and assures me that the wounds are not very serious. We embrace.

Morani is carried away on the stretcher; I return to my post. A written order arrives: “Bersagliere Mussolini is to report himself, with arms, to the headquarters of the regiment. I put on my pack. An hour’s march. The headquarters is stationed in a rough and modest wooden hut.

“First of all,” the colonel says to me,” I have great pleasure in shaking you hand and I am glad to have you in my regiment …” Adapted by Frank Morris.

<< My War Diary by Benito Mussolini; The Saturday Evening Post, August 9, 1930.

Next: Our war is a war of patience and tenacity.

Illustration: Corporal of the Bersaglieri, Benito Mussolini; Italian Cavaliera in a front line trench overlooking a town held by Austrian Soldiers. 


MATE, THERE A WAR GOING ON HERE …

DIGGER: “I say, Corporal! This is damned funny stew!” CORPORAL: “Funny, is it? Then why the hell don’t ya laugh?” Drawn by a cartoonist on location.

 

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 24 June 16

Stay Informed

Receive eNews & Special Offers

Brochure Request Order

Tour Reviews Read

Last 12 months


Tags