Nursing in war and peace: the life of Matron Rose Creal (1865-1921).
Rose Creal's parents were born in Ireland and they belonged to the Catholic faith. They were poor, relatively uneducated and a record of their lives did not warrant inclusion in history. In contrast, Rose Creal was an Australian woman who held a senior position in a sought-after profession for more than 20 years prior to her death. She was well educated, well paid, had the fight to vote in political elections and earned the respect and affection of her colleagues and members of the community. She served in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) with distinction and provided support to Harry Chauvel's lighthorsemen as they moved through Palestine and liberated Jerusalem. When she died, mourners were turned away in their hundreds.
Early family life
Matters of religion are often bound to significant events in life such as births, deaths and marriages. On 17 March 1872 a young mother, Ann Creal, aged 34, was about to give birth to her seventh child. The birth of a child for any woman, be it her first or seventh, is a significant event, but this day proved to be monumental for the Creal family--not only did the newborn son die but so too did his mother. Such catastrophes were, unfortunately, not uncommon in the gold-mining districts of Australian colonies in the 1870s. Ann and her son, Hugh, were buffed in Forbes in the central-west of the colony of New South Wales.
John Creal was 39 when he married Ann Brady, who was 15 years his junior. It was not unusual at this time for the children of a marriage to be born at home, often without access to a midwife or doctor. Unfortunately, it was also not unusual for children to die during birth or their first year, and within a year of her marriage Ann gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, who died that same year. The places the Creal children were born, baptised and buried were the centres closest to new discoveries of gold in New South Wales--Young, Forbes and Parkes. The new-born baby Elizabeth died at Young and her death was registered at Forbes.
The following year, in 1864, William Henry was born and Rose Ann was born on 3 November 1865 at a place called 'Five Mile Rush' near Young. She was baptised in a Roman Catholic church on 10 December the same year, also at Young. In quick succession another three children were born, John Thomas (1867), Elizabeth Frances (1868) and Jane in 1870. The impact of the death of Ann and her newborn son in 1872 on the life of the young Rose Creal, who was just seven years old at the time, must have been profound.
Education and nurse training
John Creal was responsible for two sons and three daughters aged from two to eight years. Rose was educated at home by her father, but as the eldest female in the family she would have had a high level of responsibility for her younger siblings. When she was in England after World War I, awaiting transport duty home, Creal enrolled in the Merrick Non-Military Employment Scheme and elected to complete a course in 'elocution' which suggests a degree of self-consciousness about her schooling.' It was not uncommon for young girls to receive most of their education from their parents and extended family within their home at this time.
Education for children was perceived as something of a luxury and it was certainly not of particular importance to the residents of Young at this time. When a proposal to build a school was put to the community the response was hardly enthusiastic. The formal response to the Department of Education was that:
... we are not particularly desirous to obtain education for our children, in as much as they are very useful to us at home; but should the board establish a school, erect buildings and appoint teachers without trouble or expense to us, then--to oblige the commissioner--we should have no objection to sending them to school when they can be spared. (2)
Creal received sufficient education to be considered a conscientious worker at the local hospital in Parkes when she was 15 years old. She reputedly had a high degree of common sense, as outlined in a letter about how she came to begin her training at Sydney Hospital. It reads:
Rather interesting how Miss Creal began her training at Sydney Hospital. The story goes that in a country hospital the surgeon in the operating theatre struck trouble, great trouble. Not enough assistance, so he says, 'Tell Rose to come to the theatre and scrub up, she is a very sensible gift and will do as she is told.' Rose did so and acquitted herself so well that she was sent to Sydney Hospital to train. (3)
The matron of the hospital in Parkes enabled Creal to gain a position as a probationer at Sydney Hospital. Creal had started work in Parkes as an unskilled assistant in 1881 and within 10 years she was a head nurse at Sydney Hospital; her natural ability as a nurse was apparent. As a nurse leader she was described as a strict disciplinarian who evoked respect as well as affection. Unfortunately for her nurses, she found the workload of a nurse to be easy going, indicating she had grown up in an environment where hard work was the norm. (4)
Nightingale nurses in Sydney
There is no evidence that being Catholic was a barrier to Creal entering a nurse training program at Sydney Hospital--which was administered by nurses, who were well schooled in the importance of religious egalitarianism. The founder of the Nightingale system of nurse training, Florence Nightingale, had already grappled and come to terms with a number of issues relating to religious sectarianism when she founded the Nightingale system of nurse training. (5)
Twenty years before the Crimean War the first Catholic bishop in Australia, Dr John Polding, asked the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Charity in Ireland to send out some nuns to attend to the needs of the poor, the infirm and the sick. Five Sisters arrived four years later on 31 December 1838 and initially worked from a house in Parramatta, in the colony of New South Wales, but a number moved to Sydney in 1839, where they served the community. The need for a free hospital became apparent and in February 1856 the residence 'Tarmons', which was situated on the harbour, was transferred to the Sisters of Charity. While it is claimed that 'the only criteria for admission to the hospital, called St Vincent's Hospital, were sickness and poverty' the founding charge sister, Sister Baptist de Lacy, was obliged to leave when it was discovered that she had allowed Protestant bibles into the hospital 'for use by certain patients'. (6)
Florence Nightingale, a Protestant and the founder of secular nursing, had gained a strong reputation following the Crimean War and had introduced the Nightingale System of Nurse Training at St Thomas' Hospital, London. Miss Lucy Osburn and four other Nightingale-trained nurses arrived in New South Wales on 5 March 1868 to introduce the Nightingale principles and begin, rather like missionaries, training others along similar lines. (7) The site of the then Sydney Hospital had been decided by Governor Macquarie, who named the new street after himself, and the hospital was commissioned in 1816. It was staffed by qualified doctors and convict men and women who acted as nurses. (8)
Osburn, although a Protestant, was often accused of trying to create a culture of Catholicism in the hospital. She was even criticised by the Protestant Standard for worshipping at the Anglican Christ Church St Laurence--apparently it was too High Anglican. (9) She refused to be bullied in this matter and endured a number of inquiries into her administration during the first five years. However, in 1873 a Commission of Inquiry into the Public Charities of New South Wales found 'the duties of the nursing staff were discharged in a highly satisfactory manner under the efficient management of Miss Osburn, and that the good effect of the introduction of the Nightingale system was abundantly clear. (10) Finally, in 1875, Osburn was given full control over the management of the nurses, cooks and hospital servants within the hospital. (11)
The preoccupation with secular matters during the development of nursing in Australia reflects the general distrust between Catholics and Protestants. These matters were not ancient history when the Irish Catholic, Rose Creal, was trying to gain entry into the training program. For instance, when the now Royal Melbourne Hospital sought funds to erect the hospital in the 1850s it was essential that the administrators had the support of all the clergy without appearing to be denominational. This was during a time when a Catholic priest felt he could not, in conscience, reciprocate the courtesy call of an Anglican minister. (12)
Matronship of the Sydney Hospital
In 1884 Miss Rebecca McKay became the most senior nurse of Sydney Hospital and the following year the title of 'matron' was introduced. (13) When McKay took over the reins from Osburn there was ever-increasing pressure on Sydney Hospital to supply 'trained nurses' for senior positions in country hospitals and 20 additional probationers were hired; Creal was probably one of them. (14) Significantly it was not until 1887 that the board of directors required nurses to complete a two-year training course and pass a prescribed examination before issuing a hospital nursing certificate; these decisions and requirements were locally determined by each hospital. (15)
Creal was fortunate when she became assistant matron to Julia Ellen (Nellie) Gould. Gould was a Welsh-born, well-educated woman who had migrated to Australia and began her training at the (later Royal) Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. During Gould's matronship, in 1895, the title of 'head nurse' once again reverted to 'sister' and 'with this change disappeared the last trace of religious intolerance'. (16)
Gould was a competent leader who resigned the matronship in 1898. Creal became acting matron and her appointment was confirmed in February 1899. (17) Creal was 34 years old, the same age as her mother at the time of her death; two women who had vastly different lives due, in part, to the developing professionalism of nursing and the autonomy it brought to certain women. Like Gould before her and Adelaide Maud Kellett after her, Rose Creal, as matron of Sydney Hospital, regularly attended services at St James' Anglican Church. (18) The need for an association of trained nurses in Sydney was mooted as early as 1892 but it was not until 21 July 1899 that the NSW Trained Nurses' Association came into existence. It was in the boardroom of the Sydney Hospital that it was deemed necessary to form a committee so as to 'distinguish the trained nurse from the untrained nurse amongst the many so-called trained nurses'. (19) Rose Creal, matron and superintendent of the training school of Sydney Hospital, was in attendance at the first and subsequent meetings. Due to the growing interest by nurses, doctors and the community in the role of the association a name change was needed to reflect the expanding role. The Australasian Trained Nurses' Association (ATNA) came into effect at the meeting of 1 December 1899. (20)
Dr Norton Manning was the first president and it was 30 years before a nurse was finally appointed to this position. (21) Like Nightingale, the Australian nurse leaders harnessed the support of sympathetic and powerful medical leaders like Norton Manning (a mental health reformer) who was convinced that trained nurses were an advantage to the health and welfare of his patients. (22) The original ATNA register incorporated the names of 598 nurses 'from all states of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji' and included information about their hospital training and occasionally their family history. Significantly no reference was made to their religion. (23)
When Rose Creal became matron of Sydney Hospital it was at a high point of its reputation--buildings had been completed, its nursing staff was in high demand and valued due to their competence and there was no obvious discord between the board of directors, the honorary medical officers or the nursing staff. (24) The colony of New South Wales was coming out of a serious economic downturn and the rural areas had suffered a severe drought. Colonial troops and colonial nurses were in South Africa as Britain fought the Boers. (25) Colonial troops volunteered out of patriotism and colonial nurses, including those from New South Wales led by Nellie Gould, volunteered to nurse these patriots who died of disease twice as often as they died of wounds. (26) On Gould's return to the newly federated Australia she became instrumental in establishing the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). (27)
Creal was a low-profile high-achiever; she was a participant in most of the significant events which shaped nursing in Australia at the turn of the 20th century, including military nursing. Nurses who joined the AANS during peacetime and attended prescribed lectures were the first to be called upon when World War I broke out in August 1914. These civilian trained nurses, including Creal, were known as 'efficients'. Each of the six states was assigned a principal matron. (28) When Gould left Australia for overseas duty with the first contingent of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), Creal was once again her successor and she became the principal matron of 2 Military District (NSW). (29) Miss Gould records that:
... Miss Creal, R. took over the duties of Principal Matron from the 28th September in No. 2 Military District, and very ably did she do it, as witnessed the thorough way in which all details of equipment were carried out, as each batch of reinforcements came forward. (30)
Creal's role in this position was an adjunct to her main duties and she, like a number of hospital matrons, was feeling the effects of nursing staff shortages due to the enthusiasm of nurses who wanted to serve overseas. (31) One of her main responsibilities was to interview prospective nurses for overseas duty, including 12 New Zealand nurses who were attached to the AANS in 1915. (32) Creal was acutely aware that many of her trainee nurses would ultimately end up being part of the AANS and their first postgraduate nursing experience would be in a war zone. The need for excellent surgical skills as opposed to paediatric experience may account for the apparent emphasis on the former at the expense of the latter. (33)
Although a number of nurses joined the AANS during World War I, only those who served overseas enlisted with the AIF. (34) Creal was 49 in 1916 when she enlisted with the AIF and the attestation papers she signed elicited personal details including her religion, which she clearly wrote was Church of England. (35) The years 1914-18 beggar description from a humanistic viewpoint and 1916 in Australia was a watershed at a political level. (36) Creal's decision to leave her beloved Sydney Hospital at this time may have been influenced by a number of external political events such as the Easter Uprising in Ireland and the conscription debate in Australia.
A question of conscription
In Ireland, there had been a slim chance for 'home rule' and it was hoped that finally what was referred to as the 'Irish Question' by the politicians and 'The Troubles' by the people of Ireland would be amicably resolved. (37) However, the Sinn Feiners did not want home rule but preferred to be a separate nation severing all ties with Britain. To this end, in Dublin, on 24 April 1916, Padraic (Patrick) Pearse proclaimed a provisional government of the Irish Republic. (38) The next five days witnessed a brutal response by the British forces and the terms 'Easter Rising' and 'Bloody Sunday' entered the lexicon. Fourteen rebel leaders were court-martialled and executed on subsequent days; Pearse was the first to be shot by a firing squad on 3 May 1916 at 3.30am. (39)
Although the rebellion was quickly quashed it had global ramifications. Irish Catholics were scattered around the world and many like those living in Australia were being asked to volunteer to defend the 'Mother Country'. (40) Australian Prime Minister William (Billy) Hughes introduced a debate on military conscription; he was either in contempt of, or oblivious to, the implications of such a debate which was in direct contravention of the spirit of his Labor Party policy platform. (41) Hughes spent a great deal of 1916 in Canada and England convincing the Allies of Australia's commitment to victory at all costs. (42) On his return to Australia, Hughes argued that an additional 130,000 Australian men were needed by March 1917 and the conscription question should be put to a national referendum. A parliamentary majority approved the referendum question being put to the people but 27 Labor parliamentarians voted against it. (43)
Hughes pursued a 'yes' vote with a vengeance and many unions tried to thwart his zeal by appealing to the rank-and-file workers on the basis of class. Archbishop Daniel Mannix opposed Hughes on what many interpreted as sectarian lines. Mannix, an Irish Catholic, felt compelled to take up a public anti-conscription position following the Easter Rebellion. (44) Patriotism was often touted during the vicious public brawls which were supposed to be political debates. To be Irish and Catholic attracted public attention in 1916.
On 19 August 1916 Rose Creal accepted the position of matron of 14 Australian General Hospital (14 AGH), Egypt, which was to be the main hospital for the Australian soldiers who were about to invade Palestine. The Battle of Romani (3-4 August 1916) demonstrated to the powers that be in Britain that an opportunity to successfully invade Palestine, as opposed to merely defending Egypt, existed. (45) Within five days of enlisting, Creal embarked on the Karoola in Melbourne and a month later she disembarked at Suez and was preparing 14 AGH at Abbassia, a Cairo suburb, for an influx of casualties . (46)
Therefore, Creal was on active service when the results were announced on 28 October 1916 that the first referendum on conscription was defeated nationally, although there was majority support for conscription in Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania. Despite the failure, Hughes felt vindicated because a majority of soldiers who were on overseas duty voted in favour of conscription . (47)
The outcome of the first referendum was to signify the end of the Labor Party as such because Hughes had lost all credibility among the core members. On 14 November 1916, after failing to win support at a special meeting of the Labor Party in Parliament House, then in Melbourne, Hughes made a statement about his position and asked those who wished to follow him to do so. From the 64 delegates, 24 went with Hughes and within 24 hours a new political party, the National Labor Party, was formed. Hughes became leader of the National Labor Party with the support of the opposition for the duration of the war. (48)
The formation of this new political party led to a split in the natural membership of an essentially 'labour' party at a federal and state level. (49) By December 1917, when a second referendum was held, Hughes had lost support for conscription from both the troops and those at home. By this time the horror of the Somme, particularly Pozieres, was fresh in the memory of soldiers who were now unwilling to send another man to war '... against his will'. (50) Nevertheless, the conscription debate 'had exalted the issue to one ... almost of a fundamental religious belief' in Australia. (51)
Despite Creal's dominance in the AANS in Egypt at a time when the Australian lighthorsemen were gaining folklore status, there is minimal historical information about Creal as a military nurse leader. The letters and postcards of nurses who served under her at 14 AGH describe a matron who was kind, firm and just. She met her new recruits at the station to personally welcome them to Egypt. (52) It was necessary for Creal to treat her military hospital nurses, who trained in various hospitals throughout Australia and indeed the world, the same as she treated 'her' Sydney Hospital nurses. One new recruit to the 14 AGH who trained at Sydney Hospital wrote to her mother: 'Matron is so good to our girls tho' we won't admit it to anyone.' (53) There is no evidence that Creal gave preferential treatment to Sydney Hospital nurses--she was 'good' to all nurses who were under her leadership.
Once acute casualties were appropriately managed, Creal allowed her nurses to care for their sick or wounded brothers, friends or loved ones. (54) She attempted to give her nurses additional leave when they had friends or brothers in town on military leave. (55) One nurse recorded that Creal tried to dissuade her nurses from volunteering for service in Salonica because of the shocking conditions endured by those who served on this front. Creal instigated a program whereby the staff of 14 AGH sent 'parcels of groceries to the girls in Salonica' because of the scarcity of foodstuffs. (56) Sister Lowrey (AANS) sent a postcard to her Sydney Hospital training colleague, Sister Campbell (AANS), who was in Salonica. Lowrey reported that 'Matron Creal has a puppy dog and it sleeps on her bed'; a very comforting thought for her friend, who was living an abnormal life under dismal wartime conditions. (57)
At an administrative level Creal had the double task of keeping the two Australian matrons-in-chief (Miss Tracey Richardson, Melbourne, and the matron-in-chief in England, Miss Evelyn Conyers, Horseferry Rd, London) fully informed. She was also responsible for chaperoning white, Christian women in a religiously diverse country as they cared for thousands of men. Creal--although told by her superiors that nurses should not be encouraged to marry--attended a number of their weddings in Egypt. She didn't break the rules and those who married were not allowed to return to duty, but she certainly did not judge them harshly for making such a decision. She was a disciplinarian but staunchly defended any accusation of misconduct laid against her nurses with vigour. (58) Rose Creal had a civilising presence at an uncivilised time in history.
The official historian of the Sinai campaign, H. S. Gullett, recorded that there were
... no words which to tell of the service of the splendid band of Australian nursing sisters who, under the inspiration of ... Rose Creal, matron at the No. 14 General Hospital, greeted the battered men from the front as they reached hospital and nursed them back to strength, or softened the close of their soldier life. (59)
On 1 January 1919 Creal was awarded the Royal Red Cross (1st class) 'in recognition for her valuable services with the British forces in Egypt'. (60)
After the war Creal was transferred to England where her nurses were dispatched for duty in a number Australian auxiliary hospitals nursing Australian soldiers who were awaiting transportation home. Creal not only used the opportunity to undertake elocution lessons under the Merrick scheme, she was granted 10 weeks paid leave to tour British hospitals and learn as much as possible before returning to the Sydney Hospital, where she resumed the matronship in April 1920. (61)
Australia and the influenza pandemic
Antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections but are impotent when faced with a virus. We now know that two surface proteins--hemagglutinin and neuraminidase--define the identity of the influenza virus which caused the death of about 20 million people in less than a year at the end of 1918 and early 1919. (62) Returning soldiers inadvertently brought home the deadly virus (H1N1) and the resultant pandemic was raging in many parts of the world, including Australia.
While Creal and her nurses were caring for convalescent soldiers in England, sectarian bigotry was escalating in Australia. In 1918 the Melbourne Exhibition Building took on a life as an emergency hospital and Archbishop Mannix offered the services of the nursing nuns in the east Melbourne district. Initially the offer was gratefully accepted by the government of the day but confusion about the role of the secular matron, the indomitable Jane Bell (a Protestant), and the Mother Rectress of St Vincent's Hospital resulted in the arousal of public suspicion. (63) This soon escalated into hostile church meetings. A leader of the Wesleyan church, the Rev. H. Worrall, asserted that the 'garb worn by the nuns and brothers, the ceremonies they observe, and the customs they follow are not things which should be introduced into a public hospital'. (64)
The competence of the nursing nuns is not debatable; they preceded the establishment of secular nursing by centuries. Such bigotry at a time when exhausted army nurses were returning home after four years of war and then having to pull their sleeves up again during one of the worst pandemics of the 20th century is difficult to comprehend. A number of AANS nurses died during the aftermath of the war from influenza. (65)
More than a year after the armistice, Rose Creal disembarked from the Aeneas on 12 January 1920 and she was discharged from the AIF at the end of May. There may have been an element of pragmatism in Creal. When she signed her attestation papers on 14 August 1916 she claimed she was 49 years old, but when she was discharged in 1919 she recorded that she was only 45. (66) The reasons for these discrepancies do not relate to female vanity but to the constant revision of the AANS military regulations by the AIF. When the AANS was a reserve during peacetime the age requirements did not need to be too prescriptive. They allowed for a retirement age of 55 years and included a special provision for an extension of two years. (67) However, with the advent of war the standing orders were changed and only single or widowed nurses between the ages of 20 and 45 years were accepted for enlistment. (68) Therefore Rose Creal was outside the acceptable age margin while she was sent overseas. When she returned to Sydney Hospital as the matron in 1920 she was, in reality, 55 years old.
At the time of her discharge, Creal had developed a '... post influenzal cervical adenitis with pressure on left brachial plexus causing neuritis in left arm ...' but signed a medical report stating: 'I am not suffering from any disability due to or aggravated by war service and feel fit and well.' (69) Adenitis is defined as 'inflammation of a gland' but she most likely had a nerve compression in her cervical spine which caused pain in her shoulder which radiated down her arm. (70) This type of pain was not uncommon in nurses who tended to use their neck and shoulders to lift heavy patients and was referred to as 'a shoulder lift'. Creal's decision to seek medical advice demonstrates that she was not opposed to approaching doctors for help when needed and her behaviour, when faced with severe, acute pain the following year was indeed out of character. In August 1921 Creal:
... had acute abdominal pain and refused to see a surgeon. Dr Walker Perry was the Medical Superintendent at the time. Miss Creal absolutely refused to see a surgeon until the pain became unbearable, then it was too late. Miss Creal was taken from her bedroom straight to the operating theatre (ruptured appendix). But all the surgeon could do was incision and drainage tubes, after about a week, an embolism and her death in a few hours, (Sir Herbert Maitland, the surgeon).' (71)
Creal's death certificate supports the nurse's account of the cause of her death on 7 August 1921; appendicitis (one week) and pyelophlebitis (one week). (72) Pyelophlebitis is defined as 'inflammation of the portal vein [supplies the liver] which gives rise to severe symptoms of septicaemia or pyaemia' [toxins in the blood] and the best course of treatment is antibiotics (which were still 20 years from development at the time of Creal's death). (73)
Early surgical intervention may have saved her life and the reason for such irrational behaviour from an otherwise rational person is difficult to discern. As already outlined she was noticed by a surgeon as having a natural aptitude in the operating theatres as a young woman. (74) Therefore, the operating theatre held no particular fear for her as a nurse. It is unlikely that she did not trust the surgeon--Sir Herbert Maitland was a renowned neck and head surgeon who also mastered the skill of plastic surgery at a time when many soldiers were returning home disfigured. He was a remarkable sportsmen and also:
... lectured to Sydney Hospital nurses in 1900-09, and was an early medical member of the Australasian Trained Nurses' Association from 1899 and on its first board of examiners (1906-08). He was first lecturer in clinical surgery when Sydney Hospital became a clinical school of the university in 1909. Students and young doctors were attracted to the hospital for the sole reason that Maitland was there. (75)
Creal and Maitland were contemporaries and ironically two years after Creal died Maitland felt a little unwell and went to his rooms where he died of coronary vascular disease. He, like her, was buried with Anglican rites at Waverley Cemetery. (76)
Three days after her death Rose Creal she was given a full military funeral. St James' Anglican Church was filled to capacity--hundreds of mourners had to be turned away. (77) Media tributes were extensive and in one titled 'Farewell Matron Creal--Mother Chief of Hospital--Friend of Broken Humanity' she was described as a 'woman with a deep religious belief'. (78) There is no doubt she lived a Christian life.
While Creal was known as a Protestant all her siblings remained Catholic including her only remaining sister, Elizabeth, who was later interred with Rose Creal in her Protestant grave at Waverley Cemetery. (79) Nurses of Sydney Hospital also contributed to a trust for the maintenance of her grave in perpetuity. This responsibility now rests with members of the Sydney Hospital Graduate Nurses Association, who are in the process of restoring her grave, which had fallen into disrepair. (80)
Creal's estate was extensive when she died and included cash, shares in public companies, furniture, paintings, war bonds, property and interest earned from a number of mortgages to individuals. Total assets were valued at 5892 [pounds sterling] and her debts were in the vicinity of only 166 [pounds sterling] indicating she was a very competent business woman. Her last will and testament was signed on 18 August 1916, the day before she enlisted with the AIF. Her sister and remaining two brothers were the only legatees. (81)
Following Creal's death past and present nurses contributed to a collection to provide prizes in memory of Miss Rose Creal. The monies were invested and a cheque to the value of the interest (6 per cent in 1925) was drawn each year by the board of directors and the amount was divided equally between the two nurses who gained the highest passes in the May and November fourth-year examinations. The Rose Creal Memorial Prize was highly valued by nurses of Sydney Hospital, but was discontinued in 1985 following the transfer of nurse education into the tertiary education sector. (82)
During extensive wars such as the 1914-18 conflict it is easy to paint history with a broad brush stroke--the danger is in missing the details of the picture. The life and subsequent death of Rose Creal was such a detail. Her contribution to those for whom she cared--family, patients, nurses, soldiers, community--was appreciated and noted. Creal, like many individuals who bypass historical scrutiny, often have hidden stories but when combined with her decision to no longer practise as a Catholic, and instead become a prominent Protestant, at a time of heightened cultural, social and political pressure, these achievements become even more significant.
While it is not possible to ascertain what Creal believed, it is possible to record what she did and the historical framework in which she operated. There is sufficient evidence to conclude that she was a prominent and successful Australian nurse leader. Nursing was to a great extent merit based and there is no evidence that nurses were themselves anything but ecumenical in their approach, but they did not choose their leaders at this time. Politicians, board directors, leaders of the community and medical practitioners determined which nurses would become leaders at the turn of the 20th century.
Those nurses, like Creal, who obtained positions of authority, ensured they did not waste the opportunity; many of the nursing organisations which exist today were founded at this time. Women like Creal approached their task quietly but extremely effectively; the personal cost can only be surmised. Rose Creal lived a full life and there is no doubt that her legacy to Australian nursing is much more than a coveted memorial prize. The political and social environment into which she was born was not atypical but her achievements within that atmosphere of sectarian mistrust were remarkable.
Apart from being a credit to her profession she was a conscientious citizen, which was amply demonstrated by the outpouring of grief at the time of her death. She related to a broad spectrum of society from powerful politicians to the poorest patients; the most revered military leaders to the enlisted man who faced death in the desert; the unskilled probationary nurse to world-renowned nurse leaders. Rose Creal epitomised egalitarianism which is inherent in the principles of secular nursing--no judgments--just an all-encompassing competence and compassion for every patient.
I am indebted to David Kent, Professor in History (University of New England) for his comments and encouragement. I am grateful to Elinor Wroebel, Curator, Lucy Osburn-Florence Nightingale Museum at Sydney Hospital, who has been instrumental in enabling the accompanying image to be published.
(1) Rose Creal, AIF Service Record, record of non-military employment, form D.29, National Archives of Australia, Canberra. While awaiting their return to Australia, a scheme of nonmilitary employment was developed by an Australian, George Merrick Long, to enable soldiers and nurses to attend courses at universities, technical colleges and within industry. An estimated 12,800 soldiers and nurses participated in courses in England.
(2) Young Historical Society, Now and Then 1861-1984. Young Public School 1861-1940: an historical account, 1984, p .8.
(3) Letter, Alisha Baird Omar, 53 Carcoar Street, Blayney (previously Deputy Matron Bridgman of Sydney Hospital), received at Sydney Hospital, 19 January 1961, Lucy Osburn-Florence Nightingale Museum, Sydney Hospital, historical file.
(4) Freda MacDonnell, 'Creal, Rose Ann (1865-1921)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 8, Melbourne, 1981, pp. 142-43.
(5) Cecil Woodham-Smith, Florence Nightingale 1820-1910, London, 1950, pp. 73-74.
(6) Bartz Schultz, A Tapestry of Service: The evolution of nursing in Australia--Foundation to Federation 1788-1900, vol. 1, Melbourne, 1991, p. 22.
(7) John Griffith, 'Osburn, Lucy (1835-1891)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 5, Melbourne, 1974, pp. 377-78.
(8) Frederick Watson, The History of the Sydney Hospital from 1811 to 1911, Sydney, p. 36.
(9) Griffith, pp. 377-78.
(10) Schultz, p. 220.
(11) Watson, p. 139.
(12) Alan Gregory, The Ever Open Door: a history of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, 1998, p. 24.
(13) Watson, p. 168; Schultz, p. 87.
(14) Schultz, p. 87.
(15) Watson, p. 168.
(16) Watson, p. 179.
(17) Ruth Rae, 'Julia Ellen Gould: a civilian nurse and founder of the military nursing tradition in Australia (1860-1941)', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. 92 (part 2), 2006, pp. 165-66; MacDonnell, pp. 142-43.
(18) MacDonnell, pp. 142-43.
(19) Schultz, p. 350.
(20) Watson, p. 168; Schultz, p. 351.
(21) Schultz, p. 351; Ann M. Mitchell, 'Kellett, Adelaide Maud (1873-1945)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 9, Melbourne, 1983, pp. 549-550. Adelaide Maud Kellett, a Sydney Hospital trainee and assistant matron to Rose Creal, succeeded her as matron. A distinguished civilian and military nurse, Kellett was appointed the first nurse president of ATNA in 1929/30.
(22) Schultz, p. 194.
(23) 'Australasian Trained Nurses' Association Historical Background', ATNA Records ML MSS 4144 23 (56), State Library of NSW, Sydney, January 1969. While ATNA included New Zealand trained nurses, New Zealand had addressed the need to differentiate the trained nurse from the untrained nurse with the introduction of a Nurses' Registration Act as early as 1901. See Anna Rogers, While You're Away: New Zealand nurses at war 1899-1948, Auckland, 2003, p. 14.
(24) Watson, pp. 171-77.
(25) Manning Clark, A History of Australia: the people make laws 1888-1915, vol. 5, Melbourne, 1981, p. 170.
(26) Stuart Braga, Anzac Doctor: the life of Sir Neville Howse, VC, Sydney, 2000, p. 49. The British Empire sent 500,000 men to the Boer War; 100,000 became casualties, including 63,644 who were repatriated due to illness, 13,250 died of illness, 5774 were killed in action, 2018 died of wounds.
(27) For a fuller account of the life of Nellie Gould see Ruth Rae, 'Julia Ellen Gould: a civilian nurse and founder of the military nursing tradition in Australia (1860-1941)', Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. 92 (part 2), 2006, pp. 163-182.
(28) Ruth Rae, Scarlet Poppies: The army experience of Australian nurses during World War One, Sydney, 2004, pp. 37, 56.
(29) Report by Miss E. J. Gould, 'New South Wales assistance asked in connection with the collection of historical material for Australian Army Nursing Service, AIF,' AWM 4364/34/6, Butler Papers, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 22 May 1933, p. 2 (hereafter referred to as 'The Gould Report').
(30) The Gould Report, p. 2.
(31) Miss Tait, Acting Lady Superintendent, 'Lady Superintendents Reports', Royal Melbourne Hospital Archives, Melbourne, 2 November 1914; Rose A. Kirkcaldie, In Grey and Scarlet, Melbourne, 1922, p. 14.
(32) Rogers, p. 55.
(33) Ruth Rae, 'Jessie Tomlins: An Australian army nurse World War One', PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 2001, p. 67.
(34) The claim that the AANS nurses were part of the AIF continues to be contentious, as Colonel Butler claimed the AANS 'is not part of the Defence Force', but the service record of AANS personnel more often than not includes a signed 'AIF Attestation Paper for Persons enlisted for Service Abroad'. Rupert Goodman, Our War Nurses: The history of the Royal Australian Army Corps 1902 -1988, Brisbane, 1988, pp. 26-27.
(35) Rose Creal, AIF Service Record, Attestation Paper, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.
(36) L. F. Crisp, The Australian Federal Labor Party 1901-1951, Sydney, 1978, p. 166.
(37) N. Brennan, Daniel Mannix, Rigby Ltd, Adelaide, 1964, p. 115.
(38) Patrick Pearse, 'Proclamation of the Irish Republic', speech presented on 24 April 1916 quoted in The Penguin Book of Twentieth Century Speeches, Brian MacArthur (ed.), London, 1992, pp. 46-48.
(39) MacArthur, p. 47; Brennan, p. 127.
(40) Brennan, pp. 126-28.
(41) Crisp, pp. 135-36. Crisp correctly asserts that Hughes had not contravened anything written in the federal platform but concedes that five of the six states and the spirit of the federal Labor Party were known to be anti-conscription. Ironically, Hughes could have introduced conscription without a referendum by claiming a 'moral mandate' via normal parliamentary processes--see Crisp, p. 211 (n).
(42) J. T. Lang, The Turbulent Years--The autobiography of J. T. Lang, Sydney, 1970, pp. 40-42.
(43) Graham Fricke, Profiles of Power: The Prime Ministers of Australia, Melbourne, 1990, p. 73.
(44) Manning Clark, A History of Australia: The Old Dead Tree and the Young Tree Green 191635, vol. 6, Melbourne, 1987, pp. 33, 87.
(45) H. S. Gullett, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18: Sinai and Palestine, vol. 7, Sydney, 1944, p. 190.
(46) Rose Creal, AIF Service Record, Casualty Form--Active Service Army Form B 103, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.
(47) Charles E. W. Bean, Anzac to Amiens: A shorter history of the Australian fighting services in the First World War, 5th edn., 1968, Canberra, p. 294; Letter, Fred Tomlins (1st Australian Light Horse soldier) to Margaret Tomlins (sister), 15 November 1916 in 'Fred Tomlins Papers 1914-1918', ML MSS 5975, State Library of NSW, Sydney (copy in possession of author); Rae, Scarlet Poppies, pp. 62-63.
(48) Clark, vol. 6, pp. 41-42.
(49) Lang, p. 47.
(50) Bean, p. 294. Australian troops had succeeded in taking the French village of Pozieres from the Germans during the Battle of the Somme. When the Germans realised their position had been lost they bombarded the Australian position for three days. Pozieres is synonymous with the most severe bombardment encountered by any troops on the front in France. The 1st Australian Division lost 5285 officers and men and those who survived had a first-hand account of hell--see Bean, pp. 241-49.
(51) Bean, p. 296.
(52) Letter, Jessie Tomlins (AANS) to 'My Dear People', 14 January 1917 (copy in possession of author).
(53) Letter, Jessie Tomlins (AANS) to Margaretta Tomlins (mother), 4 May 1917 (copy in possession of author) cited in Rae, Scarlet Poppies, p. 35.
(54) Letter, Jessie Tomlins (AANS) to 'My Dear Mother', 18 November 1917 (copy in possession of author).
(55) Letter, Jessie Tomlins (AANS) to 'My Dear Mother', 28 July 1917 (copy in possession of author).
(56) Letter, Jessie Tomlins (AANS) to 'My Dear Mother ', 6 October 1917 (copy in possession of author); Letter, Jessie Tomlins (AANS) to 'My Dear Mother', 28 July 1917 (copy in possession of author).
(57) Postcard, Lowrey (AANS) to Campbell (AANS), in Lucy Osburn-Florence Nightingale Museum, Sydney Hospital, historical file; Rae, Scarlet Poppies, pp. 172-82.
(58) Goodman, p. 86.
(59) Gullett, p. 645.
(60) Correspondence from Base Records Office, AIF (including extract from Second Supplement No. 31093, to the London Gazette dated 1 January 1919, AIF) to Miss E. F. Creal, c/o Miss Turpey, Anson Street, Orange, in Rose Creal Service Record.
(61) Rose Creal, AIF Service Record, record of non-military employment, Form D.29, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.
(62) Jamie Shreeve, 'The killer that came in from the cold', 1 July 2006, in The Good Weekend Sydney Morning Herald Magazine, Sydney, pp. 36-37.
(63) Brennan, pp. 167-68. Jane Bell was born in Scotland and regularly attended Scots Church in Collins Street, Melbourne--J. A. Williams and R. D. Goodman, Jane Bell, OBE (1873-1959): Lady Superintendent, The Royal Melbourne Hospital (1910-1934), Royal Melbourne Graduate Nurses' Association, Melbourne, 1988, p. 40.
(64) Rev H. Worrall, quoted in Brennan, p. 168.
(65) Rae, Scarlet Poppies, pp. 251-53 (appendix 3).
(66) Rose Creal, AIF Service Record, Attestation Papers, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.
(67) Extract from standing orders--syllabus of qualifications necessary to become members of the Australian Army Nursing Service, quoted in Goodman, p. 15.
(68) Extract from standing orders--conditions of enrolment, AANS, AIF, quoted in Goodman, p. 27.
(69) Rose Creal, AIF Service Record, Discharge Summary, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.
(70) B. F. Cape, Bailliere's Nurses' Dictionary (14th ed.), London, 1957, p. 6.
(71) Letter, Alisha Baird Omar, 53 Carcoar Street, Blayney (previously Deputy Matron Bridgman of Sydney Hospital), received at Sydney Hospital, 19 January 1961, Lucy Osburn-Florence Nightingale Museum, Sydney Hospital, historical file.
(72) Death certificate, Rose Ann Creal, Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 (No. 1921/009915) (copy in possession of author).
(73) Cape, pp. 67-68,259,284.
(74) McDonnell, pp. 142-43.
(75) Ann M. Mitchell, 'Maitland, Sir Herbert Lethington (1868-1923)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 10, Melbourne, 1986, pp. 387-88.
(76) Mitchell, pp. 387-88.
(77) McDonnell, pp. 142-43.
(78) WST, 'Farewell Matron Creal--Mother Chief of Hospital--Friend of Broken Humanity' (n/d), in Lucy Osburn-Florence Nightingale Museum, Sydney Hospital, historical file (copy in possession of author). The author gratefully acknowledges Elinor Wroebel, Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Foundation of Nursing, Nightingale Wing, Sydney Hospital for providing details of Rose Creal's funeral and burial.
(79) Correspondence Miss E. Pidgeon, Matron, Nightingale Wing, Sydney Hospital, Sydney to F. Arnold, Monumental Sculptors, 53 Regent Street, Sydney, 14 May 1948, in Lucy Osburn-Florence Nightingale Museum, Sydney Hospital, historical file (copy in possession of author).
(80) Photograph, Ruth Rae, October 2008; Correspondence, Ruth Rae to Terry Clout (chief executive, South East Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service, NSW Health), 4 November 2008; Correspondence, Terry Clout to Ruth Rae, 28 November 2008.
(81) Last will and testament of Rose Ann Creal dated 18 August 1916 in probate file of Rose Ann Creal (copy in possession of author). The author gratefully acknowledges Selena Williams for providing probate details of Rose Creal.
(82) Judith Cornell, 'Sydney Hospital Special Nursing Awards', in Lucy Osburn-Florence Nightingale Museum, Sydney Hospital, historical file (copy in possession of author). When the 'NSW Nurses' Registration Board changed to a new system of electronically generated and marked, multiple-choice format for examinations, hospital based examinations were abandoned' and the 'Rose Creal prize was awarded to the Sydney Hospital nurse who gained the highest marks in the State examinations'.
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|Publication:||Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2009|
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