Alice Gordon Elliott nee King was a truly inspiring person who dedicated her life to serving others.
Outbreak of war
Originally completing her training as a nurse at the Australian General Hospital in 1911 she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service on the outbreak of war.
She left Tasmania for Egypt on the Troopship Geelong on the 20th of October 1914. Along with Sister Radcliffe from New Zealand she was one of the first two Nurses to leave Tasmania for the war.
Sister King arrived in Alexandria in December 1914 and was posted to the Mena House Hotel which they converted into a hospital. This site was close to the Pyramids and where the Australian soldiers were based at Mena camp.
In February 1915 she was among 10 nurses who were sent to Ismailia on the Suez Canal to prepare a hospital as the Turks were preparing to attack the canal. This first experience of combat nursing for her is discussed in a collection of rough hand written notes held by LINC Tasmania.
“On the morning of Tuesday February 2nd 1915 the Turks attacked the Canal at Kantarak, Lake Tuisal, Losson and Serapeum, the attack at Lake Tuisal was about 4 miles away from our hospital but shells fell into the Lake and in Ismailia itself; at first we could only hear the guns in the distance, but they sounded very close later on that day. There was more fighting again on the Wednesday and we began to get in some patients, some of whom were very badly wounded and on Thursday we admitted more cases, but only about 14 altogether. This was for us our first experience with the wounded and the sound of guns, so it was quite a gentle breaking in for the distressful days of Gallipoli.”
In early April 1915 Alice sailed on the hospital ship Sicilia to the Greek Island of Lemnos to prepare for the attack on Gallipoli. Alice says the following about this and other experiences, taken from a copy of a Department of Veterans Affairs file held by LINC Tasmania.
“I served on Hosp. Ship duties in Mediterranean waters for 12 months, carrying wounded & sick from Cape Hellas, Anzac Beach and Salonika, to Alexandria or to Malta, and after the evacuation of Gallipoli, carrying patients from Alexandria to England & from Malta to Naples where our patients were transferred to larger ships for transport to England.”
After time in England and France, Alice was sent to Belgium in August 1917
“In August 1917, I was sent to No. 1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Ooersteen in Belgium, where we received very heavy casualties from Paschendale & Polygon Wood engagements. Sister Radcliffe & I were on Theatre teams, (Surgeon, Anaesthetist, Sister, Orderly) & at one time we were 6 hours at the operating table, off for 4 hours rest, on again for 24 hours., & when 2 relieving teams arrived we worked a 16 hr. period; this heavy workload lasted about a fortnight, when things quietened somewhat in that sector.”
On the 20 December 1917 she married Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hazell Elliott. After her resignation in consequence of marriage Alice continued to do volunteer work until she returned home at the end of the war in July 1919.
After the war
Alice was active in many Associations, charities and committees. She was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Hobart in 1924, a role she continued until 1961 when she moved to another district. Alice served as a special Magistrate for the Children’s court for 16 years until her work in the 2nd World War became too pressing.
World War 2
Alice performed a variety of roles during World War 2. She was made Commandant of Voluntary Aid Detachment 605 where she lectured in First Aid, War Gases as well as starting the House Nursing Lectures to her detachment. She was in charge of the First Aid Post under Civil Defence at the Hobart High School in North Hobart. Here she organised arrangements & lecturing in First Aid & House Nursing to Helpers at the post, as well as compiling lists of necessary equipment for the Civil Defence Office.
Awards and honours
Alice was awarded an O.B.E. in January 1956.
Made a life member of the Retired Soldiers Association in 1956.
Awarded the Duchess of Glouchester's Certificate for work in Voluntary Aid detachments during World War 2.
And was Mentioned in Dispatches during the Gallipoli campaign for her work in hospital ships.
Lest we forget
At the end of Alice's Department of Veterans Affairs file she added this final note about some of the women she had served and trained with:
"Sister Radcliffe & I served together throughout our Active Service until my marriage in Dec. 1917. She too was Mentioned in Despatches for Gallipoli. She returned from Active Service with badly strained heart & died in from this cause suddenly in April 1922.
Sister Isabel Edward returned sick after the war, married (Barwick) & died of Angina suddenly in 1922?
Matron Miles Walker died of Pneumonia Influenza while in charge of a Camp Hosp. on Salisbury Plain.All were trainees of the Hobart General Hospital."
Alice passed away at Lindisfarne on the 29th of August 1977.