Spotlight on the collection: Anzac Girl - Florence Elizabeth James-Wallace

On April 26, 1915, a 29 year old nurse by the name of Florence Elizabeth James-Wallace signed up to join the Australian Army Nursing Service, not knowing that Australian troops had landed at Gallipoli the day before.

Florence, along with the rest of the staff of No 3 Australian General Hospital (3AGH) left Australia in May 1915, believing they were heading for France via England. After arriving in London, they discovered they were instead destined for Mudros, on the Greek Island of Lemnos, just fifty miles from the Gallipoli front. Arriving in early August, two weeks before the ship carrying the hospital supplies, they started nursing the day after their arrival in basic conditions with no clean water or medical supplies.

Amongst the collection of the Fryer Library are two photo albums which belonged to Florence. One of them contains photos taken on Lemnos and in Egypt by Private Albert William Savage, who was a photographer by trade before signing up and being posted to 3AGH.

It is almost certain that Albert took the photos and sold them to nurses with the hospital; Savage's own collection of images is held by the Mitchell in Sydney, and other copies are held around the country.

The images in Florence’s album illustrate the various aspects of life on Lemnos, both for the hospital staff and the men they treated, as well as the life of the villager who called the island home.

Amongst the earliest photos are those showing the Spartan conditions of the hospital before the supply ship arrived, with men sleeping in the open and open sided tents, offering no protection from the elements. The wind blew constantly, and other photos show the sisters’ tents flattened after a gusty night.

Photographs of the World War, 1915 to 1916, F831, album 2, image 2.

Photographs of the World War, 1915 to 1916, F831, album 2, image 4

Photographs of the World War, 1915 to 1916, F831, album 2, image 18

Another photo matches up with a contemporary account by Lance Corporal Archibald Barwick who wrote:

We were landed about 11 o’clock (c11 September 1915)… On the way over (to Sarpi rest camp) we had to cross a long arm of the sea a sort of backwater. It was a short cut so you can bet we went across it though it was up to our thighs in places.

Photographs of the World War, 1915 to 1916, F831, album 2, image 16

The last Australian troops were evacuated from Gallipoli on the night of 19/20 December. The hospital staff spent Christmas on the island before departing Mudros on 17 January, bound for Egypt, where the hospital was re-established. Savage took a Christmas photo of the hospital staff, which also appears in Florence’s album.

Photographs of the World War, 1915 to 1916, F831, album 2, image 21

All of the photographs from the Florence Elizabeth James-Wallace Lemnos album have been digitised and are available to view via UQ eSpace. You can also read more about Florence James-Wallace in a past issue of Fryer Folios.

- Penny Whiteway.

 

Last updated:
9 May 2018