Saturday, 27 May 2017

Remarkable women of Whitehorse and Manningham

Whitehorse Manningham Libraries celebrated International Women's Day, 8 March 2017, with the launch of a series of postcards celebrating the lives of eight remarkable women from the two municipalities. The postcards were illustrated by Edwina Marion and the text compiled by Lara McKinley (Community Stories Project Officer).

The women chosen were Jane Serpell (pioneer fruit grower), Annie Boorat (Wurundjeri woman), Elizabeth Burchill (nurse and author), Lexie Goyder (architect), Ivy Weber (politician), Wilhelmina Schwerkolt (German orchardist) and Janet Muir Gaff (Nurse and adventurer).
Postcard - Janet Gaff (artist, Edwina Marion)
The preliminary research that I undertook in January to locate Janet's story formed the basis for more detailed research required to write the second assignment for the Families at War unit.

Janet's name was included on the Shire of Nunawading honour board now displayed in the foyer of the Box Hill Town Hall. In 2017 Janet was commemorated again in this set of post cards.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Janet Muir Gaff and World War I - Essay

The unit Families at War for the Diploma of Family History, University of Tasmania, required a biographical essay to be written about a soldier or nurse who served during World War I. The difficult part was compressing research into 1,200 words with 10% leeway.

I chose to write about Janet Muir Gaff, a nurse with the Sea Transport Service, whose name is listed on the Shire of Nunawading Honour Board. This post contains a slightly modified version of the essay.

Posts with more detailed information on a range of topics relating to research for this essay can also be found in this blog. - Link to Janet Gaff articles. Links to some of the also sections appear in the essay.



World War I saw more than 2,286 members of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) serving overseas.[i]  Think of First World War nurses and most people justifiably think of nurses working near the battle fronts but nurses also tended Australian soldiers on ships travelling from and to Australia. Janet Muir Gaff was one of 112 AANS nurses who served in the Sea Transport Sections (STS).[ii]  STS nurses played an important role managing the health of soldiers aboard Australian troop ships as well as working in Australian military hospitals in England and Australia. The important work of nurses like Janet should also be recognised.

Janet Muir Steel was born in Glasgow on 21 July 1860.[iii]  At the age of eighteen Janet married Daniel Robb Gaff, a timber merchant.[iv] In 1883 their son was born.[v] Six years later family life changed for Janet when her husband left Scotland to live in San Francisco.[vi]

Janet trained as a nurse working at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.[vii] In 1891 Janet undertook her first long distance ship voyage when the Steel family migrated to Australia to live in Blackburn, Victoria.[viii]

Janet was not afraid of new experiences and challenges so this nurse from Glasgow continued her nursing career in country Victoria, initially at two hospitals in Warracknabeal and then at Willaura.[ix] Working in small hospitals with basic equipment and limited medical supplies no doubt proved useful when nursing with the STS.

From the beginning of the war Janet made financial donations to war related funds.[x] She also wrote letters to the newspapers expressing her concern about the welfare of soldiers during Europe’s winter.[xi]  But Janet wanted to be actively involved in the war effort so she joined the AANS on 11 August 1915.[xii]
 
For the next twelve months Janet worked at the No. 5 Australian General Hospital (AGH) in St Kilda Road.[xiii] As well as treating patients this hospital became a training centre providing AANS nurses with experience in treating war injuries. 

On 2 September 1916 Janet joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as a nurse in the Australian Medical Corps (AMC) No. 4 STS.[xiv] AIF Standing Orders stated:
 A candidate for appointment in Australian Army Nursing Service must have at least three years training in medical and surgical nursing in a duly recognised hospital, and must be either single or a widow, and between the ages of 20 and 45 years.[xv]

Janet certainly had the required nursing experience but she was married and older than 45. Occasionally the age restriction was relaxed so Janet gave her age as 50 years, although she was 56.[xvi] Not having seen her husband for twenty-seven years Janet also declared that she was a widow.

A major factor for Janet’s selection in the STS was probably her experience of long sea voyages, including a twelve month around the world holiday in 1910-1911 plus her original trip to Australia.[xvii] During her war service Janet made the return journey between Australia and England three times.[xviii]

After May 1916 the shipping route between Australia and England was via South Africa to avoid submarines in the Mediterranean Sea.[xix] The HMAT Euripides left Melbourne for England via Fremantle and Durban on 11 September 1916.[xx] Janet was one of three staff nurses aboard with two sisters, an acting-matron and 2,200 soldiers.[xxi] The Euripides sailed in a convoy of ten ships and the crew constantly watched for sightings of enemy ships and submarines. In a letter to her sister Janet stated, “I spent my life dodging submarines”.[xxii]

Staff Nurse Gaff soon learned that nursing at sea was different from nursing on land. Sea sickness was endued by both soldiers and staff. The area where the nurses worked was cramped with poor ventilation. Loose objects could not be left on benches making simple tasks challenging in good weather and almost impossible in rough weather. As well as performing general nursing duties, nurses trained orderlies. Learning ship routines such as life-boat drill was essential and nurses also learned how to work in a military environment.[xxiii]

During the voyage nurses inoculated soldiers against typhoid. Small outbreaks of measles or mumps required infected patients to be isolated as it was essential to limit the spread of infectious diseases.[xxiv] Other diseases sometimes encountered on the ships were pneumonia and cerebrospinal fever.[xxv] On this voyage soldiers were confined to the ship at Freemantle as two soldiers with meningitis had to leave the ship at this port.[xxvi]

As there were only three Australian hospital ships, troop ships were refitted to accommodate the needs of the injured soldiers for the trip to Australia. Mobile soldiers who could look after themselves slept in hammocks but double tiered berths were required for the use of amputees and others needing special nursing care. Sections were also provided for patients with infectious diseases. Deck space was provided for the use of patients and regulations stipulated that there must be adequate ventilation below the decks.[xxvii]

When the Euripides arrived in England on 26 October, Janet was sent to nurse at Southall, the No. 2 Australian Auxiliary Hospital (AAH) which treated amputees. Two weeks later Janet boarded HMAT Wiltshire to return to Australia with injured patients.[xxviii] Hospital staff used invalid boat rolls to select patients returning home on the next ship. Sometimes temporary nursing staff assisted the STS nurses on the voyage.

Between voyages STS staff worked at Australian hospitals in England.[xxix] For Janet this included working for short periods at No. 2 AAH at Southall, No. 3 AAH at Dartford plus the St Alban’s and Southwell nurses’ hospitals. In Australia Janet worked at the No. 5 AGH until returning to England.[xxx]

1918, however, provided a different routine as Janet spent the year nursing at No 3AAH Dartford, Kent, a hospital that specialised with mental illness patients. As a nurse at the AAH at Southall, Janet encountered patients with horrific physical injuries.[xxxi] At Dartford the patients were treated for conditions relating to war trauma. Therefore as well as providing medical services a major role of the hospital was to provide activities and entertainments including concerts, film nights and athletics carnivals to aid patient recovery.[xxxii] But the war was never far away with air-raid warnings some nights.[xxxiii] The influenza epidemic also affected patients and staff in the hospital.[xxxiv]

When in England, Janet also had free time to explore parts of the country. In 1918 Janet and Matron Pocock undertook daytrips to Winchester in May, Seven Oaks and Canterbury in June and Windsor Castle in October.[xxxv]

On 12 December 1918 Janet boarded the Nestor arriving in Melbourne on 1 February 1919. She then worked at No. 5 AGH until her discharge from the Army on 13 March. Janet received the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal for her service during the war.[xxxvi]

Janet returned to Blackburn to live with her sisters however her adventures continued during her retirement. In May 1922 she travelled to Rhodesia to see the Victoria Falls before proceeding to England, Italy, Greece and Egypt.[xxxvii] In 1925 Janet travelled around the world exploring parts of Africa, Europe, South America and the United States.[xxxviii]

Janet Muir Gaff died at Box Hill on 7 September 1940 and was buried at Box Hill Cemetery.[xxxix]

The Shire of Nunawading Honour Board lists 565 names including Janet’s name.[xl]

Janet did not have to join the AANS. Disguising her age and marital status indicates it was important to her to support the Australian war effort overseas and also support her homeland. “Our boys are doing it, so it’s up to us to do it also” was a comment made when told that she was brave.[xli] Like other STS nurses Janet was able to use her considerable experience to care for injured soldiers plus have the compassion and ability to listen to patients affected by the trauma of war. It cannot be denied that STS nurses played an important role in the care and support of wounded Australians during the First World War.

Janet Gaff Muir and World War I - End notes

 Link to Essay - Janet Muir Garr and World War I

[i] Kirsty Harris, More than Bombs and Bandages: Australian Army Nurses at Work in World War I, Newport, Big Sky Publishing, 2011, p. 2.
[ii] Harris, More than Bombs and Bandages, p. 72.
[iii] Family Search, Birth Record for Janet Muir Steel, ‘Scotland Births and Baptisms 1564-1950’, Accessed 20 March 2017.
[iv] Intimations: The Watt Library of Family History Notices 1800-1918, Marriage Record for Daniel Gaff and Janet (Jessie) Steel, ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages Index: Letter G Surnames’, https://www.inverclyde.gov.uk/community-life-and-leisure/libraries/archives-local-history-and-heritage/family-history/intimations, Accessed 20 March 2017.
[v] Intimations: The Watt Library of Family History Notices 1800-1918, Birth Record for Daniel Gaff, ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages Index: Letter G Surnames’, https://www.inverclyde.gov.uk/community-life-and-leisure/libraries/archives-local-history-and-heritage/family-history/intimations, Accessed 20 March 2017.
[vi] Ancestry, Census Record for Daniel Robb Gaff, ‘1900 United States Federal Census’, Accessed 20 March 2017; Ancestry, Census Record for Daniel Robb Gaff, ‘1910 United States Federal Census’, Accessed 20 March 2017; Ancestry, Census Record for Daniel Robb Gaff, ‘1920 United States Federal Census’, Accessed 20 March 2017; Ancestry, Death for Daniel Robb Gaff, ‘California, Death Index, 1905-1939’, Accessed 20 March 2017.
[vii] Ancestry, Census Record for Janet (Jessie) Muir Gaff, ‘1891 Scotland Census,’ Accessed 20 March 2017.
[viii] Public Record Office Victoria, ‘Unassisted Passenger Lists (1852-1923)’ Record Series Number (VPRS): 947, Janet Gaff arrived in Melbourne aboard the “Orotava” on 25 December 1891.
[ix] John Brennan, One Hundred Years of Tender Loving Care 1891-1991: The History of the Warracknabeal District Hospital Inc., Warracknabeal, North West Press, 1991, p. 16.
[x] ‘Travelling Kitchen Fund’, Argus, 9 January 1915, p. 16; ‘The Argus Special Appeal’, Argus, 5 March, 1915, p. 6; ‘Condensed Milk for Belgian Babies’, Age, 15 March 1915, p. 12; ‘French Week Fund – Lord Mayor’s List’, Argus, 19 July 1916, p. 13.
[xi] ‘Rabbit-Fur Clothing’, Ararat Chronicle and Willaura and Lake Bolac Districts Recorder, 24 October 1914, p3; ‘Appeal for rabbits for Patriotic League’, Warracknabeal Herald, 27 October 1914, p. 6.
[xii] Service Record of Janet Muir Gaff, p. 2, B2455, National Archives of Australia.
[xiii] S G L Catchlove, ‘No. 5 A. G. Hospital’, No. 5 A.G.H.: A Magazine Published by the Patients and Staff of No. 5 Australian General Hospital St Kilda Road Melbourne , Vol. 1, Issue 1, August 1918, p. 10.
[xiv] Service Record of Janet Muir Gaff, p. 1, B2455, National Archives of Australia.
[xv] A G Butler, The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War 1914-1918, Canberra, Australian War Memorial, 1943, Vol. 3, p. 545.
[xvi] Service Record of Janet Muir Gaff, p. 1.
[xvii] Ancestry, Shipping record for Janet Gaff, ‘UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960’, Accessed 22 March;  Ancestry, Shipping record for Janet Gaff, ‘UK Outward Passenger Lists, 1878-1960’, Accessed 22 March 2017; Ancestry, Shipping record for Janet Gaff, ‘Honolulu, Hawaii, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1900-1959’, Accessed 22 March; Ancestry, Shipping record for Janet Gaff, ‘New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922’, Accessed 22 March
[xviii] Service Record of Janet Muir Gaff, pp. 27, 29-30.
[xix] Butler, The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War 1914-1918, Vol. 3, p. 665.
[xx] Service Record of Janet Muir Gaff, p. 27.
[xxi] Looking for Evidence, ‘Sea Transport Service – 4th Sea Transport Section (Victoria)’, https://sites.google.com/site/archoevidence/home/ww1australianwomen/sea-transport-section-staff, Accessed 5 April 2017; Greville Tregarthen, Sea Transport of the A.I.F., [Melbourne], Naval Transport Board, [nd], p. 141, https://issuu.com/anmmuseum/docs/sea_transport_of_the_aif,  Accessed 5 April 2017.
[xxii] Janet Gaff to Helen Steel, letter published as ‘Visit to Windsor Castle’, Box Hill Reporter, 29 November 1918, p. 5.
[xxiii] Harris, More than Bombs and Bandages, p. 74.
[xxiv] Harris, More than Bombs and Bandages, p. 73.
[xxv] Butler, The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War 1914-1918, Vol. 3, p. 667.
[xxvi] Murphy’s War, ‘WWI Troopships: Journeys across the Indian Ocean’, http://www.murphyswar.com.au/ww1-troop-ships-across-the-indian-ocean/, Accessed 5 April 2017.
[xxvii] Butler, The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War 1914-1918, Vol. 3, p. 688.
[xxviii] Service Record of Janet Muir Gaff, p. 27.
[xxix] Jan Bassett, Guns and Brooches: Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1992, pp. 70 – 73.
[xxx] Service Record of Janet Muir Gaff, pp. 27, 29.
[xxxi] Australia. Army, ‘No. 2 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Southall Middlesex’, [London: The Qualis Photo Co., 1919?] , Book of photographs of Southall, http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-41192620, Accessed 8 April 2017.
[xxxii] Australia. Army, Souvenir of the No. 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital (Orchard Military Hospital) Dartford, Kent’ part of  AIF Unit War Diaries 1914-1918 War, ‘No 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital’ Dartford’, August 1918, https://www.awm.gov.au/images/collection/bundled/RCDIG1014996.pdf., Book of photographs of Dartford.
[xxxiii] Australian War Memorial, AIF Unit War Diaries 1914-1918 War, ‘No 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford’, October 1918, p. 4. https://www.awm.gov.au/images/collection/bundled/RCDIG1014993.pdf, Accessed 5 April 2017.
[xxxiv]Australian War Memorial, AIF Unit War Diaries 1914-1918 War, ‘No 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford’, May 1918, p. 3    https://www.awm.gov.au/images/collection/bundled/RCDIG1014998.pdf, Accessed 5 April 2017.
[xxxv] Mary Ann Pocock, Matron Bessie Pocock  The Great War 1914-1918, Vol. 4, pp. 34, 36, 38, 47. [Transcript of diary] https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RCDIG0001392/; Gaff, ‘Visit to Windsor Castle’, Box Hill Reporter, p. 5.
[xxxvi] Service Record of Janet Muir Gaff, p. 48.
[xxxvii] Janet Gaff, ‘The Victoria Falls, Rhodesia’,  Age 17 February 1923 p. 6
[xxxviii] [Anon.] ‘Women’s Club Dinner’, Argus, 24 May 1928, p. 18.
[xxxix] ‘Death Notice – Gaff’, Argus, 12 September 1940, p. 4.
[xl] Steven Cooke, ‘Remembering Gallipoli in the Shire of Nunawading’, North Melbourne, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2015, p. 132.
[xli] Gaff, ‘Visit to Windsor Castle’, Box Hill Reporter, p. 5.

Link to:
Bibliography

Janet Muir Gaff and World War I Bibliography

 Link to Essay - Janet Muir Garr and World War I

Australia. Army, ‘No. 2 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Southall Middlesex’, [London: The Qualis Photo Co., 1919?] http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-41192620, Accessed 8 April 2017.
Australia. Army, Souvenir of the No. 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital (Orchard Military Hospital) Dartford, Kent’ part of  AIF Unit War Diaries 1914-1918 War, ‘No 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital’ Dartford’, August 1918, https://www.awm.gov.au/images/collection/bundled/RCDIG1014996.pdf, Accessed 8 April 2017.
Australian War Memorial, AIF Unit War Diaries 1914-1918 War, ‘No 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford’, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RCDIG1000137/, Accessed 5 April 2015.
Bassett, Jan, Guns and Brooches: Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1992.
Butler, A G, The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War 1914-1918, Canberra, Australian War Memorial, 1943, Vol. 3.
Brennan, John, One Hundred Years of Tender Loving Care 1891-1991: The History of the  Warracknabeal District Hospital Inc., Warracknabeal, North West Press, 1991
‘California, Death Index, 1905-1939’, Ancestry, Accessed 20 March 2017.
Cooke, Steven, The Sweetland Project: Remembering Gallipoli in the Shire of Nunawading, North Melbourne, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2015.
Harris, Kirsty, More than Bombs and Bandages: Australian Army Nurses at Work in World War I, Newport, Big Sky Publishing, 2011.
Intimations: The Watt Library of Family History Notices 1800-1918, ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages Index: Letter G Surnames’,https://www.inverclyde.gov.uk/community-life-and-leisure/libraries/archives-local-history-and-heritage/family-history/intimations, Accessed 20 March 2017.
Looking for Evidence, ‘Sea Transport Service – 4th Sea Transport Section (Victoria)’, https://sites.google.com/site/archoevidence/home/ww1australianwomen/sea-transport-section-staff, Accessed 5 April 2017
Murphy’s War, ‘WWI Troopships: Journeys across the Indian Ocean’, http://www.murphyswar.com.au/ww1-troop-ships-across-the-indian-ocean/, Accessed 5 April 2017.
No. 5 A.G.H.: A Magazine Published by the Patients and Staff of No. 5 Australian General Hospital St Kilda Road Melbourne.
Pocock, Mary Ann, Matron Bessie Pocock: The Great War 1914-1918, Vol. 4,  https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RCDIG0001392/
‘Scotland Births and Baptisms 1564-1950’, Family Search, Accessed 20 March 2017.
Service Records, B2455, National Archives of Australia.
Tregarthen, Greville, Sea Transport of the A.I.F., [Melbourne], Naval Transport Board, [nd], https://issuu.com/anmmuseum/docs/sea_transport_of_the_aif,  Accessed 5 April 2017.
‘Unassisted Passenger Lists (1852-1923)’ Record Series Number (VPRS): 947, Public Records Office of Victoria.
‘1891 Scotland Census,’ Ancestry, Accessed 20 March 2017.
‘1920 United States Federal Census’, Ancestry, Accessed 20 March 2017.

Also articles from the following Newspapers
Age.
Ararat Chronicle and Willaura and Lake Bolac Districts Recorder.
Argus.
 Box Hill Reporter.
Warracknabeal Herald.

See also Nursing in World War I - article in Reading and other pursuits blog

Link to
End Notes 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Janet Muir Gaff and family

Janet Muir Steel was born on 21 July 1860 at Milton, Glasgow in Scotland. Her parents were William Steel [1816-1881] and Marion Currie Kyle [1831-1914]. Janet had two sisters and five brothers, all of whom migrated to Australia in the 1890s. [1]

On 11 December 1878 Janet (aged 18) married Daniel Robb Gaff (1849-1921) at St Bartholomew's Church, Gourock. Daniel, a timber merchant, would have been 29 when he married Janet. On 25 January 1883 the couple's only son, Daniel William Steel Gaff, was born. [2] According to the 1881 Scotland census Daniel and Jessie (Janet) Gaff lived in Wellington Street, Greenock, Renfrewshire.

In 1889 Daniel Gaff decided to travel to America and spent the rest of his life there leaving his wife and child in Scotland. Information about Daniel in the United States of America can be gleaned from the annual census. The 1900 census states that he was living in San Francisco, had immigrated from Scotland in 1889, had been in the USA for ten years, was married and that his occupation was a Collector. By 1910 additional information in the record was that he was Naturalised and his occupation was Advertising. It also stated that he was single. In the 1920 census his surname was misspelt as Giff but the information provided was the same as in 1910. Daniel R Gaff died in San Francisco on 22 March 1921 aged 71. [3]  One assumes that he was unaware of the adventures that his wife was having in her new life without him.
Australian Nurses in World War I
When Janet's husband left her Janet had a six year old son to take care of. Fortunately she had a supportive family who would have helped look after him. Janet decided to be a nurse and trained and worked at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in Castle Street, Glasgow. She probably started her training there in 1889 and the 1891 Scotland census shows her working there. Nursing Record November 1891 p 247 contains excerpts of a letter detailing Janet's concerns about conditions at the hospital.  On the same page there is mention of Janet's sister, Helen, who was also a nurse at the same hospital.

In 1891 the ship, Curzo travelled to Melbourne, Australia with Mrs M Steel and Miss M Steel aboard. On 23 October 1891the ship Orotavia left London and arrived in Melbourne on 25 December. Aboard were Miss H M Steel, Mr A W Steel, Mr F W Steel and Miss J M Gaff. [4] There is no mention of Janet's son in the ship passenger lists but children were not always listed. The family travelled as cabin passengers. Other family members also settled in Australia.

The Steel family settled in Blackburn, a small settlement in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Poultry farming and flower and fruit growing were the main activities for the area as listed in The Victorian Municipal Directory.  The family home was Achernar in Gordon Crescent, Blackburn. It must have been a reasonably large home as electoral roll records show many adults living in the house at various times. The 1903 electoral roll shows Janet's mother, Marion Currie Steel, living in the house with two of her daughters, Helen Mary and Marion Margaret, and her son Archibald William. Archibald's occupation is listed as a draper. The women's occupations are listed as home duties. In October 1904 Archibald married Frances Helen Sanders and they lived in the Gordon Street home for a number of years. From 1909 to 1926 Janet's brother, John Shaw Steel, a chemist, also lived in the house. James McLean Steel lived in nearby Box Hill where he was a clerk. Thomas Kyle Steel lived in New South Wales and Frederick William Steel moved to Western Australia. [5]

Janet used the Blackburn house as a base but she spent most of her time working as a nurse in western Victoria, initially at two hospitals in Warracknabeal and then at a hospital at Willaura. In August 1915 she joined the Australian Army Nursing Service and worked for twelve months at the No 5 Australian General Hospital in St Kilda Road before leaving Australia to nurse overseas in the Sea Transport Service.

Back in Australia in 1919, Janet moved back into the family home in Blackburn. Her mother had died in 1914 but Helen, Marion and John were still living at the Gordon Street House. Archibald and Frances moved into a house in Lake Road, Blackburn before eventually moving to Frankston.

In the early 1920s the family moved to 13 Oxford Street, Box Hill before, in 1925, transferring to 4 Rose Street, Box Hill which became the permanent home of the three sisters, Helen, Marion and Janet. This house was also known as Achernar.

Janet loved to travel and, apart from her many sea voyages during the war and the original voyage to Australia, made three other overseas trips.

Shipping records in Ancestry show that Janet arrived in London on 29 April 1910 aboard the Ruapehu. She arrived back in Sydney on 20 March 1911 and had returned home via Vancouver and Honolulu. She was therefore away for a year spending time in Europe and returning home via Canada.  Janet mentioned a winter spent in northern France in letters she wrote to newspapers in August 1914 concerning the welfare of Australian soldiers fighting in France.

In May 1922 Janet left Melbourne aboard the Baradine for London via South Africa and arrived in London on 27 August 1922 aboard the Barrabool. [6] Janet left the Baradine at Cape Town to travel to Victoria Falls before returning to Cape Town to board the Barrabool to London. When she returned to Australia Janet wrote an article about Victoria Falls which was published in the Age 17 February 1923 p 6.

Janet was off for another world trip in 1925. She arrived in Liverpool aboard the Hildebrand on 9 July 1926 after completing a round trip to Brazil. [7] The Argus 24 May 1928 provided a report on a talk Janet made about her adventures at the Women's Club Dinner.
Mrs. Janet Gaff spoke of her experiences during her recent travels abroad. Mrs. Gaff left for Europe by the Ceramic in 1925, during a shipping strike, and from Durban transhipped to a Dutch vessel, which took her up the south-east coast of Africa, past Mozambique, Zanzibar, and Mombasa. After visiting Cairo, Mrs. Gaff went on to Jerusalem, and from Palestine through the Ionian Islands, Afterwards Mrs. Gaff visited Mentone, Paris, Geneva, and London. She spent seven weeks in travelling through Oporto, Lisbon, and Madeira, and thence to the Amazon, down which she travelled for 1,000 miles to the Rio Negro. After returning to Europe she crossed to the United States, where she visited the principal cities before returning to Australia.
Janet was quite an adventurer.

Janet continued to live at Box Hill with her two sisters until her death on 7 September 1940. She was buried at Box Hill Cemetery.
GAFF. — On September 7. at Achernar, 4 Rose-street. Box Hill, Mrs. Janet Muir Gaff (sister, late A.I.F.), most dearly beloved mother of the late Daniel William Steel Gaff, and dearly beloved sister of Archibald W. (Frankston), Frederick W. (Perth, W.A.), Helen Mary and Marion Margaret Steel, of 4 Rose-street, Box Hill. (Age 12 September 1940)
Janet's son, Daniel, had died on 17 January 1936 at his home in Black Rock. On 6 September 1916, when his mother was serving as a nurse overseas, Daniel married Jean Millar at St Peter's Church, Box Hill. According to a notice regarding his estate after his death, he had an adopted son. The electoral rolls listed Daniel's occupation as a clerk.

Sources
[1] Family Search - birth records for Janet Steel and her family
[2] Greenock Advertiser and Greenock Telegraph for marriage (12 Dec 1878) and birth of son (26 Jan 1883)
[3] Census records and death record for Daniel are sourced from Ancestry.
[4] Unassisted Passenger indexes 1852-1923 (PROV)
Passenger indexes in Ancestry UK Outwards Passenger Lists
[5] Australian electoral roll records accessed in Ancestry
[6] Index to Outward Passengers to Interstate, UK, NZ 1852-1923 (PROV). Shipping records in Ancestry UK Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960
[7] Shipping records in Ancestry UK Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Nurses during World War I

According to Kirsty Harris, at least 2,286 members of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) served overseas.(p3) Janet Muir Gaff, one of these AANS nurses, served in the No 4 Sea Transport Service (STS) from September 1915 until March 1919. For twelve months prior to this Janet had worked at the No 5 Australian General Hospital (AGH) St Kilda Road.

Before leaving Australia, nurses needed to  make sure that they had the necessary clothing and supplies that may be needed when working overseas.

Nurses serving overseas were expected to supply their own uniform. According to Butler, when they enlisted the nurses were provided with a £21 outfit allowance to assist with the purchase of the uniform. Initially there was an annual allowance of £16 for maintenance of the uniform.Later there was a daily allowance of ten pence for maintenance and another ten pence for laundry of clothing items. (p 547)

The nurses required an outdoor uniform as well as the uniform worn when nursing in the hospitals. Because the women had to organise their own clothes there was some variation in the clothes worn. There were also different regulations for the outdoor uniform in 1914-1915 compared with 1916-1918. The Australian War Memorial has three blog posts with photos describing the outdoor and working uniforms of Australian nurses.

The AWM website provides the following description of the working uniform.
The working dress, or ward dress, introduced in 1914 remained virtually the same throughout the war, except for a slight shortening of the skirt in line with fashion. The working dress for the entire 1914-18 period consisted of:
  • A grey zephyr cotton dress similar in pattern to the 1914 outdoor dress of blouson and skirt, with detachable starched white collar and cuffs.
  • A starched white apron with bib front, a curved neckline and cross over straps at the back. Grey zephyr aprons were sometimes worn for very dirty work. The aprons were fastened with a self-fabric belt and two buttons or studs at the waist, or occasionally a belt buckle.
  • A scarlet shoulder cape fastened at the throat with the silver Rising Sun badge. The cape was usually of scarlet cotton that could be laundered, hence the term ‘washing cape’.
  • A white linen veil, 1 yard (91.5 cm) square.
  • Black stockings.
  • Black boots or shoes.
As the war progressed the skirts of the dresses were made shorter as fashion changed. Practicality may also have played a part. Nurses also had chocolate brown facings for their colour patches

As they were in the military the nurses had honoury ranks as officers but they received much lower pay than an actual army officer of the same standing. A staff nurse such as Janet received 7/- a day.

From April 1916 it was ordered that all nurses were to wear badges on the shoulder straps of their capes according to their rank. A staff nurse wore one star (equivalent to a second lieutenant), a sister two stars (equivalent to a lieutenant), a matron three stars (equivalent to a captain). (Butler p548 and Bassett p 55). All nurses wore silver rising sun badges.

Nurses were also expected to provide their own small equipment which they carried in a chantelaine.

References
Bassett, Jan. Guns and Brooches: Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War.  Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1992
Butler, A G. The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War 1914-1918. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1943. volume 3
Harris, Kirsty. More then Bombs and Bandages: Australian Army Nurses in World War I. Newport: Big Sky Publishing, 2011
Australian War Memorial - Australian military uniforms and equipment - website

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Shire of Nunawading Honour Board

In 1920 the decision was made to have an honour board created that would have inscribed the names of those from the district who had enlisted for service during the First World War. The honour board was to be displayed in the Shire Hall at Box Hill.

The honour board was designed by H Goldman Manufacturing Company, furniture-makers, who had worked on similar projects. The cost of the project was to be no more than £250. Up to 600 names were to be recorded on the honour board.
Honour Board in Box Hill Town Hall foyer - Photo taken 4 December 2009
There was some discussion as to the names to be included on the board. The plan was that the names of all volunteers from the district were to be inscribed on the board however, as with a number of other memorial projects, names were omitted.

Staff Nurse J M Gaff was the only woman whose name appeared on the honour board.

Steven Cooke in his book, The Sweetland Project, notes that "Nurses Clarice Daley and Harriet and Muriel Mawson would be missing from the list of those who served, although Nurse Jenny Gaff would be included." (p 132)

It is interesting then to try and reflect why Janet Muir Gaff's name was included and the names of the other nurses were omitted.

Janet Gaff and her family settled in Blackburn in the early 1890s after migrating to Australia from Scotland in 1891. The family home was Archernar, Gordon Crescent, Blackburn. Janet's mother was Marion Currie Steele who lived in the house with daughters Helen Mary and Marion Margaret. Her son Archibald William (and later his wife Frances) lived with the family for many years. From 1909 another son, John Shaw Steele, also lived in the family home until his death in 1927.  James McLean Steel,another son, lived in Box Hill until his death in 1909. Prior to the war Janet spent most of her time nursing in western Victoria, however the house in Blackburn was still used as her base and she returned to live there with her sisters when she returned from England in 1919.

When Marion Currie Steel died on 7 August 1914 a detailed obituary appeared in the Box Hill Reporter 14 August 1914 p 5 including the passages - "she was a familiar figure in her phaeton to regular users of Whitehorse and Canterbury roads" and "Mrs Steel was a lady of a fine intellectual type, being a great reader and student of Biblical and Jewish history and classical literature, and was keenly delighted to discuss these subjects. She also took a great interest in flowers and in her garden."

Blackburn was a small community early in the twentieth century. The Victorian Municipal Directory for 1911 describes Blackburn as "On creek with the same name, hotel, public hall, state school, and three churches. Poultry farming, gardening and fruit growing. Population 1040." (p 549) By 1916 the population had grown to 1,228. The entry read "rising township, with post, telegraph and telephone offices, hotel, state school, three churches, public hall, tennis courts, sports grounds, lake and park. Lit by electricity. Residential and fruit growing district." (p 556)

It can therefore be surmised that by the time of the war the Steel family was well known in a growing local community.

Another name on the honour board is that of John Shaw Steel, Janet's brother. John was an analytical chemist who applied to enlist in the army in 1916 but was discharged at the request of the Minister of Munitions and was transferred to the Engineer Service.

Janet enlisted in the AANS in August 1915 and after nursing for a year at the No 5 AGH in St Kilda Road she enlisted as a nurse in the No 4 Sea Transport Service working aboard troop ships travelling between Australia and England. She also worked in Australian Auxiliary hospitals in England until the end of the war.

Therefore Janet's strong family connections with the Blackburn area before and after the war, including her living in the area, her three and a half years spent nursing Australian soldiers as well as having a brother whose name was included on the board for his war service all possibly contributed to Janet's name being included on the Shire of Nunawading honour board.

Steven Cooke mentioned that the names of three other nurses from area were omitted from the honour board.

One of the names was that of Clarice Jessie Daley who was born in Box Hill in 1889. Clarice's father, John, was a builder and the according to the electoral rolls the family lived in other locations before the war including Bendigo (1906) and later Elsternwick. In 1912 Clarice is shown as being a nurse at the Melbourne Hospital. On 18 May 1915 Clarice was aboard a ship on her way to Lemnos where she nursed soldiers wounded during the Gallipoli campaign. On 21 October 1915 Clarice married Sergeant Ernest Lawrence. Clarice returned to Australia on 9 February as married nurses were not allowed to serve overseas. She was discharged from the army on 31 July 1916. Clarice, however appears to have continued working as a nurse as the 1919 electoral roll shows that she was a nurse at Base Hospital St Kilda Road. A detailed article about Clarice can be found on the City of Port Phillip Heritage website.

The other two names mentioned by Steven Cooke were of sisters Harriet Godden Mawson and Muriel Mawson. Harriet was born in Kensington in 1885 while Muriel was born in Carlton in 1889. The electoral rolls show that the girls' father, Frederick William Mawson, lived at Surrey Hills. The girls would have lived at the family home in Surrey Hills when they were young, however the 1914 electoral roll shows that Harriet was a nurse at Hamilton while the electoral roll for 1915 shows Muriel nursing at Castlemaine. Harriet enlisted 27 April 1917 and sailed for England on 9 May where she worked in a number of military hospitals. Muriel enlisted on 11 April 1917 and sailed for England in May. She also worked at military hospitals in England. Both Harriet and Muriel returned to Australia on 15 March 1919 and were discharged in July. Both the sisters continued working as nurses for many years. Australian Nurses in World War I website provides information about both of these nurses and also of their older sister Beatrice. Beatrice Mary Mawson, was born in England in 1881 and was also a nurse. Beatrice was nursing at Castlemaine before joining the British nursing service on 14 May 1915. She worked at the British hospital at Alexandria and later worked on transport ships sailing between Le Havre and England, making 23 trips. When Captain Mawson returned to Australia in June 1917, following the death of her father, the ship hit a mine near Bombay. Beatrice Mawson continued her nursing career in Australia.

It is not possible to know for certain why the names of these nurses were not included on the Shire of Nunawading honour board - one can only make an educated guess.

In Clarice's case, the family appear to have moved from the area when she was young, so it is possible that her connection with Box Hill was not widely known.

Muriel, Harriet and Beatrice, however, did have a war-time family connection to Surrey Hills and would have lived in the area when they were young. Beatrice was listed on the electoral roll at the Surrey Hills address in 1903. Harriet, according to the the 1919 electoral roll, was in Surrey Hills immediately after the war but then moved closer to the hospitals where she worked. As their father had died in 1917 and the girls were nursing out of the area, their war service with a connection to the local area was possibly overlooked.

References
Cooke, Steven. The Sweetland Project: Remembering Gallipoli in the Shire of Nunawading. North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly, 2005
Victorian Municipal Directory 1911 and 1916
Australian Nurses in World War I website