ANZAC Centenary 2014-2018: Sharing Victoria's Stories

Stories of the Western Front

Stories of the Western Front

Rachael Pratt

PrattOne night, early in July 1917, Sister Pratt was on duty at a casualty clearing station in Bailleul, France, when a German bomb exploded near her tent. Metal fragments tore into her back and shoulders, puncturing her lung, but she continued to care for her patients right up until she collapsed. She was awarded the Military Medal for her “bravery under fire”. Following surgery in Britain, Pratt was posted to various Australian auxiliary hospitals there before returning to Australia at the end of the war. As a result of her war service, she suffered from chronic bronchitis for the rest of her life.

“Pompey” Elliott

ElliotIn July 1916 Brigadier General   Harold “Pompey” Elliott began his service on the Western Front where he fought in most of the great battles of the A.I.F. He trained his brigade as he had trained his battalion and made it ‘a magnificently effective instrument’. This he did in spite of the appalling losses in battles such as Fromelles, their first action, when his two assaulting battalions suffered 1,452 casualties in less than twenty-four hours. Elliott had protested about the hopelessness of the task; he was in the front line at zero hour and visited his troops before they were withdrawn. The next morning, Bean’s assistant Arthur Bazley, saw him greeting the remnants: ‘no one who was present will ever forget the picture of him, the tears streaming down his face, as he shook hands with the returning survivors’.  Read more

Alice Elizabeth Barratt Kitchen

KitchenKitchen trained as a nurse at Melbourne Hospital and prior to the war, she served in the Australian Army Nursing Service. She enlisted on 26 September 1914, was promoted to sister and was repatriated to Australia on 28 August 1919. The following are excerpts from her diary:

We did duty 3 hrs & afterwards both went for a walk over the hill & through 2 villages. We are billeted at an empty hotel near by the hospital, with 2 sisters, 2 sl. N. & 5 orderlies. It is bitterly cold here & we are thankful to have some winter clothing to put on. The wards are pretty and in beautiful order, red blankets for guests, red screens, waxed floors, gorgeous flowers & kindly sisters, good orderlies & patient sufferers. So many awful amputations & injuries. Saturday 15 April 1917

A ship went down this morning near the shore, possibly struck a mine. I think no lives were lost. We were on the afternoon, & spent the time bedmaking etc. The evening we unpacked necessaries, very cold & blowy & wintry atmosphere. Sunday 16 April 1917

On this afternoon, wintry, cold & miserable. Home was never like this! We sat in the little sitting room here, filled in some passport papers & discussed Australian & British characteristics for a time, then went to bed. A wild night setting in. Monday 17 April 1917

An awful day: the wind is wild and tears the door out of your grasp & the breath from your body almost – & the air is icy. Nothing to do when off duty but write up the diary, letters etc. & try and keep warm without a fire. Fortunately we have a comfortable, warm bed, warm bottles. The sisters have a nice sitting room at their home & a stove. … The patients’ food is excellent & they lack for little that will aid their recovery. Some lady in England keeps the place supplied with the most beautiful flowers – carnations, tiger lilies, tulips, narcissus.  Tuesday 18 April 1917

A good many of the D. I. patients went off to “Blighty” – & the ward is light, but so many broken bodies, so many limbs gone. Thursday 20 April 1917


Anzac Day. It scarcely seems a year since that dreadful landing at Gallipoli. L Dudley is inviting all Australians to a sort of bunfight. It seems queer to celebrate what must be to so many a day of mourning in such a fashion. To so many in Australia it will only be a day of grief.  This morning a G airship flew over the place & much excitement prevailed – 40 or 50 shots were fired at it but it sailed serenely on. About 4pm, the same one or another like it appeared again & we had the performance repeated. Tuesday 25 April 1917

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