Florence Ethel Spalding

Florence Ethel Spalding was born in Goulburn in 1881 to William and Mary Spalding. Her paternal uncle was Colonel Warner Wright Spalding, a prominent figure in the Australian defence forces, who had fought in the Sudan and became a WWI recruiting officer on the NSW North Coast. Her grandfather was Colonel Richard Carr Spalding of the British Royal Marines.

Florence completed her nurse’s training at Orange Base Hospital under the supervision of Matron Dooly.

Nurse Spalding was living in Manly with her mother when she enlisted in November 1914. She embarked from Sydney the following week aboard the Kyarra. She served on hospital ships in Gallipoli, Lemnos and Egypt, as well as in England. In January 1916 she was awarded the Royal Red Cross.

Nurse Spalding resigned her appointment in October 1916, due to her impending marriage to Leslie Fidler, of Ravensworth, Gordon, whom she had met whilst nursing in Cairo. The couple married on 7 November 1917 at the Presbyterian Church in Manly. They were living in Bronte when Leslie died in December 1927. Florence moved to the North Shore following her husband’s death, census records indicate that she lived in Chatswood and Manly during the 1930s and 40s, moving to North Sydney and then Chatswood in the 1950s and 60s. She was a resident of Hunters Hill in 1968.

Florence was living at Maranoa Nursing Home in Lismore when she died in June 1976, aged 95.

Gallipoli Nightingale

Sydney Morning Herald, 9 May 1916, p. 5.
Nursing Sisters Honoured

Leader, 24 November 1916, p. 1.


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Emily Gertrude O’Neill

Emily Gertrude O’Neill was born in Binalong in 1875 to Thomas Joseph O’Neill and his wife Martha Elizabeth. She completed her nurse’s training at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.

Nurse O’Neill moved to Western Australia; her name appears on the first registry of midwives in that state in 1913.

Upon her enlistment in December 1916 Emily nominated her stepsister – Ursula Dalton – as her next of kin. Ursula was the wife of Gerald Thomas Dalton, the eldest son of Thomas Garrett “Gatty” Dalton, who was Mayor of Orange in 1903, 1904 and 1905.

Emily served in Egypt and Greece, returning to Western Australia in May 1919. She lived in Fremantle Women’s Prison, where she worked as a matron until the early 1930s.

Census records indicate that she moved back to NSW and was living in Edgecliff in 1936. Nurse O’Neill died in 1937 at Sacred Heart Hospital, Darlinghurst, aged 65.

During her war service she wrote a most evocative letter to “Aunt Mary” (a work colleague) describing her experiences in Salonica.

Western Mail, 10 January 1919, p. 36.
Nurse O’Neill’s letter

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Elizabeth McRae

Elizabeth McRae was born near Cootamundra in 1878 to John and Margaret McRae. She completed her training at Orange District Hospital between 1903 and 1907, specialising in general and surgical nursing. She went on to nurse at hospitals in South Sydney, Kurri Kurri and Campbelltown.

Nurse McRae was living in Minto when enlisted for service on 26 April 1915, the day following the Gallipoli landing. She embarked for overseas service three weeks later and served on hospital ships and military hospitals in France, Egypt and England. In May 1916 she was hospitalised with measles, and again in 1917, suffering from appendicitis.

After several years of service Nurse McRae returned to Australia, disembarking in Colombo en route to visit relations in India. She was welcomed home with a celebration at Campbelltown Town Hall in 1920, where she was presented with a gold brooch. She was one of the last local veterans to return from the war.

Elizabeth died in January 1967, aged 89. In April 2014 Elizabeth McRae Avenue in Minto was named in her honour.

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Elma Constance Apsley Lowe

Elma Constance Apsley Lowe was born near Wellington in October 1891. She was living in Orange and working as a masseuse when she joined the Australian Army Nursing Service on 1 November 1915. Her younger brother Nigel had enlisted two months earlier.

She embarked from Sydney on HMAT Orsova A67 just 10 days later. Elma served as a masseuse on sea transportation between Europe and Australia for over a year and a half.

In July 1917 Nurse Lowe resigned her appointment due to her marriage to Lieutenant William Leith Gardiner Lamrock of the 3rd Battalion. The couple settled in Tidworth, England, and their first child was born the following year. The family returned to Australia in early 1919. They settled in Crookwell, where three more children were born. Elma and William later relocated to the Central Coast, where Elma died in 1970, aged 78.

Elma’s brother Nigel Burton Apsley Lowe served with the 56th Battalion; he was killed in action in France in March 1917.

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Nigel Burton Apsley Lowe

Nigel Burton Apsley Lowe was born at Spicer’s Creek near Wellington in 1896. He enlisted in September 1915, two months after his older sister, Elma. He was working as an overseer at the time, presumably living with his mother, May, in Orange.

Nigel was posted to the 20th Battalion and embarked from Sydney in December 1915. In February the following year he was transferred to the 56th Battalion in Zeitoun in Egypt. In June 1916 he was sent to France, where he attended bomb school.

Private Lowe was killed in action on 8 March 1917, the day after his 21st birthday.

Nigel’s sister Elma Constance Apsley Lowe served as a masseuse with the Australian Army Nursing Service.

Wellington Times, 2 April 1917, p. 2.
Personal Pars

Guards’ Cemetery, France

Memorial at Mudgee General Cemetery

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Indigenous servicemen

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are warned that content on this page may contain images and references to deceased persons.

It is estimated that up to 800 indigenous servicemen served in the First World War. The exact number will never be known since ethnicity was not recorded on enlistment papers.

When war broke out in 1914, many indigenous Australians who attempted to enlist were rejected on the grounds of race, their attestation papers marked ‘Unsuitable physique – Aboriginal’ or ‘Unsuitable physique – Colour’. This was in accordance with the Commonwealth Defence Act 1909 which prevented those who were not of ‘substantially European descent’ from enlisting in the armed forces.

Many indigenous men enlisted under false names and/or places of birth in an attempt to evade these conditions. Others claimed to be African American, Maori or only distantly related to Aboriginal people. (more…)

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Thomas Rine

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are warned that content on this page may contain images and references to deceased persons.

Warren born Thomas Rine [William Riley] enlisted in Orange in May 1917. He was working as a labourer in Dubbo at the time. He was one of nine known Aboriginal servicemen with a connection to Orange.

Rine joined the June 1917 Imperial Camel Corps Reinforcements, embarking from Sydney on the SS Canberra in November 1917 and disembarking in Suez the following month. He served in Abbassia and Moascar in Egypt and retuned to Australia in October 1919.

SS Canberra

SS Canberra
Imperial Camel Corps, AIF, June 1917 Reinforcements, embarked from Sydney aboard SS Canberra on 16 November 1917.
Image courtesy Clydebuilt Ships Database.

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William John Homer

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are warned that content on this page may contain images and references to deceased persons.

William John Homer was an apprentice baker for with George Merrin in Orange when he enlisted in October 1915. He was discharged four months later, but re-enlisted in Dubbo in October 1916.

Private Homer joined the 23rd Battalion, 3rd Reinforcements at Liverpool and embarked for active service in November 1916. Homer returned to Australia for discharge from the AIF in December 1917 due to defective vision.

Private William John Homer is one of nine known Aboriginal servicemen with a connection to Orange.

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Edward Homer

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are warned that content on this page may contain images and references to deceased persons.

Edward Homer was born in Lucknow on 3 June 1892, the son of Thomas William and Margaret May Homer. He was one of nine known Aboriginal servicemen from the Orange area.

Edward was living in Gilgandra and working as a labourer when he enlisted in September 1918. He passed his initial medical examination and spent three months at the Liverpool Training Depot. He was discharged in October 1918 as being medically unfit; due to severe injuries sustained to his legs whilst horseriding in Tumut in January 1908.

Edward Homer died in June 1982, aged 90, and is buried in Gilgandra General Cemetery.

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Joesph Harris

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are warned that content on this page may contain images and references to deceased persons.

Joseph Harris was born in Peak Hill in 1892. He was living and working in Wellington when he enlisted in Orange in April 1918, aged 26. He trained at the Recruit M. & D. Depot in Liverpool and joined the Light Horse Regiment in late May. Trooper Harris embarked from Sydney in June 1918, arriving in Suez the following month. Harris served with the 14th Regiment of the Australian Light Horse in Moascar, Egypt, returning to Australia in August 1919.

Harris was one of nine known Aboriginal servicemen with a connection to Orange. He was unable to read or write, and signed his attestation papers with an “X”. He gave his address as “Town Common, Wellington”. The Wellington Town Common is a 183-hectare parcel of land on the Macquarie River that was the traditional home of some 70 Wiradjuri families. In 1994 a group of Wiradjuri people lodged a native land claim, the first on mainland Australia. In November 2007, following a 13 year battle the Common was returned to its traditional owners. This was the first native title claim in NSW that resulted in a group of claimants winning resaleable and leasable freehold title. The Wiradjuri Wellington Aboriginal Town Common (Aboriginal Corporation) now owns the land.

Joeph Harris 14th Light Horse

The 14th and 15th Australian Light Horse Regiments embarking for Australia on the troopship Dongola, at Kantara, Egypt, 24 July 1919.

Image courtesy Australian War Memorial

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