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Sunday, April 18, 2021

‘The Australian hero you’ve hardly heard of’: Newcastle author pens new book

A Newcastle-based author is shedding light on the work of the Hunter’s nurses during the First World War.

Hamilton North’s Christine Bramble is releasing a new book profiling the Novocastrian WW1 nurse Matron Ida Mary Greaves, who she describes as “the Australian hero you’ve hardly heard of”.

She has previously released two books on the involvement of Hunter residents during WW1 – Sisters of the Valley and Broadmeadow to Villers-Bretonneux: People of the Hunter and the Great War.

Ms Bramble said she first became interested in the stories of the Hunter’s WW1 nurses during her time working at the Newcastle Regional Museum.

“Back in the 1990s, we developed an exhibition on the First World War, and people from the Hunter involved in it,” she explained.

“My part of the research was to be on how it [WW1] impacted women both at home and joining various nursing services.

“After I left the museum, I had a whole lot of interesting material that I accumulated over the years, and I decided to turn that into a book called Sisters of the Valley.”

The idea for the new book came after Ms Bramble was contacted by a relative of Ida Greaves, with the offer of documentation and photographs from her [Ms Greaves’] time in the war.

Matron Ida Greaves – ‘a Right Daughter of Australia’, a “labour of love” seven years in the making, is the story of a Newcastle girl who was one of the first Australian nurses on the ground in France in 1914.

“Ida happened to be in England when war was declared, and she became part of an independent unit called the Australian Voluntary Hospital, which was approved by the War Office in Britain [rather than by an Australian war authority],” she said.

“When she was awarded the Royal Cross in 1915, every major newspaper and various regional newspapers had her story.

“Everyone knew who Ida Greaves was if they read the paper.”

She explained that roughly 3,000 Australian women joined nursing services during WW1 and said, while “some of the names are well known, [they’re] not necessarily remembered as well as they should have been”.

“They came back from their experiences in Gallipoli, France and Belgium, and so on, and quietly slipped back into civilian life,” Ms Bramble said.

“Ida herself came home and set up a private hospital on Church Street with another nurse and she was well known in town at the time – she was referred to as the districts senior warden.

“She quietly slipped into oblivion after she died in 1954.”

Matron Ida Greaves – ‘a Right Daughter of Australia’ will be released on Friday 5 March.

Visit Newcastle Library’s website to book tickets for the launch event.

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