Kate Laity

Honour roll location: Pillar 6C

Kate Laity was 27 years old when she signed up for war service in 1915. She had been nursing in Australia for 6 years already, being prompted to sister 12 months prior to enlistment and held the role of acting matron.

After spending time nursing in England from October 1915 to January 1918, she served in France. She remained there until October 1918 when she was promoted to Sister.

Kate understood the need to distract injured men from their suffering. She noted,

“We principally had to try and amuse them, to make them forget”

(cited in Kirsty Harris, More than Bombs and Bandages).

It was often very difficult for Kate and her fellow nurses to achieve this goal of amusement due to the sheer number of patients they had to attend to. When Kate was working in a clearing hospital at Sutton Veny, she said there were 250 beds, yet only three attending sisters.

The entrance and signboard of the No. 1 Australian General Hospital where Kate nursed for some time. Image sourced from the Australian War Memorial.

Sister Laity returned to Australia in 1919 aboard the ‘Norman’, still on active duty. Kate moved to Mount Martha and never married. She lived to the age of 95 years.



Florence Emily Grylls

Honour roll location: Pillar 5C

Trailblazer and passionate advocate for children’s health.

Daughter to John and Elizabeth (nee Wearne), Florence was born in Raywood in 1888. She later worked at the Bendigo Hospital. After enlisting in 1917, she served in Bombay, India for two years.

The Gerald Freeman Thomas hospital in Bombay where Florence served. Photo from Australian War Memorial.
The interior of the Freeman Thomas war hospital in Bombay, India. Photo from Australian War Memorial.

After her discharge in 1920, Florence worked at the Pioneer Health Centre at Peckham, London in 1926. This health centre was part of a leading study into preventative health care. Florence was particularly interested in improving the health of babies and children.

Florence travelled from the north to the south of Africa by herself in 1927. She gave lectures in Australia on the history of the British Empire and her observations from her travels.

Florence later worked as the sister in charge at the RSL Children’s Health Bureau at ANZAC house for 12 years upon her return. Following her passion for helping others, Florence worked in infectious disease hospitals.

She eventually founded the Victorian Branch of the Save the Children Fund, which is now firmly established throughout Australia. Florence worked tirelessly to raise awareness, funds and relief for children and families. She was a passionate advocate for preventative health and wrote many letters to newspapers sharing her views. At the time of her death, Florence was the national president of the Save the Children Fund. She was 74 years of age. The organisation now has a scholarship in her memory for research in the field of maternal and child health.

Florence never married. Her two sisters- Mary Ann and Marion Patience Grylls- had married local men John Thomas and Ernie Old in a double wedding ceremony at the Dingee Methodist Church in 1905. Her brother John was a Regimental Sergeant Major in the Anzac Cyclist Battalion and returned to Australia in 1919.



Effie Mary Garden

Honour roll location: Pillar 5C

Feature story location: Pillar 5A

Effie Garden was a capable nurse who was entrusted with jobs that women often were not permitted to undertake. She was from Serpentine. At age 25 she enlisted in June 1915 after having passed her nursing examinations in May 1914. She nursed in Bendigo until she was sent overseas.

Effie Garden as pictured in The Age, 21st of April 1984, p. 20

Effie said she enlisted because,

“I just felt it was my duty to go”

(The Age, 21st of April 1984, p. 20).

Removing shrapnel by herself
Stationed in Egypt first, Effie was impressed by the way all the nurses got on so well. They were moved around often and could be sent anywhere at any time, taking care of both themselves and wounded troops. Never concerned for her own safety, Effie worked at the British No. 12 Casualty Clearing Station in Proven, France as part of a surgical team. She was often required to use a scalpel to take out pieces of shell. This was unusual for the time; nurses were not normally taught how to do these procedures.
Effie also helped to open a new hospital for infectious diseases. There the nurses had to scrub their instruments and boil them to stop the spread of infection.

Royal Red Cross Medal
Effie received the Royal Red Cross medal (2nd class) in September 1919. It was awarded for her ‘valuable service with the Armies in France and Flanders’.

Royal Red Cross Medal

Upon her return home in 1919, Effie witnessed first-hand the dramatic effects the war had on nurses, with some unable to ‘return to nursing’.

Effie later married John Garfield Fussell in 1920.



Mary Helen Davidson

Honour roll location: Pillar 5A

Mary Davidson was born in Serpentine. When Mary enlisted at 33 years old in 1917, she already had experience as a nurse. She had previously nursed at St Vincent’s Hospital for 3 years. At the time of enlistment, Mary was living and working at ‘Louda’ Private Hospital in Elsternwick.

Nursing aboard a ship
She arrived in Bombay (Mumbai) on the 30th of July, 1917. There she served in the Colaba War Hospital which tended mostly to wounded British troops. In December 1918, Mary transferred to the hospital ship ‘Vita’. She remained there until her return to Australia in April, 1919.

Mary Helen Davidson (left) with sisters Elizabeth and Francis.
Image courtesy of East Loddon Historical Society.