Ida O'DWYER ARRC, RRC

O'DWYER, Ida

Service Number: Matron
Enlisted: 28 November 1914
Last Rank: Matron
Last Unit: 1st Australian General Hospital
Born: White Hills, Victoria, Australia, 1879
Home Town: St Kilda West, Port Phillip, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Natural causes, Elwood, Victoria, Australia, 29 June 1960
Cemetery: White Hills Cemetery, Bendigo
Memorials:
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World War 1 Service

28 Nov 1914: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service, Matron, SN Matron, Australian Army Nursing Service
5 Dec 1914: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service, 1st Australian General Hospital
5 Dec 1914: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service, 1st Australian General Hospital, HMAT Kyarra, Melbourne
4 Jun 1917: Honoured Royal Red Cross (2nd Class)
1 Jan 1918: Honoured Royal Red Cross (1st Class)

Help us honour Ida O'Dwyer's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

St Vincents Hospital Melbourne honours one of their bravest servants with the following story on their web site: - 

‘Ida O’Dwyer left her home in Bendigo to commence her nursing training at St Vincent’s Hospital and graduated in 1902. She nursed in the First World War as part of the AIF delivering care in Egypt, England and France, achieving a Royal Red Cross for her devotion to duty. Already a very experienced nurse at the outbreak of the war, Ida enlisted in 1914 and travelled overseas on the hospital ship Kyarra with other senior members of the nursing profession.

She wrote a detailed report of her experiences, in the words of one historian the “classic statement of nursing life in a Casualty Clearing Station” providing much detail of the difficult conditions (volume of patients, long hours, sometimes physical danger) nurses faced close to the front line.

In her own words:

“This is nearest nurses get to the actual fighting……the first thing to be noticed is the rows of duckboard everywhere connecting all the wards and the quarters right out to the road…..

Wards are prepared in a great hurry, not the comfortable bed ward of the base but mostly stretchers on the ground…

… the Sisters must be prepared in a few hours to receive and nurse hundreds of wounded admitted in numbers that can be hardly realized.

They have not only to be admitted but are to be classified, dressed, fed and evacuated, with the same speed and still keep her ward in a state that she can pass through hundreds more.

There is one continuous rush between cases… during a battle everyone working a period of 16 hours a day…

…The Resuscitation Ward which hold the patients who are too bad for immediate operation … is really the biggest to the Sister as she has never experienced anything like it before in her career. Everyone requires immediate attention and some of them die before they can be fully attended to.

Every man is just as he is carried out of the trenches in his wet khaki and stone cold…

You can see death written in most of their faces…yet … he waits his turn and never asks – that’s when a wounded soldier commands the respect and admiration of anyone in this world.

The biggest per cent of this ward die and through the incoming of patients is so constant no one is missed or neglected … Every patient’s next of kin is taken with a message that the Sister will write home. Some of which are full of pathos…”.

 

In December 1917 Ida O’Dwyer was awarded the decoration of Royal Red Cross 1st class “in recognition of her valuable service within the armies in the field”. After the war she continued to care for sick and wounded soldiers as Matron of Caulfield Military Hospital.[1]



[1] ST VINCENT'S MELBOURNE website

https://stvincentsmelbourne.blog/2015/04/22/ida-odwyer/

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Biography contributed by Sharyn Roberts

Daughter of John Fitzpatrick O'DWYER and Margaret nee McGRATH

Awarded Royal Red Cross.
SISTER IDA O'DWYER.

A Bendigo Nurse.
Sister Ida O'Dwyer, whose name appears amongst the cabled list of Australian nurses awarded the Royal Red Cross is the fourth daughter of Mrs. M. and the late Mr. J. F. O'Dwyer, former well known Bendigonians. The late Mr. O'Dwyer was a surveyor and resided at Emu Point, White Hills. Mrs. O'Dwyer and the other members of the family are now residing at Beaconsfield Parade, St. Kilda. Sister O'Dwyer left with the first hospital ship, Kyarra, and on arrival in Egypt was given charge of the infectious cases, which were treated in tents adjoining the Heliopolis Palace. After 12 months' service in Egypt, Sister O'Dwyer with 50 other nurses proceeded to England, and was later given a position at the Bangthorpe Military Hospital, Nottingham. From there Sister O'Dwyer sent to France, where she joined the staff of a South-African hospital. Later on she was placed in charge of the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing station, not far behind a section of the firing line. The station has accommodation for 300, and a clearance of patients is made every three days to make room for other cases. Sister O'Dwyer in a letter to some friends in Bendigo mentions that Lieut. Eugene Gorman was brought into the Third Casualty Clearing Station with an arm wound. She describes visits to Delville Wood and Pozieres, which are just a mass of shellholes, not even ruins there. Sister O'Dwyer was amongst the first women to enter Bapaume after the great battle. The place is described as a perfect wreck.

Bendigoian Thursday 12 July 1917 page 27

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