Eleanor Jane KENDALL MID

KENDALL, Eleanor Jane

Service Numbers: Not yet discovered
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Not yet discovered
Last Unit: 1st Australian General Hospital
Born: Cartwel, Cumbria, UK, 1880
Home Town: Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Belgrave, Victoria, Australia, 17 April 1957, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 1 Service

5 Dec 1914: Involvement 1st Australian General Hospital
5 Dec 1914: Embarked 1st Australian General Hospital, HMAT Kyarra, Melbourne
12 Dec 1917: Honoured Mention in Dispatches, London Gazette, 28.12.1917

Help us honour Eleanor Jane Kendall's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Janet Scarfe

Eleanor Jane Kendall (1880–1957) was the only daughter among the seven children born to William Tyson Kendall (1851–1936) and his first wife, Elizabeth (nee Park) (c1853–1904).

Eleanor’s father William was a pioneer of veterinary science in Australia (Harold E. Albiston, 'Kendall, William Tyson (1851–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography).

WT Kendall’s ‘Reminiscences of a Dalesman’ (held in the University of Melbourne Archives) provide fascinating snippets of information about his life as son, brother, husband and father inbetween details of his busy professional career. The information here about Eleanor’s childhood and upbringing comes primarily from that source.

Eleanor was born at Cartwel in Cumbria, England in 1880. She was her parent’s third child, but did not see her father William until she was 11 months old and nearly 20 000 kilometres from her birthplace. William and Elizabeth had decided to try their fortunes in New Zealand. As he wrote later, ‘we both thought it would be giving our children a better choice in life if we settled in a young and prosperous country’ (‘Reminiscences’, p67).

In 1879, William disposed of his veterinary practice in Ambleside, Cumbria, settled his pregnant wife and two young sons with her parents, and sailed for the Antipodes. He was nearly 30. He had studied and practiced veterinary science and had considerable agricultural experience, but demand for his skills declined in the long winters and accounts were settled only annually. His reminiscences and life suggest he found inactivity both insufferable and an impetus for new ventures.

William had initially considered settling in Melbourne, where he had read of a proposed veterinary college and had a distant relation. He reached Melbourne in February 1880 en route to New Zealand but went no further. The professional opportunities in a settlement with a population nearly as large as New Zealand’s and only four veterinary surgeons were irresistible. He worked hard establishing a practice with city and country clients, lived abstemiously to save every penny, and a year later sent tickets to his wife for the family to join him. Elizabeth arrived in Melbourne with their toddler sons and the infant Eleanor whom he had never seen in May 1881. ‘I cannot express in words how glad I was to see them all again and the little baby daughter whom I had never before’ (Reminiscences, p 81).

William acknowledged that his wife’s voyage and resettlement was ‘a serious undertaking’. The phrase could equally be used to describe his married and family life. William was determined to raise professional veterinary standards in Victoria, and to this end invested his boundless energy into the new Melbourne Veterinary Clinic which he established in Fitzroy. He travelled the colony as well as New South Wales, published articles, delivered lectures to students and the citizenry, judged at agricultural shows, bought and sold properties and invested in ventures with varying success. He was a well known and at times controversial figure in Victoria. (see dab article)

After arriving in Victoria, William and Elizabeth added four more sons to their family, one of whom died in infancy. The family lived in various locations: Port Melbourne, Lyndhurst, Fitzroy, Essendon, Parkville, North Fitzroy, and Carlton. The relocations usually related to the family’s fluctuating financial situation. The land boom of which William took advantage was followed by a crash which hurt him financially. His Melbourne Veterinary College ate into both his finances and his professional practice: he assisted students financially then they became his competitors.

In his memoirs William paid tribute to his wife’s dedication in raising their children, who seemed to ‘enjoy their new experiences’. He made no reference to his children’s education. At least three of his sons went to private school (Scotch and Wesley); four followed their father into veterinary science and one studied engineering.

Eleanor’s schooling is at this point unknown. Most likely on leaving school (a local state school?) she helped her mother manage the household of a busy, prominent and often absent professional man. Her mother had been in poor health since three of the children (including Eleanor) contracted typhoid. Her brothers came and went from the family home in Carlton, adding to the domestic responsibilities. Eleanor’s occupation on the 1903 electoral roll was ‘home duties’, in a household with her parents William (‘veterinary surgeon’) and his wife Elizabeth (‘home duties’) and eldest brother Ernest Arthur (‘veterinary surgeon’).

By this time, Eleanor was nursing her gravely ill mother at home. Elizabeth died in March 1904 and William was grief stricken. Mindful however of Eleanor’s devoted care for his wife, he despatched her on a twelve month trip to England in 1905 with his cousins, the Gaskells. (A Miss E Kendall returned on SS Medic in March 1907).

Shortly after Eleanor’s departure, William remarried. ‘Without an intimate companion, I found myself drifting again.’ He married ‘one of her most intimate friends’, a widow of ‘lively and cheerful disposition’ (‘Reminiscences, Vol 2, p41).

By then the family was changing. Several of Eleanor’s brothers married, and Eleanor herself moved to Tatura to housekeep for her single brother Elverence, an engineer. She apparently did not accompany her father and step-mother on their extended professional and personal visit to England and Europe in 1909.

In 1911, Eleanor began training as a nurse at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. She was 31. Nursing her mother may have been the catalyst, or perhaps the desire and/or need for a profession like all her brothers enjoyed. She completed the three year certificate in May 1914, and qualified to register with the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses Association (RVTNA) the same year. She then worked as a nurse at Crathie Hospital, the East Melbourne hospital owned and operated by the redoubtable Mrs Jessie McHardy White.

Within months of Eleanor finishing her training, war was declared and she applied to join the Australian Army Nursing Service and was accepted.

War Service

The Kendall men had a keen military involvement, as an offshoot of their veterinary work with horses. William senior was appointed veterinary officer for the Melbourne Cavalry Corps set up in 1901 by Lieutenant Rushall (http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/REL/18071.002). He and  his sons Ernest and William were involved in the South African War. William senior was responsible for purchasing suitable horses for the government.  Ernest had been involved in Victoria’s voluntary forces since 1897, and served with the 5th Mounted Contingent in the conflict. Brother William was sent to South Africa to collect discarded horses and treat injured mounts.

By the outbreak of the Great War in August 1914, Ernest was principal veterinary officer of the 3rd Military District (Victoria) with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian Army Veterinary Corps. William junior and his bother John were captains in the corps (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kendall-ernest-arthur-7094). William and John enlisted in the AIF in August 1914; Ernest spent the first part of the war in Australia.

Eleanor’s application for the AANS was dated 6 November 1914. Her experience as a trained nurse was brief, but her skills must have caught the attention of her matron at Crathie Hospital where she worked in 1914; possibly her family connections helped as well. Matron Jessie McHardy White was an early member of the AANS and one of the first to be sent overseas in 1914. Kendall, and another Crathie nurse Estelle Lee-Archer, left Australia on HMAT Kyarra in December 1914 as part of the personnel of 1 Australian General Hospital.

Eleanor and 1AGH arrived in Egypt in January 1915. Brother John had arrived the previous month.

1AGH was set up in the Heliopolis Palace Hotel, a four storey luxury facility in the Cairo suburb of Abbassia.

Eleanor Kendall’s period at 1AGH was a time of near continuous high drama. The deluge of casualties evacuated from the Gallipoli peninsula placed enormous physical and emotional demands on the nursing staff which was expanded with reinforcements as the number of beds expanded (see Rees, The Other ANZACS, pp. 44-45, 48-49). In addition, there was the battle for authority between Principal Matron Jane Bell and 1AGH Commanding Officer Colonel Ramsay Smith that led to the recall of both to Australia in July 1915, a formal inquiry and termination of their appointments (Jan Bassett, Guns and Brooches: Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War, 1992, pp. 34-39).

1AGH was reorganised in August 1915. In early December, Kendall was promoted to the rank of Sister and posted for nursing duties on the transport ship Themistocles bringing wounded, sick and medically unfit troops back to Australia. Presumably she was reunited with father and siblings while briefly in Australia.

In April 1916, she rejoined her unit, 1AGH. 1AGH had moved from Cairo to Rouen, France and was in the process of setting up on the racecourse there. She was briefly with the adjacent 10 General Hospital while 1 AGH was preparing for patients. In her six months at 1AGH (April–October 1916), the hospital expanded threefold from 200 beds to 600. Most patients she nursed were wounded (e.g. by gun shot, shrapnel or gas) rather than sick, and the majority were evacuated to England after several days. Her work was the multitude of tasks associated with an unceasing round of admissions, treatments and preparation for transport to England, convalescent camps, other hospitals or return to their unit. In her time there, the average length of stay of patients fell from seven days to three days, indicating the degree of churn (1AGH, War Diary).

1AGH provided nursing staff for 1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station (1ACCS) at Estaires, 300 kilometres north east of Rouen, and at the end of October 1916, Sister Kendall was transferred there. 1ACCS was housed in a Catholic boys school which continued to function as such, with patients also in tents in the grounds nearby. The patients came straight from the nearby front, often with their original dressings applied in the field.

Kendall was there from early November 1916 to February 1917, the notorious ‘Somme winter’. The 1ACCS Commanding Officer noted it was ‘reputedly the most severe winter in the Town for 15 years’: the tents were pitched on ‘Flanders Mud’, the temperature fell as low as -17 degrees centigrade, pipes providing gas and water froze, and coal was in short supply.

In late February 1917, Kendall returned to 1AGH in Rouen, where she remained until late September. The unit was still camped on the race course as it had been since its arrival in April 1916, nursing in huts and tents under the most trying conditions. The hospital had 1040 beds, around 20 medical officers and between 75 and 90 nurses. In the period Kendall was there, several thousand sick and wounded troops were admitted each month and a day rarely passed without a death, but there were plenty of beds available. Kendall would have been there when Queen Mary paid an official visit on 9 July 1917 (see picture below, AWM K00019).

After seven months with 1AGH, Kendall was again transferred, this time to England. It had been almost three years since she had first embarked from Australia, and in that time she had served in Egypt and France, as well as on transport duty. She was mentioned in General Douglas Haig’s despatches in November 1917 for her ‘distinguished and gallant service and devotion to duty in the Field’ while posted to 1ACCS and/or 1AGH.

Like several other long serving sisters from 1AGH, she was posted to the Croydon War Hospital on 4 October 1917. The hospital was spread across local council schools in the area, and many of the nurses were Australian (see Lost Hospitals of London, http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/croydonwar.html).

Notwithstanding a different pace at Croydon, within a few months Kendall was sufficiently ill to be admitted to St Albans Hospital where sick Australian sisters were sent. She was diagnosed with ‘debility’ and a change was recommended. She was invalided back to Australia, and left England on the Euripides on 30 January 1918.

A month after reaching Melbourne, Kendall was discharged from the AANS as medically unfit on 24 April 1918. She spent some time recuperating at Osborne House Geelong, the convalescent home for returned members of the AANS (Punch, 30.5.1918, p24)

After the War

Kendall was nearly 38 when she was discharged from the AANS. There are gaps in her post-war story, but she regained her health and resumed nursing. She collected her service medals in Melbourne in person in 1920 and 1921. Her address on the electoral roll in 1919 and 1924 was her father’s home in Brunswick, though in 1922 her address in the RVTNA Register in 1922 was ‘Sunnybank’, Belgrave, subsequently a private hospital (and co-incidentally the name of her father’s birthplace in England). In 1923, she requested her Victory Medal be sent to the home of her brother, Lt Col John Kendall, in Shepparton. The death of John’s wife in 1923 suggests that Eleanor was there nursing her sister-in-law and managing the household.

There were several reports of her activities in UNA, the journal of the Victorian Trained Nurse Assocation in the second half of the 1920s. She seems to have spent some time in Brisbane and perhaps elsewhere, returning to Melbourne in 1929 to take up a position at the Alfred Hospital. She was there for six months, then was appointed (a) School Visiting Nurse (UNA, vol XXIV (11), 1.1.1927, p296; XXVII (11), 1.11.1929, p337; XXVIII (5), 1.5.1930, p151). 

In 1931, Kendall took on the role of matron at Ormond College within the University of Melbourne, initially in the short-term when the incumbent (a friend of hers) became ill and then permanently. She was there three years, in a role that seems as much domestic and medical. She was thanked on her resignation for ‘doing much valuable work for the College’ (The Ormond Chronicle, 1931, p22; 1934, p18; Argus, 13.8.1934, p10).

Kendall spent the last years of her professional career (c1934­–43) as matron of the Presbyterian Ladies Hostel (later Chalmers Hall) in East Melbourne. The hostel, which had around 85 residents, was one of a number of institutions established to provide young women working in the city with suitable, safe and affordable accommodation. Again, the work would have been as much household management as nursing responsibilities.

The 1949 electoral roll showed Kendall (by then 69) living in Tecoma in the Dandenong Ranges, occupation ‘home duties’. She was living with her widowed brother William Augustus Kendall, veterinary surgeon. In 1952, she applied twice to the Edith Cavell Trust Fund (which supported sick and needy army nurses) for financial assistance because of the 'high cost of living'. She received £30 on each occasion. An undated note on her file indicated she was receiving the pension and no further assistance was needed (Kendall, E J, Index to Applications, Edith Cavell Trust Fund, Box M291, NAA, Melbourne).

Eleanor Jane Kendall died on 17 April 1957 at Belgrave, Victoria. She was 86.

Eleanor Kendall featured in the East Melbourne Historical Society's 2015 exhibition, 'Gone to War as Sister: East Melbourne Nurses in the Great War'. Her panel can be seen at Gone to War as Sister - exhibition panel 12

This essay with additional photographs was originally published on the East Melbourne Historical Society website, emhs.org.au