Dorothy Gwendoline CAWOOD MM, MID

CAWOOD, Dorothy Gwendoline

Service Number: N/A
Enlisted: 21 November 1914
Last Rank: Sister
Last Unit: 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF
Born: Parramatta, New South Wales, 9 December 1884
Home Town: Parramatta, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Parramatta, New South Wales, 16 February 1962, aged 77 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Rookwood Cemetery & Crematorium
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World War 1 Service

21 Nov 1914: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service, Sister, SN N/A
28 Nov 1914: Involvement 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF
28 Nov 1914: Embarked 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF, HMAT Kyarra, Sydney

First Nurses awarded MM

From On This Day - Australian Military History

#OTD: First Australian nurses awarded Military Medal for bravery under fire
On the 22nd of July 1917, four Australian nurses were awarded the Military Medal for rescuing patients trapped in a burning casualty clearing station at Trois Arbes, France. These were the first bravery awards won by nurses in action.

Sisters Clare Deacon, Dorothy Cawood, and Alice Ross-King and Staff Nurse Mary Jane Derrer, had joined the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) when war broke out. They had initially worked in Egypt, nursing Australian soldiers wounded during the Gallipoli campaign, before being transferred to France in 1916. Although posted to different hospitals during 1916, by mid-1917 they had all been sent to 2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station (2ACCS).

2ACCS had been moved close to the front line in order to cope with the expected influx of wounded from the third battle of Ypres, which was to begin on 31 August. On the 22nd of July, the casualty station was bombed, setting it alight.
Accounts by others who saw them say that the nurses ran to the shattered tents to rescue patients, either carrying them to safety or giving those who could not be moved basins to put over their heads, and placing tables over their beds. They all ignored their patients’ cries to seek shelter in dug-outs.

A month after the attack, the commander of 1 ANZAC Corps, General Sir William Birdwood, wrote to inform the four women that they would be awarded the Military Medal for 'coolness and devotion to duty'. They were the first Australian nurses to be given this decoration, which had only been extended in June 1916 to include women “showing bravery and devotion under fire”.


Life of Dorothy Gwendolen Cawood

Dorothy Gwendolen Cawood (1884-1962), nurse, was born on 9 December 1884 at Parramatta, New South Wales, seventh child of John Cawood, carpenter, and his English-born wife Sarah Travis, née Garnett. No details of her education are known but in 1909 she began four years nursing training at Coast Hospital, Little Bay, Sydney, and was registered with the Australasian Trained Nurses' Association on 14 May 1913.

Dorothy Cawood enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 14 November 1914 as a staff nurse in the Army Nursing Service; she was posted to the 2nd Australian General Hospital and embarked for Egypt on the Kyarra with the first A.I.F. contingent. The hospital was based at Mena in 1915 and Sister Cawood served there throughout the Gallipoli campaign as well as doing duty on hospital ships and transports. She was promoted to nursing sister in December, then in March 1916 went with the 2nd A.G.H. to France. After serving at Marseilles and at Wimereux, near Boulogne, she was briefly attached to the 8th Stationary Hospital and the Australian Voluntary Hospital; she returned to the 2nd A.G.H. in July, then from December 1916 to August 1917 was attached to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Armentières.
On the night of 22 July 1917 the station was bombed and Sister Cawood, with Sisters Claire Deacon and Alice Ross-King, risked her life to rescue patients trapped in the burning buildings. The three were awarded Military Medals, the first won by members of the A.A.N.S.for their 'coolness and devotion to duty'. Advising her parents of the award Sister Cawood wrote: 'Do not blame me for this. It is Fritz's fault. He will do these dastardly tricks'.
On 1 August she was transferred to the 38th Stationary Hospital at Calais and in November to the 6th A.G.H. while there she was mentioned in dispatches for 'distinguished and gallant service in the field'. She was soon posted to Genoa, Italy, with the 38th Stationary Hospital and, except for several months in 1918 when she was hospitalized, served there until January 1919. She was then transferred to England and was attached to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford and the 2nd A.A.H. at Southall before returning to Sydney in May.
After demobilization Sister Cawood nursed in the State hospital at Liverpool, then from 1928 until her retirement in 1943 was matron of the David Berry Hospital, Berry. In 1944 she moved back to her old home in Parramatta and, unmarried, died there on 16 February 1962; she was buried in Rookwood cemetery with Anglican rites.


A Notable Distinction


With the returned soldiers who came by the troopship Soudan yesterday was Sister Dorothy C. Cawood, of Parramatta, who was presented with the Military Medal by his Majesty the King at Buckingham Palace shortly before leaving England for Australia. The medal was awarded for bravery at Messines.

Sister Cawood, who is the first Australian woman to return to Sydney with this decoration, has a fine war-service record. When Germany declared war the nurse from Parramatta was attached to the Coast Hospital. Towards the end of 1914 she was on her way to Egypt, and her subsequent activities included nursing staff work on the hospital ships between Alexandria and Gallipoli. The great test of her courage came while she was on duty in France, in July, 1917, she was under fire at a clearing station. The Germans attacked, and killed many of the patients and some of the hospital staff. Sister Cawood remained at her post and afterwards brought in many of the wounded to a place of safety. The recommendation for official recognition of her courage and coolness followed.

The Sydney Morning Herald Friday 04 July 1919 page 10