Mary Jane DERRER MM

DERRER, Mary Jane

Service Number: Nurse
Enlisted: 12 July 1915, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Sister
Last Unit: Australian Army Nursing Service
Born: Mackay, Queensland, Australia, 3 February 1892
Home Town: Homebush, Mackay, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Nurse
Memorials: Homebush & District Honor Board, Mackay Old Town Hall Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

12 Jul 1915: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service, Staff Nurse, Australian Army Nursing Service, Brisbane, Queensland
14 Jul 1915: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service, Staff Nurse, 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
14 Jul 1915: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service, Staff Nurse, SN Nurse, 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF, HMAT Orsova, Sydney
28 Dec 1917: Discharged Australian Army Nursing Service, Staff Nurse, 1st Australian General Hospital
25 Mar 1918: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service, Staff Nurse
25 Sep 1918: Promoted Australian Army Nursing Service, Sister
9 Nov 1918: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service, Sister, Australian Army Nursing Service, HMAT Wiltshire, Sydney
9 Nov 1918: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service, Sister, Australian Army Nursing Service, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
27 Jan 1920: Discharged Australian Army Nursing Service, Sister, Australian Army Nursing Service

First Australian nurses awarded MM

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”.

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