Service Numbers: Staff Nurse, Sister
Enlisted: 5 May 1915, Aged 39 years 7 months
Last Rank: Nursing Sister
Last Unit: 3rd Australian General Hospital
Born: Cherry Gardens, South Australia, 31 October 1875
Home Town: Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Happy Valley School
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Perth, Western Australia, 23 September 1956, aged 80 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Karrakatta Cemetery & Crematorium, Perth, W.A.
Garden of Remembrance. Crematorium Rose Garden; Site S; Position 1.
Memorials: Keswick South Australian Army Nurses Roll of Honor
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World War 1 Service

5 May 1915: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service, Staff Nurse, 3rd Australian General Hospital, Aged 39 years 7 months
20 May 1915: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service, SN Staff Nurse, 3rd Australian General Hospital, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
20 May 1915: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service, SN Staff Nurse, 3rd Australian General Hospital, RMS Mooltan, Adelaide
5 May 1917: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service, Nursing Sister, SN Sister, 3rd Australian General Hospital
7 Jan 1919: Discharged Australian Army Nursing Service, Nursing Sister, 3rd Australian General Hospital, Disembarked on this day in Port Adelaide, South Australia

"A hidden Pomeranian" - Stories from the Frontline by Anne Donnell

A Pomeranian hidden in the kitbag of a soldier when he left Australia for the battlefront.

That they did, carting the dog from battlefield to battlefield in their kitbags and eventually to the ship to transport them home.

There things did not go so well with a Non-Commissioned Officer determining the dog should be put down. The soldiers thought otherwise and guarded it constantly in shifts all the way home.

Sister Anne Donnell was so incensed that she fronted the captain's table to plead for the dog's life. The official line was that it was dead. But she went on to record sighting on the wharves at journey's end.

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Born 31 October 1875 in Cherry Gardens, South Australia
(SA Birth Record 1842 - 1906 Book: 158 Page: 121 District: Ade.)

Father William DONNELL (b. 1830 - d. 1881) and Mother Fanney (nee JACOBS, b. 1846 - d. 1918).

Next of kin:
Brother  Issac Stewart Donnell
               (b. 25/11/1871 Cherry Gardens SA - d. ____)
               (SA Birth Record 1842 - 1906 Book: 103 Page: 106 District: Ade.)
               living at Torrens Road, Croydon, SA.

Sister      Mary Donnell
               (b. 17/1/1878 Cherry Gardens SA - d. ____)
               (SA Birth Record 1842 - 1906 Book: 195 Page: 245 District: Ade.)

Niece       Vira Fanny Donnell
               -- daughter to Isaac Stewart Donnell & Ada Bartlett (nee Hopkins)
               (b.  30/9/1893 Cherry Gardens SA - d. ____)
               (SA Birth Record 1842 - 1906 Book: 530 Page: 153 District: Ade.)

Nephew    Williams Stewart Donnell
               -- son to Isaac Stewart Donnell & Ada Bartlett (nee Hopkins)
                (b. 14/3/1895 Cherry Gardens SA - d. ____)
                (SA Birth Record 1842 - 1906 Book: 560 Page: 376 District: MoV.)

Prior to enlisting Anne's address was c/o Alexander Cockburn, Angas Trustees,
                        Bowmans Buildings, King William Street, Adelaide, South Australia

Described on enlisting as 39 years 7 months old; single;
Church of England.

Anne volunteered her services to the AIF.

20/5/1915     Embarked from Outer Harbour, Port Adelaide on board RMS Mooltan
                    as a Staff Nurse in the 3rd Australian General Hospital

Her war took her to Greece, Egypt, France and London. She saw and recorded horrific suffering .

The 3rd Australian General Hospital, AIF, was set up in response to a request from the British War Office by Thomas Henry Fiaschi, a well-known Italian surgeon. Fiaschi had had a distinguished career as a military surgeon serving with Australian forces during the Boer War where he was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) and he was appointed the Commanding Officer of No. 3 AGH.

As recalled by Sister Anne Donnell, their uniforms were heavy and the weather on the voyage warm:

"We had another full dress parade this a.m. and sweltered in our heavy serge dresses, and wrung the perspiration out of them afterwards. Words fail me while this heat lasts - honestly we haven't ceased sweating since the third day out from Australia. A Sergeant-Major died suddenly in the small hours this morning - owing to the heat."
[Anne Donnell, Letters of an Australian Army Sister, Sydney, 1920, pp.9-10)

The Mooltan disembarked  into  Plymouth, England, on 27/6/1915 and the unit travelled to London. There, preparations were made for their service in France at Etaples.

However, on 1/7/1915, No.3 AGH received orders to proceed to Mudros, on the island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea near Gallipoli. They were advised that a site had been selected for the tent hospital and that it would be provided with huts about six weeks after their arrival in Mudros.

The days before embarkation were spent in organisation. Both the Australian Red Cross and benefactors in Australia had assisted with equipment and donations for the hospital. All of these, as well as further purchases made in London, including a small laundry plant, had to be loaded on the supply ship, Ascot.

On 12/7/1915, Colonel Fiaschi and most of the male personnel embarked on the transport, Simla at Devonport. The men arrived at Mudros on 27-28/7/1915, before the arrival of the Ascot.

The nurses, who had remained in London, embarked in two groups, six days after the men. Sailing on the Themistocles and the Huntsgren, they disembarked at Alexandria on 30/7 - 1/8/1915. Those who arrived first were distributed between other Australian hospitals pending their embarkation for Lemnos.

At 5 pm on 2/8/1915, the nurses sailed for Mudros on the hospital ship, Dunluce Castle.
They reached Mudros on 5/8/1915 to find that the Ascot still hadn't arrived.

With no accommodation ashore, the nurses were transferred from the Dunluce to the Simla,
anchored in the harbour. Six of the nurses left for 10 days temporary duty on board the
hospital ship, Formosa.

By 7/8/1915, after lots of hard work, the hospital site was pegged out and some marquees that had been found in a small ordnance store were erected. At about 7 p.m. on 8 August, forty of the nurses were landed and, accompanied by a piper, were marched into their new tents. The remainder landed at North Pier the next day, the day the hospital opened.

Before breakfast on 9/8/1915, more than 200 wounded and sick had been admitted to the new hospital. Four days later, there were more than 800 patients.

The entries in 'The Register of Deaths' of No.3 AGH showed the different causes of death during the Gallipoli campaign. For example, the four soldiers who died on 9/8/1915 – the day the hospital opened - all did so from gunshot wounds. Indeed, between 9 August and 22/8/1915, 32 men died of wounds and only one of disease. These days marked the height of the 'August Offensive' on Anzac and thousands of wounded were being brought to all the hospitals on Lemnos. Although it was an Australian unit and the policy was, where possible, to treat Australians in Australian hospitals, the 3AGH admitted large numbers of wounded from all the allied armies. Of the 32 who died of wounds at No.3 AGH during the 'August Offensive' only seven were Australian soldiers. After the end of August 1915, most of the deaths at No.3 AGH were from disease.

The first entry in the 'Register' is for Private Eric Bloom, 2nd Battalion, AIF, who died from a severe gunshot wound. He was actually 'admitted dead'. It is likely, although not certain, that he received his wound during his battalion's participation in the Lone Pine battle of 6 - 9/8/1915. Over those three days, 172 men of the 2nd Battalion were either killed or wounded.

The Ascot, carrying all the No.3 AGH's main stores, finally arrived at Mudros on 20/8/1915. However, in late October, when Staff Nurse Anne Donnell arrived at Mudros, she wrote that although huts were being prepared for them, the Australian nurses were still in tents, unlike their Canadian and English colleagues who were already living comfortably in huts on the island. The 3rd AGH was not the only hospital on Lemnos. There was also the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital, the 1st and 3rd Canadian Hospitals, convalescent camps and various English hospitals situated at Mudros and East Mudros. Sister Donnell recalled the miserable autumn at Mudros:

"The weather is terrible, bitterly cold, with a high wind and rain. We are nearly frozen, even in our balaclavas, mufflers, mittens, cardigans, raincoats and Wellingtons. It's a mercy we have ample warm clothing else we should perish. Last night five tents blew down, one ward tent and four Sister's tents. " 
[Anne Donnell, Letters of an Australian Army Sister, Sydney, 1920, p.58]

Anne also stated their diet: "no fruit or vegetables and butter and eggs only once a month."

The Gallipoli hospital ships deposited their cargoes of misery at general hospitals on the nearby Greek islands of Imbros and Lemnos, or at Alexandria, 1050 km away in Egypt. Among the tent cities on Lemnos was No 3 Australian General Hospital (AGH) where Matron Grace Wilson and her staff of 96 AANS nurses tended Australian and Allied wounded.

On Lemnos, Matron Wilson and her nurses experienced the inefficiency of military administration in relation to the hospital. In her diary she described the steady flow of new patients during the August 1915 offensive on Gallipoli and the effect that lack of proper equipment and supplies had on the care of the wounded:

9 August — Found 150 patients lying on the ground
              — no equipment whatever … had no water to drink or wash.

10 August — >Still no water … convoy arrived at night and used up all
                     our private things, soap etc, tore up clothes [for bandages].

11 August — Convoy arrived — about 400 — no equipment whatever …
                   Just laid the men on the ground and gave them a drink.
                   Very many badly shattered, nearly all stretcher cases …
                   Tents were erected over them as quickly as possible …
                   All we can do is feed them and dress their wounds …
                   A good many died … It is just too awful — one could never
                   describe the scenes — could only wish all I knew to be killed outright.
[Grace WIlson, in Bassett, Guns and Brooches, p46]

For the nurses, life on Lemnos was spartan. Louise Young wrote of the difficulties they experienced on the island:
"The travelling kitchens would burn on windy days, and people got dysentery from the Greek bread … we did not even have a bath tent as water was so short, and as well the centipedes were very bad! Our hair used to be full of burrs, and in the end many girls cut their hair short. It saved a lot of trouble.
[Louise Young in Bassett, Guns and Brooches, p.8]

Luxuries such as cake were hard to come by but Edith Rush helped to make Anne Donnell’s birthday on 31/10/1915 a very happy day. Anne recorded that “in the afternoon Sister Rush brought us some lovely cake.  It is the first and only cake I have tasted here (it came from the Navy men in the Harbour).” ( Edith Rush is singled out for mention on a number of occasions, an indication that they were friends and that she was a popular member of the staff.  Her service record indicates that she had some outstanding qualities as she was mentioned in dispatches and later awarded the Royal Red Cross 2nd class. (  William Rush of Nelson Bay received a letter from the Officer-in-Charge of AIF Base Records dated 3 July 1917 stating that his daughter Edith Danson Rush had been “awarded the decoration of the Royal Red Cross in recognition of her valuable services with the Armies in the Field.” (

On 4/11/1915, Colonel Fiaschi, who was seriously ill, was evacuated to London and Lieutenant Colonel Constantine De Crespigny took over as Commanding Officer until the 3rd AGH left Lemnos for Egypt in January 1916. When the 1040 bed hospital closed in Egypt in January 1916, it had treated 7400 patients of whom only 143 had died. The hospital later went from Egypt to Brighton, England, and then to Abbeville, France, where it was based until 1919.

When winter with its bitter winds arrived the exposed position of No 3 AGH added to the discomfort. Five tents were blown down — four nurses’ tents and one ward tent. Sister Louise Young remembered the weeks around Christmas 1915 when the winds seemed to howl continually across Lemnos:

"Hardly a night or day did not pass that a tent did not collapse altogether … I don’t think I shall ever get over my dread of wind again, night after night, every bit of canvas creaking, shaking, straining and your mind always wondering which would collapse next.
[Louise Young in Bassett, Guns and Brooches, p48]

When Christmas came the nurses did their best to make the atmosphere in the drab hospital tents as festive as possible for their sick and wounded charges. Sister Evelyn Davies has left us a picture of her first Christmas away from home on Lemnos

 Sister Anne Donnell wrote in her diary:
"In that terrible weather, with wind travelling 100 miles an hour, and rain and sleet, all seems so pitifully hopeless…during those fearful days our thoughts were constantly with the boys of the Peninsula and wondering how they were faring; but little did we realize the sufferings until the wind abated and they began to arrive with their poor feet and hands frostbitten.  Thousands have been taken to Alexandria, hundreds, the boys say, were drowned because their feet were so paralysed they could not crawl away safely in time.  They endured agonies.  Sentries were found dead in their posts, frozen and still clutching their rifles…their fingers were too frozen to pull the trigger.  And some we have in hospital are losing both feet, some both hands.  Its all too sad for words, hopelessly sad”.

January 1916   left Lemnos Island

27/1/1916       disembarked into Alexandria

Feb 1916        Abbassia, Egypt, No.3 Australian General Hospital

25/9/1916       Embarked for England on board HMT Karoola
5/10/1916       disembarked into Brighton, England

Early 1917 Edith and Anne were part of a group of nurses that visited Ireland and Scotland whilst on several weeks leave.  In Ireland they marvelled at “the donkeys bringing in the low basket carts and the women wrapped in shawls” and laughed when they were jeered at by urchins who mistook them for suffragettes because of their uniforms.  In Scotland they visited places made famous in literature and legend – Rob Roy’s cave, Loch Lomond and an “indescribably beautiful” drive to see Stirling Castle.  Anne Donnell bemoaned the fact that “on the 23rd March 1917 Sister Rush and I have to leave this restful spot.” The beauty and tranquility of the surroundings would have been the more keenly felt in contrast to the life to which they would soon return.

April 1917       Embarked to France with No.3 AGH

April-May 1917 Abbeville

5/5/1917        Promoted to Sister

12/7/1917      38 Stationary Hospital, Calais

23/11/1917     48 Casualty Clearing Sation, Ytres

18/1/1918       sick to hospital, admitted to No. 2 Stationary Hospital, Abbeville

31/1/1918       Hotel de l’Esterel (Lady Gifford), Cannes

28/2/1918       returned to No.3 AGH, Abbeville

9/3/1918         sick to hospital, admitted No. 2 Stationary Hospital, Abbeville

17/3/1918       Admitted to Southwell Gardens, PUO

18/5/1918        No.2 AAH, Southall

24/5/1918        No.1 AAH, Harefield, England

18/1/1919        Embarked to Australia on board Margha
28/2/1919        disembarked into Australia


1919 - Anne Donnell sold her circular letters and diary volume to the State Library of
New South Wales. She was paid 10 pounds for the volumes.

Anne adopted Yvonne Annear (Graeme Mitchell's mother) at an early age.

"The Register" of 25 March 1926 reports Anne had resigned from the position of Matron at the ANZAC Hostel in Glenelg and was accompanying a Mr LW Walker, an incapacitated ex-serviceman, on a trip to Colombo.

"The Register" of 17 January 1928 reports Anne was training in New Zealand, "drawn by her interest in mothercraft work and the world fame of Sir Truby King's methods".

Anne published her letters and diaries in a book entitled "Letters of an Australian Army Sister".

Electoral Roll for
1931             Anne Donnell "trained nurse" at 89 Egan St Kalgoorlie, Western Australia

Anne Donnell ran the Goldfields Infant Welfare Centre in Kalgoorlie from 1930s onwards.
She was a member of the Kalgoorlie RSL.

1936             "nurse" 72 Ward St, Kalgoorlie;

1954             "retired" 24 James St, North Beach, Perth

23/9/1956      Anne passed away in Perth (aged 80 years)
cremated in:   Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth, Western Australia
                     Garden of Remembrance
                     Crematorium Rose Garden; Site S; Position 1.

For Graeme Mitchell, grandson of Anne.

Sourced and submitted by Julianne T Ryan.  3/3/2015.  Lest we forget.