Elsie Burnell MCKAY

MCKAY, Elsie Burnell

Service Numbers: Not yet discovered
Enlisted: 27 June 1918
Last Rank: Staff Nurse
Last Unit: Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)
Born: Violet Town, Victoria, 1882
Home Town: Mirboo North, Latrobe - Victoria, Australia, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Cancer, Caulfield, Victoria, 1945
Cemetery: Springvale Garden of Remembrance & Crematorium, Victoria
Memorials: Violet Town Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

27 Jun 1918: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Staff Nurse
9 Nov 1918: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)
9 Nov 1918: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), HMAT Wiltshire, Sydney

Help us honour Elsie Burnell McKay's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Elsa Reuter

McKay Elsie Burnell – Staff Nurse  AANS   1882-1945
McKay Olive Stella – Staff Nurse AANS   1891-1936

The McKay family were born and raised on a farm near Violet Town. There were six daughters and two sons.  Only one son Richard survived, the youngest died at birth.  Their mother, Charlotte (née Burnell) died in 1911, and their father Robert Gardiner McKay’s death in 1917 prompted the family to move to Mirboo North to live. Their brother Robert had already moved there in 1910 to a job as Shire Engineer; he had married and settled down.

The McKay siblings were as follows:
Elsie Burnell McKay - 1882-1945
Daisy Bartlett McKay - 1884-1967
Ella Gardiner McKay - 1885-1958
Robert Norman McKay - 1887-1922 (died as a result of car accident)
Lottie May McKay - 1888-1968
Ivy Pearl McKay - 1890 – 1949
Olive Stella McKay - 1892 – 1936
Victor Richard McKay - 1896-1896

Elsie and Olive were both trained nurses; Elsie had eight years’ experience at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne before enlisting in WW1. Her sister Olive trained at the Melbourne General Hospital four years before she enlisted. They both joined up on 27 June 1918.

In the Euroa Advertiser dated 23 August 1918 there was an article as follows: ‘Military nurses Elsie and Olive McKay, daughters of the late R G McKay of Violet Town, accompanied by their two sisters Mrs Anderson (Daisy) and Ivy, visited Violet Town on Saturday prior to their departure of the two former for hospital duty in connection with the war.  The young ladies carry with them the best wishes of the townspeople in their work for the Empire.’

On 9 November Elsie and Olive were part of a contingent of nurses to embark from Sydney on SS Wiltshire bound for Bombay where they arrived on 3 December. The following May they sailed up the west coast to Karachi then travelled overland to Quetta to take up duty at the 43rd British General Hospital.  They remained there until 8 October when they travelled back to Bombay for their return to Australia aboard Dunera.

After their discharge in Melbourne on 3 January 1920 they returned to their nursing careers. Neither of them married.    

Olive died in 1936, aged 44; Elsie died in 1945 aged 62. Both were cremated at Springvale Crematorium, their ashes interred in Grevillea Garden 1, Bed C1 Rose 02 in a family plot.

Both sisters were awarded the India General War Service Medal with clasp Afghanistan North West Frontier.

They had memorial trees planted in 1918 but the site has never been confirmed. However Nurse Elsie Burnell McKay’s copper plaque has been found; it is affixed to the exterior wall of the Memorial Hall, Violet Town. 

Elsie and Olive are listed on the main Honour Board in the Memorial Hall, Violet Town.        

© 2016 Sheila Burnell