Clare DEACON MM

DEACON, Clare

Service Number: 2006
Enlisted: 29 November 1914, Hobart, Tasmania
Last Rank: Nursing Sister
Last Unit: 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF
Born: Pipers River, Tasmania, 13 March 1891
Home Town: Hobart, Tasmania
Schooling: Royal Hobart Hospital
Occupation: Nurse
Died: meningitis, Crows Nest, New South Wales, 7 August 1952, aged 61 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Hobart Roll of Honour, Kimberley Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

29 Nov 1914: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Hobart, Tasmania
5 Dec 1914: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, SN 2006, 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
5 Dec 1914: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, SN 2006, 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF, HMAT Kyarra, Melbourne
29 Mar 1919: Discharged Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)

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Biography

Father  William Deacon (a farmer)  and  Mother Ruby Ellen (née Dixon)
lived at Burnie, Tasmania.

Siblings:   three sisters and a brother.

Her aunt and uncle raised Clare and her youngest sister, Henrietta
after the early death of their mother.

From an early age Clare spoke of her ambition to be a nurse upon her completion of school. She became a trainee nurse at the Royal Hobart Hospital and after completing her exams had a few years’ experience before World War I was declared.

On enlisting Clare lived at Hobart, Tasmania.

Clare was one of the first nurses from the Royal Hobart Hospital to offer her services
passing her general nursing examination in 1912.

Described on enlisting as 27 years old, single,

29/11/1914      Enlisted in Hobart, Tasmania

5/12/1914        Embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT Kyarra A55 for Egypt
                        as a Staff Nurse with the Second Australian General Hospital

Served at Mena House, a palace converted into a hospital, in Cairo, near the pyramids, and the training grounds for the Australian Light Horse Regiments.

Clare nursed many of the wounded from Gallipoli through the hot summer in scorching temperatures reaching 117ºF at a time when nurses had to wear ankle-length uniforms.

In 1915, Clare was promoted to Sister and relocated to England before being sent to France to join the 2nd Australian General Hospital. As many wounded were dying on the way to the hospital, it was decided to move doctors and nurses nearer to the front line.

March 1916    proceeded overseas to France
                       remained with the 2nd Australian General Hospital in 1916

Feb 1917        transferred to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital

June 1917      temporarily attached to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station
                       at Trois Arbres near Armentières, France

22/7/1917       on this night, the station was bombed and Sister Deacon, who was
                       off duty at the time, ran into one of the shattered wards and removed
                       the patients to a place of safety

she was one of four Australian nurses who risked their lives to rescue patients from the burning buildings. For 'coolness and devotion to duty' she, with Sisters Dorothy Cawood (adb.anu.edu.au) and Alice Ross-King (adb.anu.edu.au) and Staff Nurse Mary Jane Derrer, were awarded the Military Medal, a distinction only awarded for bravery under fire. These were the first Military Medals won by members of the Australian Army Nursing Service (A.A.N.S.).

All four women 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 2ACCS. The casualty clearing station 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.

"Accounts by others who saw them say that they 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 their efforts that night. 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”.

Aug 1917        Sister Deacon resumed duty with the 2nd Australian General Hospital
                        remaining with this unit until her return to Australia (in April 1918.)

28/9/1917        Awarded MILITARY MEDAL -  in London Gazette

(the highest medal for nurses - for bravery, from King George V at Buckingham Palace.)

29/1/1918        Returned to Australia on board
April 1918        arrived back in Australia

She was discharged from the A.I.F. in Tasmania in March 1919.

Medals:
WWI 1914/15 Star,  British War Medal and Victory Medal
and is listed in the Dictionary of Biography of notable Australians.

 

A contemporary source described her as 'fresh and girlish-looking', with a charming personality.

2/5/1922         Married James McGregor, a dentist, at a Melbourne registry office.

there were no children of the marriage.

Her husband James McGregor predeceased her in 1941.

Her last years were spent at Crows Nest, Sydney, where she died of meningitis on 7 August 1952.

Sourced and submitted by Julianne T Ryan.   30/11/2014.  Lest we forget.

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