Greta Norman TOWNER

TOWNER, Greta Norman

Service Numbers: Sister, Nurse
Enlisted: 22 July 1915
Last Rank: Nursing Sister
Last Unit: Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)
Born: Glencoe station, Blackall, Queensland, 6 June 1891
Home Town: Blackall, Blackall Tambo, Queensland
Schooling: Blackall State School & Rockhampton State School
Occupation: Nurse
Died: San Francisco, USA, 9 June 1961, aged 70 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Queensland Australian Army Nursing Service Roll of Honour
Show Relationships

World War 1 Service

22 Jul 1915: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, Sister, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)
31 Jul 1915: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, Nurse, 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF, RMS Orontes, Sydney
31 Jul 1915: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, Nurse, 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
3 Jun 1916: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, Sea Transport Staff
3 Jun 1916: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, Sea Transport Staff, HMAT Kyarra, Sydney
17 Nov 1916: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), HMAT Kyarra, Brisbane
17 Nov 1916: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)

Help us honour Greta Norman Towner's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Glenunga International High School

World War I was one of the deadliest historical conflicts known to humankind. This 4-year active global warfare occurred between 28th July 1914 - 11th November 1918. Over 16 million people lost their lives while trying to create a better future for the coming generations. This massacre was triggered as a result of the assassination of Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, at Sarajevo in June 1914. However, many more factors such as the rivalry between powerful nations had a huge contribution to the cause of the Great War - these factors include: Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, and Nationalism. The alliances were divided into two section - the Central Powers and Secondary Powers. Australia also contributed in WWI as we were under the influence of Britain. 420,000 people enlisted for the ANZAC war, where 10,000 innocent lives were taken. As the word ‘ANZAC’ is a male-oriented word, the roles of women are not recognized and appreciated as much as they should, however, people like Greta Norman Towner have crossed boundaries and risked their lives to act behind the scenes of the war to create a better future for the society today.

Greta Norman Towner was born on the 6th of June 1891 at Glencoe Station, Blackall, Queensland. Named after her mother, she was born to Greta Herley (mother) and Edgar Thomas (father - next of kin). Along with Greta, her parents had nine other children - 5 girls and 4 boys. Greta attended Blackall State School in 1910 and later continued her education at the Central Queensland University, Rockhampton. After finishing her education at university, Greta registered as a nurse at the Rockhampton Children’s Hospital on 19th of August 1914. However, she was not able to continue on her occupation there  as she enlisted to serve in WWI the following year.

Greta Norman Towner voluntarily enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service in WWI, on the 22nd of July 1915, at the age of 24 with the rank of Staff Nurse. However, she was not given a service number as nurses/sisters were not provided with a service number in WWI. Greta embarked from Sydney, Australia on the RMS Orontes, on the 31st of July 1915. However, prior to this event, she went to visit her sister, Olivia Towner in Queensland. After traveling at sea for approximately 1 and half months, Nurse Greta Norman Towner was assigned to the 1st Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis, Cairo Governorate, Egypt on a Saturday - 11th of September 1915. From 17th September 1915 to 24th January 1916, Towner worked with the Gallipoli campaign at the 2nd Australian Standing Hospital on Lemnos Island, Greece, nursing for the sick and injured soldiers. Greta Norman Towner then departed Lemnos island on 24th of January 1916, to play her role on Demosthenes (ship) to Australia Ismailia Governorate, Egypt.

Subsequently, she embarked on the HMAT Kyarra A55, Sea Transport Staff (Nursing on Ship) Sydney, NSW, Australia in July 1916. The following year, on the 30th of January, she was disembarked at England, Greater London, UK. Her arrival in England was due to her service at the No 2 Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Southall, London, England, where she started working in February 1917. There she specialized in artificial limbs and amputations. She was later transported to the 8th Australian Stationary Hospital in France. After only serving there for a couple of days, she was posted for duty with the No. 1 Australian General Hospital, also in France, where she continuously worked in harsh conditions for approximately seven months. Unfortunately, she was hospitalized as she suffered from Influenza from 15 to 25 April 1918. After touching so many innocent lives, Greta was given leave from between 8th to 24th September 1918, to travel to the UK, to visit her mother’s birth country, Ireland. Greta then made her way back to France where she was promoted as a Sister on October 1st, 1918.

Sadly, not long after, Sister Greta was evacuated to England with yet another case of Influenza in which she recovered within approximately 18 days. In January 1919, Sister Towner was requested from the 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital due to her excellent performance while in duty previously. However, she did not serve for long as she embarked for Australia later that same month

On 15th of January, 1919, Sister Greta Norman Towner was officially discharged from serving at war along with her brother - Lt Edgar Towner - who served as a soldier in WWI. Later that year, on the 28th of June 1919, the newly promoted ‘Sister’ arrived in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, where she nursed at the Rockhampton Hospital prior to the war. On 26th October 1919, Greta assigned to nurse at the Red Cross Convalescent Home, Abbotsford, Sydney. The following year, on the 2nd of February, 1920, Towner studied pharmacy at the University of Sydney.

After a year of pharmaceutical study, Greta Norman Towner made a decision to migrate to the United States of America to continue her occupation in nursing. There she married twice and lived a long and happy life with her second husband, Harry Maloney who she married in 1945 at the age of 55. In 1946, the newly wedded couple visited Australia, to Greta’s birth-town - Blackall, Sydney, and Brisbane.

Greta was awarded 3 medals: the 1914-15 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal for her dedication and selfless effort and service at the war.

After touching and saving many lives and sacrificing most of her life in hopes of creating a better future, Greta Norman Towner Maloney died on 9th of June 1961 in San Francisco, USA at the age of 70. Her husband - Harry Maloney - soon followed her lead to the grave six years later. They are now buried at the San Francisco National Cemetery where they will continue to be while modern society continues to live great and massacre-free lives due to the lifeless contribution of extraordinary people like Greta Norman Towner. Nevertheless, her actions and service are not forgotten as her original First World War Nursing Uniform and medals are now exhibited in the State Library of Queensland.

“Lest we Forget.”



"...Sister Greta Norman Towner as being born at “Glencoe” station, Blackall in 1891, she attended Blackall State School and continued her education in Rockhampton. Greta Towner trained as nurse at the Rockhampton Children’s Hospital, registering as a Nurse in August 1914 and enlisting in July, 1915. Sister Towner served with the AANS (Australian Army Nursing Service) in Egypt (Heliopolis, Cairo), Lemnos Island from September 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign and on Sea Transport ships. In 1917 she saw service in England at the Southall Hospital which specialised in amputations and artificial limbs. In March 1917 she arrived in France and was posted to the 8th Stationary Hospital in Rouen. On 27 September 1917 she was posted to the 1 AGH (1st Australian General Hospital) in Rouen and served there for the remainder of the First World War. Sister Towner was officially discharged on 4 July 1919..." - READ MORE LINK (