Blanche (Alice) ATKINSON RRC


Service Number: Staff Nurse
Enlisted: 2 August 1915
Last Rank: Staff Nurse
Last Unit: Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR)
Born: Crafers, S.A., 5 July 1879
Home Town: Crafers, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Schooling: Stirling East Primary School
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Died of Illness - Tuberculosis, Crafers, S.A., 9 December 1916, aged 37 years
Cemetery: Stirling District Cemetery, S.A.
Plot: General Section Grave 177/178
Memorials: Aldgate War Memorial, South Australian Garden of Remembrance
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World War 1 Service

2 Aug 1915: Enlisted Staff Nurse, Staff Nurse, Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR)
21 Mar 1916: Discharged Dismissed as "permanently unfit"
Date unknown: Wounded
Date unknown: Honoured Royal Red Cross (1st Class), Received award for "Devotion to Service" while ill in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, England.

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

Biography contributed by Glenunga International High School

Blanche Atkinson Biography

World War 1 was the first major conflict where Australia operated independently from Britain; beginning on the 4th of August 1914 with Britain declaring war on Germany. Australia immediately declared that it would fight with Britain, with nearly all European nations siding and others from around the globe allying with either Germany or Britain. This bloody war, dubbed ‘The Great War’, lasted until 11 November 1918 when Germany signed an armistice agreeing on peace. Over the course of the war there were 886 000 British fatalities, 61 512 Australian and 156 000 Australian soldiers wounded (Australian War Memorial, n.d.; The National Archives (UK), n.d.).

Blanche (Alice) Atkinson was born on the 5th of July 1879 in Crafers, South Australia to the parents Frederick John Atkinson and Mary Ann Martha (nee Church) (The Chronicle (Adelaide), 1916; South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, n.d.; War Office, n.d.). She was eldest daughter and sixth of fourteen children, the family living on Mount Barker Road in Stirling West (now part of Stirling) (Stirling Historical Society, n.d.). As a child, she studied at Stirling East Primary School, which at the time was located on Old Mount Barker Road, Stirling (Stirling Historical Society, n.d.; Atkinson, 2015). Of the few professional career pathways open to women in the late 18th century, Blanche followed the route of nursing, first spending six years working as an untrained nurse at the ‘Kalyra’ Sanatorium in Belair (Atkinson, 2015; Stirling Historical Society, n.d.). She then gained her formal qualifications training as a nurse at Adelaide Hospital (now Royal Adelaide Hospital) for three years, finishing in September 1910. Her sights then set on private nursing; she worked first in Alberton Private Hospital (Adelaide) then ‘Karinya’ Private Hospital (Perth) as well as other locations throughout Western Australia (War Office, n.d.; The Chronicle (Adelaide), 1916; Stirling Historical Society, n.d.). While she was working in Western Australia, on the 17th of April 1913 her father passed away, aged 66 years (Anon., n.d.).

Moving on from her father’s death, Blanche pursued nursing in the military, embarking on the ship the SS ‘Beltana’ from Adelaide to London on the 19th of May 1915. While on the boat she applied to Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Reserve (QAIMNSR), interestingly providing her birth year as 1883, making her 32 (she turned 36 on the voyage). This was done so she could pass the restrictions in place that only allowed those between 25 and 35 to join (War Office, n.d.; Stirling Historical Society, n.d.; South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, n.d.). Blanche arrived in England on the 22nd of July 1915 where she was then interviewed and accepted the next day for service with QAIMNSR (War Office, n.d.; Atkinson, 2015; South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, n.d.). A couple weeks later, she was appointed to Brockenhurst Military Hospital on August 2nd 1915 as a Staff Nurse (War Office, n.d.; The Chronicle (Adelaide), 1916; South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, n.d.). In her time working at Brockenhurst she would have experienced much overcrowding, lack of food, limited medical supplies, insufficient heating and a huge workload (Stirling Historical Society, n.d.). Despite this she ploughed on, eventually becoming a patient of the hospital herself in March 1916 from tuberculosis in the lung, caused by overwork and treating many of those with the disease (War Office, n.d.; The Chronicle (Adelaide), 1916; South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, n.d.). She was dismissed from service the next week on March 21 as “permanently unfit”, calling the end of her nursing career (War Office, n.d.; South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, n.d.; Stirling Historical Society, n.d.).

With little improvement to her condition, Blanche Atkinson was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley during June 1916 (The Chronicle (Adelaide), 1916; South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, n.d.; Atkinson, 2015). During her stay there, she received a letter from King George V informing her that she would be receiving the Royal Red Cross award for her “devotion to service”; unfortunately, the king was unable to present it himself due to Blanche’s inability to travel to him (War Office, n.d.; The Chronicle (Adelaide), 1916; Anon., n.d.). This was a very prestigious honour as the Royal Red Cross was one of the highest awards available to nurses at the time. On the 8th of August 1916, Blanche embarked on the hospital ship the HT ‘Marathon’ after approximately a month of being fit for travel, arriving in Melbourne on September 22nd (War Office, n.d.; Stirling Historical Society, n.d.; South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, n.d.). After several months back home she passed away on the 9th of December 1916, aged 37, in Crafers. She is buried in the Stirling District Cemetery in Aldgate (Anon., n.d.; The Chronicle (Adelaide), 1916; War Office, n.d.).



Anon., n.d. Atkinson Family Plot. Aldgate(South Australia): Stirling District Cemetery.

Atkinson, P., 2015. Blache Atkinson Timeline, Stirling: Stirling Historical Society.

Australian War Memorial, n.d. Timeline: Australia in the First World War, 1914 - 1918. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 1 April 2017].

South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, n.d. Blanche Atkinson. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 26 March 2017].

Stirling Historical Society, n.d. Blanche Atkinson (Illustrated), Stirling: Stirling Historical Society.

The Chronicle (Adelaide), 1916. DEATHS ON ACTIVE SERVICE. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 22 March 2017].

The Chronicle (Adelaide), 1916. NURSE DECORATED BY KING. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 9 March 2016].

The Chronicle (Adelaide), 1916. OBITUARY. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 18 March 2017].

The National Archives (UK), n.d. Deaths in the First and Second World Wars. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 1 April 2017].

War Office, n.d. Name Atkinson Blanch. London: The National Archives.


Biography contributed by Geoffrey Gillon

She is a recent addition to the Roll of war dead as a result of research and submission by the In From the Cold Project

She was accepted for commemoration on 7th March 2012

The Royal Red Cross medal (or more accurately decoration) was introduced to Military Nursing by Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria on 27 April in 1883 [which was St George's Day.] The decoration is awarded to army nurses for exceptional services, devotion to duty and professional competence in British military nursing. [Queen Victoria wanted a special award for the distinguished service by women nursing sisters in South Africa.]

The Royal Warrant said that it be given “upon any ladies, whether subjects or foreign persons, who may be recommended by Our Secretary of State for War for special exertions in providing for the nursing of sick and wounded soldiers and sailors of Our Army and Navy."

The QAIMNS started some 12 years before the outbreak of the Great War during a time of relative peace in the British Empire. The Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service replaced the Army Nursing Service (ANS) and the Indian Nursing Service (INS) by royal warrant on the 27 March 1902. They were named in honour of Queen Alexandra 


Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Daughter of Frederick John ATKINSON (Station Owner) and Mary Ann Martha nee CHURCH
Trained at the Adelaide Hospital August 1907 - September 1910
Charge Nurse at Alberton Privatel Hospital for 6 months
Staff Nurse at Private Hospital Perth, Western Australia
Private Nursing May 1911 to September 1914
Resided 3 Keensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, WA
Travelled to England to join the QAIMNSR, embarking Adelaide on the SS 'Beltana' – arriving London 22 July 1915
Enlisted 02 August 1915

'Admitted into Hospital on 21 March 1916 with all the symptoms and physical signs of tubercle of the lungs - the disease in now in an advanced stage, there being a large cavity in the left upper lobe, a smaller cavity at the apex of the right lower lobe posteriorly, & tubercular deposits over various parts of both lungs. Cough has been troublesome, sputus profuse (T.B. found), but not blood stained. The Temperature chart is attached. Her general condition has improved considerably of late, & she is now in a fit state to permit of her removal to a Sanitorium, & if she continues to improve it may be found possbile to send her back to Australia (in a Hospital ship) at the end of September or Early October.'

Was on staff at the Brockenhurst Military Hospital when due to overwork became ill and was hospitalised.
While in her hospital bed the King decorated her with the Royal Red Cross for her "devotion to service"; once well enough to travel she was invalided back to Adelaide in September 1916.
Service termination 29 March 1916 (Invalided)
Granted pension of £40 per annum for six months from 29 March 1916 to 26 September 1916
Returned to Australia 23 September 1916 to Melbourne per 'Marathon'

Obituary  Chronicle Newspaper  23 December 1916 page 15
Staff-Nurse Blanche Atkinson, whose death took place at Crafers on December 9 was the eldest daughter of Mrs. M. A. Atkinson and the late Mr. F J. Atkinson,and was born at Crafers. She adopted nursing as her profession, and after serving a team in the Adelaide Hospital practised for several years in Western Australia. At the outbreak of the war she went to England and joined the Royal British Nursing Association. She was on the staff of the Brokenhurst Military Hospital, in England, for a considerable time, and was so untiring in attending to her duties that ultimately her health broke down, and she was compelled to become an inmate of Netley Hospital. While she was there the following letter was received by Lieutenant-General Sir Alfred Keoga, Director-General of the Army Medical Service, from the King's private secretary:

'The King and Queen are so sorry to hear that Miss Atkinson is laid up in Netley Hospital and so is unable to receive at the hands of his Majesty the Royal Red Cross decoration awarded to her for devoted service, in the execution of which she unfortunately contracted her present illness. The King hopes you will be able to send someone to Netley— perhaps Miss Belcher — to hand this decoration to Miss Atkinson, and to tell her how much their Majesties sympathise with her and truly wish her a speedy restoration to health.'

Sister Atkinson was duly presented with the decoration and the letter. The Royal Red Cross medal is one of the highest distinctions to be obtained in the military nursing service. She also held a medal of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Nursing Service Reserve. Sister Atkinson was subsequently invalided home, and had only returned a very short time when she succumbed to her illness.



Biography contributed

Biography written by Makayla Lockwood, Mt Barker High School, SA attached as a document. Winning entry for 2020 Premier's Anzac Spirit School Prize.