TRENAMAN, Elsie Maud

Service Numbers: Nurse, Staff Nurse
Enlisted: 16 April 1915
Last Rank: Staff Nurse
Last Unit: Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR)
Born: Willowie, South Australia, 28 January 1880
Home Town: Saddleworth, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, South Australia
Schooling: Yacka Primary & Saddleworth School, South Australia
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Natural causes, Adelaide, South Australia, 27 June 1954, aged 74 years
Cemetery: North Road Cemetery, Nailsworth, South Australia
Memorials: Gawler Council Gawler Men Who Answered the Call WW1 Roll of Honor, Keswick South Australian Army Nurses Roll of Honor
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World War 1 Service

16 Apr 1915: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Staff Nurse, Nurse, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)
5 May 1915: Enlisted Staff Nurse, Staff Nurse, Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR)
20 May 1915: Embarked Staff Nurse, Staff Nurse, Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR), 'Mooltan' - Demobilized in England
14 Aug 1919: Discharged British Forces (All Conflicts), Staff Nurse, Served in England, India & Egypt

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

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Trained at Adelaide Hospital
Matron at Hutchinson Hospital, Gawler
Embarked 20 May 1915 per ‘Mooltan’ from Outer Harbour, SA
Duty at Bombay Presidency Hospital, Alexandria 08 September 1915
Embarked H S 'Gloucester' 07 May 1916
12 General Hospital 10 May 1917
30 General Hospital 10 June 1917
35 General Hospital 31 July 1917
61 CCS 09 November 1917
1 General Hospital 28 March 1918
20 CCS 14 April 1918
14 Stationary Hospital 23 November 1918
Posted to Kitcheners Hospital Brighton for temporary duty pending repatriation 22 May 1919
Returned to Australia 9 July 1919 per ‘Frederickshire’
Appointment terminated 14 August 1919
Matron at Lady Galway Clubhouse at Henley Beach, SA
Awarded the King's Silver Jubilee Medal in May 1935
​Did not marry

The Call of Duty.

It was announced in our last issue that Sister E. H. Trenaman, matron of the Hutchison Hospital, was about to leave for England to join the R.A.M.C. for service in the field hospitals abroad. The board of the hospital gave her extended leave, and on Wednesday evening of last week they met in (the boardroom of that institution to say farewell to her and wish her a speedy return. In addition to the members ot the board the ministers of the town, as visitors in the hospital, were invited, and the Revs. T.Vigis, G. T. Arthur, M.A., G. K. Haslain, and Father McEvoy were present. Some outside friends of the matron were also present. The Chairman (Mr. Arthur South) said he knew that Sister Trenaman had no wish to leave Australia, but when she realised the urgent need of more and still more skilled Nurses, something within impelled her to sacrifice all other interests, and offer loyally to do her share in nursing the wounded and suffering in this awful and momentous war. She had orders to embark on Thursday of next week, and she had no knowledge of where her duties would lay, but wherever she would be located they earnestly hoped that she would retain sufficient health and strength to endure the pitiful sights resulting from modern warfare, and be the means of restating to health many a wounded soldier, as well as he a source of comfort to some who might be beyond human aid. They in Gawler had appreciated Sister Trenaman's work. As first matron of the hospital she had been a real help in the matter of furnishing and equipping. They had had the assurance of medical men in the town and specialists from the city that she was thoroughly efficient. The board bad been well satisfied with her successful management and tactful control of the staff and were hopeful that when hostilities were over she would resume her duties. They desired in saying goodbye to give her something tangible to carry with her and a token of their esteem, and as Chairman it was his privilege, by the direction of the committee, to ask her to accept a dressing case from them. They wished her good health and a safe return. Mr. S. B. Rundall, in supporting the Chairman, paid a fine tribute to the abilities of the matron as a careful and and most skilful manager. Whilst supplying every necessary comfort for the patients she bad at the same time been most careful in the avoidance of waste and extravagance. The great gifts seem to have been born in her. Dr. Tobin, representing the medical profession acknowledged the great help they had received from Sister Trenaman. A letter was received from Mr. E. H. Coombe, M.P., the first chairman of the board, in which he said he regretted not being able to be present to say a few words of appreciation end cheer to Sister Trenaman. She had justified her selection as matron completely, and had earned their warmest admiration and gratitude for the faithful and faithful way she bed carried out her duties. It would be painful to part from her even for a time, that she had been called to go to Europe was a compliment to her and an honor to the institution.

The Rev. Sydney Best wrote expressing regret st not being able to he present. He had no hesitation in saying that Sister Trenaman had endeared herself to staff and patients by her tactful and whole-hearted devotion to her important duties. As rector of St. George's Church he desired to say that she had net a fine example of churchmanship and her influence had been of great value. Sister Trenaman, in reply and acknowledgement of the present, spoke very feelingly, and said that she was very anxious to come back to Gawler. She had been very pleased with the treatment she had received, and looked upon Gawler as her home. At no other institution had she received more consideration, and she was thankful to the board for the way the members had studied her interests in connection with the hospital. The presentation dressing case was beautifully fitted up and on the outside was an inscription in silver, which read : — ' Presented to Sister E. N. Trenaman by the Board of Management of the Hutchinson Hospital, Gawler. May 12, 1915.' At the conclusion of the meeting Sister Mann invited those present to adjourn to the dining room, where coffee and sandwiches were served.

Bunyip Friday 21 May 1915 page 4

Miss E. M. Trenaman, who was on loan to the British during the war, is now matron of the Lady Galway Clubhouse at Henley Beach.

News Saturday 25 April 1936 page 3


Biography contributed by Di Barrie

Elsie Maude Trenaman was the second child, first daughter born to Samuel Thomas and Margaret (nee Honeyman) Trenaman at Willowie on the 28 January 1880. Samuel Trenaman was a butcher in Willowie, having set up business with William Chapman in the very early days of settlement. This partnership was dissolved in 1880, at about the same time as Elsie was born. Another son was born in 1881, prior to the family moving to Yacka in 1883.

Elsie attended the Adelaide Hospital to do her nursing training for 3 years. Following this she was a Charge Nurse for 6 years at the Kapunda Hospital, then Acting Matron at the Lameroo Hospital for 7 months before accepting a position for the first Matron in Charge of the Hutchinson Hospital at Gawler for 3 years. Elsie had been a member of the Royal British Nurses Association since 1906.

She enlisted into the Australian Army Nursing Service as a Staff Nurse on 16 April 1915 and embarked on the 20 May 1915 on the ‘Mooltan’ from Adelaide. Elsie was one of 130 Australian nurses who were transferred from the Australian Army Nursing Service, ‘on loan’ to the Queen Alexandria Imperial Military Nursing Service (the British Military Nursing service).

Elsie’s first appointment was at the Bombay Presidency Hospital in Alexandria Egypt on the 8 September 1915. Here she was caring for the soldiers from the Dardanelles and wrote a long letter back to her friends at the Kapunda Hospital about the conditions there. (This letter was written twelve days after her arrival, published in the ‘Kapunda Herald’ on Friday 5 November 1915. is repoduced at the bottom of this page).

She was working with an English surgical/nursing team who had been working together in India prior to their transfer to Egypt and commented on how friendly and competent they were. Many reports from Australian hospitals in Egypt aren’t as glowing as Elsie’s letter, but some-times the troops and nurses gave a brave and happy account to ease the stress of friends and family at home. 

All troops were safely evacuated from the Dardanelles in December 1915 and returned to Cairo where they were reorganised for the Western Front as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), and the Middle East as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces (MEF). Soldiers for the BEF were shipped out from Alexandria for England or France from March 1916 onwards.

Elsie embarked from Alexandria on the Hospital Ship “Gloucester” (Probably the HMHS “Gloucester Castle”) on the 7 May 1916. This ship had been used for transporting casualties from the hospitals on Lemnos and Malta to Alexandria in Egypt during the Gallipoli campaign. After the evacuation it was moved to the English Channel for the transfer of casualties from France to England. It is not known if Elsie served as a nurse on this ship after its arrival in England or not. The Hospital Ship HMHS “Gloucester Castle” whilst transferring injured soldiers from France to England was hit by a torpedo near the Isle of Wight in March 1917 with the loss of three lives. The rest of the crew and patients were rescued. Fortunately, the ship did not completely sink and was able to be towed into harbour.

Elsie was appointed to 12 General Hospital at Rouen, France on the 10 May 1917, but when the United States Army took over that hospital in June 1917 she moved onto the 30 General Hospital on the 10 June 1917. Six weeks later she was working at the 35 General Hospital at Calais for 5 months.

In November 1917 Elsie was moved closer to the Front Line, working in 61 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) at Lozinghem, between Calais and the Belgium border. Because of their importance in the line of treatment, CCS’s often had to be moved if the battle front advanced or retreated, and 61 CCS moved to Ham near St Quentin on January 1918. On the 28 March 1918 Elsie was transferred back to 1 General Hospital based at Etretat for a month before working at the 20 CCS at Vignacourt until the Armistice had been signed.

After hostilities had ceased Elsie was posted to the 14 Stationary Hospital at Wimereux until early 1919 when she was transferred back to England. She was temporarily posted to Kitchener’s Hospital at Brighton whilst she awaited repatriation and her return to Australia.

Elsie returned to Australia on 9 July 1919 on the “Frederickshire” and was discharged from the service on the 14 August 1919 after which she returned to Kapunda Hospital in the position of Matron. She served in that position for five years and was much admired by staff and community. When she resigned she was given a large social function at which many speakers congratulated her on her excellent service and wished her well in her future endeavours.

Elsie moved to Adelaide and commenced duty as the Assistant Matron at the Lady Galway Clubhouse at Henley Beach. The Lady Galway Clubhouse was opened at Henley Beach in 1916 for returned injured and convalescing service men. It was set up by the YMCA originally and catered for patients from the Keswick Hospital. In 1926 the Australian Red Cross took over management and it became a day care and live in respite centre for the men and had a cottage for the rest and recuperation of Army Nursing Sisters. In 1936 Elsie was promoted to Matron of the Clubhouse, a position she held until she retired.

In 1937, to celebrate the coronation of King George VI, medals were presented to 400 South Australians who had contributed to the state at many levels. Elsie Maud Trenaman was awarded a King’s Silver Coronation Medal for her considerable work involved in health for both the community and returned soldiers.

On her retirement, Elsie lived at Unley until she was hospitalised prior to her death on the 27 June 1954 at hospital. She was remembered and honoured by her surviving step-mother and three siblings and four step siblings. Elsie was buried at the North Road Anglican Cemetery.



Kapunda Herald (SA : 1878 - 1951), Friday 5 November 1915, page 2

Sister Basham, matron at the Kapunda Hospital, has received a long and interesting letter from Nurse (Elsie Maude) Trenaman, who was for many years on the staff of the hospital. She is now in Egypt,

 September 20, 1915, Alexandria, Egypt

"I am very well off indeed for papers. One friend sends me the Mail, Bulletin, and Observer every week. I don't get them always, but they arrive in big batches sometimes. Then my home people often send the dailies along. I do enjoy the Kapunda Heralds. There is always such lots of little bits that interest me. I've just been reading of your wonderful doings on Australia Day. Good old Kapunda.

Also, the hospital report. Have been off duty from second dinner till 5p.m., and have spent most of my time on my bed with South Australian papers all around me. I have had a change since I wrote last. I still belong to the staff of the No 17 General, my letters are still to be addressed there, but my services have been lent for a time to the Bombay Presidency Hospital. It is not far from the 17th and is staffed by English Sisters who had been working at the same civil hospital in Poona, India.

Their medical officers, too, are mostly men who have been in the same civil hospital out there, and they are just like a happy family, just as it would be if Dr. Glynn and you had brought we Kapunda lot out here and started a hospital. The sisters are such charming women, those whom I have come directly in contact with, especially the matron and the sister I am with. I am in the surgical division.

We have 80 beds in B section, and sister and I take 40 each, but we really work together, do our big dressings together and take charge of the whole section for each other’s off-duty time. We have Egyptian servants who bring up the patient’s meals and Indian ward boys whom they brought out from India with them; funny little scallywags, I wish you could see them. There are also Greek and French doctors or students, who come in as dressers, and the patients in the part I am working are British, so you can imagine the babel of tongues."

The hospital was a casino before the war broke out, a very big building right down by the sea. The patients in two of the wards can lie in bed and look out on the sea, which is almost as good as being up. One half of the building is used for Indian wounded; I have not been through that part yet. I don't know how long I'll be here.

They only have a small nursing staff – about 17 sisters for 850 patients, but lots of them are convalescents who live in tents on the beach and the orderlies attend to them. I am hoping they won’t move me as I am so happy here. I feel more like myself, sort of shaken down into place, than I have since I left home. Our M.O. is such a fine man, and a splendid surgeon; it is a privilege to be working under him.

I have to board at the hotel near the hospital as they haven't room at the quarters. However, it is not a great distance from the home. Sister Barrow, my special chum, and I went to see Miss Graham yesterday. She was down from Cairo for a week's rest, staying at a seaside place just a few steps from here.

I want to tell you something about a letter regarding we 'poor' nurses (that) I saw in the Mail yesterday, but it must wait till this evening as my after-noon tea has just arrived, and I want to go back a little early. There is a confirmation service at the hospital at 5 o'clock.

9 p.m.— Have just come off duty and had dinner. The service was not over until nearly 6 o'clock, but it was beautiful. I would not have missed it for anything. The sisters have a nice big room they use as their sitting room. All the doors opening from one room to another are double and they make little recesses when one door is closed. In one of these recesses in the sitting room they have a sweet little altar arranged which, when not in use, is locked right up. They take the furniture out and put rows of chairs in for service. It was there the service was held to-night. You can imagine rows of convalescent patients, some with heads tied up, some arms on splints, and two on stretchers, going through that beautiful and solemn service, and a few of we sisters representing the Church, as the Bishop said. It was really most impressive, and I could not help thinking how those boys' mothers would have loved to have been there. We sang " Come, Holy Ghost," and "Oh, Jesus, I have promised," without any accompaniment. It was just a simple little service, but I guess those boys will remember it as vividly as though it had been in a huge cathedral with a full congregation. Most of them will probably be going to the front in a week or two.

"Now, if I am not wearying you, a few words about this letter I saw in the Mail of July 31 which I received last week. Perhaps you saw it. When I first read it I was annoyed ; then I laughed aloud.

Someone has evidently been writing home a great tale of woe.- The correspondent, E. Kekwick, is enlisting the sympathies of the public on behalf of the poor nurses—no, I find it is the' brave' nurses—who went to Egypt, 'many of them with very little money in their purses, and when they arrived in Egypt they hadn't a tram fare between them.' Did you ever! Now I can see you, my dear Kapunda friends, drawing mind pictures of me running about Alexandria with holes in my stockings and no food to eat. Please let me contradict that impression. Personally, I am living on the fat of the land, at a hotel at about £2 17/6 a week, which the military are paying, not I. She goes on to say that one of them had been working five months and had not had one day off.

Well, excuse me saying so, but I don't believe it. If she did not it was her own fault. We here in Alexandria are generally acknowledged to be busier than they are at Cairo, because they only get the cases that are able to take the train journey after arriving from the Dardenelles, and we get three hours off every day. There were rare occasions when we missed having it, perhaps when a big convoy came in or we were short-handed and specially busy, but they were very rare, and we nearly always have half a day off every week. We are well cared for and well fed and very happy in our work. I don't deny that it is hard work, and here, where all the romance of war is shorn off and only the actual horror is visible, it takes all one's efforts, but I don't think there is one of us would wish to leave it till we see it through. I am still of the firm opinion that we are not enduring half as much as you dear folks at home who can only think of us girls and boys and wait for our return. I am not blaming E. Kekwick. It was nothing but kindly feeling that prompted her to write, I am sure, but I'd like five minutes' conversation with the lady who told her the gruesome tale. I'd have lent her a tram fare, if that was all she wanted. I really do object to being held up as a subject for public charity. So if you hear the matter discussed, please say we are quite well off. Two or three other South Australians are taking the same view, so it is possible there may be another letter appearing later on giving another view of the subject.

You wanted to know if I could make any suggestions as to the most useful things to send, and you mentioned mosquito nets. I think the hospitals are fairly well supplied with them. Different hospitals have different beds which they are made to fit. I was thinking the other day that when the cold weather comes, which we expect in a month or two, how impossible it would be to supply all my men with hot bottles, so bed socks, I should think, would be an excellent thing, and warm jackets for when they sit up in bed. So far we have not used those things; the weather has been so hot.

If you have anything to do with the Red Cross, ask them to make the pyjamas longer in the body. Most of them are too long in the legs and too short in the body, but I suppose they did not come from Australia. I was glad to see in the 'Kapunda Herald' that I am counted among your Kapunda nurses gone to the front. I like to feel I kind of belong there. I often think what a time we'll have when I get back.

Give my love to the large circle of valued friends".