Louisa Annie BICKNELL

Poppy

BICKNELL, Louisa Annie

Service Number: Staff Nurse
Enlisted: 10 April 1915
Last Rank: Staff Nurse
Last Unit: 1st Australian General Hospital
Born: Near Elmo, Victoria, Australia, 1879
Home Town: Abbotsford, Boroondara, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Septic Poisoning in the Left Arm, Heliopolis, Egypt, 25 June 1915
Cemetery: Cairo War Memorial Cemetery
B 306
Memorials: Australian Military Nurses Memorial, Kyneton Honour Roll, Kyneton War Memorial, Langley Roll of Honor, Maryborough Nurses HB
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World War 1 Service

10 Apr 1915: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Staff Nurse, SN Staff Nurse, 1st Australian General Hospital
13 Apr 1915: Involvement 1st Australian General Hospital
13 Apr 1915: Embarked 1st Australian General Hospital, HMAT Kyarra, Sydney

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

Biography contributed by Heather Ford

 

Louisa was born in 1879 in country Victoria, most likely on the family farm situated on the Mount Pleasant Creek, Campaspe, 7 miles from Elmore.  She was the second eldest surviving daughter of John BICKNELL and Eliza BROOK, who had married on the 25th of December 1868 at Ulladulla, NSW.

She later attended school at Kyneton, served as a Sunday School Teacher in 1893, and learned the dressmaking business from Miss Creagh in Baynton street, Kyneton, before deciding to take up nursing.

 

By1909 the family residence was 133 Langridge St, Abbotsford, Vic., but in 1919 they had moved to 205 Langridge St, also known as ‘St Elmo’.  John, who had been a farmer and then a wood merchant, died on the 4th of May 1919 at St Elmo, aged 74, and Eliza also died at St Elmo on the 15th of October 1927, aged 78.

 

Louisa’s siblings:

*Eliza S.A. b.&d.1868 Ulladulla, NSW; *Thomas William Henry b.1870 Ulladulla – died 1890 Prahran, Vic (age 20); *Eliza Ann (Annie) b.1871 Ulladulla – marr CONNELL 1897; *John George (Jack) b.1873 Ulladulla, NSW – Farmer; *Charles (Charlie) b.1875 Elmore, Vic; *Ellen b.1877 & d.1881 Elmore (age 3); *Elizabeth (Bess) b.1881 Elmore; *Rosa Ruby Ellen (Rose) b.1883 Elmore – Furrier – d.25/4/1931; *Oliver Edward (Oli) b.1885 Kens.; *Victoria Violet May (Lettie) b.1888 Elmore – Dressmaker – d.6/6/1949; *Adelaide Lilian (Addie) b.1890 Runnymede, Vic – marr PLAIN.

 

Cousin: William James Heathcote BROOK – WW1: Spr 372, 1st Tun Coy – KIA 10/11/1916 Belgium

https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/101551

 

Religion: Church of England

 

In 1903 Louisa was undergoing nursing training at the Mooroopna Hospital, and on the completion of her 3 years of training she qualified as a member of the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses Association (R.V.T.N.A.).

This was followed by service at Creswick; the Melbourne Women’s Hospital; with the Melbourne District Nursing Society; as well as slum work.  She then joined the staff of Sister Kate Massey’s Private Hospital in Bairnsdale, which she later conducted in partnership with Annie Williams, a friend and fellow trainee from Mooroopna Hospital.  During her time in Bairnsdale she also became one of the first members of the local Branch of the Red Cross Society, and a member of the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist.

 

Having been accepted for war service with the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), Louisa was farewelled by friends at the Masonic Hall, and wrote out her Will dated the 27th March 1915, showing how her share in the Hospital was to be distributed in case of her death (see Notes for extract).  Two days later in the early hours of the morning, she caught the train from Bairnsdale to Melbourne, where she filled out her declaration of enrollment.

 

WW1 Service:

Louisa officially joined the AANS as a Staff Nurse on the 10th of April 1915 at the age of 35.  She sailed from Sydney with the Special Reinforcements for the 1st Australian General Hospital (1st AGH) on the 13th of April, traveling on the A55 HMAT Kyarra for Egypt.

 

Experiencing intense heat all the way, with the twenty hospital beds continuously full throughout, mostly with cases of pneumonia and measles, the Kyarra finally reached Suez seven weeks later, where they disembarked and were taken by train to Cairo and then on to Heliopolis.

 

The 1st AGH had taken over the Palace Hotel / Casino, which with all its grandeur added to the exhaustion of their long hours on duty, with its hard tiled floors and endlessly long corridors.  With the Gallipoli campaign well under way, Louisa worked tirelessly for three weeks caring for the train loads of sick and wounded, before she too became a patient.

 

On Friday the 25th of June 1915, Louisa’s parents received a cable advising them that Louisa was seriously ill with septic poisoning of her arm.  Sadly this was followed by a second cable on the Saturday morning containing the message: – “Louie passed away; every attention.”  She was the first Australian nurse to die whilst on active service abroad, but wasn’t without friends in her final hours, one of these being Captain Lindley Paterson, a brother-in-law of her friend and business partner, Annie Williams.  Another being Nurse Agnes Jackson, a Bairnsdale native, who before joining the 1st AGH in 1914 had not only nursed in Bairnsdale, but also attended the same church as Louisa.

 

Also with her was Nurse Mabel Pilkington from St Arnaud who had been with Louisa from the beginning of their war service – she wrote home the following on the 26/6/1915:

“I did not finish this as we have been deep in grief.  One of the best of the 14 of we Victorians who came on the Kyarra a month ago, died yesterday morning at 1 a.m.  She was only ill six days.  She got a septic germ in one of the surgical wards just through a scratch on her hand.  It travelled up her arm and she died of pyaemia and was buried in seven days from when she went to bed, suffering torture all the time.  She was as brave as any fighting soldier, and said when she was dying, ‘How hard it is to die with so little accomplished, but I would go through it again to help, and it is all in the game.’”

 

Louisa had died at the 1st AGH in Heliopolis, Egypt on the 25th of June 1915, aged 36, and was buried with full military honours at the Cairo British War Memorial Cemetery.

 

Nurse Pilkington also described the funeral service:

“Six transport motor ambulances took the Victorian shipmate sisters to the English cemetery in Cairo.  Preceding us was the ambulance containing an armed guard of about twelve soldiers.  Then followed the O.C. Colonel Maudsley, Major Webb, Matron Bell, and our ship matron, Miss Cornwell.  We have no gun carriages over here.  Six of our Army Medical Corps acted as pall bearers.  The coffin was enveloped in the old Union Jack.  The band marched in front of us for about 100 yards to the grave, playing the Dead March.  We all marched slowly to its strain, and then stood in double file on one side.  The armed guard stood with rifles poised, and, after three volleys in the air over the grave, then fixed bayonets and the bugle sounded “the last post.”  We laid three big wreaths on her grave.  The band played “Abide With Me,” and we took a last farewell of one of the brightest, healthiest, and most unselfish nurses I have ever known.”

 

**********************

 

Every Week (Melb, Vic), Thur 1 Apr 1915 (p.4):

Notwithstanding the early hour, quite a number of well-wishers assembled at the railway station on Monday morning to bid good bye to Nurse Bicknell, who leaves Melbourne this week to take up Red Cross work on the battlefield.  Although it only became known a few days ago that she was going, the popular nurse was the recipient of many useful gifts.  The departing nurse was presented at the railway station with a floral horseshoe tied with the Allies’ colors.  Nurse Bicknell’s kind and genial disposition has established her a universal favorite, and she carries with her the good wishes of all for a safe return to the town, where she performed her noble work.

 

Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo Chronicle (Vic), Wed 7 Apr 1915 (p.2):

Nurse Bicknell, of the Bairnsdale private hospital, left Bairnsdale for Melbourne, on Monday, the 29th ult., having been accepted for service on the next nursing staff leaving for the war.  Prior to her departure from Bairnsdale Nurse Bicknell was entertained by a number of her friends at the Masonic Hall, and was presented with a nurse’s wallet and a cut glass bottle of smelling salts.

 

The Argus (Melb, Vic), Mon 28 Jun 1915 (p.1):

DEATHS

BICKNELL – On the 25th June, at Heliopolis, Egypt, Louisa Annie (nurse), the dearly loved and loving second eldest daughter of John and Eliza Bicknell, 133 Langridge-street, Abbotsford, darling sister of Rose, Lettie, and Addie, of Charles and Oliver (Gippsland); John and Mrs Connell (Campaspe), and Mrs W. Zimmer (Broadmeadows).

 

The Argus (Melb, Vic), Tue 29 Jun 1915 (p.7):

NURSE DIES AT THE FRONT

The report of the first death of an Australian nurse in Egypt has come to hand.  On Friday last the parents of Nurse Louisa Annie Bicknell, who are residents of 133 Langridge street, Abbotsford, learned that their daughter was seriously ill from septic poisoning of the right arm.  On Saturday morning a cable from Heliopolis was received, containing this message: – “Louie passed away; every attention.”  The news came as a great shock to Mr and Mrs Bicknell and family, who are highly respected citizens of Abbotsford.  Three of the daughters are teachers in St Philip’s Sunday school, and parishioners of the church.  Many expressions of sympathy were tendered the bereaved ones when the sad event was made known.

Nurse Bicknell, who never knew a day’s sickness in her life, trained at the Mooroopna Hospital, did service at the Women’s Hospital, was for a time doing duty with the Melbourne District Nursing Society, and belonged to the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses’ Association.  For the last seven or eight years she, in partnership with Nurse Williams, conducted a private hospital in Bairnsdale; and was one of the first nurses to volunteer her services for the war.

 

Kyneton Guardian (Vic), Tue 29 Jun 1915 (p.3):

FOR KING AND EMPIRE

Nurse Bicknell

The death is announced at Heliopolis on the 25th June of Nurse Louisa Annie Bicknell, who is well known in Kyneton.  Nurse Bicknell is a sister of Mrs Connell, of Campaspe.  Her parents for some time resided in Welsh street, Kyneton, and Nurse Bicknell first learned the dressmaking business from Miss Creagh in Baynton street, Kyneton.  Feeling nursing was her vocation, she entered into training and was so successful that she had established a private hospital at Bairnsdale, which she gave up in order to proceed to the front.  She leaves her father and mother, five sisters and four brothers to mourn her loss.

 

Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo Chronicle (Vic), Wed 30 Jun 1915 (p.2):

DEATH OF NURSE BICKNELL

Widespread and poignant regret was felt and expressed in Bairnsdale last Saturday on the receipt of the news of the death of Nurse Bicknell, in Egypt.  On Friday a cable was received from Nurse Jackson stating that Nurse Bicknell was dangerously ill, having contracted septic poisoning in the left arm.  A second cable was received the day after announcing that the end had come.  It is only ten weeks since Nurse Bicknell left Bairnsdale to nurse the wounded Australian soldiers at Heliopolis, and up to that time she had not known a day’s illness.  For some years the deceased had conducted a private hospital in this town with marked success in partnership, first of all with Nurse Massey, and latterly with Nurse Williams.  She was trained at the Mooroopna and Women’s Hospitals and was a most capable nurse.  Her great success and popularity were no doubt due in large measure to her bright and inspiring personality, and in addition to this she always set herself to realise a high professional standard.  These qualities had endeared her to the general public as well as to a large circle of patients and intimate friends who to-day mourn their loss and who will express the keenest sympathy with her relatives at Abbotsford in their sorrow.  At the close of the service in St John’s Church, last Sunday morning, the Dead March was played, and the Rev. A.E.F. Young made sympathetic reference to the sad event and concluded – “It is both strange and sad that she, a non-combatant, and one who so recently left our midst should be the first resident of the town to give her life for her country; and this she has done as really as if she had fallen on the field of battle.”

The Collingwood town clerk, on behalf of the Mayor and councilors, in conveying their sympathy to the late Nurse Bicknell’s mother, wrote: – “Your loss will, I am sure, be compensated in some manner by the knowledge of the fact that your daughter had given her skilled services, and even her life, in the noblest and highest services, namely, the amelioration of the wounds of the suffering, who are bravely serving their King and country.”

 

Every Week (Melb, Vic), Thur 1 Jul 1915 (p.2):

Nurse Bicknell

DIES IN EGYPT

It will come as a great surprise and a shock to many people in Bairnsdale to learn of the death in Egypt of Nurse Louisa A. Bicknell.  The deceased was for nearly nine years connected with the nursing staff at the Bairnsdale private hospital, and was engaged there immediately prior to her going to the front only about three months ago.  At the time of her departure from this town mention of the fact was made in these columns, and her many friends and acquaintances who bade her bon voyage, never for a moment thought that after the lapse of comparatively a few weeks that they would be reading of her obituary under such sad, but noble, circumstances.

Previous to her coming to Bairnsdale, Nurse Bicknell was attached to the staff at the Women’s Hospital, and some time ago she was one of the sisters associated with the District Nursing Society in Fitzroy.  The cause of death, which took place at Heliopolis, Egypt, on Friday last, 25th ult., was septic poisoning of the arm.

Mrs E. Bicknell has received the following letter from the Town Clerk of Collingwood, on behalf of the Mayor and councilors: – “Your loss will, I am sure, be compensated in some manner by the knowledge of the fact that your daughter had given her skilled services, and even her life, in the noblest and highest of services, namely, the amelioration of the wounds of the suffering, who are bravely serving their King and country.”  The letter concluded by conveying to Mrs Bicknell the sympathy of the Mayor and the councilors.

Last Sunday at St John’s Church of England, Rev. Young made feeling reference to the late Nurse Bicknell’s noble actions.  The Dead March in “Saul” was played by the organist, Mr A. Boyce.

Last Saturday evening, at the Red Cross benefit given by the Punchinellos, Mr Keith McLean also made touching remarks concerning the death of Nurse Bicknell.

 

Numurkah Leader (Vic), Fri 2 Jul 1915 (p.2):

For Her Country

Sad news have been received from Heliopolis, Egypt, by Mr and Mrs James Williams, of the death of their daughter’s partner (Staff Sister Louis A. Bicknell) from sepsis of right arm.

It was only on the first of April last that Nurse Bicknell visited them here (to be present at the wedding celebrations of their own daughter Louis) prior to sailing for Egypt.

Nurse Bicknell and Nurse A. Williams were partners in their private hospital at Bairnsdale, their friendship commenced at Mooroopna hospital where they trained together, and the attachment formed than continued when they established their private hospital, and they only parted when Nurse Bicknell was called for the Army Nursing Corps.

Private cables advise details, and also the comforting fact that Captain L.L. Paterson was able to be with Nurse Bicknell in her last hours.

Nurse Bicknell was well known in Elmore, where she was born, and where her parents resided for a time, but latterly moved to Melbourne, and the sympathy of all is extended to them in their great loss, also to Mr and Mrs Williams and family, who feel the loss as keenly as that of a daughter and sister.

 

The Argus (Melb, Vic), Sat 3 Jul 1915 (p.11):

KILLED IN ACTION

BICKNELL – On the 25th June, at Heliopolis, Egypt, Louie (Nurse Bicknell), of sepsis.  The friend of Annie Williams.

 

The Melbourne Herald (Melb, Vic), Sat 3 Jul 1915 (p.13):

LIFE GIVEN IN SERVICE

[Photo]

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/242358836

 

Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo Chronicle (Vic), Sat 3 Jul 1915 (p.2):

The Late Nurse Bicknell

Prior to proceeding with the business of the Bairnsdale branch of the Red Cross Society, on Monday last, the president (Mrs C.J. Alsop) made a feeling reference to the death of Nurse Bicknell, who had been one of the first members of the branch, and who had given her life as truly for her country as if she had been in the fighting line, and moved that a letter of condolence be sent to the late Nurse Bicknell’s relatives.  The motion was seconded by Mrs I.G. Glassford and carried.

 

Kyneton Guardian (Vic), Tue 6 Jul 1915 (p.2):

MOSTLY ABOUT PEOPLE

Nurse Bicknell: Died on Active Service

Mr H.H. Reeves, secretary of the Kyneton Methodist Sunday School, states that the late Nurse Bicknell, who recently succumbed to septic infection in the hospital at Heliopolis, was a Sunday School teacher in Kyneton during 1893.  Nurse Bicknell has thus spent her life in service.  Her parents will be remembered by many as former residents of Kyneton who removed to Rochester some years ago.

 

Weekly Times (Vic), Sat 10 Jul 1915 (p.36):

[Photo]

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/132700939

 

Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo Chronicle (Vic), Wed 21 Jul 1915 (p.2):

[Photo]

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/74170735

 

Mildura Telegraph and Darling and Lower Murray Advocate (Vic), Tue 21 Sept 1915 (p.3):

Death of Australian Nurse

Matron Pilkington, of St Arnaud, writing to the Hospital Committee at St Arnaud, thus describes the death of Nurse Bicknell, of Bairnsdale: –

26/6/15 – I did not finish this as we have been deep in grief.  One of the best of the 14 Victorians who came on the Kyarra a month ago, died yesterday morning at 1 a.m.  She was only ill six days.  She got a septic germ in one of the surgical wards just through a scratch on her hand.  It travelled up her arm and she died of pyaemia and was buried in seven days from when she went to bed, suffering torture all the time.  She was as brave as any fighting soldier, and said when she was dying, “How hard it is to die with so little accomplished, but I would go through it again to help, and it is all in the game.”  We buried her with full military honors.  She is the first Australian sister to pass away in Egypt.  The whole palace mourned yesterday.  Her name was Sister L. Bicknell, of Bairnsdale.  She owned a private hospital there.  Six transport motor ambulances took the Victorian shipmate sisters to the English cemetery in Cairo.  Preceding us was the ambulance containing an armed guard of about twelve soldiers.  Then followed the O.C. Colonel Maudsley, Major Webb, Matron Bell, and our ship matron, Miss Cornwell.  We have no gun carriages over here.  Six of our Army Medical Corps acted as pall bearers.  The coffin was enveloped in the old Union Jack.  The band marched in front of us for about 100 yards to the grave, playing the Dead March.  We all marched slowly to its strain, and then stood in double file on one side.  The armed guard stood with rifles poised, and, after three volleys in the air over the grave, then fixed bayonets and the bugle sounded “the last post.”  We laid three big wreaths on her grave.  The band played “Abide With Me,” and we took a last farewell of one of the brightest, healthiest, and most unselfish nurses I have ever known.  When the chaplain was reading the beautiful burial service and said, “In the midst of life we are in death,” I felt how little we dreamed one of our number would pass out so soon.  She had just done three week’s work.  She is buried amongst our fallen Australian boys, and an open grave was waiting next hers for the remains of one of our wounded men to be interred that day.  The work goes on just the same to-day.  We have no time for regrets here, but some of these sad scenes we can never blot out of memory.

 

Kyneton Guardian (Vic), Tue 21 Mar 1916 (p.2):

MOSTLY ABOUT PEOPLE

In Memory of Nurse Bicknell

A public welcome home was accorded to Sister Jackson on Thursday by the Red Cross Society of Bairnsdale (writes the “Argus”), assisted by the mothers of the soldiers she had befriended in Egypt.  It was announced that Miss Ward had endowed a bed in one of the hospitals in Egypt in memory of the late Nurse Bicknell from the proceeds of the sale of a filigree cross which had been the property of a Queen in France.  Nurse Bicknell, it will be remembered, was Kyneton born, and died in Egypt early in the war.

 

Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo Chronicle (Vic), Sat 8 Apr 1916 (p.2):

RED CROSS, BAIRNSDALE BRANCH

LATE NURSE BICKNELL

In a note to the president and members of the branch Miss Annie L. Ward, Bairnsdale, says: – “I now hand you the balance of the proceeds of the old filigree cross, contributed by my friends and self in affectionate remembrance of our Australian sister, Nurse Louisa Annie Bicknell.  Contributed by Mrs Hooke, Ravenswood, Mrs Jas. Wood, Castlemaine, Mr Peter Mitchell, Oriental Hotel, city; Annie Louisa Ward, Bairnsdale.  Amount handed in previously, £10; amount herewith, £22; total £32.

 

The Argus (Melb, Vic), Sat 24 Jun 1916 (p.13):

IN MEMORIAM

BICKNELL – In loving memory of our loved sister, Nurse L.A. Bicknell, who was called to higher service on June 25, 1915, while nursing at Heliopolis, Egypt.

So dearly loved.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

(Inserted by her loving sisters, A. Connell and E. Zimmer, and brothers, J.C. and O. Bicknell.)

BICKNELL – In loving memory of our dearly beloved daughter and sister, Louie A. (nurse), who passed away at 1st Australian General Hospital, Heliopolis, Egypt, June 25, 1915.

“Only good night, beloved.”

And with the morn that angel face will smile,

Which we have loved but lost awhile.

(Inserted by her loving parents and sisters, Rose and Lettie.)

BICKNELL – In loving memory of my dear sister Louie, who passed away on service at Heliopolis, Egypt, 25th June, 1915.

Loved and lost awhile.

(Inserted by H.F. and A. Plain)

 

Kyneton Guardian (Vic), Tue 27 Jun 1916 (p.2):

MOSTLY ABOUT PEOPLE

Memorial Communion Rail

On Sunday morning at St Phillip’s Church of England a memorial communion rail was dedicated by the Rev. L.L. Wenzel to the late Nurse L.A. Bicknell, of Collingwood, who died in Egypt twelve months ago while nursing at Heliopolis.  The rail, which is of brass is surmounted by a tablet bearing the name of Nurse Bicknell, the date and place of her death, and an appropriate text.

 

Every Week (Bairnsdale, Vic), Thur 22 Feb 1917 (p.11):

BAIRNSDALE RED CROSS SOCIETY – ANNUAL MEETING

Sundries, ………………£25 to endow the Nurse Bicknell cot at the Caulfield Hospital, this being a portion of Miss Ward’s donation of £32; ………………….

 

The Argus (Melb, Vic), Sat 3 May 1924 (p.17):

IN MEMORIAM

BICKNELL – In loving memory of my dear husband and our dear father, John Bicknell, who passed away on the 4th May, 1919; also my dear daughter and sister, Louie, while nursing in Egypt, on the 25th June, 1915.

Where, with loved ones gone before,

We may love thee and adore,

In Thy presence evermore,

Bring us, Holy Jesu.

(Inserted by loving wife, mother, and family)

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Biography

Daughter of John BICKNELL and Eliza nee BROOKS

Nurse Bicknell died in Egypt last month through having contracted septic poisoning in the left arm while attending Australian wounded soldiers at Helipolis. The deceased nurse for some years carried on a private hospital at Bairnsdale before volunteering for service at the Front. She had a bright and inspiring personality and was a most capable nurse and beloved by a large circle of friends.

Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo Chronicle
Wedneday 21 July 1915 page 2

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