Norfolk jacket : Sister D E Duffy, 'Bluebirds', New South Wales Branch, Red Cross Society

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Amiens
Accession Number REL/21142
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Uniform
Physical description Silk, Wool serge
Maker David Jones (Australia) Pty Ltd
Place made Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Date made 1916
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Single breasted navy blue wool serge jacket fastened down the front by five large black plastic buttons, one of which is missing. The shoulder straps are plain navy blue fastened by a small brown plastic button. The stand up style collar and cuffs are piped in light blue and there are two lower front open topped pockets. On both sides of the front and back of the jacket are full length vertical seams, the front seams being connected by a single horizontal seam across the bodice. Attached to the left breast is the red, white and blue medal ribbon with blue enamelled star for the French Medaille de la Reconnaissance, 2nd class. Sewn to the lower left sleeve is the hand embroidered badge of the New South Wales Red Cross. The jacket is lined with ribbed faded white coloured silk, which is age separated at both the top and bottom. A maker's label is attached to the inside collar of the jacket along with a white name tape handwritten blue ink: 'D.E. DUFFY' .

History / Summary

Associated with the service of Dorothy Ellena Duffy. Duffy was a civilian nurse who had trained at Sydney Hospital before the First World War. In early 1916 she was selected from a group of eighty applicants to be part of a twenty nurse unit sent directly to the Western Front to nurse in French military hospitals. This idea came from members of the New South Wales Branch of the Red Cross who had noted the shortage of nurses in the French hospitals during an earlier visit to the front.

The twenty nurses selected had mostly trained in Sydney hospitals with some having had experience in Military Hospitals and a few had already served overseas. A French teacher was enlisted to provide them with an intense course in the language. Quickly named 'The Bluebirds' for their distinguishing blue uniform, the unit sailed for the Western Front aboard the hospital ship Kanowna on 4 July 1916.

On arrival in England the Bluebirds reported to the Anglo-French Red Cross at Knightsbridge where arrangements were made to send them, usually in pairs, to military hospitals in France.

Duffy was initially based at Amiens, before transferring to French Hospital No. 23, 4th section, region 16 at Rodez in 1917 and to French Hospital No. 46 at Beziers in 1918.

Originally volunteering for 12 months overseas service Duffy served until the conclusion of the war, returning home to Australia aboard HMAT Zealandia on 26 November 1918.

For her service Duffy was awarded the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise (French Medal of Recognition). This civil decoration was created in 1917 by the French government as a token of gratitude to all those who had come to the aid of the sick, wounded, disabled, refugees etc during the First World War. Only two of these awards were given to Australian nurses during the First World War, both Bluebirds. The other recipient was Hilda Mary Loxton.