1914 Star with August to November 1914 bar : Nurse C Trestrail, Auxiliary Hospital Unit, Antwerp

Accession Number REL40943.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Medal
Physical description Bronze
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom: England
Date made 1919
Conflict Period 1910-1919
First World War, 1914-1918

1914 Star with sewn clasp bearing the title '5 Aug - 22 Nov 1914'. Medal is impressed on reverse with recipient's details.

History / Summary

1914 Star issued to Nurse Evelyn Claire (known as Claire) Trestrail for her service in Belgium in 1914. Trestrail was born at Clare, South Australia in 1887. She trained as a nursing sister in Adelaide, South Australia, passing her final exams for the Australasian Trained Nurses Association in January 1911.

Trestrail was working in the United Kingdom when the First World War broke out and joined a party of nurses heading for Belgium to work in a field hospital run by Mrs St Clair Stobart. Stobart's group sailed for Belgium on 22 September 1914, and landing at Antwerp, where they immediately set up a 120 bed hospital in a concert hall at Burchem, in the southern region of the city. Trestrail was one of the first Australians to encounter the shocking wounds of modern warfare, evident amongst the Belgian and French patients.

The concert hall was in the direct line of German artillery fire, and shells sailed over the building with regularity. The first enemy shells fell around the hospital on 28 September. Expecting the artillery bombardment the nurses and staff cleaned out the hall’s small squalid cellars in anticipation of having to move their patients down to safety.

When the shelling ended after over a week, the nurses emerged from the cellars to find Antwerp was being evacuated. They found motor lorries to transport most of the wounded but by late afternoon were alone with no means of escape. Fortunately, three London buses that had been requisitioned to bring British Royal Marines to Belgium were able to take the hospital staff out of Antwerp before the last bridge was blown up. They travelled to Ostend where the party was evacuated by the Royal Navy, arriving at Folkestone on 12 October.

The group had lost their drugs and equipment, but once they recovered from their escape they prepared to return to the front. Through the generosity of the British public the team was operational again, sailing from Southampton on 5 November for France where they set up in the sixteenth century Chateau Touraville in Cherbourg.

Thereafter Nurse Trestrail worked for a number of private hospitals in the Marne district of Paris, caring for wounded French and Belgian soldiers. She spent 1915 with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) on contract. After the war she worked in England for three years, including becoming certified as a masseuse in March 1919.

After returning to Australia in 1921 she married Sidney Percival Swan, a returned serviceman, in 1922. During the Second World War she trained women of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD). She died in September 1960.

Sister Trestrail had to fight to gain the recognition necessary to be granted her 1914 Star, and her British record contains comments dated 4 May 1918 stating 'Ineligible. Did not serve on the establishment of an authorised unit of the BEF'. This attitude, however, had changed by the following year, and her receipt for her 1914 Star is dated 6 June 1919 (see REL40943.004) and, most unusually, was issued by the Navy.