The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Staff Nurse Ruby Dickinson, Australian Army Nursing Service, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2016.2.285
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 11 October 2016
Access Open
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Charis May, the story for this day was on Staff Nurse Ruby Dickinson, Australian Army Nursing Service, First World War.

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Speech transcript

Staff Nurse Ruby Dickinson, Australian Army Nursing Service
DOD 23 June 1918
Photograph: H16039

Story delivered 11 October 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Staff Nurse Ruby Dickinson.

Born in Forbes in New South Wales, Ruby Dickinson was the daughter of William and Julia Dickinson. Following her schooling she trained at the Lister Private Hospital in Sydney between 1906 and 1911.

In June 1914 Dickinson wed Frederick Body, a grazier from Cooma. They had been married little more than a year when she enlisted in the AIF’s Australian Army Nursing Service, in July 1915. Only nurses who were unmarried were eligible to join the AANS, so Dickinson used her maiden name.

More than 3,000 Australian civilian nurses volunteered for active service during the First World War, most of them with the AANS. They were posted to Britain, France, Belgium, the Mediterranean, India, and the Middle East, where they worked in hospitals, on hospital ships and trains, or in casualty clearing stations closer to the front line.

Dickinson embarked for overseas service within days of enlisting. From September 1915 to January 1916 she was attached to the 3rd Australian General Hospital on the island of Lemnos, where her patients included Australians wounded during the fighting on Gallipoli.

After Lemnos, Dickinson spent several months nursing in Egypt. In July 1916 she was assigned as the nurse in charge on the hospital ship Seang Choon, which was returning to Australia with sick and wounded men. She left Australia again in January 1917, this time bound for service in England.

Attached to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, in October Dickinson was sent to France, where the 3rd Australian General Hospital had been re-established. Soon after arriving she became ill and was sent to England to recuperate. She returned to nursing work in January 1918 with the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield in England.

Dickinson again dedicated herself to the job of nursing soldiers, ignoring her own ill health. On 23 June she reported sick to her superiors at Harefield, and was immediately transferred to the Australian Nurses Hospital in Southwell Gardens, London. She died of pneumonia that afternoon.

Nurse Dickinson was buried with military honours in the Harefield Parish Churchyard. On 22 October 1918 her mother wrote to the authorities about her daughter, who was just 32 upon her death:

I am told she was much appreciated for her steadfastness to duty and nursing skills, much beloved by the sick and wounded for whom she worked so hard. I shall always have the consolation of knowing that she died doing her duty.

Nurse Ruby Dickinson’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War. Her photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Staff Nurse Ruby Dickinson, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Emma Campbell
Researcher, Military History Section

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