The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Staff Nurse Louisa Annie Bicknell, Australian Army Nursing Service, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.68
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 9 March 2017
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on Staff Nurse Louisa Annie Bicknell, Australian Army Nursing Service, First World War.

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Speech transcript

Staff Nurse Louisa Annie Bicknell, Australian Army Nursing Service
DOD 25 June 1915
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 9 March 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Staff Nurse Louisa Annie Bicknell.

Born near Elmore in Victoria in 1879, Louisa Bicknell was the daughter of John and Eliza Bicknell. She had five sisters and three brothers. She undertook three years of nursing training at Mooroopna Hospital in Victoria before going on to work at the Women’s Hospital and the Melbourne District Nursing Society. She then established a private hospital in Bairnsdale, Victoria.

Bicknell enlisted in the AIF’s Australian Army Nursing Service in March 1915, at the age of 35. More than 3,000 Australian civilian nurses volunteered for active service during the First World War. 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.

Embarking for overseas service in April 1915, Bicknell was posted to No. 1 Australian General Hospital in Heliopolis, Egypt, where her patients included Australians wounded during the landings on Gallipoli. After just a few weeks Bicknell became ill with a septic infection in her right arm. She died of pyaemia, a type of septicaemia, on 25 June 1915.

It was widely reported that Bicknell was the first Australian nurse to die in Egypt. Reverend Young of St John’s Anglican Church in Bairnsdale said Bicknell was also “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”.

Further tributes flowed for the experienced nurse, who was said to have “never knew a day’s sickness in her life” before the septic poisoning. A reporter for the local newspaper wrote:

[She] was a most capable nurse. Her great success and popularity were no doubt due in a large measure to her bright and inspiring personality, and in addition to this she always set herself to realise a high professional standard.

Fellow nurse Mabel Pilkington wrote that Bicknell had died within a week of becoming ill:

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”.

She added that Bicknell had been “one of the brightest, healthiest and most unselfish nurses I have ever known.”

Staff Nurse Louisa Bicknell is buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery in Egypt. Her 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.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Staff Nurse Louisa Annie Bicknell 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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