The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Sister Gertrude Evelyn Munro, Australian Army Nursing Service, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.331
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 27 November 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 Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on Sister Gertrude Evelyn Munro, Australian Army Nursing Service, First World War.

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Speech transcript

Sister Gertrude Evelyn Munro, Australian Army Nursing Service
DOD 10 October 1918

Story delivered 27 November 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sister Gertrude Evelyn Munro.

Gertrude Munro was born on 16 August 1882 in Ballarat, Victoria, to Emma and Alexander Munro. Gertrude’s father invented agricultural machinery, including a harvester and seeding drill, and ran a foundry business in Ballarat that had been established by his father.

Gertrude trained as a nurse at the Ballarat District Hospital, where she was working when the First World War began. She enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service in August 1916, at the age of 34.

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. They worked in hospitals, on hospital ships and trains, or in casualty clearing stations closer to the front line.

Munro was assigned to the Army Medical Corps’ British Indian Service and attached to a hospital in Bombay, where she served for 12 months. She then travelled to Salonica in Greece, via Alexandria in Egypt.

The British campaign in Salonica was a sideshow to the Western Front, but was an important operation to regain power in the Balkans and prevent enemy forces from gaining control of areas leading to the Suez Canal and the Middle East. While no Australian units were sent to serve in Salonica, Australian nurses went to relieve the British, French, and Canadian nurses, and to provide nursing care to British soldiers and Bulgarian prisoners of war.

Conditions on Salonica were harsh and the nurses suffered privations including limited access to fresh food and poor quality water. The weather was extreme: freezing winters with heavy snow falls, and intense heat in summer. Malaria was rife, and precautions against mosquitoes were grossly inadequate.

Sister Munro nursed for 14 months in these conditions, until on 1 October she fell ill with malaria and was herself admitted to hospital.

Her condition deteriorated quickly, and she died on the 10th of October 1918. She was 36 years old.

Sister Munro’s death was reported in the Weekly Times newspaper later that month. An unnamed returned nurse was quoted as saying that Sister Munro “had a most lovable nature and was a general favourite … I heard a matron of the British Regular Army say that Sister Munro was the type of nurse who would be a comfort to any nursing administrator. She was skilled in her profession, a reliable domestic manager, and a lovable woman.”

Sister Gertrude Evelyn Munro is buried in the Mikra British Cemetery at Kalamaria in Salonica. As the only Australian service person commemorated in this cemetery, special permission was given to erect a tablet in her memory.

Her name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among almost 62,000 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 Sister Gertrude Munro, who gave her life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Emma Campbell Researcher, Military History Section

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