The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Staff Nurse Norma Violet Mowbray, Australian Army Nursing Service, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.254
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 September 2018
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
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 Staff Nurse Norma Violet Mowbray, Australian Army Nursing Service, First World War.

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Speech transcript

Staff Nurse Norma Violet Mowbray, Australian Army Nursing Service
Date of Death 21 January 1916

Today we remember and pay tribute to Staff Nurse Norma Violet Mowbray.

Norma Mowbray was born at St George in Queensland in 1883 to Thomas and Elizabeth Mowbray.

While her father, Thomas, was a prominent police magistrate in Queensland, little is known about Norma’s early upbringing or where she attended school. She later undertook nurse’s training at Brisbane General Hospital and then went on to nurse at Warwick, before being appointed matron of the Charleville Hospital.

At the time the First World War broke out, Mowbray was nursing privately in Brisbane. She enlisted in the AIF’s Australian Army Nursing Services in November 1914; she was 31. 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.

Just ten days after enlisting, Mowbray embarked at Brisbane on the transport ship Kyarra, bound for Egypt. She was posted to No. 1 Australian General Hospital, at Heliopolis in Egypt, where her patients included Australians wounded during the landings on Gallipoli and subsequent fighting on the Turkish peninsula.

In October 1915, Mowbray was posted to nursing duty on board the ship Ulysses, which was returning to Australia with wounded and invalided men. She was able to visit her mother and sister during her return. She also gave an interview to Brisbane’s Telegraph newspaper in which she praised the courage of the Australians and said she felt proud to be “a countrywoman of men who could remain cheerful and considerate, even when racked by the most intense pain”.

Nurse Mowbray returned to Egypt in November on another troopship. She had been back in Cairo just a few weeks when she was admitted to hospital with mild bronchitis on 14 January. She was discharged four days later and returned to duty. However, her condition quickly worsened, developing into pneumonia, and she was readmitted to hospital. She died at the 1st Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis on the morning of 21 January, 1916.

Nurse Mowbray’s death was widely reported in the Queensland newspapers, and she was praised as “one of the most successful nurses in the profession”.

The Bundaberg Mail reported: “The death of this noble young woman whilst on ‘duty’s call’ will be the cause of lament throughout this community, as well as amongst those who have learnt to love and worship her for the kindnesses and attentions our wounded and sick soldiers have always received at her hands.”

Staff Nurse Norma Mowbray 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 Norma Mowbray, who gave her life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Emma Campbell
Researcher, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Staff Nurse Norma Violet Mowbray, Australian Army Nursing Service, First World War. (video)