Where there are men fighting, there are always nurses.
Sister Florence Syer
When the Second World War broke out, nurses again volunteered, motivated by a sense of duty and a desire to “do their bit”. Eventually, some 5,000 Australian nurses served in a variety of locations, including the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Britain, Asia, the Pacific, and Australia. Seventy-eight died, some through accident or illness, but most as a result of enemy action or while prisoners of war.
At first, the AANS was the only women’s service. The Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service (RAAFNS) was formed in 1940, and the Royal Australian Navy Nursing Service (RANNS) in 1942. But the AANS remained by far the largest, and also made up the bulk of those who served overseas.
By the end of the war, nursing sisters had been commissioned as officers, although many were loath to give up their traditional titles of “sister” and “matron”. They were yet to be given the same status and pay as male officers.
After the First World War, some nurses married and left the workforce; others took over the care of family members incapacitated by the war. Some retrained in jobs away from nursing, but many continued to work in hospitals, often in senior positions.