Gallipoli: news from a Ulysses nurse
Sister Muriel Wakeford, a nurse on the hospital ship Gascon, wrote short entries in her diary during November 1915. No doubt she was resting and enjoying time with her family again in Australia.
Instead here is an extract from my novel Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty. My character Sara has also returned to her native Australia after months at sea. Verity, one of her nursing colleagues, is serving on the hospital ship Ulysses. In early November, Sara receives a letter from her.
Tuesday 2 Nov
Egyptian mail arrived – a letter from Verity aboard the Ulysses.
1 Sep 1915
How marvellous it must be to be back with your loved ones and settled into “civilian” life in Australia.
We had over one thousand on board at first. It has been impossible to keep up with the workload. Even organising food was like rolling the rock of Sisyphus. No sooner had we cleared away one meal than it was time to dole out the next. Our disembarkation at Alexandria was a fiasco. The ship was too high in the water to use a gangplank. It took ten hours to clear the ship. We felt wretched seeing all those bad cases just waiting.
The situation at Lemnos is as bad as ever. Patients are laid out on any scrap of spare ground and a tent put over them.
We took on five hundred today. They have been arriving on board faster than the stores. As a consequence we are short of bandages, lint and some medicines. What supplies have turned up have had to be piled in Matron’s office. It is a muddle to find what one needs.
Despite our working conditions, the ship’s crew are good sorts. The purser runs a cheery cabin and we gather there for coffee. Some of the officers are so charming to us that one suspects they beguile a nurse on every trip.
I will sign off now. Please forgive me if you do not receive this letter until Christmas. My first two weeks on the Ulysses have been so furious that I do not know when I will get a chance to mail it.