Sister Wakeford’s Christmas After Gallipoli

Sister Wakeford’s Last Gallipoli Diary Entry

Sister Muriel Wakeford of the Australian Army Nursing Service spent most of 1915 nursing soldiers at Gallipoli. She returned home in the autumn but headed back to sea before Christmas. Her last diary entry read:

Thu 16 Dec

Leaving by the Melbourne Express tonight for Melbourne. Joining the Karoola which is leaving on Saturday.

Muriel’s mother, Ellen, takes over the diary from this point, to record the departures of Muriel and also her sister Vera.

There is no record of how Muriel spent Christmas 1915 aboard the Karoola. It was her first Christmas after Gallipoli but it is not known where she travelled to next. Below is how I imagined Christmas 1915 for my characters in Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty. My novel is loosely based on Muriel’s diary.

Saturday 25 Dec

We discover we are not the only ones who have been up late preparing for today’s festivities. The galley staff have decked the dining room with red and green bunting made from lengths of cloth and ribbon.

The chaplain is kept busy all day with several services in quick succession to make sure everyone can attend. There are different sittings for dinner, too, to accommodate crew duty commitment. The chaplain is on hand again to say grace at each one. Roast beef and plum pudding.

Sunday 26 Dec

We pass the time by attending another church service. Perhaps, like the nurses, the chaplain seeks out his work to fill his time.

The men get their Christmas billies today. Someone forgot about them yesterday although how anyone can forget that number of billy cans cluttering up the stores is beyond me. They were delivered in their hundreds to one of the camps and somehow a contingent was brought on board here. They contain the most marvellous treasures – butterscotch, sardines, tobacco, safety pins, bootlaces, handkerchiefs. So thoughtful of the people back home.

 Last Entry

The following year, Muriel’s mother used the last page of Muriel’s 1915 diary to note down Muriel’s new address:

Mrs R. Sargeant

St Andrews Rd

St Helier Jersey

Mrs R. Sargeant was Muriel’s name after her marriage to Raymond Sargeant. It was surreal for me to see this on the last page of the diary after I’d read, studied and transcribed the rest.

Mrs R. Sargeant – that’s my name too.

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. Her latest thriller, The Roommates, is a Closer Magazine "Must Read". Her other titles are The Good Teacher, The Perfect Neighbours and Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty. Rachel won Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been shortlisted in various competitions including the Bristol Short Story Prize. She was born in Lincolnshire and is a graduate of Aberystwyth University. She now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children.

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