I was working in a cake shop in Dunedin when war broke out in September 1939 and started doing a night a week in the casualty ward at hospital.
I later did seven days’ training in a surgical ward and became a member of the Edith Cavell nursing division. Still, working full time I had to attend lectures, and practise bandaging. One night a week the volunteers were drilled by an army officer and taken on route marches.
In 1943 I was called up and with four others and posted to Trentham. I hadn’t been further north than Timaru before and was glad to have Violet who I’d met before on the journey.
The new recruits were met by a sergeant at the Wellington ferry terminal who issued their uniforms: men’s greatcoats, battledress, rain coats and boots.
We then continued by train to Trentham where we found our new homes were unlined huts some distance from the ablutions. It wasn’t unusual to wake on winter mornings to find flowers frozen in the vases.
My duties at the camp hospital included polishing with heavy, covered blocks called bulldozers. I also had to polish the copper steriliser with vinegar and salt and everything had to be ready for inspection by the matron and colonel in charge.
The volunteer aids were called on for injection parade and after receiving our own jabs we were expected to look after the men receiving theirs. The men were allowed to faint, but we weren’t!
When I read these notes, written by my mother there are so many questions I wanted to ask her, but she died in 2001. If you have parents, grand parents who are still alive, you might learn from this and show an interest before it’s too late.