New Zealand Military Nursing
New Zealand Army Nursing Service - Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps

Matron Eva Brooke - Medal Group

Return of Medal Group to Family


By Sherayl McNabb

It was in 2010, and purely by chance, that the whereabouts of medals awarded to Matron Eva Brooke for her World War One service became known to her family who had, for sometime, been trying to locate them.  In fact, had it not been for a conversation between two colleagues about how difficult it was to locate lost medals for families, and mention being made of Matron Brooke’s medals during that conversation, that their whereabouts may still have been unknown to the family.

Initially the medals had been on display at the Eastbourne RSA but after a fire they were put into safe keeping by the RSA medal curator with the intention of returning them to the family.  Up until recently the RSA’s attempts to find the family had not been successful however that all changed late last year and on ANZAC day 2011, the Eastbourne RSA presented Eva Brooke’s Medals to her Great Niece Virginia Barton-Chapple.  She in turn has entrusted the care of this very rare group of medals to the United Services Medal Collection Trust who will in turn ensure that they are put on public display.


Royal Red Cross (RRC) 1st Class, & Bar, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal with MID (Mentioned in Dispatches)

Award dates: 14 Sept 1917, Royal Red Cross (RRC) 1 Class; Bar to RRC, 8 Nov 1918,

Mentioned in Dispatches by General Douglas Haig. 03 June 1919

The Bar to the RRC, is the first and only one to be awarded to a New Zealand Military Nurse.

Eva Gertrude Brooke was born on 13 September 1879 in New Plymouth and began her nursing career in 1902 when she entered Masterton Hospital for training.  She completed her training on 5 December 1907 at Wellington Hospital after moving there in 1904.  Eva was the 614th nurse to gain her New Zealand Registration and, accordingly, her registration number was 614.  In 1907 she was appointed to a private hospital in Hawera as a nurse and later as a Nursing Sister.  She remained there until 1910 at which time she was appointed as a Nursing Sister at Wellington Public Hospital where she remained until she began her army nursing career in 1914.

Eva’s first contact with army nursing came about when she applied, in 1910, to join the newly authorised Nursing Reserve of the New Zealand Medical Corps.  However, the Nursing Reserve did not make any real progress in establishing itself until 1915 when the New Zealand Army Nursing Service (NZANS) was formed.

On August the 6th 1914 two days after WW1 had been declared, the Matron in Chief of the future Army Nursing Service, Hester Maclean, wrote to Colonel Chaytor, Adjutant General re nurses for overseas service, but she was informed that no nurses would be sent.  Ironically, two days later a request for six nurses to proceed with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in three days time was received from Colonel Will, Director of Medical Services.

Of the six nurses selected, one was Eva Brooke who was designated Second-in-Charge of the group.  On 15 August 1914 the nurses were sworn into the New Zealand Medical Corps and attached to No 4 Field Ambulance, (as the NZANS had yet to be formed) and issued with service numbers, Eva’s being 0/29.  The nurses embarked with the NZ Expeditionary Force on the same day for Samoa and on arrival took over the Base Hospital from the Germans.  On the 1st of April 1915, she was promoted to Matron in Charge and remained in this role until her return to New Zealand on 22 June 1915.

Thus began her Military Nursing career which would continue long after her service in the NZANS had ended due, in effect, to her continuing to care for military personnel at Rannerdale Veterans Home.

In the January of 1915 the NZANS was formed and all the Samoa based nurses became members of the new service and were issued with new regimental numbers, Eva’s being 22/103.

Three weeks after her return from Samoa, on 6 July 1915, she was posted as Matron on the New Zealand Hospital Ship (NZHS) Maheno.  The Maheno sailed on 11 July 1915 with a compliment of 14 members of the NZANS with Eva Brooke as Matron.  The ship arrived at Suez on the 16th of August and proceeded to Mudros. On the 26th of August Maheno sailed to Anzac Cove.  Maheno did a total of five trips to Anzac Cove with one trip in September being one of the busiest with a total of 746 patients; 300 more than they had taken on any previous trip.

The Maheno returned to New Zealand in January 1916 and Eva Brooke reported for duty as Matron at Trentham Military Hospital.  She was posted on 11 October 1916 as Matron to the NZHS Marama sailing on 7 November 1916 to England.  However, due to a high activity of German submarines in May 1917 and the sinking of several hospital ships, it was decided to remove the nurses from the Marama and they were subsequently disembarked at Alexandria, Egypt.  In a letter to Hester MacLean, the Matron in Chief, Eva wrote “Here we are dumped off our beautiful Hospital Ship – we were all very sad yesterday morning when we were told & in fact nearly said that we would not leave, but being military could not do so – we nearly all wept and so did the OC despite all its little ups and downs we’re, very sad..”

After her time on the Marama Eva was sent to England and in June 1917 was posted to the Officers’ Convalescent Hospital, Brighton, England.  While in England she was awarded the Royal Red Cross (RRC) 1st Class (RRC): "In recognition of her nursing service in connection with the War."  No doubt she was recommended for this award for her work on the Maheno during the Gallipoli Campaign.  She was presented with her award by King George V in November 1917.

January 1918 saw Eva posted as Matron to No 1 New Zealand Stationary Hospital, Wisques, France at a very busy time, and again in June 1919 she was rewarded for her service by the award of the Bar to the RRC; thus becoming the only New Zealand Military Nurse ever to be awarded the RRC twice.  This award was: “In recognition of her valuable services with the Armies in France and Flanders.”

Eva returned to New Zealand in 1919 for duty and was posted to the Featherston Military Camp Hospital followed by a posting to Narrow Neck Military Hospital at Devonport, Auckland.  She was Struck-off-Strength in February 1920.

On the 10th of June 1921 she was appointed the first Matron of the Rannerdale Veterans Home in Christchurch.  On 12 June 1925 she married William John Brown but she remained known at Rannerdale as ‘Matron Brooke’.

She retired on 1 July 1955 to the Lady Freyberg Servicewomen’s Home in Wellington until her death on 11 February 1962.  She is buried at the Karori Soldiers cemetery, Wellington.



This article is Copyright to Sherayl McNabb and cannot be copied without her permssion.

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