New Zealand Military Nursing


New Zealand Army Nursing Service - Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps

1911 to 1914

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1911 – New Matron-in-Chief (MiC) Appointed
Miss Hester MacLean, Assistant Inspector General of Hospitals (founder of the Kia Tiaki in 1908) was appointed MiC on 7 August 1911 but not gazetted until 7 August 1913.  It appears that Cabinet did not approve her appointment as MiC until 15 February 1915 and this approval was for the New Zealand Army Nursing Service NOT the New Zealand Medical Corps Nursing Reserve. MacLean took over the work started by Gillies. She worked very hard to try and get a Service established, but again little happened until World War One.


Hester Maclean RRC, Matron-in-Chief New Zealand Army Nursing Service - 7 August 1910 - 9 November 1923.

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Hester Maclean: Born Australia 25 Feb 1863; trained Royal Prince Alfred Sydney 1893; Matron Kogarah Hospital 1894 -97; Matron Womens Hospital Melbourne 1900-04; Assistant Inspector of Hospitals New Zealand 1906; established, published and edited the New Zealand Nurses Journal "Kia Tiaki" from 1908; died Wellington 22 August 1932.

1913 – District Matrons Appointed

There was some movement in 1913 with the appointment of four district matrons with each to have 16 nurses under their authority.  Although nurses were willing to enrol they could not as regulations had not been approved and again no further progress was made.  Maclean had been working on new Regulations for a New Zealand Army Nursing Service Reserve (NZANSR) since shortly after she became MIC in 1911.

1914 – Regulations for NZANSR Submitted
On 4 March Maclean is informed by Lt Col Collins that the proposed regulations she had submitted appeared suitable subject to a few minor changes.  Having made the changes, Maclean forwarded the proposed regulations to Lt Col Collins who was to make the request for the formation of the NZANSR.  On 11 June Lt. Col. Collins informed Maclean that the draft regulations were suitable with only queries on uniform and pay to be resolved.

It is interesting to note that all correspondence during 1911 to 1914 appears to have suffered the same fate i.e. regulations drawn up and supplied to the authorities but no real progress made.
1914 - Crown Law Office Involvement
On 9 July the (NZ) Crown Law Office advised Maclean that in order to organise a staff of nurses on the lines laid down by the proposed regulations, a “statutory authority must first be obtained from Parliament.”

1914 – Nurses for War?
On 3 August Maclean wrote to the Adjutant-General and suggested that as it was likely troops would be sent to Europe she thought it likely nurses would be sent too and she suggested enrolling nurses with the understanding they accept the regulations once they are approved. She was told no nurses would be sent.

1914 - War Declared
With the declaration of war on 4 August, MacLean again wrote to The Director of Medical Services offering the services of nurses and again she was told no nurses will be sent with Expeditionary Forces (EF).

1914 – Nurses Requested for War Service
A request was made on 7 August for six nurses to proceed overseas with the EF. There was very little time to select and prepare for the nurses departure. However, the six nurses requested left NZ on 15 August for an unknown destination which, turned out to be Samoa. The NZANS had yet to be established. Therefore, these nurses were attached to the NZMC as NZANSR and were issued with service numbers which were later replaced with NZANS numbers.
Despite six nurses leaving NZ seven arrived in Samoa. The seventh nurse was Ida Willis who was stranded on holiday in Fiji and picked up during the ships stopover for fuel.  The group consisted of Bertha Nurse, Sister in Charge; Eva Brooke,  Wellington, Second in Charge; Vida Maclean, Wanganui; Louie McNie, Christchurch; Fanny Wilson, Wellington; Louise Brandon, Wellington and Ida Willis. All these nurses were decorated for their services During WW1.

1914 – Regulations
Colonel Chaytor wrote to MacLean on 24 August informing her that Regulations could not be could made until the Defence Act was amended.  This continued to be a stumbling block!  However he suggested Maclean ‘enrol nurses who were willing to assist in a time of need’ adding that regulations could be made after the Act was amended.

1914 – Nurses Volunteered
By October over 400 Nurses had volunteered for service but their services could not be accepted as the Defence Act had not been amended.

1914 – Deputation to Minister of Defence (MOD)
By now it was clear that authorities had, in their wisdom decided no nurses would be required for overseas service.  The nurses were not going to leave it at that and on 31 December a group met with the Hon. James Allen MOD. This group comprised of Dr Marshall MacDonald, President of the Dunedin branch of the New Zealand Trained Nurses Association, a Miss Holford; Miss Maclean, MiC, and three nurses who had served in the Boer War, Miss Monson, Mrs Dora MacGregor (nee Harris) & Miss Williamson RRC.  Each nurse had their say and it appears as a result of this meeting, this was the turning point as immediately after Mr Allen cabled the War Office and offered the services of 50 nurses. He also sent a cable to the Prime Minister of Australia and asked him that if reinforcements were sent to the front that he considers the inclusion of some New Zealand Nurses.

By this time many nurses had left New Zealand and offered their services to other countries such as Australia (AANS), England (QAIMNS); the British Red, the French Red Cross and other private organisations.

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Sherayl McNabb:
100 YEARS - NEW ZEALAND MILITARY NURSING: New Zealand Army Nursing Service - Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps: 1915 - 2015. Published 2015.

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