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

1923 - 1939


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1923 - Matron-in-Chief Hester Maclean RRC Retires
The Matron-in-Chief, Miss Maclean had tendered her resignation in June of 1920, she had held this position since 1911 but for the first three years there had been little work attached to the honorary position. Then for six years she worked extremely hard to form the NZANS and a considerable amount of work was done for the Defence Department while continuing in her position with the Public Health Department.

In her letter of resignation she wrote,
How proud I have been to have had the privilege of forming the NZ Army Nursing Service. Much work for the Defence Department has devolved on me and while willing to carry on during the war in addition to my usual duties without extra payment, I feel that the time has come when the position should be no longer an honorary one.

Miss Hester Maclean knew that there was still much work to be done in relation to military hospitals but there was also increased developments in the Public Health Department which meant an increase in her responsibilities. She wanted to be released from her Defence Department duties because in 1920 Miss Maclean had become Director of the newly formed Division of Nursing

Concerned about Miss Maclean's resignation and its effects on the Defence Department the DGMS wrote to the CO in charge of administration. This resignation would entail considerable extra expense and inconvenience to this department for the following reasons:

  1. Miss Maclean had performed these duties for the Defence Department.. it would be necessary to appoint and pay a Matron-in-Chief if Miss Maclean resigned
  2. Clerical assistance....... would have to be paid by the Defence Department
  3. Office accommodation would be required for a new Matron-in-Chief
  4. A great part of the value of Miss Maclean's services has been that, in addition to being Matron-in-Chief she is also in control of the civil nursing service of New Zealand

It was obvious they were extremely pleased with the way in which Hester Maclean had performed her duties in both civil and Defence work, and during the hand over of the military hospitals to civil control. But they were also concerned at the added cost if she resigned and a replacement Matron-in-Chief was appointed. They prevailed upon her to withdraw her resignation. She did so and remained in office until 9 November 1923 when she finally retired fJessie Bicknellrom her position as Matron-in-Chief of the NZANS, and her civil job as Director, Division of Nursing, Dept. of Health.

On 10 November 1923 Miss Jessie Bicknell ARRC (right) was appointed as Matron-in-Chief and at the same time appointed to the position of Director, Division of Nursing, Dept. of Health. Miss Bicknell commenced service in the NZANS in 1915 and was appointed Deputy Matron-in-Chief the same year during Hester Maclean's absence overseas.

1925 - Uniform Regulations
General Order 444 published regulation uniform for all ranks, including where NZANS badge and fern leaf collars badges were to be worn and when.

1926 - Regulations Updated
The new Regulations were written and became effective from 19 November 1925 and were far more detailed than the 1921 Regulations.

1928 - Reserve List
21 sisters had been posted to the Reserve List.

1929 - Matrons Appointed
25 January 1929 additional matrons were appointed; Matrons V M K McLean RRC and I G Willis ARRC. All sisters now on the Reserve List had seen service during World War 1.

1931 - Miss F WilsoFannyWilsonn RRC Appointed Matron-in-Chief (below left)
In 1931 the positions of Matron-in-Chief and Director, Division of Nursing were separated. Miss Mary Lambie was appointed Director,Division of Nursing.

Miss Bicknell retired and on May 1931 . Miss Fanny Wilson RRC was appointed Matron-in-Chief of the NZANS. At the time of her appointment Miss Wilson was Matron of 'The Limes' a private hospital in Christchurch. She was able to retain this position as the NZANS was now being referred to as the NZANS Reserve. It was still necessary for nurses on the Reserve to notify the Matron-in-Chief directly of any changes in personal status or address.

1933 - Miss Wilson Retires - New MIC and Matrons Appointed
Fanny Wilson retired 4 July 1933 and on 5 July 1933, Miss Ida G Willis ARRC was appointed as her replacement. Miss Willis had seen service during WW1 and like Miss Wilson had been among the sisters who served in Samoa. Later she was on duty at NZGH Cairo, France and Featherston Military Camp.

Matrons appointed were: J A Moore ARRC Principal Matron; and Matron
V M K Mclean RRC. The Reserve list at this time was 23 sisters.

1934 - Peace Time - Reserve Only
By 1934 the NZANS comprised 1 Matron-in-Chief; 1 Principal Matron; 4 Matrons; 62 Sisters and Staff Nurses.

1937 – NZANS - Coronation ContingentIdaWillis
Two nurses of the NZANS, Sisters Florence Adams (22/178) and Maud Mitchell ARRC (22/38), were selected to be part of the New Zealand Contingent for the Coronation of George the sixth.

1939 – World War Two Declared
General mobilisation in September 1939  again showed the NZANS with Miss IG Willis ARRC (right) as Matron-in-Chief, were an integral part of the New Zealand Army.  Camp hospitals were established at Burnham, Trentham, and Ngaruawahia with medical staff including personnel of the NZANS being appointed.

Nurses on the Reserve List were called up for service and as in World War One, hundreds of civil nurses immediately volunteered but were not necessarily accepted immediately due to the selection criteria set up in time of war.

At the Government's request a Nursing Council was formed in June 1939 for the express purpose of advising the National Medical Committee on all matters pertaining to army and civilian nursing, and co-ordinate the activities of the Red Cross and the Order of St. John in time of war.  By doing this they avoided a repetition of the administrative problems that occurred during the 1914-18 war when hospitals lost their senior trained nurses to the NZANS and the training of the student nurses was seriously disrupted.

In December of 1939 a decision was made to reinstate the WW1 badge of the NZANS as the official badge of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service.


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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