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1901 - Nurses Registration Act
New Zealand was the first country in the world to have a full Nurses Registration Act passed by Parliament and recorded on its statute books.

The Nursing Registration Act was to play an important role for nurses who were already overseas at the outbreak of World War 1 and those who were anxious to offer their services in New Zealand.

If a NZ nurse applied to join the Queen Alexandra Imperial Nursing Service (QAIMNS), a cable would be sent to the NZ Govt for a guarantee of the nurse’s qualification and if the nurse was not registered no guarantee was given.

1907 - Military Nursing Foundation Begins
The Military Nursing foundation in NZ began with a letter from HRH Princess Christian, President of the Princess Christian Nursing Service Reserve, to Lord Plunket, suggesting that a committee be formed to enrol members as an affiliated branch of the Army Nursing Reserve (ANR) of the QAIMNS.  Janet Gillies (a returned Boer War Nurse) became involved in the process and was instrumental in the change to the Defence Act of 1886.

1908 - 1886 Defence Act Amended
The Defence Act 1886 was amended on 7 May 1908 to include a new Regulation, No 125 which authorised the formation of the New Zealand Medical Corps Nursing Reserve (NZMCNR). This is the first occasion that a reference is made to the inclusion of nurses as a part of the Defence Forces in New Zealand.

The first Matron in Chief (MiC) was appointed to the new Nursing Reserve on 30 Aug 1908. She was Janet Gillies nee Speed. A call went out to nurses of NZ to join the new service. Approximately 11 nurses applied but none were appointed.  Four of the 11 were nurses who had served in the Boer War. 

Janet Gillies, SSStJ, Matron-in-Chief New Zealand Medical Corps Nursing Reserve
30 Aug 1908 – 29 June 1910

Janet Gllies (Speed):  born Wanganui, trained at Wellington Hospital 1887-94, a Member of the British Army Nursing Service Reserve in South Africa 1900-02.

After the Boer War she travelled to England at her own expense and trained in military nursing at the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley 1902-03.   She returned to New Zealand, and in 1904, she married and settled in Picton. She received the Queen South Africa and Kings South Africa medals for her service during the Beor War and late in July 1903 she was elected as an honorary Serving Sister of St Johns (SSStJ). The above photo shows her wearing this award. It is above the Two South African medals on the right.

Not a great deal happened through the remainder of 1908 and although correspondence flowed excessively from the pen of Gillies, it appears she received little or no co-operation from the authorities.

1909 - MiC Performance Questioned
Due to doubts held by the Director of Medical Services regarding Gillies ability to establish the Nursing Reserve, he made the following recommendations:

  • The best person suited to administer the Nursing Reserve would be the Inspector General of Hospitals.
  • In the event of war the nurses would be handed over to the Director General of Medical Services and during the war the nurses would come entirely under the control of the Director-General.
  • That the Assistant Inspector of Hospital be the most suitable person to be appointed Matron-in-Chief.

1910 - MiC Forced to Resign
On 29 June 1910 Gillies reluctantly she tendered her resignation effective 1 July 1910. Gillies resigned a very frustrated woman, her work unfinished.

Lord Kitchener visited New Zealand in 1910 and from an article in the Kai Tiaki it was obvious that he was disappointed that the corps had not been organised in time for his visit.  It appears that during his visit Lord Kitchener conferred with the Defence Authorities with regard to a scheme which included an Army Medical Service and a 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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