Saturday, 23 November 2013

A nurse’s war

They came from Coburg

Royal Children’s Hospital, circa 1914. Milanie Ambler worked at the hospital before enlisting.

Group portrait of Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) taken June 1917, Adelaide. Milanie Ambler is part of the group.
Image courtesy AWM. Image A01240.

At the time of her enlistment, Staff Nurse Milanie Treleavan Ambler lived with her widowed mother at 168 Moreland Road, Coburg. A 28 year old nurse who had worked at the Children’s Hospital in Carlton for 8 years, Milanie Ambler enlisted on 30 April 1917 and served in Salonika. On 6 June 1918, her older brother Llewellyn was killed in action in France. He had been wounded twice before while serving on the Western Front. He is remembered in Coburg's Memorial Avenue of Trees, Lake Reserve, Coburg.

After the war, Milanie undertook a course in Domestic Economy in London and was promoted to the rank of Sister. She returned to Australia in September 1919 and was discharged from the service in May 1921. She and her mother relocated from Coburg to Ivanhoe in the 1920s where she lived until at least 1954 when her mother Lizzie died and she moved to Kew. She did not marry and died in 1970 aged 81.

Harefield, England. 27 September 1918. A nurse and patients in Ward 31 of No 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital.
Image courtesy AWM. Image H16435.

Staff Nurse Octavia Ione Kelson was born in Coburg but by the time she enlsited in April 1917 aged 33, she and her widowed mother Emily Ann Kelson were living in Caulfield. (Her father Horatio had died at Ascot Vale in 1905.) She served in hospitals in England but became ill in October 1918 and was returned to Australia and discharged as medically unfit (with debility). She remained single for many years and travelled to England via Canada in 1928 when she was in her mid-40s. At some stage during the Second World War, she met and married Cedric Dudley, a draftsman seven years her junior and they lived firstly in the Dandenongs and then at Brighton, where she died in 1960 aged 76.

Pentridge Prison main gate. 
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Staff Nurse Evelyn Maud Reid enlisted in April 1915 aged 38 and a half. Born in Fitzroy, she had trained at the Ballarat and District Hospital and worked at Pentridge Prison in Coburg prior to enlistment. She worked in France until she was sent back to England as unfit for further service in France and returned to Australia on transport duty in July 1917. She returned to the war again in December 1917. She was promoted to Sister in May 1918. In April 1919 she was given leave to do a horticulture course at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Regent’s Park where she studied medicinal herbs. She returned to Australia in late 1919 and was discharged from the service at the end of January 1920.


  1. And wouldn't it just be wonderful to have photographs of them!

  2. I agree, Linda. I'd love to have photos and looked everywhere I could think of. Maybe someone out there has images to share.