Sunday, 24 November 2013

Nurses who came to Coburg after the war

A member of the Sea Transport Staff at work on the transport SS Aeneas, 1916.
Image courtesy AWM. Image C01041.

Staff Nurse May Frances Bonar was born in Queensland in 1889. Her older brother, Lieutenant David Welbourn Bonar, a mining engineer prior to enlistment, served with the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company and was awarded the Military Cross in December 1918. After the war, he settled in Colebrook Street, Brunswick. He died at Coburg in 1947 aged 59. In August 1917, his 28 year old sister May was appointed to the Sea Transport Staff. She served mostly in English hospitals and moved backwards and forwards between England and Australia several times, escorting wounded soldiers home. She finally returned to Australia in January 1919. After the war, she married clergyman William Thompson Alexander and they lived in various places in country Victoria before settling in Coburg where her husband died in 1949. According to historian Kirsty Harris, he had been an invalid for the previous 15 years. She remained in the area for some years. May (Bonar) Alexander died at Glen Waverley in 1976 aged 87.

Truby King Centre, Coburg. 
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

During the 1920s, Sister Sarah Leatham Duff was well known to many of Coburg’s new mothers as the Sister in charge of the Truby King Centre. Sarah Duff was born in Oakleigh in 1886 and died in Malvern East in 1953. She enlisted in 1916, giving her permanent address as the Military Hospital in Glenroy, although her next of kin, her father, lived in Camberwell and later moved to Casterton.  Sister Duff served in London and France and at the end of the war attended a course in nursing the blind at St Dunstan’s Blind College in Regent’s Park. She returned to Australia in March 1920 and in the early 1920s she worked for the Plunkett Society for the Health of Women and Children in Dunedin, New Zealand before taking up a position at the Truby King Baby Welfare Centre in Coburg. Sister Duff died at Malvern East in 1953.

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