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Experiences of War : Women and War : South Australians on active service

The first function for which the authorities recruited women as part of the official services was nursing. Even before the creation of a Commonwealth defence force, women had seen action as members of the colonial forces deployed in the South African War. Little is recorded of those nurses. However, the London Gazette of 10 September 1901 reports the award of the Royal Red Cross to Sister Bidmead, a South Australian nurse serving in the South African War.

The Australian Army Nursing Service Reserve was formed in 1902. Since then some 6,797 Australian nurses have served in the two world wars, the Korean, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars. The contributions of some of these women are documented in publications such as Guns and Brooches: Australian Army Nursing from the Boer War to the Gulf War. Personal accounts of many South Australian military nurses are recorded in diaries, letters, official records and oral histories kept in the State Library's archival collections. An example is Irene Bonin's diary from the First World War. She included much detail of her recreational activities as she explored the city of Heliopolis when stationed there in 1915. Two others are Gaynor Tilley (who served in Vietnam) and Betty Lawrence (who served in Korea). Both described the harrowing conditions of their service and their mixed feelings about their experiences.

Diary of Irene Bonnin. Volumes 1 and 2 : [extracts]
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Interview with Betty Lawrence
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Nora Heysen
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Nurse Irene Bonnin
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Nurse Irene Bonnin's luggage
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Sons, daughters, heroes
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South African War nurses
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Vietnam aero medical evacuations : [extracts]. Part 1 o
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Vietnam aero medical evacuations : [extracts]. Part 2 o
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