AUSTRALIAN ARMY NURSE’S WW1 DIARIES BECOME A HIGHLY-REGARDED BOOK: FRONTLINE HERO Australian World War 1 nurse Anne Donnell kept a diary right through her war years on the killing fields that we now know famously as Gallipoli. Anne was diligent in her recordings. So much so, that today they are regarded as a ‘benchmark’ for the true accounts of heroic Australian nurses at war. Much has been written about Gallipoli and how it has become identified as crucial to Australia’s early history and identity as then one of the world’s newest democracies.. Australians are ‘proud’ of Gallipoli and their involvement and heroism from its fledgling troops. Not so well known are the role Australian nurses played. They were similarly ‘heroic’. And were it not for Anne Donnell’s diaries and memoirs, Australian wartime nurses may not have been ‘recognised and remembered’ as they so rightfully deserve to be. Anne’s efforts were recognised during the war in a significant way. She was officially introduced to King George V in 1918 and received a significant note from the King: “The Queen and I wish you God-speed, a safe return to the happiness and joy of home life with an early restoration of health. A grateful Mother County thanks you for faithful services. George R.I. The first excerpts of Anne’ ‘letters’ as they were once called, were published in a book 102 years ago in 1920. According to her ‘grandson’, Karragarra Island’s Graeme Mitchell, that first account of Anne’s story was not a true account of what really happened, That’s because Australian censors were still actively at work and much or what Anne wrote in the book ‘Letters of an Australian Army Sister’, was never fully published. Fortunately the actual diaries still exist and were passed onto Graeme several years ago by his brother, who wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Graeme and his brother’s mother was Yvonne Annear, the much ‘troubled’ adopted daughter of Anne Donnell (but that’s another story! - Ed) The Friendly Bay Islander first told the story of Anne and her grandson Graeme and his partner Jan Leader back in 2017. From the diaries, Jan produced a highly recognised children’s book called “Anne Threw a Streamer’. This book has since been broken down into 19 chapters for use in a reading, coaching and learning system throughout Australia as a reading support tool. Graeme has carried out extensive research and discovered that the Library of NSW has transcripts of Anne’s notes, but has learned that these are not totally accurate either. “As it happens, we have the only truly accurate account of Anne’s wartime story. They are her actual diaries and we have them here on Karragarra Island,” Graeme Mitchell said. Jan Leader started transcribing the diaries eight years ago. Such has been the impact of the diaries, that 60 Minutes took Graeme and Jan to Gallipoli for the Centenary of Anzac to tell Anne’s story. Anne’s memories challenge many assumed stereotypes about WW1, Gallipoli and the role of women in that awful war. After all of this, Jan and Graeme finished their final edits to the transcript that is now called FRONTLINE HERO The inspiring, true story of an Australian nurse at Gallipoli. The book has been published by Ocean Reeve publishing. It is held in such high regard that head of the Australian War Memorial and former Federal politician Brendan Nelson, historian Jim Claven, and Colonel Jan McCarthy wrote forwards for the book. History Professor Rob Pascoe conducted the historian's work to a very high standard. The cover was designed by former Karragarra Island artist Joshua Lamb. To find out more and to purchase a copy of the book, you can go to annedonnell.com.au As for the story itself, The Friendly Bay Islander will review the book in a forthcoming edition.
• Graeme Mitchell and Jan Leader with Ann Donnell’s vital history