Edith Florence “Queenie” Avenell was twenty-five years old when she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service the day after the Australian and New Zealand forces stormed the beaches of Turkey on that first Anzac Day in 1915. Resigning from her position as matron of the Innisfail Hospital, she set out to do her bit for the war effort by nursing Australian soldiers. The letters she regularly wrote home provide a very personal view of the war and the world of the times through the eyes of a modern, independent young woman.
The book reveals the lives of nurses behind the front lines during the First World War, the sacrifices they make and the bonds they share with “their boys”, the soldiers whose spirits were lifted and their wounds healed by the cheerful smiles and deft skills of the nurses. Through Queenie’s letters to her mother, the reader travels through exotic Cairo in a horse-drawn “gharrie”, shares her despair at the gruelling conditions of the Western Front and discovers how “the boys” learn to live their lives again after the horrors of the trenches and the loss of their young limbs.
Edith Florence Avenell was one of 2,139 Australian nurses who enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service to serve ultimately in Egypt, Lemnos, England, France, Belgium, Greece, Salonika, Palestine, Mesopotamia and India. This book is a tribute to their courage, compassion, skills, humour and humanity.