Nurse Mary Alice Sherriff

Nurse Mary Sherriff

Nurse Mary Sherriff


Mary Sherriff was born on April 6th. 1890 in Longwarry, Mary was working at the Warragul Hospital when she enlisted with The Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) very early in the war but she was held back to remain nursing in Australia in reserve.

On the 27th. of February 1918 she was fully activated into service and had very little time to adjust or to get organised as just 7 days later, on March 6th, Nurse Mary embarked from Melbourne on the ship ‘Ormonde’ for India.

Mary was 27 years of age, and she was assigned to The British India Nursing Service in India.

The Indian hospitals were overwhelmed with sick and wounded Australian and British soldiers who had been fighting in areas north of India, and were looking for help. That help came in the form of Australian Army Nurses who were sent to small hospitals all over India, and compared to the work of their “sisters” in France and Egypt, they had experiences that varied widely.

There were the usual wounds and illness, but they found themselves confronted by cultural differences and language problems with the local staff, as well as the English nurses who were somewhat dismissive of the girls from the Colonies.

Actually, the AANS nurses were not overly happy about being sent to India, not because they thought there was not a need, or because it was India, but rather they felt it was more important to be joining their “brother’s and sister’s” in Egypt and France. Both the Australian and Anglo/Indian Governments did not help much, as on enlisting these nurses were told that they would stay in India for six months, then move closer to the fighting, in Europe, however the Indian authorities disregarded such a time limit.

This certainly did not please the nurses and the conditions and poor pay, below that of the British nurses that they worked beside did not help, yet they overcame them to serve with devotion and professionalism.

Nurse Sherriff arrived in India on March 26th. 1918 and was immediately on duty at the Colaba Hospital in Bombay.

As an example of conditions, they all faced, Mary was soon admitted to hospital herself on March 30th.  having fallen sick with small pox, which she contracted in India.

So severe was her illness it took a month for her to return to duty at a hospital in Barrackpore, West Bengal.

When the war ended there were many sick and wounded Australian and British soldiers who were too ill to travel and in early 1919, Mary was on the move again to join the 34th. Welsh Hospital in a place called Deolali.

Finally, Nurse Mary’s tour of duty away from Australia came to an end, and she boarded a ship on November 11th 1919, exactly one year after the war ended, finally arriving back in Australia, at Fremantle, on December 21st. 1919.

However, the agonizing wait to get home to Gippsland and family was not over as she had to wait for transport to travel overland, finally arriving back in Melbourne on January 23rd. 1920.

Her service with The Australian Army Nursing Service ended on September 6th. 1920.

We know that after this, Mary married Archibald Duncan in 1922 and they lived at Chelsea in Victoria, and together they had 4 children.

Nurse Mary Alice Sherriff died on January 28th. 1984 just short of her 94th. birthday.