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Sister Julia Anderson

Sister Julia Anderson, A member of the Victorian Nursing Contingent

Julia Anderson was born 30 November 1869 in Young, New South Wales. She was one of four daughters and George and Bridget Anderson. Julia Anderson served in the Victorian nurses contingent in the Boer War. Tracking Julia down has been quite confusing as a number of erroneous details have crept into records about her throughout her life. At some point after her birth, the family moved to Grenfell in central western New South Wales. Julia Anderson began training as a nurse at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney in either 1891 or 1892. Here the first confusion creeps in, as she was registered as Mary Julia and her age does not tally with her birth certificate. It is not clear why that happened, perhaps someone in authority at St Vincent's did not feel that Julia was a good enough Catholic name. After graduation in 1894, Julia moved to Melbourne where the time of the Boer War she was head nurse in the Women's Hospital.

Julia Anderson was chosen as one of the nurses of the Victorian contingent. Here again some confusion crept in as she is always referred to as Julia B Anderson. It is not clear why this should be so as she never had a second name, perhaps somehow her mother's name of Bridget was attached to hers.

Victoria, whilst not having a nursing reserve, essentially created one, as its nursing group headed by Marianne Rawson, as superintendent was fully recognised by Victoria Barracks Melbourne and backed by the Commandant, General Downes, although their passages were paid for by public subscription. The group of ten nurses from Victoria went on the Euryalus with the 3rd Victorian Bushmen contingent on 10 March 1900. The Sisters opted to remain with the Victorian Contingents and travel with them to Rhodesia.

Enroute to South Africa, Sisters Julia Anderson and Helen Thompson ran the ship's hospital on the SS Euralyus. The patients were mainly afflicted with boils or bad bruising caused by accidents on board the ship.

The Argus newspaper noted before their departure that they would be paid by the War Office at the rate of £40 a year from the time they entered service in South Africa. They were to be distributed among the newly formed hospitals in Rhodesia and with the prevalence of enteritis, dysentery, malaria, blackwater fever, measles, pneumonia and influenza, there was a great deal of work for them to do.

Whilst at Beira, Padre Timoney from the NSWCB said Mass for the sisters.

The Victorian nursing sisters travelled overland from Beira via Marandellas to Salisbury by train then stagecoach to Bulawayo, to set up a Base Hospital (Hillside Camp hospital). The Nursing sisters were restricted to 40 ponds of luggage each, so had to travel in their normal nursing uniforms (sounds like economy travel). Like other Victorian nurses she was sent out to nurse as required and spent a good deal of time at Charter in Rhodesia. The majority of her cases inevitably were enteric fever cases not wounds. Although she describes in her letters one incident with Australian soldiers.

"I felt quite proud the other evening: one of the troopers got a fall from his horse, pulling his shoulder out and the major sent him over to me to see if I could do anything for him and after a hard pull I got it back. There were not any bones broken. I bandaged him and send him back to camp. The funny part was, his two mates came wanting to know if there was anything to pay."

At Charter she had no other medical assistance and she was on her own and often the only European woman in the area. It was in this type of situation that one of her colleagues, Fanny Hines, died. The Rev James Green, Chaplain to the New South Wales Citizenís Bushman made special mention of her work at Charter in a dispatch to Australian newspapers in 1900. By 5 July 1900 and she was back in the Hillside Camp Hospital, Bulawayo, having returned there via a rather hairy coach trip.

She was also heavily involved with Marianne Rawson in the set up of the Military Base Hospital at Hillside.

William Dobbin (Victorian Bushmen), later writing to Lady Janet Clarke in her role as President of the Womenís Hospital Committee in Victoria (the sponsors of the nurses), had this to say about those who volunteered as nurses:

"You have no doubt heard of all the misfortunes, disease, and discomfort encountered by the troops unfortunate enough to be sent to Beira, Marandellas, Bulawayo, etc. The nursing sisters were the only sisters who ventured into these districts, and they have indeed done more than their share of work. At times one, sometimes two, would be trekked off on a weekís coaching journey to some fever-bed where the troops were falling ill, with possibly no accommodation but a deserted public house, and I have seen two sisters on their knees scrubbing and cleaning such a place to receive the patients, and in the middle of their work 10 or 12 sick and dying men dumped down from an ox wagon - no orderlies detailed, no native servants. The nurses would be obliged to take off some of their own clothing to make pillows for the sick men, and then go outside to cook food under a raging sun. They were never with us after Beira, but some of our troops and men from other contingents write and speak in most grateful terms of their ever-willing services.

I fear that they are all homesick, weary, and worn out, but General Carrington will not hear of any of them coming through to Pretoria or Johannesburg, where they would have the advantage of large and well-arranged institutes, and the usual leave or holidays. Of course, you have heard of the death of Sister Hines, who simply gave her life to the work of saving others. I have spoken to Lord Kitchener regarding these nurses, and as I am now in the office of the C.S.O., I am in hopes I can keep their claims before the authorities for removal to a more congenial and healthy district. They will have a sympathetic friend in Colonel [J.A.K.] Mackay, who has been appointed staff officer for Australians and New Zealanders. He came out in command of the last contingent from New South Wales [NSWIB], and is now in office here...He is quite in accord with me that the nurses deserve all reasonable consideration. Not only the Victorian Bushmen, but all the troops via Beira, feel they owe you, and all those who so generously assisted in equipping this body, a debt of gratitude, and are anxious you should be made aware of the magnificent work done by those selected." [The Argus, 19/3/1901]

She returned to Australia during 1901 and visited her mother in Grenfell. Whilst there the citizens of Grenfell presented her with a piece of jewellery believed to be a gold brooch in the form of medal which was to be inscribed with her name. She then returned to South Africa.

Whilst in South Africa she met a doctor serving the British Army. This was Dr John Ignatius Worgan Morris, born in India but moved at a young age to Tasmania where he was educated at Launceston Church of England Grammar School. He then completed his medical training in Britain and joined the British Army. For part of the Boer War, he was the regimental medical officer of the 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. The couple married in Kimberley, South Africa in approximately 1904. Following completion of service in the British Army about 1910, the couple moved to England where Dr Morris took charge of Kelling Sanatorium at Holt in Norfolk. He held this position except for war service in World War I until his death in 1936. Julia apparently worked along side him in this enterprise. Julia is said also to have served in World War I but it seems likely that this was on home service in England in repatriation hospitals.

Julia Anderson received the Queens South Africa medal and the Kings South Africa medal. She died 8th October 1954 at Crossing lodge, Upper Maze Hill, St Leonards on Sea, United Kingdom.

She is commemorated on the Nursing Honour Roll at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney. (as Mary Julia Anderson)

Compiled by David Deasey with assistance from the Anderson family records supplied by V Cassin. Information from Dr M Grehanís Biographical file on Julia Anderson is acknowledged.


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