Posted on Apr 18, 2017

Guest Speaker Magret Stowers, Researcher from Queenscliffe Historical Museum

Margret is a retired nurse working as a voluntary researcher at the Queenscliff Historical Museum.
She researched the WWI wartime life of Queenscliff nurse Violet Duddy who joined the AIF and later returned to Queenscliff. Magaret showed many photographs that illustrated Violet’s life.
Violet Duddy is now memorialised in Queenscliff Cemetery after it was discovered that her ashes had been buried or scattered without any headstone.
This was remedied by Margret, the Victorian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and the Geelong Cemeteries Trust in 2015.
Violet Duddy was born 1886 in New Zealand and emigrated to Australia with her parents.
She trained at the Alfred Hospital in 1908 and joined the Australian Nursing Service in 1915.
She travelled with other nurses on SS Orontes to the island of Lemnos where a three-tent hospital had been established by the Canadians, the Australians and the New Zealanders in preparation for the Gallipoli landings.
Conditions were poor; very wet and very cold and lots of mud.
The campaign there did not go well and casualties were high.
Initially there was reluctance by the Army and the Doctors there to accept the nurses as part of their team.
Her next posting was to Egypt where the Allied forces were developing new techniques for fighting from the air and from trenches that predicted later actions in Europe on the Western Front.
Here the nurses operated a hospital within a commandeered palace — very much more comfortable than Lemnos and in a much warmer climate.
But the war did to the nurses the same as it did to the soldiers.
All of them eventually finished up on the Western Front.
The casualty clearing station to where Violet was posted was close to the front and the cold, wet and mud become part of their lives again.
Violet was Mentioned in Dispatches — by Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haigh no less.
(Regretfully Haigh is recorded as the War’s worst commander on either side and is credited with the mass slaughter of his own troops by ordering suicidal attacks from the trenches — Ed.)
In 1919 Violet was discharged from the Army and Queenscliff gave her a hero’s welcome home including a street parade and a civic reception.
After resting and recovering from an illness contracted while away she took up work at the Prahran Baby Health Centre.
Violet Blanche Duddy died in 1961.
This research was published in 2015. In 2016 Magret was a participant in the re-enactment of the Violet’s welcome home in Queenscliff and she was a delegate that revisited the WWI battlefields where Violet Duddy served.
She visited Lemnos and the Western Front including Villlers-Betonneux where there is a memorial to Victorian troops.
Her work involved the participation of the children of the Queenscliff Primary School who researched other Queenscliff veterans of the war.
The children created a plastic leaf for each of the soldiers who did not return to Queenscliff and Magaret and her nurse-colleagues placed them on the soldiers’ graves at various battlefields in France.
John Spiteri thanked Magaret for her presentation.