Sister Winifred Merelina Scott was attached to the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) during the war and worked primarily in hospitals in Egypt, initially treating the wounded from the Gallipoli campaign.
She was one of 12 nurses who left New Zealand on 1 April 1915 after the Australian Prime Minister asked the New Zealand government for nursing staff to bolster an Australian contingent heading to Egypt. The first contingent of 50 nurses from the New Zealand Army Nursing Service left the country later that month, although New Zealand nurses had already served in Samoa and others had volunteered their services and left unofficially for Europe.1
Born in Auckland in 1883, Winifred Scott was the third of six children of Alithea (nee Symonds) and William George Scott. Her father was a well-known surgeon at Auckland Hospital who also kept a general practice in Onehunga.2
As an undergraduate at Auckland University College, Scott kept terms for 1903 and 1905, passing the annual examinations in Latin, French, biology and practical biology, and in English in the 1906 exams. Active on campus, she was on the Students' Association executive in 1907, secretary of the Ladies’ Common Room Club and worked on the short-lived University journal Marte Nostro. She was also known to perform musical duets.3
Scott trained as a nurse, qualifying in 1912, after which she studied massage in England at the London School of Massage. She was working at Auckland Hospital as the country's first massage sister when she and the other 11 nurses were given just a few days’ notice of their departure for Sydney. From there, they left for Egypt on 13 April 1915 on board the Kyarra after being kitted out with uniforms and equipment. Her sister Alithea also served as a nurse during the War.4
Early on, Scott treated casualties from Gallipoli at the 2nd Australian General Hospital near Cairo. She was later attached to the 14th Australian General Hospital (AGH) at Abbassia, Cairo where she was based until late 1918. She also did tours of duty on ships transporting the wounded to England and Australia. In 1916 while with the 14th AGH, she was paid seven shillings and 10 pence a day.5
Scott was promoted to sister after two years of service. The punishing workloads meant medical staff were at risk of exhaustion and illness, and Scott was no exception, being hospitalised once for influenza and once for a mild ‘debility' in April 1917. She faced a hectic time when she returned to work the following month as fighting in Gaza had caused an influx of patients. New wards were opened, beds were put on the verandahs and the operating theatre ‘was in use from early morning until late at night, two tables being in constant use in the one room.’6
The war diaries of the 14th AGH offer fascinating insights into the operational, medical and recreational aspects of hospital life. Patients reportedly appreciated the fortnightly performances in Barrack Square by the Royal Welsh Fusiliers – ‘the best Military band in Egypt’ while staff enjoyed the `swimming bath', which opened in the hospital buildings in the July.7
As nurses spent intensive time with wounded soldiers during treatment, including their final moments, it is unsurprising to find in Scott’s military record a letter from a soldier's father trying to contact her ‘so she can give me valuable information re my son.’ It is not known whether he managed to reach her.8
Scott was awarded the Royal Red Cross Second Class for her war service. The Australian government also paid for her to attend a massage course in London in 1919 before she made the journey home.9
After her return to New Zealand, Scott was charge sister in the massage department at the King George V hospital in Rotorua and then head masseuse at the hospital and sanitorium in Hanmer Springs. She later spent more than a decade in Palmerston North where she was in private practice as a medical masseuse. A keen golf player, her interests included amateur theatrics and botany. After a long illness, Scott died in Onehunga in 1937, aged 53.10
Jo Birks, Special Collections
- Anna Rogers, While you’re away: New Zealand nurses at war 1899-1948, Auckland, 2003, p.53-54. Sherayl Kendall and David Corbett, New Zealand military nursing: A history of the R.N.Z.N.C. Boer war to present day, Auckland, 1990, p. 23-24; Peter Rees, The other ANZACS: Nurses at war, 1914-18, Crows Nest, N.S.W., 2008, p. xiii.
- Births, deaths and marriages online, Department of Internal Affairs; New Zealand Herald, 3 September 1930, p.14, accessed via Papers Past; Auckland Star, 16 June 1937, p.14, accessed via Papers Past; Personal correspondence.
- Auckland University College Calendar, 1904, pp.71-79, 1906, pp.85-92, 1907, p.111; Marte Nostro: The Auckland University College Chronicle, 1, 1, 1903, p.1; 1, 2, 1903, p.7; 2,1, 1904, p.1. NZGC 378.95 M37. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
- New Zealand Herald, 5 June 1919, p. 9, accessed via Papers Past; Auckland Star, 16 June 1937, p. 14, accessed via Papers Past; Kai Tiaki: the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, April 1915, p. 69, accessed via Papers Past. Rogers, 2003, p.55; Kendall and Corbett, 1990, p.77.
- National Archives of Australia: B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920; SCOTT W M, Scott Winifred Merelina : SERN SISTER : POB Onehunga New Zealand : POE N/A : NOK F Scott Dr N G., accessed via National Archives of Australia; Australian War Memorial: AWM8, Unit embarkation nominal rolls, 1914-1918; 26/101/1,14 Australian General Hospital and Reinforcements (July 1916 - November 1917).
- National Archives of Australia: B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920; SCOTT W M, Scott Winifred Merelina; AWM4 Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War, Medical, Dental & nursing, 26/68/1, No 14 Australian General Hospital, July 1916 - September 1917, accessed via Australian War Memorial.
- No 14 Australian General Hospital, July 1916 - September 1917, accessed via Australian War Memorial.
- National Archives of Australia: B2455.
- Dr G.H. Scholefield, Who’s who in New Zealand and the Western Pacific, 3rd ed., Wellington, 1932, p. 309; Auckland Star, 16 June 1937, p.14.