Profile

GILL, Florence
(Service number 22/69)

Aliases
First Rank Nurse; Sister Last Rank Sister

Birth

Date 15 October 1876 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date *1915 Age About 38 years
Address at Enlistment Auckland Hospital
Occupation Nurse
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin (1) Mrs R. WALTON (sister), Fairlie, Canterbury [WOTTON]; (2) Mrs R. WATTON (sister), Fairlie, South Canterbury; (3) Mrs R. WATTON (sister), Fairlie, South Canterbury; (4) Mrs R. WATTON (sister), care of Lance-Corporal WATTON, Supply Department, Featherston Military Camp; (5) Mrs R. WATTON (sister), care of Lance-Corporal WATTON, Supply Depot, Featherston Military Camp
Religion Church of England
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship (1) New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps; (2) Hospital Ship No. 2 Marama (Second Charter), New Zealand Army Nursing Service; (3) Hospital Ship Marama (Second Sailing of Second Charter) Staff, New Zealand Army Nursing Service; (4) Hospital Ship No. 1, Maheno (Fifth Charter).
Date (1) 21 May 1915; (2) 10 November 1916; (3) 22 March 1917; (4) 6 July 1918; (5) 14 December 1918
Transport Marama; Marama; Marama; Maheno; Maheno
Embarked From Wellington Destination Sydney, Australia; Sea; Sea; Sea; Sea
Other Units Served With No. 2 Hospital Ship Marama; No. 1 Hospital Ship Maheno
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian
Service Medals 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date

Discharge

Date 1 February 1920 Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

November 1915 very ill with enteric, maybe typhoid.

Post-war Occupations

Nursing Sister

Death

Date 11 December 1949 Age 70 years
Place of Death Christchurch
Cause
Notices
Memorial or Cemetery Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch
Memorial Reference Block 1A, Plot 86
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Florence Gill was born on 15 October 1876 at Timaru, the daughter of William Gill and Sarah Ann née Spencer. Florence was educated at Temuka, Timaru South and Gleniti schools. It was at Temuka District High School that she met with success, when she was placed first in Standard I in 1886, and third in Standard III in 1888, as well as first prize for sewing. At the 1886 prize-giving (held in February 1887), it was noted that, while there was a large number of children present, the parents were conspicuous by their absence. Florence's father would surely be absent. Florence and her siblings moved from Temuka School in April 1889 to Timaru schools after their father had left them, their mother then being recorded as their parent. Late in 1885 Sarah Gill applied to the Temuka court for an order to compel her husband, William Gill, to contribute to her support. She stated that she had married defendant in Timaru in January 1874. They had five children, the eldest nine years old and the youngest one and a-half years. Her husband had left her in May and gone into partnership in a hotel in Wellington. The magistrate ordered that he pay 15 shillings for the maintenance of his wife and 15 shillings for the maintenance of the children. The following March William Gill was arrested in Wellington and brought down to Timaru by train. In the Temuka court he was charged with disobeying the order made in December 1885. He had paid some and thought that he and his wife could settle out of court to avoid the publicity. The magistrate said that the public had a right to know, but also commented that “the wife had acted strangely throughout”. Time was to be given for the prisoner to make some arrangement. And an arrangement to pay he did make. In May, however, the police complained that he had failed to comply with the order. Interestingly, another child was born to Sarah and William in May 1886 at Temuka. On 1st June 1888 William came down to Temuka from Christchurch, gave Sarah £5 and left, telling her that he was going to leave the country. Sarah Gill lived in Timaru until her death on 29 November 1906 and burial in the Timaru Cemetery.

It was in December 1910 that Florence Gill passed the State examination for the registration of trained nurses, one of 65 out of 73 candidates to do so. She had done her professional training at the Gisborne Hospital, and after qualifying she gained further experience for 18 months on the staff of the Auckland Hospital. In early 1911 there were serious outbreaks of typhoid in the North Island. Nurse Gill and a companion were nursing Maori children with typhoid in the Wairoa district. When Nurse Gill went to Auckland Hospital to nurse the plague cases, she too succumbed, her companion nurse having taken ill sooner. Florence gave a graphic account of their experiences district nursing “among the natives” - “. . . . . . . , we began to look around for a suitable place to turn into a temporary hospital. We chose a building which had formerly been used as a meeting house, and then proceeded to put our beds up, in which the natives willingly assisted. Then we went round to the several houses to inquire about our patients. We found several in an empty house, which was minus doors, partitions, and windows, which perhaps was just as well for the health of the inmates. The native minister was holding a service m this building, the friends and relations of the sick also being present.

After waiting some considerable time for the service to end, we received our patients and brought them into hospital. From another house we brought three children, and by night we had nine patients.

The natives, though not liking us very much, and seeming to eye us with some suspicion, did not seem to object to our treatment. Nurse Raleigh and I did twelve hours’ duty night and day a fortnight about. I was on night duty the first fortnight, and my greatest difficulty for the first few nights was to keep the patients from rolling out of bed, particularly the children, they having been used to sleeping on the floor used to roll out, blankets and all. It was very difficult to make the natives understand they must not sit up or get out of bed. One old man made a trip out one morning to get his pipe to have a smoke. We got him back, and he was none the worse for his adventure. After putting him to bed he said: “Him no good; him very weak.” However, it did not prevent him from trying again. We got the doctor’s permission for him to smoke, when he said: “Him very good man. Very good!” He finally ran away because we would not warm his jelly.

We were there some three weeks when we were obliged to ask for more help, having by this time eighteen patients. Nurse Herdman was sent out to us, and assisted m the day work, which we found the heaviest.

We had four deaths, one a man who was brought in on a sleigh pulseless, he having had a severe haemorrhage. This patient was fully dressed when brought in, in trousers, vest, coat, collar and tie. He died two days after admission. . . . . . The unfortunate part of these cases, was that they came in too late for us to render them any assistance.

In the convalescent stage they were most difficult to manage in the way of food: looking with suspicion on the junket, which they called sour milk. The houpa (soup) they liked very much. Kumaras too was a favourite dish, and very pleased we were when they were able to have them, for then we knew they were on the high road to recovery.

. . . . . at the back of our hospital was another building, of which we converted a part into a kitchen; the natives lent us a stove, and although at times we had to feel our way instead of see on account of the smoke we, however, managed very well for a camp hospital.

. . . . . . Although we took every precaution against infection: boiled the water and milk, etc., washed any fruit the natives gave us, I ended up by contracting the fever myself, but am now convalescent, and will soon be ready for action again.” (Kai Tiaki: the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, 1 July 1911). In September 1912, Florence Gill resigned from her position, perhaps at Wellington. In June 1914 she left for Sydney after a short visit to Timaru and Christchurch. She spent a very enjoyable six months in Australia, and on her return engaged in private nursing in Christchurch from Miss Walls Home at 4 Armagh Street, before going to Auckland Hospital.

Come 21 May 1915 at Wellington and Nurse Florence Gill, along with Nurse Mary Gorman of Waimate, was a passenger on board the “Marama” bound for Sydney. There she transferred to the “Moldavia” for Suez. Florence and Mary were members of the first contingent of New Zealand nurses raised by the Government for service in Europe. Before leaving, the 31 nurses were given a farewell at Bellamy’s. Florence’s last employer was Auckland Hospital. She was single and of Church of England affiliation. Nurse Gill went on to Egypt where she was nursing at No. 17 General Hospital. In November 1915 Nurse F. Gill was one of four nurses named in the hospital report as embarking for England. It was subsequently reported that Staff Nurse Florence Gill, 22/69, stationed at Alexandria, Egypt, was indisposed. She had been admitted to the 19th General Hospital, Alexandria, on 21 November, “not yet diagnosed”. A month later the news was that she was very ill with enteric, and in another report that she had contracted typhoid.

Nurse F. Gill, herself, wrote from No. 17 General Hospital, Alexandria, on September 21st, 1915 – “We are in the thick of things now, and have seen about the worst that could happen. We have been very busy ever since we arrived, and are working very short-handed, twenty-one nurses being on the sick list. . . . . We seem to be standing the climate very well, considering what our climate is like. Five hundred patients arrived when there were only four or five on duty. We have very few wounded in the hospital at present, not more than five hundred, the rest are mostly typhoid, dysentery, and general debility cases.

We have several camps round about us, and at the back of the hospital is a French camp. We often see the men marching and practising their bugle calls, which are most weird and fascinating. They look very gay in their khaki coat, red caps, and trousers. Some of them wear khaki with broad red bands round their waists. They ride grey horses. I know very nearly all the bugle-calls of the British now, . . . . . We have on an average three sisters, two nursing orderlies, and two general duty orderlies; this number for fifty typhoid patients.

The rain keeps off, but we seem to have plenty of water. I am sorry I cannot say the same about soap. It seems very scarce in this part of the world, and Sunlight seems to be the only thing you can buy, so if you know of anyone who would like to make us a present of anything of any sort, just tell them to send soap, and remember we have on an average about 1500 patients. The Red Cross have been wonderfully good, but they give us fancy soap which lasts no time. The Red Cross have been very good. They find our splints and prepare dressings for us. The patients write on a slip of paper anything they want, and any of the nurses in charge of the ward sign it. They provide them with razors, strops, soap, writing-paper, tooth-brushes, combs, and hairbrushes, also the daily papers.

A surprise packet in the shape of some English Sisters arrived yesterday. About forty were for Egypt, but we only got five. However, they will relieve the pressure somewhat. . . . . . We have a good many New Zealand boys in this hospital, and jolly good sorts they are, too. In the convalescent stage they help us all they can, and we are glad of it, sometimes.” 300 invalided soldiers and staff returned to New Zealand in April 1916 per the “Maheno”. Among the casualties was 22/69 Nurse Florence Gill of the Army Nursing Service Corps, suffering from enteric, who disembarked at Lyttelton. She and other invalided nurses were granted another four weeks sick leave and given railway passes to their homes. It was anticipated that they would resume duty and be away for six months.

Florence Gill was there again for the second voyage of the Hospital Ship Marama. The ship had been refitted at Port Chalmers, with alterations and improvements in the accommodation of the sisters, and left Wellington on 10 November 1916. Prior to joining the ship the whole personnel was entertained at Government House by his Excellency and Lady Liverpool at an at home. Lady Liverpool pinned the Army Nurses Badge on each nurse’s uniform. Later in November it was announced (General Orders) that Florence Gill was among the nurses to be Army Nursing Sisters. Sister Gill was assigned to Hornchurch Hospital. It was noted that the sisters had quite an adventurous time getting from the port where they were disembarked from the hospital ship at their destination. Florence Gill left again for service from Wellington on the “Marama”, probably later than 22 March 1917, after a quick turn-around and overhaul for the ship. She returned from this voyage on duty on the “Ionic” in September for Home Service, firstly visiting South Canterbury. In July 1918 Sister F. Gill was again appointed for duty on a hospital ship, this time on the “Maheno”. Her final appointment was again on the “Maheno”, on 14 December 1918. And it was from the “Maheno” that she disembarked on 25 April 1919 at Lyttelton.

Each time that Nurse Florence Gill enlisted and embarked, she named her sister Lillian (Lily) as next-of-kin. In 1911 Lillian had married Robert Knight Wotton, who also served in World War I. Lillian was initially at Fairlie, before accompanying her husband to Featherston where he was a lance-corporal in the Supply Department. In all, Nurse Gill embarked with the New Zealand Army Nursing Service five times, regularly returning to duty – in 1915, 1916 and 1917 serving on Hospital Ship No. 2 Marama, and in 1918 on Hospital Ship No. 1 Maheno. She travelled nine times through the Suez Canal, twice round the Cape of Good Hope, and once through the Panama Canal, all within a few years; and she also served in Egypt and England. Having returned to New Zealand, Florence Gill was discharged on 1 February 1920 and placed on the Active Territorial List of Nurses, intending to go to the Timaru Military Hospital. She had already gone to Woodside Hospital in Dunedin, taking a position in Colonel Pickrell’s jaw hospital in Dunedin. She transferred from there to Timaru, and later to Trentham.

In January 1925 her appointment as sister in charge of the infirmary ward at the Jubilee Home in Christchurch was confirmed. A dance was held on 1 September 1931 to raise money to provide Christmas cheer for the old people at the Jubilee Home. Miss Gill and staff members greatly assisted the organisers and worked hard to ensure success. She herself wore “a handsome frock of cherry georgette, made with tight bodice and flared skirt, and a black panne velvet bridge coat trimmed with fur”. Florence remained at the Jubilee Home until her retirement in 1938, having become matron in 1927. Regular entries in The New Zealand Gazette – Register of Nurses, tell the story of Florence Gill’s career – Gisborne Hospital, Auckland Hospital, private nursing Christchurch, Active Service – military nursing, New Brighton, Christchurch – Jubilee Home. Appreciation of the services of Miss Florence Gill, the retiring matron of the Jubilee Memorial Home, was expressed by members of the North Canterbury Hospital Board. She was described as a very fine woman whom the board had been fortunate to have in its employment. There was a large gathering of inmates, staff, and friends at her farewell function. She was spoken highly of, with reference to “the high esteem in which she was held by inmates and staff alike; standing as she did in the relationship of a mother to her family, she had fulfilled the trust of her position with credit to herself and the home.” The Hospital Board chairman spoke of “the excellent work done by Miss Gill, and said that the hospital board had been confident that the home could not have had a more competent matron.” One of the inmates expressed “the regret of inmates who felt that they were losing one whom they had come to love and respect.”

As a tribute, and as a tangible reminder of her years at Jubilee Home, Miss Gill was presented with a fireside chair, an electric iron, and a toaster. (Press, 2 May 1938).

She is likely the Miss F. Gill who played in a very successful bridge and mah-jong party held in aid of the funds of the Friends of St Helens Hospital, in August 1938. In November following she was present at the annual dinner party of the Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Trained Nurses’ Association. Another World War I nurse – Anne Buckley – was then the president and was honoured at this gathering. Just a month later Miss Gill and Miss Buckley were present at a function to honour two retiring members of the Canterbury branch of the Registered Nurses’ Association. Another bridge and mah-jong party followed was held in April 1939, the proceeds going to the Archbishop Julius Memorial Fund.

On retirement, Florence had taken up residence in Papanui Road. In February 1941 Miss Gill purchased a “superior, eight-roomed residence” in Mansfield Avenue, St Albans. She sold this property in December 1943 and purchased a six-roomed house and 28 perches of land at 29 Andover Street, Merivale, where she remained until her death on 11 December 1949, aged 70 years. Florence is buried in the Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch. Her name is inscribed on the NZ Returned Army Nursing Sisters Association (Auckland) honours board, RSA Onehunga, Auckland. A photo is attached to the Cenotaph record, as is a photo of Miss F. Gill. For her service of 4 years 258 days in Egypt, in New Zealand, and on the Hospital Ships Marama and Maheno, she was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Florence’s brother, Arthur Herbert Gill who was living at Fairview, Timaru, was called up in 1916. Her sister Minnie died in 1905; Arthur in 1927; Lily in 1964; her brother William (Willie) also in 1927; and her sister Maude in 1966; another brother, William Henry, had died in infancy in 1879.

Sources

Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [04 June 2016]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5539 0044620) [20 August 2015]; NZBDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [05 August 2014, 19 June 2018]; Temuka Leader, 3 December 1885, 20 May 1886, 19 June 1888, Timaru Herald, 19 & 25 March 1886, 19 February 1887, 23 December 1903, 30 November 1906, 1 December 1906, 6 September 1912, 20 June 1914, 26 November 1915, 5 April 1916, 10 November 1916, 13 July 1918, Press, 23 December 1910, 22 October 1915, 4 February 1916, 15 April 1916, 29 January 1925, 11 May 1927, 2 September 1931, 23 September 1937 [x 2], 2 May 1938, 2 August 1938, 3 November 1938, 1 December 1938, 28 April 1929, 8 February 1941, 26 January 1944, Kai Tiaki: the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, 1 January 1911, 1 April 1911, 1 July 1911, 1 January 1914, 1 January 1915, 1 July 1915, 1 January 1916, 1 April 1916, 1 October 1916, 1 January 1917, 1 July 1917, 1 October 1917, 1 July 1918, Evening Post, 22 May 1915, 15 April 1916, 10 January 1919, New Zealand Herald, 24 May 1915, 12 July 1918, New Zealand Times, 24 November 1915, Sun, 25 November 1915, Taranaki Daily News, 26 November 1915, Dominion, 26 November 1915, 1 April 1916, Ashburton Guardian, 1 April 1916, Otago Daily Times, 27 November 1916, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 27 September 1917 (Papers Past) [05 August 2014; 08 November 2015; 16 April 2017; 18 & 19 June 2018; 05, 07 & 08 March 2019]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [05 June 2014]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG); The New Zealand Gazette – register of Nurses (various years); Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch, headstone transcription (South Canterbury Branch NZSG cemetery records) [04 June 2014], Ruru Lawn Cemetery, Christchurch, burial record (Christchurch City Council) [04 June 2014]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

Currently Assigned to

TS

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