MUNRO, Isabella
(Service number 22/151)

First Rank Nurse Last Rank Sister


Date 10 October 1883 Place of Birth Scotland

Enlistment Information

Date 6 July 1915 Age 31 years
Address at Enlistment St Helen's Hospital, Dunedin
Occupation Nurse
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Miss Margaret McKay MUNRO (sister), care of Mrs H. B. JOHNSTONE, 110 Park Terrace, Christchurch; Spring Bank, Otaio, South Canterbury
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 ft 0 in. Weight 122 lbs. Chest measurement 34-36½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair brown. Sight normal. Hearing normal. Colour vision normal. Heart & lungs normal. Teeth pass. Never ill. Never had a fit. Free from inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily & mental health. No slight defects. Scar under chin since childhood.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Hospital Ship No 1, Maheno
Unit, Squadron, or Ship New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps
Date 10 July 1915
Transport NZ Hospital Ship No 1 - Maheno
Embarked From Wellington Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian; Egyptian Expeditionary Force
Service Medals 1914-1915 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


Date 15 October 1918 Reason Struck off strength.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

21 February 1917 - admitted to NZ Convalescent Home at Sandwich. Returned to Duty mid April. 10 January 1918 - admitted to 2nd NZ General Hospital (Walton) – bronchial catarrh; discharged to duty on 16 January

Post-war Occupations

Nurse, Matron


Date 22 February 1951 Age 67 years
Place of Death Christchurch
Memorial or Cemetery Cremated
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Isabella Munro was born on 10 October 1883 in Scotland, the second daughter of Donald Brims and Hannah Mackay (née Ross) Munro. Donald and Hannah married in 1881 at Thurso, Caithness, Scotland. Margaret MacKay Munro was born in 1882, Isabella in 1883, and Charles William in 1885. In1891 the family – Donald and Hannah, and their five children – was living at Elswick, Northumberland, England, where Donald plied his trade as a baker. The three oldest children – Margaret, Isabella, and William C. (Charles William), who are known to have come to New Zealand, were all scholars. In addition, there were four year old Hannah, born in Scotland, and 8 months old Hugh Ross, born in Northumberland. What became of these two young ones? Mrs Hannah Munro died on 28 March 1892 in Northumberland, England, and Mr Donald Munro, a baker, died not two years later, on 8 January 1894 at Thurso, Scotland. On the deaths of their parents, Margaret, Isabella and Charles came to New Zealand, to an aunt, Mrs H. B Johnstone (née Isabella Munro). Isabella Munro, the elder, had married Harry Bell Johnstone in 1883 in New Zealand. They had one son, also named Harry. Harry, senior, died in 1894. Both Harry and Isabella had an interest in “Spring Bank”, Otaio. In February 1895, young Isabella Munro and her siblings, Maggie and Charles, entered Otaio School, having come from Newcastle, England. Their guardian was Mrs Johnstone, Springbank, Otaio. Her brother Charles gained a Standard VI award there in 1898. At the end of 1896, both Isabella and Maggie transferred to the Girls’ High School in Dunedin. Young Isabella did well at school, receiving a prize at Otaio in 1896 for attendance. In that year prizes were given only to those who had attended well during the year and the prizes were awarded according to the number of attendance cards obtained. The following year at Otago Girls’ High School she received a prize for science and in 1898 a certificate for science and a prize for sewing. Was she the Miss Bella Munro who gave a recitation at the concert at the 1898 break-up? In 1899 Bella Munro was awarded prizes for drawing and sewing as well as a practical music prize. In the same year her sister Margaret received the Boarders’ Scripture Class and the Boarders’ Sewing prizes. Awards were received for gymnastics and drawing in 1900. In August 1898 a sale of cakes and sweets was held at the Girls’ High School Gymnasium. B. Munro won the junior award for sweets.

Isabella Munro carried out her nursing training at Christchurch Hospital. For some years in the early 1900s till the outbreak of war, she lived at Park Terrace, Christchurch, probably with her widowed aunt Isabella Johnstone. In mid 1912, she was successful in the examination for the State registration of nurses, and in June 1915 she passed the State examination for the registration of midwives, being fourth in the order of merit. On the outbreak of war Miss I. Munro donated to the Liverpool Fund (Christchurch Branch) – one Balaclava, one muffler, one holdall, one housewife, one cholera belt, and six handkerchiefs.

Isabella was one of sixty-nine nurses selected for service abroad, to complete the quota of 100 which the Dominion had been asked to provide. Thirty-one had left in May for service in Egypt and the Dardanelles. When she attested for war service on 6 July 1915, she was at St Helen’s Hospital, Dunedin. She was 31 years 8 months old, single, and of Church of England affiliation. She was willing to be vaccinated or re-vaccinated and inoculated against typhoid. She was medically examined on 6 July 1915 at Wellington. A re-vaccination on 24 July was partially successful, and she was inoculated for typhoid before embarkation. Isabella was 5 feet tall, weighed 122 pounds and had a chest measurement of 34-36½ inches. Of fair complexion fair, grey eyes and brown hair, she was normal in most respects – sight, hearing, colour vision, heart and lungs normal. Teeth were a pass. Having had no inveterate or contagious skin disease, no illness, no fits, no slight defects, she was in good bodily and mental health. She had a scar under her chin, there since childhood. Oath taken on attestation: “I, Isabella Munro, do solemnly promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to our Sovereign Lord the King, his Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully serve in the New Zealand Military Forces, according to my liability under the Defence Act, and that I will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, and of the Generals and Officers set over me, until I shall be lawfully discharged. So help me God.” Nurse Isabella Munro was one of 100 nurses who left on the New Zealand Hospital Ship No. 1 (“Maheno”) on 10 July 1915. She named her sister as next-of-kin – Miss Margaret McKay Munro, C/o Mrs H. N. Johnstone, 110 Park Terrace, Christchurch. While Isabella was overseas, Margaret moved to Spring Bank, Otaio, South Canterbury.

Nurse Munro returned to New Zealand per the ‘”Tahiti”, one of four nurses on duty. The other nurses were ill and/or survivors of the Marquette disaster. Prior to this she was working at the Egyptian Government Hospital and had just been out on transport duty. She had embarked on 20 November 1915 at Port Suez. The ship was bringing home about 172 sick and wounded. The Transport arrived in Dunedin on Christmas Day. “The long journey had done much for them and they were only eager to return as soon as possible to the work they had been made to leave for a time.” “Their readiness to return as soon as possible to work, and even to face the dangers of the Aegean Sea again, is worthy of the highest admiration.” After a quick turn-around, she returned to duty on the “Maunganui”, one of the troopships conveying the 9th Reinforcements, leaving on 8 January 1916. Before leaving the nurses were entertained at morning tea by the Minister for Public Health, and a verse of the National Anthem was sung. She was detailed to duty at Heliopolis House Hotel at Cairo on 13 February 1916, and six weeks later to the New Zealand General Hospital. Embarking on the Hospital ship “Marama” at Alexandria on 9 June 1916, she disembarked at Southampton a week later. She was taken on Strength at Hornchurch, then shown “On Command” at Brockenhurst on 28 June. On 29 August 1916 Nurse Munro transferred from No 1 Brockenhurst and was taken on Strength at the 3rd New Zealand Hospital at Codford.

On 21 February 1917 she was admitted to the New Zealand Nurses’ Convalescent Home at Sandwich, suffering from dry pleurisy. She was discharged to duty on 1 March and transferred to No 2 New Zealand General Hospital on 21 July following. On 6 July 1917, 22/151 Staff-Nurse I. Munro was to be Sister under provision of N.Z.E.F. Order No. 707. Staff-Nurse Isabella Munro was transferred from No 3 New Zealand General Hospital to No 2 New Zealand General Hospital on 31 July 1917. Having been admitted to the 2nd NZ General Hospital (Walton) on 10 January 1918, suffering from bronchial catarrh, she was discharged to duty on 16th.

Staff-Nurse I. Munro, of Otaio, returned to New Zealand on duty, embarking at Liverpool on 1 February 1918. Three vessels were due in within the week. It was the second vessel, the “Willochra”, which carried Draft 147. I. Munro, 22/151, was one of two nurses on board. The South Canterbury returnees came from Lyttelton by special train expected mid afternoon on the 19th March. Her sister Margaret was by then at Spring Bank. The Medical Board assembled on board the Troopship “Willochra” granted Isabella Munro three weeks paid leave.

It was in March 1918 that Miss I. Munro gave £5 to the Christchurch Y.M.C.A.’s work for the war. Isabella Munro gave over three years of service in total - in Egypt, on the hospital ship and on transports, and in New Zealand hospitals in England, for which she was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. After returning she was posted for duty at Featherston Military Hospital (9 April 1918). On 26 September 1918, the Director of Movements and Quartering, Wellington, was notified that Staff-Nurse Munro, 22/151, was travelling to duty at Rotorua Military Hospital (Sanatorium). Sister Isabella Munro was struck off the Strength of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, effective from 15 October 1918, and was placed on the Retired List of Officers. She was informed of this action on 30 September 1918, at which date her address was care of Archdeacon McMurray, St Mary’s Vicarage, Parnell, Auckland.

Sometime in 1919 she went to a private hospital in Fairlie. She was there when her medals were despatched in July 1920. While in Fairlie in the 1920s Isabella engaged with the community. She wore blue taffeta with gold lace edging to the Fairlie Hunt Club Ball held in May 1924. She played for the Fairlie Golf Club, and in 1925 scored third place at the Fairlie Spring Flower Show for a Decorated Table. From Fairlie, Miss I. Munro went to the Malvern Maternity Home where she was matron for four years from 1926. While in mid Canterbury, Isabella Munro won awards for spring blooms shown at Ashburton. She also served on the executive of the Ashburton Branch of the Obstetrical Society. Prior to her departure from there in July 1930, she was entertained by the staff at morning tea and presented with an Axminster rug. Reference was made to the happy relations which had existed at the Home during her time there. She left for the North Island, perhaps Marton or Masterton. As of 23 April 1934, Miss I. Munro, Staff-Nurse of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Reserve List, was posted to the Retired List, with permission to retain her rank and wear the prescribed uniform. By 1938 she was living back in Christchurch and retired to Sumner, Christchurch.

Isabella’s sister, Margaret Mackay Munro, married widower, Canon Herbert Osmond Hanby, in 1926. They may well have met at Fairlie. Maggie suffered a long illness before her death in 1937. She was buried at Bromley Cemetery. Isabella’s brother, Charles William Munro, married Winifred Stowell in September 1910 at St Mary’s Church, Timaru. One Miss Munro was a bridesmaid. Charles was a shepherd at Springbank, Otaio, and a farmer at Cave, before he and Winifred moved to South Otago and then Henley near Dunedin. They had two sons, one of them serving in World War II, and five daughters. Charles died in 1952 and was buried at Otokia Cemetery, Henley, with Winifred who had died suddenly eight years prior. Their aunt, Isabella Johnstone, who had taken the children into her care when they were orphaned, died in 1922 and was buried at Bromley Cemetery. Her son and his wife are buried at St Mary’s Esk Valley Churchyard. And another aunt of the Munro children also came to New Zealand. Mary Ann Munro was probably the youngest sister of their father Donald. Emigrating about 1901, she lived at her sister Isabella Johnstone’s Park Terrace address. Isabella named Mary Ann in her will. Mary Ann died unmarried in 1927 and was buried at Bromley Cemetery.

Isabella Munro died 22 February 1951 at Christchurch, aged 67 years. Her wish, as recorded in her will, was that she be cremated and her ashes buried under a rose tree with the inscription “Isabella”. She made bequests to two nieces, Ngaire Munro and Marguerite Elsom, and to her brother, Charles William Munro, as well as several friends, and to the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch and to the New Zealand Institute for the Blind. To her solicitor she left her chiming clock. Any residue was to go to her brother and his children. No part of her estate, in particular her residence and furniture, was to be sold by public auction. Early in 1939 Miss Isabella Munro had subscribed £1.1s.0d. to the Archbishop Julius Memorial Fund for the extension of the Christchurch Cathedral. A photograph of Isabella Munro, as she was preparing to accompany the 9th Reinforcements to the Front in January 1916, was printed in the Kai Tiaki, 1 January 1916.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [10 January 2021]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5549 0084429) [18 January 2021]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5556 0363113) [18 January 2021]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [17 January 2021]; Probate record (Archives NZ/Family Search) [18 January 2021]; 1891 England census return ( [18 January 2021]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [January 2021]; Timaru Herald, 29 December 1896, 15 September 1910, 18 March 1918, 31 May 1924, 19 June 1924, 14 October 1925, Evening Star, 15 December 1897, 26 August 1898, 15 December 1898, 13 December 1899, 12 December 1900, 27 February 1937, Kai Tiaki: The Journal of the Nurses of New Zealand, 1 July 1912, 1 July 1915 [x 2], 1 January 1916 [x 3], 1 July 1916, 1 October 1918, 1 January 1921, Sun, 3 September 1914, 13 & 15 March 1918, Evening Post, 25 June 1915, 6 July 1915, 3 May 1917, 25 February 1937, New Zealand Times, 15 December 1915, 15 October 1918, Press, 14 March 1918, 28 March 1929, 28 February 1930, 2 March 1939, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 15 March 1918, Ashburton Guardian, 6 April 1926, 20 June 1930, 17 July 1930 (Papers Past) [09 April 2015; 17, 18 & 19 January 2021]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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