Between 1914 and 1918, as they came together each week for religious instruction, the children of the Anglican Milton Street Sunday School in Hamilton, Victoria, said this prayer for former scholars away at the war: ‘Shield and protect them O Lord; send them help and comfort from Thy holy place’. Of thirty-eight former scholars, nine died in the war; seven were wounded and, along with twenty-two others, returned home.
One who returned was Sister Lilian Malster of the Australian Army Nursing Service. Lily saw at first hand the devastating effects of front-line service on the many Australian soldiers who passed through her hands at the Australian General Hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations on Lemnos Island, Greece (near Gallipoli); in the United Kingdom; and on the Western Front in France and Belgium. From Lemnos she wrote a letter that appeared in the Hamilton Spectator:
This place has been condemned as a hospital site because of the winds. Winds! They are gales and blow a hurricane at night which is not what we want when we are weary and require sleep.
Lily also mentioned that she had collected a number of ‘fine curios’ and ‘secured a number of good views’. These ‘views’ of the world of the 3rd Australian General Hospital survive in Lily’s scrapbook, a treasure of the Hamilton History Centre.
Lily’s letters, printed in the Hamilton Spectator, also survive in another poignant object in the Centre’s collection – a ‘Record Book of Former Scholars who have enlisted in answer to the Empire’s Call in Connection with the Great War of 1914–1918’. This record book was compiled for the Milton Street Sunday School by the school’s superintendent, Osborn Mannett. He wrote out a list of all thirty-eight former scholars, including Lily, for whom the children prayed. He included photographs of each of them and information on them, such as newspaper cuttings. It is an unusual tribute to their service and a rare glimpse into the life of an Australian Christian community at war.
‘Australia’s wounded – Sister Malster’s experiences’, Hamilton Spectator, 3 November 1915: http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/120404430?searchTerm=malster%20AND%20%22lemnos%22&searc
Service file of Lilian Malster: http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/...
Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Greece: