Dora Ethel Sexton, from Toowoomba in south-east Queensland, was born on 7 November 1885. She trained as a nurse and was working at Toowoomba General Hospital when World War I began.
Sexton tried to enlist in the Australian Army Nursing Service but was rejected. She remained in Australia until March 1915 when she went to Alexandria in Egypt.
Sometime in 1915, Sexton joined the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR). She nursed at the 15th General Hospital in Alexandria and on hospital ships sailing to and from Gallipoli. Sexton was working off-shore during the Suvla Bay landings of August 1915 in the Gallipoli Campaign.
After voyages carrying patients to Malta and England, Sexton's service next took her to Salonika.
In 1918, Sexton spoke to an Australian journalist, describing the town of Salonika and its hinterland:
The hills compensate for much, and during the summer I was stationed at the tent hospitals, about six miles out of town, just under … a lovely old mountain. One will not readily forget the sunsets, the glorious colouring over miles and miles of graduating hills, running away to the sea, gleaming here and there on clustering white tent hospitals grouped in the valleys.
In this picturesque place, Sexton witnessed the results of brutal warfare.
Sexton nursed in the 41st Serbian Hospital and saw Salonika burn during the fire of 1917, remembering:
There is very little of the city left, and it burnt for weeks. We would go out on the hills in the evenings and watch it.
Later reflecting on working in military hospitals on the Salonika front, Sexton said:
Three years … among our sick and wounded – years filled with hardship and strain, cheerfully borne by thousands of British women wherever the flag of the Red Cross waves – filled too with interesting and pleasant memories.
Sexton was also full of praise for the aides who worked alongside medical personnel:
I had the same girls with me on Malta who went to Salonika with me and I cannot speak too highly of them. Imagine a sister with four or five tents under her control, the staff sister with about 200 men to look after. Why, the one … aide can do a hundred and one things, and help in a thousand ways. I loved my girls and I can't understand how anyone can under-rate their services.
Unfortunately, source material is scarce on Sexton's post-war life, about which little appears to be known. Electoral rolls showed she was working as a trained nurse in towns throughout Victoria, including Beaufort, Edenhope, Lorne and Shepparton, and then moved to Melbourne.
Dora Sexton died in Macleod, Victoria, in 1970, aged 84. She was buried at Box Hill Cemetery.