Group portrait of the matron and nursing staff. Lily is sixth from the left, second row.
Group portrait of the matron and nursing staff. Lily is sixth from the left, second row. Australian War Memorial

Brave nurse 'soothed the torments of torn, battered bodies'

DURING World War One, it wasn't only the soldiers who were considered heroes.

Many young women, who were trained as nurses, threw in their lot and headed overseas working in hospitals not far from the fighting.

One of those nurses was Lily Campbell of Woodburn.

Born in 1882, Lily became a nurse working at Casino's District Hospital.

Shortly after the outbreak of war Lily enlisted and was one of a group of nurses who sailed from Sydney on 28th November, 1914.

They were part of No 2 Australian General Hospital and a photo taken of them before their departure on HMAT Kyarra described the occasion as having a flutter of excitement.

"They looked so capable and happy in their uniforms of grey brightened with little red capes and flowing white caps.”

Three and a half years later Lily returned to Woodburn on leave and was honoured with a picnic by the returned soldiers of Woodburn.

In the time she had been overseas Lily had nursed wounded soldiers with the Red Cross in Egypt, France and England.

The local paper gave testimony to the admiration the soldiers felt for Lily's work:

"To (the soldiers) she is the embodiment of the Red Cross spirit, and recalls visions of the "little sister” whose tender, skillful fingers...soothed the torments of their torn and battered bodies.”

Lily's brother John also signed up and fought on the beaches of Gallipoli where he was killed.

Lily was nursing in a Cairo hospital at the time and 400 wounded soldiers had been brought in.

One of them stopped her in her work to ask if she knew where Sister Lily Campbell was, because he wanted to tell her that her brother had been killed.

A shocked Lily continued on with her work, burying her sorrow to the benefit of the wounded.

John was a trooper in the 7th Light Horse and had been killed during an operation to prevent the Turks from reinforcing their position.

Lily finally came back to Australia permanently, having been promoted to Matron, when the war was over in 1919.

She married, lived a long life, dying in 1965 and is buried in Woodburn Cemetery.


. 'Nurse Honoured', Evening News, Monday, 25th October, 1920, Page 2

. 'Lily Campbell', Virtual War Memorial Australia, , accessed internet 28th July, 2019

. 'Sister Lily Campbell Honoured', The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, Tuesday 23 April, 1918, Page 4

. Other Anzacs by Peter Rees, Page 93, Angus and Robertson, published 2010, ISBN: 9781459603837