Beryl Campbell

Beryl Campbell

Beryl Campbell

12/9/88 – 11/12/62
Married George Walker, a solicitor from Melbourne, in 1921.

Tell us a little about your training

In 1908, Beryl Campbell was accepted as a trainee at the Rockhampton Hospital.  Nursing training with its minimal pay and associated “harsh cleaning and housework” was exhausting and the trainees personal time was rigidly controlled.  Probationers had to ‘live-in’ at their training hospitals, a situation that permitted respectable, single women like Beryl to live away from home, so giving them a form of independence unlike other women of their generation.

Beryl completed three years training at the Rockhampton Hospital and was registered as a trained nurse with the Queensland State Registration Board of the Australian Trained Nurses Association (ATNA) in 1911.  She then went on to complete an obstetrics certificate in 1912 at Queen’s House in Adelaide.

What things in training are you glad student no longer have to endure?

Although we have no diaries of Beryl’s time as a trainee nurse, it is likely that she endured minimal pay and the associated “harsh cleaning and housework” was exhausting and the trainees personal time was rigidly controlled.  Probationers had to ‘live-in’ at their training hospitals.  At the same time though, Nursing gave single women the opportunity to leave home and pursue a career, rather than wait at home to be married off!

Tell us where you worked after you finished training.

At the end of her training Beryl had gained nursing certificates in General Nursing, Paediatrics and Obstetrics and worked as a Charge Nurse at Rockhampton Hospital.  From October 1912 she was employed as Head Nurse at Rockhampton Children’s Hospital until she resigned in April 1913 to take on the position as Matron at Marmor Hospital.
Beryl enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 12 November 1914 in Brisbane. Her appointment to the No 1 Australian General Hospital (1AGH) was made on 21 November 1914.
On 21 December 1914 she embarked in Brisbane as a Staff Nurse with the second contingent of Australian nurses from Brisbane on the HMAT A55 Kyarra as part of the 1AGH.  She arrived in Heliopolis in 1915 where the 1AGH was based in the converted Heliopolis Palace Hotel in Cairo, Egypt.
After recovering from a serious bout of cerebro-spinal meningitis in 1916-17, Beryl returned to duty. She was promoted to Matron, and on 12 June 1917 she embarked from Port Melbourne on the RMS ‘Mooltan’ as one of three senior matrons leading a contingent of 215 Australian nurses bound for Salonica.  Matron Beryl Campbell and her 90 Australian nurses took over the 50th British General Hospital (50 BGH), a 1200-bed hospital at Kalamaria.

What is the most rewarding thing about you role?

We think Beryl found her role as AANS Nurse (then Matron) very rewarding as she did not hesitate to enlist at the outset of WWI, and did not leave her final posting as Matron of 50BGH at Salonica until all of her patients and nursing staff had already safely departed.


One of your most fondest memories.

During her time abroad with the AANS, Beryl treasured quiet time to read letters that arrived from her family in Australia.  In a 1917 letter home she wrote:
“Family Darling,
An Australian mail came in yesterday & I got 37 letters. How I loved the letters.
Ten from you Ruby – & May, you blighter, only one – I revelled in letters all
day – Refused even to do my rounds that morning – Sent Miss Draper instead.”


Tell us about any funny stories.

1. Famously, Beryl was engaged to three men at once sometime during her AANS service!  One aspect of the family legend is that she “snaffled” the men to make the British Nurses behave more nicely to their Australian counterparts.  We are not sure how true these stories are, but there are certainly a LOT of photographs of Beryl surrounded by male admirers!
2. Beryl received the prestigious Royal Red Cross award in 1918, and recently we found what we believe are photographs she took at the Awards Ceremony in Westminster Abbey.  It looks like she smuggled her little Brownie camera in, and then jumped out of her place in the lineup of Service Personnel to take “Snaps” (as she called them) of King George and Queen Mary!!  One of her photos has a very cranky looking Army Officer standing to the side, glaring at her, and on the back she has written “considering the resistance I had, I was lucky to get any sort of ‘snap’ at all”!


What is the most dreaded activity you have to undertake?

We have not got a record of individual activites that Beryl undertook as an AANS nurse in WWI, but a 1915 letter to home from her time in Egypt says:
“I started to write on this a week ago, & got no further. We have been busy getting wards fitted up, as engagements are expected with the Turks on the Canal hourly. We have not many patients, about 130, but this place is to tap the Maadi & Zeitoun Camps so I suppose we will fill up. Measels & Pneumonia are the trouble. All the deaths are from Pneumonia; this dust from the desert seemingly settling on their lungs.”

Any other information you would like to add?

Medaille des Epidemies

The President of the French Republic also awarded Beryl the Medaille des Epidemies en Argent on 21 July 1919.  There was no accompanying documentation with this award but it was noted in the London Gazette No. 119 dated 17 October 1919.


Written by  Fiona Hayward

We would love to hear your story. Not matter how short or how long your journey in nursing & midwifery is. We would love to hear from ALL different types of nurses, dental nurses, veterinary nurses, school nurses……from all over the world. Please help add to our online exhibition. This exhibition runs until the end of 2020.

No Comments

Post A Comment