Thursday, April 27, 2023
Mackay and Whitsunday Life
Madge Holmes was born on the 8th February, 1913 at Nurse Fraser’s home, positioned near the water tower in Proserpine. When she was eighteen, she worked at the Mt Alma Private Hospital at Charters Tower which was run by her aunt. In 1932, at the age of 19, she started three years training at the Charters Towers General Hospital.
Sister Holmes started nursing at the Proserpine Hospital in June 1935. There she stayed until July 1936 when she moved to the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Hobart to do obstetrics training. After finishing this training, she went to Campbelltown where she nursed scarlet fever patients. Madge stayed at this hospital in charge of the Maternity Ward for two years and was also on call for Theatre and General Ward work. When war was declared in 1939, Madge decided to go home to Proserpine, working again at the Proserpine Hospital where Matron McGrath was in charge, Dr George was the hospital doctor and Dr Stevens was the private doctor.
On January 5, 1943 Madge was called up by the army, enlisting as a Lieutenant attached to the 112th A.G.H* where she nursed the first Milne Bay casualties at the Greenslopes Military Hospital. After working for several months there, she was sent to Charters Towers to the 116th A.G.H. The Mt Carmel and All Souls Schools were used as temporary hospitals and patients were brought in on hospital trains. It was then off to Cairns for a short time before returning to Charters Towers to wait for a boat to transfer her to Bougainville. Madge was assigned to the 109th C.C.S.* and was one of six sisters. Seventeen sisters were in the 2nd 1st A.G.H. that also sailed on the U.S. ship taking them to Bougainville.
Her first posting was Torokina Bay. Upon arrival, the nurses commenced work immediately while A.G.H. set up the hospital of 1000 beds. As soon as it was functioning, the C.C.S. closed down and moved 70 miles to a 200 bed C.C.S. at Motupena Point on the south of the island. After initial treatment there, patients were sent back to Torokina Bay by barge. For several weeks, the C.C.S. sisters were held at A.G.H. During that time, Madge was working in the Blood Bank where they took and gave blood and made up penicillin for the wards. At one stage, she worked for the 21st A.G.H which was only 11 miles from Mt Bagana, an active volcano. The medical staff were always in readiness with ports packed for a quick evacuation if Japanese invasion threatened.
When the war ended, the C.C.S. closed down and joined the A.G.H. Some nurses were sent home. Madge remained for nearly 13 months before returning home, docking at Bowen and then travelling to Brisbane by train. The nurses were then sent home on leave. After returning to 102 A.G.H. in Brisbane, Madge was finally discharged on 22nd August, 1946.
Early the next year. Madge went to Sydney to Karitane to study for a Child Welfare course and stayed on the staff for some time. Upon her return to Proserpine, she was asked by Dr Courtice to work as acting Matron as Matron McGrath was unwell and was taking 6 months leave. She then relieved at Bowen Hospital while their Matron was on leave. And there, ended Sister Madge Holmes’s nursing career.
Sister Margaret Holmes died on November 16 1999 and was laid to rest in Proserpine Cemetery.
LEST WE FORGET
*A.G.H. - Australian General Hospital *C.C.S. - Casualty Clearing Station
Story and photo courtesy Proserpine Historical Museum