Australians in World War 1

This guide focuses on Australians serving in World War 1. It also includes some information relevant to Great Britain, other Commonwealth nations and other combatant nations. There is a section on nurses and women's war occupations.

Women's war work

"Anzac" chauffeurs, London, Illustrated war news, 2 Aug 1916, page 3.There were few active roles open to Australian women during World War I. The major war role for Australian women was nursing, both overseas and in Australia. See the Nurses section of this guide for more information.

Women in Australia  helped the war effort through charitable work such as fund-raising, knitting  or sending food to the troops. Some Australian women travelled overseas to work as ambulance drivers and chauffeurs.

Doctors

A small number of  Australian women worked as doctors.

The following books held at the State Library of Victoria deal with female doctors who worked in different theatres of war during World War I.  Click on each title below to go to the State Library catalogue record.

Not for glory: a century of service by medical women to the Australian Army and its allies has a chapter on Australian women working as doctors during World War I.

A heart undivided: the life of Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown tells the story of this Melbourne doctor, who worked as a surgeon for twenty months  at Endell Street Military Hospital, London, from May 1917 to January 1919.  It also mentions Dr Eleanor  Bourne, from Brisbane, who was a colleague at the hospital. 

Heroic Australian women in war by Susanna de Vries describes the work of two Australian women who worked as surgeons in World War I.

Experiences of a woman doctor in Serbia is the story of Dr. Caroline Matthews, a British doctor who volunteered to serve in Serbia.

Wartime occupations of British women

In Britain, the war led to an enormous, if temporary, expansion of women's work roles. Needing men for their armies, the government fostered positive attitudes to women’s employment in a huge range of traditonally male occupations. The War Office told employers that no man who was eligible for war service was to be retained if he could be replaced by a woman or a man who was ineligible for war service. This applied for the duration of the war only.

The British government produced a publication listing all the occupations which British women could take on - Women's war work in maintaining the industries & export trade of the United Kingdom.

You can see more photos online in the publication Carry on: women's work in war time. Click on the View online link in the record.

Here are some photographs from wartime magazines showing some of the roles British women filled.

 

 

British woman filling up a road watering cart, Illustrated war news, 5 Jul 1916, page 17
British woman filling up a road watering cart,
Illustrated war news, 5 Jul 1916, page 17

 

Female bus conductor, Illustrated war news, 5 Apr 1916, page 45
Female bus conductor,
Illustrated war news, 5 Apr 1916, page 45
Shepherdess, Illustrated war news, 5 July 1916, page 35Shepherdess,
Illustrated war news, 5 July 1916, page 35
Female mechanic repairing a car Illustrated war news May 24, 1916 Pt 94 p28.Female mechanic repairing a car,
Illustrated war news, 24 May 1916, page 28
Munitions workers&; class, Shoreditch Technical Institute  Illustrated War News 5 Apr 1916, part 87, page 46
Munitions workers' class, Shoreditch Technical Institute,
Illustrated war news, 5 Apr 1916, part 87, page 46.
Illustrated war news</a>, 5 Apr 1916, part 87, page 47
Female munitions workers learning to use machinery at Shoreditich Technical Institute, Illustrated war news, 5 Apr 1916, part 87, page 47
 
Female firefighters practise a drill at a London workhouse for elderly women
Female firefighters practise a drill at a London workhouse for elderly women, Illustrated war news, 5 Apr 1916, part 87, page 42
Illustration of a British woman manufacturing shells
Illustration of a British woman in a munitions factory, 

Window cleaners

Women working as window cleaners, Cambridge, Illustrated war news, 5 Apr 1916, part 87, page 44