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Alicia Kelly

Australian Dictionary of Biography

KELLY, ALICIA MARY (1885?-1942), nurse, was born in Mayo, Ireland, daughter of Richard Kelly, farmer, and his wife Jane, née Bell. Nothing is known of her childhood or migration. She completed nursing training at the (Royal) Melbourne Hospital in 1910, nursed at the Eye and Ear Hospital, then worked at a private hospital run by Dr Kent Hughes.

On 29 March 1915, aged 29, Alicia Kelly enlisted as a staff nurse in the Australian Army Nursing Service, Australian Imperial Force, giving her mother, who lived at Mount Dandenong, as next-of-kin. In April she embarked from Sydney with reinforcements for the 1st Australian General Hospital and reached Egypt in time to receive the thousands of wounded who poured into the hospital after the landing at Gallipoli. From 28 August until the evacuation of Gallipoli she made at least two trips on Euripides, transporting severely wounded men home to Australia. Her feelings about this sudden introduction to mass human destruction remain unknown, Alicia having been quiet and retiring by nature. In April 1916 she was posted to France with the 1st A.G.H. and served with it until December when she joined the 29th Casualty Clearing Station, Rouen. On 3 April 1917 she was promoted sister, and on 31 July was transferred to the 3rd Australian C.C.S.; while there she became one of only seven Australian nurses to win the Military Medal.

The usual method of recognizing an army nurse’s service was to award her the Royal Red Cross or its associate; the Military Medal was reserved for ‘conspicuous gallantry under fire’. Sister Kelly was on duty at the 3rd A.C.C.S. during an air raid. Orders sent the rest of the medical staff running for their lives as bombs fell. A padre discovered Sister Kelly sitting in one of the hospital tents holding a patient’s hand. When he asked why she had not left with the rest she answered ‘I couldn’t leave my patients’. She had covered their heads with enamel washing basins or urine pots to give them some feeling of security; she knew that the basins would be useless against flying shrapnel or a direct hit but there were no helmets. Her quiet courage enabled her patients to come through the bombardment ‘with confidence’. Her medal was presented to her at Buckingham Palace on 16 October 1917.

From August Sister Kelly worked at the 3rd A.G.H. before returning to England in March 1918 for transport duty and then to Australia in May. She was also awarded the Royal Red Cross, 2nd class (A.R.R.C.), on 1 January 1918. She was sister-in-charge on the voyage home and on their arrival at Fremantle the men she had cared for presented her with a silver cup which they had made. Soon after her discharge Alicia Kelly married on 7 August in Perth Arthur Rupert Chipper, a corporal in the 10th Light Horse, A.I.F., and a farmer at Bullaring. After many years at Bullaring the Chippers moved to a farm at Narrogin before retiring for health reasons. They had no children.

At the outbreak of World War II, despite poor health deriving from her 1914-18 war experiences, Mrs Chipper (whose nickname was ‘Loll’) returned to nursing and was appointed matron of the Old Women’s Home, Woodbridge, Guildford. She died of pneumonia on 16 April 1942 at Midland, Perth, and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery with Anglican rites.

Welborn, Suzanne, ‘Kelly, Alicia Mary (1885–1942)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kelly-alicia-mary-6915/text11997, accessed 15 April 2012.

AWM – Wartime

Alicia Mary Kelly, generally called Rachel, nursed hundreds of the wounded from Gallipoli in Egypt before she was transferred to France in 1916. In April 1917 she was promoted from staff nurse to sister and transferred to No. 3 Australian Casualty Clearing Station (3ACCS) at Brandhoek, near Ypres, in July 1917. During August 3ACCS was treating many soldiers from the front, which was only a few kilometres away. Like all casualty clearing stations, 3ACCS was very vulnerable to attack and during the week to 21 July it was shelled on five days. The final day of shelling was the worst. In the middle of the morning a shell landed on an adjacent British casualty clearing station, killing a Canadian nurse. The shelling continued, and Kelly and the other nurses were ordered into the dug-outs. Kelly refused, running to the wards and comforting patients by handing out basins for their heads. A padre found her there, and later wrote that “we had literally to drag her to a place of safety”. Kelly was concerned at having disobeyed an order, but although she knew the basins were useless for protection she felt her actions would be good for morale. She was awarded the Military Medal for her actions, and also received the Royal Red Cross in January 1918.

Elizabeth Stewart, Nurses under fire (Wartime issue 50)

Honours and Awards – Alicia Mary Kelly

Service number: Nurse
Rank: Sister
Unit: AANS
Service: Army
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
Award: Military Medal
Date of London Gazette: 17 October 1917
Location in London Gazette: Page 10679, position 1
Date of Commonwealth of Australia Gazette: 14 February 1918
Location in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette: Page 284, position 1

Published Saturday June 11, 2011 · Last modified Sunday April 15, 2012
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We're pleased that people are using this website as a source for locations, quotes and other primary source material. It's why we published our notes on the web. But we'd very much appreciate a footnote or credit. Much of the hospital (and other) location information for Lemnos and the Western Front is original research -- thank you, from Bernard & Cheryl