Elsie Rose Grant, from Clermont, Queensland, served in Egypt, France and England. She joined the Australian Army Nursing Service in August 1915, a month shy of her 25th birthday.
Service Record – National Archives of Australia
Your dear letter reached me at the close of a very sad and terrible day. I have been up in Belgium at the 3rd Aust Casualty Clearing Station. We have been shelled out three times but this last time was too dreadful. Those brutal Germans deliberately shell our hospital with all our poor helpless boys but really God was good to us we had four killed but it was just miraculous that there were not dozens killed. Of course we (the sisters) were put into dugouts as soon as the shelling got bad but I can’t tell you how cruel it was to leave those poor helpless patients. In a few hours the whole hospital was evacuated & one consolation we saw our last patient carried out before we were sent away but not before one of our greatest little boys on the Staff along with three others had been killed. One was an English Medical Officer the hospital next to us although they only had two shells their casualties were much heavier than ours amongst them one sister killed and one wounded.
Well Rose now I must tell you the wonderful part of all, after the terrible day we had put in we were put in cars & sent off back to France, strange to say Allan had landed in the same town as I was sent to about two hours before I landed he knew I was up this way somewhere but not exactly where so he went to every hospital in the town to find I was not at any of them. Well the first of our transport got here about 9.30 p.m & were passing down a street when Allan noticed Australian sisters in them with my unit colours on so thought he would follow them up & ask if any of the girls knew where I was & when the car I was in stopped the first person I put eyes on was Allan. Really I thought to myself God must have sent him as a comfort [words missing] all embraced him & the dear left at 5 a.m next morning. You will be pleased to hear he has a commission in the Infantry.
I am very sorry to hear poor Roley Wicks is missing please God he is alive.
Rose if you could only have seen the Australian boys the day we were shelled so badly they came from far & near to see if we were alright. Within an hour there were fully two dozen of [censored] Officers down in the dugouts with us. (We only had [censored] [censored] near us our [censored] [censored] & we had the [censored] [censored] so that our patients were at the time mostly [censored] & [censored]).
Well the boys stayed with us & a Canadian Colonel brought down a big box of Maple Sugar & a jug of water & then to finish up a Scotch officer carried down a gramaphone to the dug-out door & played Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag & smile.
Pon my word you would have thought we were heroes the fuss we had made of us.
Everything would have been alright if our boys had not been killed. Our hospital is a total wreck now. Our tents were dug down three feet into the ground & sandbagged three feet above & they are riddled. I wish I could tell you the places we have been in but of course I can’t.
Our hospital was in Belgium near a town that begins with the second last letter in the alphabet & has five letters in it so you get the map & look for a town in Belgium near our frontier line & you will see where we were.
I am afraid we are being spoilt. Orders were sent down we are not to be put on duty here & a rumour we are to go to Eng for a fortnight before we go back but to be truthful I would rather carry on as it only spoils one having time to think.
Rose I did not get your letter with the big description of the town you mentioned we loose an awful lot of mail these days. It is a little bit of heaven to get home mail & yours are always so great. I send them on to Allan.
I have seen such a lot of France including Paris. Had a night & a day there but I will tell you all about it when I return which please God will not be much longer. I want ever so badly to come home on transport but I really can’t bring myself to leave Allan behind. That is the principle reason I don’t come.
I am sorry to hear you have had Pleurisy. It is such a painful thing to have but hope you are quite well again.
Tell Essie I have not heard from her for ages. Suppose her letters are wandering around somewhere. My love to your Mother & Father & your dear self.
Transcript of AWM Private Record PR00596. This record also includes letter to Sr Grant from Sgt N.S. Carey informing her of the death of her brother.
Her brother Allan Herbert Grant enlisted on 18 September 1915.
A sergeant at time of embarkation, he left Australia with the 3rd Divisional Train, Australian Army Service Corps, aboard HMAT Persic. On 1 August 1917 he was appointed as a Second Lieutenant (2nd Lt) after officer cadet school in Oxford, England and after returning to France was assigned to the 40th Battalion.
2 October. Guns roared all day, while the wounded were pouring in. The Australian sisters were recalled to our own No. 3 C.C.S., which had been established two miles from Poperinghe, at Nine Elms, and six miles from Ypres.
As we travelled by ambulance car, we passed some Australian troops on the way to the line. Elsie Grant recognized her brother’s battalion colours, jumped out of the fast-travelling ambulance in her excitement, and ran back along the line of marching troops. The next moment brother and sister were clasped in each other’s arms. He brought her back and put her in the ambulance. She was nearly distracted, seeing him marching up to the never-ending thunder and lightning of the guns. He laughed at her fears and said he would be down to see her the very first chance. But he never came. It was their last farewell.
May Tilton, The Grey Battalion p257
2nd Lt Grant was killed in action on 12 October 1917; he was aged 28. He is remembered at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Panel 7 – 17 – 23 – 25 – 27 – 29 – 31.
Sister May Tilton, who had been with Elsie at Brandhoek, writes:
When my M.O., Captain L—, went to London on leave, he informed me he intended doing something about getting me transferred before I had a complete breakdown; also Elsie Grant, who was suffering from a nervous condition (painful swellings in her face) and was physically unfit to carry on.
At the end of February , the following order arrived for us both:
Proceed to London and report to D.M.S. Headquarters, A.I.F., with a view to being employed on transport duty.
We hated to go. Yet knew we must.
May Tilton, The grey battalion p292
Elsie Grant returned home to find her mother had also died.
She married Carl John Hock and had four children.
At the age of 37, on 25 September 1927, she took her own life.
Rae, Ruth 2009, Veiled lives : threading Australian nursing history into the fabric of the first world war, The College of Nursing, Burwood, N.S.W – page 323
Elsie’s niece and other family members have volunteered for military service during times of war.
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