Molly and the Medical Staff at Yungaba in World War I


Why should there be a section on Yungaba, the Immigration Depot at Kangaroo Point on the Brisbane River, in a website centring on the Chermside and District area?

It all began on the bike tracks in the two large parks centred on Chermside when two old fellers got to talking about this and that. One of the old fellas, viz me, rides a bicycle and the other old fella, viz Ken Kirkpatrick, walks, but not like other people walk; Ken is blind but this only sharpens his keenness to overcome the odds and walk on his own .

One day we were speaking, as the Walrus said 'of many things of ships and shoes and sealing wax of cabbages and kings', I happened to mention that I was in the Chermside & Districts Historical Society, just down the track a bit.

Ken told me that he had a large, very old photo of a large group of World War One army medical personnel which included his Grandmother Molly. It had been in the family for three generations and he was concerned that he was not able to look after it properly, would I try and find a home for it? I approached the State Library of Queensland, they accepted and Ken personally presented the photo at South Bank.

Small View of Medical Staff

Photo taken during the Great War of the Medical Staff at Yungaba, aka the Immigration Depot, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, Queensland. (Courtesy Ken Kirkpatrick)

This is a very small photo of a rather large photo which was taken during the Great War.

The photo is on a cardboard backing which is rather tattered and is in three parts which have been joined with sticky tape. The lot has been fastened, using thumb tacks, on a piece of very thin wood from an old packing case.

And it was all wrapped up in an old brown paper parcel.

Photo size:
Length: 473mm (1foot 7.25 inches)
Width: 144mm (4.5 inches)

Rough sawn timber backing:
Length: 516mm (1foot 8.25inches)
Width: 143mm (5.6 inches)
Thickness: 5mm (Less than 0.25 inch)

Yungaba, the Immigration Depot

Yungaba or the Immigration Depot, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane River. The photo of the Medical Staff was taken on the left side of the building. However the two sides are identical so the background clues could be seen on either side. (Courtesy of Qld. State Library.)

The clues which identified the location of the photo were the stone arches in the upper right corner, the windows with the bracket for shades and the verandas in the background. These can be clearly seen on the large photo below.

Large Image of Medical Staff

Photo taken during the Great War of the Medical Staff at Yungaba, aka the Immigration Depot, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, Queensland (Courtesy Ken Kirkpatrick)

Now that you have seen the small version, here is a larger version where you can see faces more clearly and maybe identify some of them.

Someone, somewhere may have an old family photo or two with members who look like one of these persons!

Maybe someone knew sombody associated with the Military Hospital at Yungaba!

It is an excellent photo of 119, mostly young, soldiers and nurses all lined up military fashion and still looking at the photographer after almost a hundred years. Even the sticky tape holding it together can hardly be seen.

Search to Identify the Location of the Photo

The inscription on the lower right hand corner of the backing material. The disk is the head of a brass thumb tack hloding the backing on to the wooden base.

I had no idea where the building was located but the word Toowong was written in pen and ink in the bottom right corner beneath the photo. So I turned to the Towong Historical Society and the Secretary, Leigh Chamberlain, but there was no record of a military hospital at Toowong in the Great War.

Leigh thought it might be Yungaba but could not be certain so she put me in touch with Claire Wilson from the Centenary Suburbs Historical Society who agreed with Leigh and provided me with an excellent photo of Yungaba taken in 1950.

There is hardly any background to the Ken's photo but there was enough to identify the structural details with those on the Yungaba photo to confirm the location of the original photo. Claire also provided the following information: The Kangaroo Point Military Hospital (6th AGH) began operating on 19/7/15 and closed June 1919 - it had 270 beds.

Also involved in the search was the Queensland Women's Historical Association members of which independently confirmed the location as Yungaba.

Epilogue on the name ROW

Claire Wilson took the name "ROW" and searched Trove for information which leads her to comment:
"Seems to me that Nellie Row was very likely one of the Nursing Sisters in the photo."

Ellen (Nellie) Craven ROW


The Northern Miner (Charters Towers) 2 June 1908 p6
"After the usual opening business, the following inward correspondence was read :
Nellie Row, Greenvale Station, applied for a position as probationary nurse. She had been nursing for two years at the Ingham Hospital, and took charge for four months during the absence of the matron."

Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) 13 Sep 1915 p7
" Mr. J. (Joseph Maitland) Steele, of Springsure, now of the Fifth Light Horse, writing "at sea" to Mr. Kingston, of Emerald, mentions, that among the nurses on the transport are Miss Kemp, who thirteen years ago was a nurse in the Springsure Hospital, and also Nellie Rowe, whose father was at one time manager of Craven Station."

Brisbane Courier 13 Feb 1919 p4
List of names of those on board "City of York" includes Sister E.C. Row, 1st AGH, 1st MD.

Thanks for the investigative work Claire.

Ruth Carmichael reports that Sr. Row was assigned to the A.G.H. Enoggera when she arrived back in 1919. She could have known Sr. Molly Jones!

Any further comments from readers?

The Row Brothers, Photographers

It is possible that the letters ROW on the photograph could be the name of the photographer. The brothers, George and Alan both worked in Brisbane, but George enlisted in the army, served overseas and did not return to Brisbane till 1929. Alan was publishing photos in the Brisbane Courier in the later 1920s. He may have taken the photo of the Yungaba Medical Staff but we cannot be sure.

Another one of history's little mysteries.

Preparation for the Main Photo

Photo taken of the photographer organising the 119 people for the main photo. (Courtesy Mary de Jabrun)

It is 'behind the scenes' photos like this that reveal much about the final photo. Look at the men standing on two forms, they must have been holding their breath, one awkward movement and the whole structure might have come down. The nurses are in relaxed positions, one in the foreground bending down. The photographer is making last minute arrangements with the people while his camera on its tripod stands behind him. Judging by the finished photo he knew his trade; pity we don't know his name.

It appears that the subjects were arranged in an arc, possibly to limit the size of the photo. The first row sat on the ground - the second row sat on a form - the third row stood on the ground - the fourth row stood on a form - the fifth row stood on two forms.

Molly Jones, S/Nurse A.A.N.S.

Muriel Margaret Jones aka Molly sitting in the middle and marked with an X. She seems rather small compared to the two sisters on either side.

Ken told me that his grandmother had been a nurse during the First World War and had worked in military hospitals. If you look carefully at the lower left corner of the portrait photo you will see an X on the nurse second from the extreme left which, marks Ken's grandmother, Molly. The family have always known this and Molly's wedding photo confirms it.

Molly's enlistment papers state that Muriel Margaret Jones was 23 when she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service on 3rd August 1918 in Brisbane. No next of kin was recorded but she was born at Croydon, Queensland, her complexion was Fair with Light Brown hair, Blue eyes and stood 5 feet 4 inches tall (1.627m). Her then home address was Cloncurry, Queensland

Her posting was to Enoggera Military Hospital and this is possibly where she met Oliver.

Marriage of Molly & Frank

Molly Jones marries Frank Wood sometime in 1919.

Molly married an Englishman, Oliver (Frank) Francis Wood, born in Watford but living in Clontarf, Strand, Townsville when he enlisted. They had one child, Joan Margery, who became Ken's mother. The family thought Oliver had been gassed in the war but his enlistment papers show that when he arrived in England he was found to have Pulmonary Tuberculosis. He was sent back to Yungaba Military Hospital 12-5-1918.

According to the Brisbane Courier 28-6-1919 the patients and staff of Yungaba were transfered to Enoggera by that date. It is possible this is where Molly and Frank met; we will probably never know.

Molly remarried, had two more children, continued nursing and became a hospital matron. Outliving her second husband, Molly died at 96 in 1991.

This is a snippet of the story of one person out of the 119 in the photo; what happened to the stories of the other people?

Staff Sergeant Bernard Paul O'Neill

Staff Sergeant Paul O'Neill Army Medical Corps.

Location: 3rd Row up, 5th from the right, first male after 4 nurses, next to male with a moustache

Bernard Paul was born 20th October, 1895 in Maryborough the sixth child in a family of nine, six boys and three girls. His parents were John and Margaret O'Neill. John was Curator of the Maryborough Queen's Park Gardens.

Paul, as he was known, was educated at the Christian Brothers' School in Maryborough and joined the Railway Department as a clerk until his marriage. He was a keen and able cricketer, winning two gold medals, one for batting, the other for bowling, from the Maryborough and Wide Bay Cricket Associations.

Paul married May Mezger in 1924 and they spent the next few years running hotels in Sarina.

After moving to Clayfield with his family in the late 1920s Paul ran a tobacconist shop in George St, then Edward St and Adelaide St.

From 1933 to 1936 he was the licensee of the Burleigh Hotel and for a short period was licensee of the Canberra Hotel in Toowoomba.

In 1938, he bought the Nest Egg Casket Agency in Wickham St, The Valley, which he ran till his death in 1951. My mother continued to run the business until 1968.

(Courtesy Mary de Jabrun - Daughter)

Sr. Florence Avenell & Dr. Harvey Walsh

Sr. Florence Avenell

Sr. Florencce Avenell (Queenie). From the appearance of her head dress she may have been a matron at Yungaba as she was at other hospitals before the war.

Location: Second row from the front sitting beside and on the left side of the doctors.

Sr. Avenell is wearing a particularly large head dress which may indicate her senioriority. She, along with the three Sisters on each side of the doctors, seem to be on the same level as the doctors.

The family think Queenie would have been a very senior and experienced nurse. She was a matron before the war, and downgraded her status when she enlisted.

Edith Florence Avenell (Queenie) was born in Gympie on 30 Mar 1890; her parents were Richard Goodall Avenell and Matilda Jane Lee. She died on 23 Oct 1936 at her home in Enoggera Terrace, Red Hill at the age of 46 years.

According to electoral rolls, in 1913 Queenie was a District Hospital Nurse at Mackay and also at Bowen. She is thought to have been at Kangaroo Point Hospital before 1919 and was on the electoral rolls at Enoggera Terrace in 1921 and again in 1925 at a holiday house, St Giles, Southport.

Queenie married Dr Harvey Sylvester Walsh on 7 Oct 1919 in Brisbane.

Dr. Harvy Silverster Walsh

Dr. Harvy Walsh was probably a senior Medical Officer at Yungaba. He used to pull the peak of his cap down as he had lost an eye.

Location: Second row from the front the fourth doctor from the left. He is one of the two doctors wearing white shirts, which were probably a sign of seniority amongst the doctors.

NB: The doctors are all wearing Sam Brown belts i.e. a broad polished leather belt supported by a cross belt over their chests. It was originally designed to keep the sabre steady when they drew it in battle but, with the passing of time, became standard dress.

Harvey had a general practice in the front of their home at Enoggera Terrace, Red Hill. He assisted Dr. J. Duhig with the anaesthetics for the first blood transfusions in Queensland.

He often kept his head down a little to obscure his face as he only had one eye. For him this was tragic as he could not be a surgeon, and could not go on active duty overseas during the war; the latter might have been a blessing in disguise.

Harvey also signed up for service in the army during the Second World War.

The information on Queenie and Harvey is courtesy of Nicole Atkinson, granddaughter of Harvey & Queenie, assisted by Ruth Carmichael.

Some Others From the Same Unit

The back of this photo contains the following message: Yours Very Truly G.M.V. Cantrell & P.C. Doran 16/8/16

These photos are part of the collection of Mary de Jabrun who is the daughter of Staff Sergeant Bernard Paul O'Neill shown above.

The men both have the Red Cross above their chevron stripes. The lady might be one of the nurses.

The horses look good too.

This could be G.M.V Cantrell?

The inscription reads: Yours Sincerely T.A. McCastor (cas) 27/7/1918 (Note the signature is open to interpretation - If you recognise it, please let me know. Ed.)

Alma Johnston (nee Robinson)

Alma Johnston nee Robinson
Alma Johnston (nee Robinson)

Linda Johnston writes to provide a comment on the following picture "Molly and the Medical Staff at Yungaba in World War I". My grandmother Alma Johnston (nee Robinson) is in the photograph. I believe the photo may have been distributed to the people who participated - as my Grandmother had a framed copy - which we still have.

When viewing the photo, Grandma is the 9th (volunteer) nurse from the right in the second back row. My Grandmother was born in 1900. She met my grandfather, Harold Francis Johnston, at Yungaba. My grandfather served in the Light Horse. He was wounded in Gallipoli by shrapnel (he told my father that they were being made to do calisthenics on the beach when he was wounded). He had been on Gallipoli for approx 3 days. He was put on a hospital ship. After recovering from his injuries in Egypt, he served in Palestine, where he received severe chest wounds and was sent back to Brisbane on a hospital ship. His wounds were very serious and he was not expected to live. My grandmother was one of the staff who took care of him at Yungaba. They married in 1920 and subsequently had three sons, my father in 1921, and my uncles in 1924 and 1930. My grandfather never fully recovered from his injuries and died in 1956 - in Greenslopes Hospital. He still carried some shrapnel in his body, as it was too close to his spine and vital organs to be safely removed.

I have a bound copy of a book of photographs of Palestine that my grandfather sent to my Great Grandmother while serving in Palestine. It was passed on to my father after my grandmother's death in 1991.

I hope this tiny bit of information will be of interest to your society, even if it only puts a name to one face in the photograph.

This "tiny bit of information" is of great interest because it adds another piece of the vast jigsaw of history behind the original photo. Thank you Linda.