On the outbreak of the Second World War, Australian nurses readily volunteered, motivated by a sense of duty and compassion to assist the sick and wounded. Eventually, some 5,000 Australian nurses served in a variety of locations, including Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Greece, Crete, Syria, Ceylon, Malaya, New Guinea and the Solomon’s. They also served throughout the length and breadth of Australia, at sea in hospital ships, Borneo, the Philippines, Morotai and Japan. Seventy plus died, some through accident or illness but most as a result of enemy action or while incarcerated as prisoners of war.
Initially, the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) was the only women’s service. The Royal Australian Air Force Nursing Service (RAAFNS) was formed in 1940 and the Royal Australian Navy Nursing Service (RANNS) in 1942. However, the AANS remained by for the largest, and also made up the majority of those who served overseas.
In March 1943 the AANS became an incorporated part of the Australian Military Forces. Members of the AANS became commissioned Officers although the troops continued the time honoured titles of Matron and Sister except in official correspondence.