World War I – Sister Claire Evelyn Trestrail
Sister Claire Evelyn Trestrail was the eldest of five being born on the 10th of December, 1877 in Clare, South Australia. Trestrail served in the First World War as a nurse following in her mother’s footsteps who was a trained nurse, Acting Matron of King Edward Hospital in Perth and also had involvement within the Red Cross and the Saint John’s Ambulance Services. Trestrail’s younger siblings also had involvement within the First World War with her two younger brothers; John Henry and Amarald Glen, serving in the royal Flying Corps and respectively, 1 Machine Battalion. Amarald was also presented with a Military Medal for Gallantry at Villaret. ...view middle of the document...
’ (primary source)
The last military strategy posed by the Belgians was to retreat behind the rings of forts that surrounded Antwerp, causing the first shells to fall around the hospital on the 28th of September. Two days later the Belgian government made the decision to evacuate the city. On October 5th British Naval Brigades reinforcements did nothing to hinder what could not be avoided. On the 8th of October the city fell. All the nurses faced and braved assault until the very last day.
The nurses suspected an upcoming artillery bombardment, causing them to clear the building cellars with intention of moving all the patients downstairs. The suspected bombardment began at midnight of October 8. That night roughly 130 men were moved with the nurses arising the next morning to find and empty and burning Antwerp with no shops open, no food not even bread. Stobart was quoted saying to Burrow News on the 22nd of January 1915,
‘We numbered 12 trained nurses and 10 orderlies, cooks and interpreters that all got up at once, carried stretchers, all wounded men down steep stairs into dark cellars, shells bursting all around us and yet those apparently frail little women worked untiringly as if they were accustomed to it.’ (primary source)
With the Germans arriving 16 nurses and staff members were given the opportunity to transport majority of the wounded patients due to finding motor lorries, but by late that afternoon they were left alone with no way of escaping themselves. Salvation was prevailed when Mrs Stobart stepped in front of three London buses in a burning street. They willingly agreed to transport them to Antwerp. After this remarkable act of kindness they were then on their way towards the coast thanks to a Belgian Army Officer. The Royal Navy evacuated the group with them arriving in Folkestone on Sunday morning of October the 12th. Over all this time 1000 pounds of equipment and drugs were lost but that didn’t stop them from returning after their recovery.
‘There was absolutely no end to the generosity of the English public, who, having read of our escape and our need of equipment, sent us 400 pounds by the first mail the following day. We spent our time in trying to find uniforms, suit-cases, instruments etc. all of which were rather scarce owing to the fact that hundreds of other nurses were looking for the same things.’ (primary source)
This was written in June of 1915 in the Australasian Nurses Journal by Trestrail. They were sailing on the 5th of November for France departing from Southampton, when on arrival, set up in Cherbourg in the Sixteenth century Chateau Touraville. Trestrail wrote,
‘This time we not only had hospital arrangements, but motor cars and ambulances, one of which was driven and kept in order by its owner, a sporty little Australian girl.’ (primary source)
Sister Trestrail cared for many wounded French and Belgian soldiers due to having worked with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS)...