Staff Nurse Sarah Helen (Sadie) McIntosh
Sarah Helen McIntosh, known as Sadie, was born in Little River, Victoria in 1885, the daughter of Duncan McIntosh and Helen Baxter. Sadie was one of nine children, and cousin to fellow A.I.F. nurse Catherine (Kitty) McNaughton. Sadie had lost both her parents before she enlisted in her late 20s. Her mother Ellen died when she was just a toddler, and her father passed away in 1910 when Sadie was 25 years old. Sadie's brother, James David McIntosh, also enlisted in the A.I.F.
Sadie trained and qualified as a nurse at the Geelong Infirmary, and had five years' nursing experience when she enlisted for war as a Staff Nurse in 1915.
In November 1915, Sadie left Australia bound for Egypt on the SS Orsova. Once there, she served at the No 1 Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo. This was a large, 750 bed hospital, initially based at the Heliopolis Grand Palace Hotel, and later expanding to include other buildings such as the local amusement park and sporting club. Sadie and her colleagues worked around the clock caring for the hundreds of sick and wounded A.I.F. soldiers serving in Egypt and the Gallipoli campaign. Medical supplies were limited and there was a desperate lack of fresh water.
Sadie then transferred to the Choubra Infectious Diseases Hospital, also based in Cairo, where she cared for soldiers with serious dysentery and other intestinal diseases. In August 1916, she was temporarily transferred to the No 3 Australian General Hospital at Abbassia, Egypt, which was initially based in an old harem. There, she nursed troops fighting in Sinai and Palestine.
In October 1916, Sadie, along with her colleagues of the No 3 Australian General Hospital, sailed to England on HMAT Karoola A63 to set up and operate the Kitchener War Hospital in Brighton, caring for the heavy casualties from the Somme.
In May 1917, the hospital transferred to Abbeville, north-west of Amiens, France, operating from wooden huts and tents. Sadie served there for the next two years. The hospital cared for numerous ANZAC and British soldiers who had been gassed, as well as surgical cases. The wounded men arrived by train and barge. The hospital came under fire and the nurses often had to operate in darkness.
In January 1918, Sadie was promoted to 'Sister'. During the German Spring Offensive of 1918, the hospital became a Casualty Clearing Section, dealing with very heavy casualties.
Following the Armistice on 11 November 1918, the hospital continued to function, dealing with the Spanish Influenza epidemic. At its height in late 1918, the hospital had over 1,600 patients, and the nurses worked tirelessly round the clock to care for them.
Sister McIntosh returned to England in May 1919. In October of that year, she boarded HMAT Wahehe, arriving back on Australian soil on 13 December 1919. She was discharged on 13 April 1920.
After the war, Sadie resumed her career as a nurse, and spent time working as a private nurse in Hawaii. In 1933, Sadie became a U.S. Citizen. However, in her later years, she returned to Australia, spending the final years of her life in the RSL Boarding House for Nurses in St Kilda.
Sadie died on 5 June 1970 in St Anne’s Private Hospital, St Kilda, and is buried in Rothwell Cemetery, Little River.
In 2014, the Little River Historical Society was awarded $52,000 from the Federal Government to build a nurses memorial on Rothwell Rd, Little River, to honour the role of local nurses Sadie and her cousin Kitty McNaughton, as well as the contribution made by other local serving women. The memorial was opened in July 2015. It is located on the Rothwell Road land that previously belonged to Sadie’s family, and is made of local bluestone and granite taken from McNaughton's former family home. The bust depicts a World War One nurse, carved from white and red-veined marble.
http://throughtheselines.com.au/research/ www.heraldsun.com.au April 21 2014
http://www.starweekly.com.au July 21 2015
http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au July 16 2015
McCullagh, C. (2010). Willingly Into the Fray. Big Sky Publishing.