Happy Corps Day to the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps!

We would like to wish a happy Corps Day to one of the smallest, yet highly skilled, corps in the New Zealand Army, the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps.

New Zealand Army Nursing Uniform, WWI, of 22/3 Sister Vida MacLean. On loan from the Whanganui Regional Museum for the Service and Sacrifice exhibit (developed by the Western Bay Museum).

As the only military nursing service in New Zealand and with a history stretching from the Second Boer War to present-day, the Nursing Corps is well worth recognition for its fundamental role in the history of the New Zealand Army. Without the skill and courage of its nurses and nursing officers, many more New Zealanders would have died due to the wounds sustained in battle or from illness.

Pictured are two artefacts currently on display at the Museum in an exhibition called ‘Service and Sacrifice’. The first is the uniform worn by 22/3 Sister Vida MacLean during her time as a nurse in WWI. The second is a unique piece from our own collection, a children’s doll dressed in the uniform of a WWI nurse; it has a lovely story behind it, would you like us to share it with you?

New Zealand nurses first served with the British Nursing Service in South Africa (the Second Boer War), before being officially included in the NZ Army during WWI. More than 500 nurses served either abroad or at home in WWI, and more than 600 served in WWII. The New Zealand Army Nursing Service became the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps (RNZNC) in 1953, with the first RNZNC nursing officer being sent to Vietnam to serve alongside the Australians. In 1991 a medical team was sent to the Gulf War, and since then RNZNC nursing officers have served overseas on various deployments around the world, including for disaster relief (such as after the ‘Boxing Day Tsunami’ in Indonesia).

A children’s doll dressed in the uniform of a WWI nurse given to Mrs Mary Sharman in 1915 and donated the National Army Museum in 1982. On display in our Service and Sacrifice exhibit (developed by the Western Bay Museum).

Nurses serve with the same duty, patriotism and dedication, and endure the same dangers and discomforts as the soldiers they work alongside. As 22/175 Nurse Margaret Rogers wrote in a letter home in 1915, “There is no romance about war, it spells suffering, hunger, and filth, and how thankful I am every day that I came to do what I could to help and relieve our brave boys.” (1) Nurse Rogers epitomises the selfless spirit of the nurses, past and present, who diligently perform to the best of their abilities in whatever situation they find themselves in.

Read our four-part series on the sinking of the HMNZT Marquette in WWI, and learn about the tragic deaths of 10 New Zealand nurses, here:
Marquette: No Ordinary Troopship
Marquette: The Hospital Packed on a Troopship
Marquette: Nurses from the South, Sailing to the Front
Marquette: Nurses of the Maheno

From all of us here at the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa, happy Corps Day and thank you for your enduring service.

(1) ‘The Marquette Disaster’, Press, 4 November 1915, p. 6