National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

A Nurse on the High Seas

Nurse Mabel Crook

Nurse Mabel Crook

Mabel Crook was born on 22 January 1887 in Palmerston North and completed her education in the city before embarking on a nursing career at Palmerston North Hospital, gaining registration in June 1911.

At the outbreak of World War One, Mabel Crook enlisted with the New Zealand Army Nursing Service (NZANS) on 6 April 1915. Mabel was 28, single, and prepared to do her duty.

22/22 Nurse Mabel Crook embarked from Wellington on 8 April 1915 aboard the Rotorua along with about 30 other nursing staff, all bound for Suez, Egypt.

Once in Egypt, Mabel assisted in the British Hospitals before being posted to the 660 bed hospital ship Nevassa on 28 October 1915, to be part of the medical staff on the trips from Gallipoli to Malta, seeing so many of the young Anzac boys as they lay wounded and dying and trying to administer nursing care throughout each journey.

On 1 June 1916, Mabel Crook was transferred to the Citadel Military Hospital in Cairo where she was promoted to ‘Sister’ on 27 July 1916 and was responsible for the care of men from the campaigns in Sinai & Palestine as well as the training camps in Egypt. On 21 December 1916, Mabel was again transferred and embarked from Alexandria aboard the NZ hospital ship Marama, bound for England.

In England, Mabel Crook served at the No. 3 NZ General Hospital at Codford and the No. 1 NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst. At both hospitals, Mabel saw some of the most horrific injuries imaginable – both in mind and body and by the end of the war, the endless casualties had taken their toll on Mabel.

Mabel Crook left England on 14 March 1919 aboard the Ionic and was discharged from the NZANS on 20 April 1920.

After her discharge, Mabel was sent to a convalescent hospital in Hanmer Springs, herself suffering from post-traumatic stress (listed as ‘hysteria’ in her records).

Mabel slowly regained her strength and confidence and moved to Tauranga to continue her nursing career. Mabel remained in Tauranga until her death in 1974, aged 87.

Mabel Crook’s photograph album is held in the archives of the National Army Museum in Waiouru.