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Matron Major Elizabeth (Lizzie) Orr

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Matron Major Elizabeth Orr

Awarded for service to Health and Defence

Born: 8 September 1860 Died: 30 April 1945

Entered on roll: 2013


An interesting life that took her round the world.

Nursing was regarded as a gift and vocation by Matron Major Elizabeth Orr, born at Gretna on 8 September 1860.

In 1881, Elizabeth began her nurse training at the (Royal) Hobart General Hospital. Her working life started as a country nurse, riding her horse to visit patients. After riding through rough weather to see a patient, the people of Zeehan gave her a diamond ring.

When the Boer War was declared, Elizabeth was nearly 40. Tasmania did not send nurses to the South African war. Anyone wishing to serve did so at their own discretion and expense. Reaching South Africa in January 1900 Elizabeth joined the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve (QAIMNSR) and served in military hospitals until 1902.  She stayed in South Africa as a hospital matron until April 1913.

On the outbreak of World War One, Elizabeth re-joined the QAIMNSR and was posted to the 21st British General Hospital in Egypt. For 18 months, she was matron of transports in the Mediterranean, Gallipoli and Salonika areas, including duties on troop-ships and hospital ships. Elizabeth later served in hospitals in the Persian Gulf. As a matron of the 2 500 bed 60th British General Hospital at De-el-Belah, in tents on sand, she served through the Palestine campaign. Suffering malaria, she was invalided to England in March 1919.

After recuperation, Elizabeth returned to duty at the Royal Herbert Military Hospital, Woolwich, England. In 1920, she left England for Tasmania and became matron of the Vaucluse Infectious Diseases Hospital in Hobart. She retired in 1931.

Elizabeth attended her first ANZAC service in Cairo in 1916. She never missed ANZAC Day services remarking she had "seven medals and a good chest to put them on". The Medals included the: Queen's South Africa Medal; Australian Trained Nurse Association Medal 1903; 1914-18 Star; War Medal 1914-18; Victory Medal 1914-19; the Coronation Medal; and Royal Red Cross Medal 1919.

Elizabeth died on 30 April 1945.

Photo Credit: National Boer War Memorial Association Newsletter, Victoria

Special thanks to Reg A Watson for his passion in researching and sharing the stories, previously untold, of Tasmanian women such as Elizabeth Orr.

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