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Jessie O'NEILL


Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Sister 31y 4

Josephine 'Jessie' Ellen Agnes O'Neill  (1884-1962)

Booklet

Family background

Josephine Ellen Agnes O’Neill - fondly known as 'Jessie' - was born in 1884 to James and Frances ‘Fanny’ Hardie (nee Hall) O'Neill of Lilymere, Warra, Queensland. Warra is a small town located on the Warrego Highway on the Darling Downs region of Queensland, 256 kilometres north west of Brisbane. 

James, a farmer, and Frances had six children; three daughters, (Mary, Josephine 'Jessie' and Daisy Isobel) and three sons (James Bointon, Francis Thomas ‘Frank’ and Walter Hudson O’Neill).

Enlistment 

Nurse Jessie O’Neill had been a member of the Australian Army Nursing Service since 31st August 1915 when she enlisted in the AANS Reinforcements to go overseas.  She was described in her enlistment papers as being 31 years and 10 months old, height 5’ 5”, weight 125 lbs with fair complexion, grey eyes and fair hair.  Her religious denomination was given as Presbyterian and her father was next of kin.

Jessie embarked the HMAT A32 Themistocles in Sydney on 29th December 1916, and disembarked at Plymouth on 3rd March 1917.  She then proceeded to Rouen, an ancient city on the Seine in France, where she served with the No12 Stationary Hospital for four months.  

Hospitals at Rouen

The No. 1 Australian General Hospital (1AGH) along with British and American General Hospitals and Stationary Hospitals were situated in the Champ de Courses, a racetrack on the outskirts of Rouen.  Most hospitals remained there for the duration of the war.   

The British had established No 12 General Hospital, British Expeditionary Force, in 1914. This was a 1,350-bed hospital, mainly comprised of tents. It also contained a hospital for captured, wounded enemy prisoners and British prisoners with self-inflicted wounds. 

The 1AGH had arrived at Marseilles from Egypt in April 1916 with a nursing Staff of 117.  After a few days rest, they proceeded to Rouen, where the unit took up the site on the racecourse vacated by No.12 Stationary Hospital.   

Fifty members of the Nursing Staff had proceeded with the unit to Rouen, where they were temporarily accommodated pending the preparation of their quarters. The remaining nurses were temporarily distributed in the Havre, Etaples, and Boulogne areas, with the intention of rejoining 1AGH as soon as accommodation was available. 

On the nurses’ arrival it was found that the hospital had only 750 beds – and not the 1350 beds originally available - for which a Nursing Staff of 75 was ample; consequently, they requested the authority to temporarily employ the remaining 47 or so nurses in British units.

Service

In July 1917, Staff Nurse Jessie O’Neill was posted to the 25th General Hospital (25GH) Hardelot, France reporting for duty on 22 July 1917.  She was still with the unit on 23 January 1918 and took leave for 14 days in England on 3 February 1918.

 On her return to France she rejoined the 25GH and 7 August 1918 she was posted to the 5th Casualty Clearing Station (5CCS) site at Vecquemont, France.  At the end of August she proceeded to the Nurses Home, Abbeville for re-posting. 

 In September she reported for duty at the 23CCS in Agnez-les-Duisans, then in October to the 57CCS (Mingoval & Quevant), France, returned to the 23CCS (Agnex-les-Duisans & Brebieres).  On 9 November 1918 she moved to the 22CCS which was in Pernes, Boisleux au Mont and Cambrai, France.  

 She was admitted to the 14th General Hospital at Wimereux on the 22 November with laryngitis and remained in hospital until mid-December 1918.  

 She was subsequently was promoted to Sister on 29 December 1918 and rejoined the 25GH at Rouen, France on 5 January 1919.  She served with the 25GH until 7 March 1919 when she proceeded to the UK en route for Australia. 

Return to Australia

Jessie embarked at Southampton on the Wandilla, arriving home on 18 May 1919 and her appointment was terminated on 2 July 1919.   

After the war Jessie O’Neill worked as a Sister at Rosemount Hospital in Brisbane.

Awards

Sister Jessie O’Neill received the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal (26948) and the Victory Medal (25868).

Passing

Miss Jessie O'Neill lived with her sister, Daisy, at 8 Snowden Street, Ekibin.  She passed away on 10 November 1962 at the age of 78 years.

Link to Saint Andrew’s

Sister Jessie O’Neill AANS, Sister Minnie Chapman and Staff Nurse Winifred Sagar AANS were all listed on the Saint Andrew’s Honour Boards.  Jessie and Winnifred Sagar both travelled to France on the 12 March 1917 and returned to the UK on 6 March 1919 on the same ships.  They served with the 12th Stationary Hospital and 25GH in Rouen.  Sister Minnie Chapman and Jessie worked at some of the same Casualty Clearing Stations in France. It is possible they all knew each other quite well.


Select bibliography

  • Discovering Anzacs – discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au – National Archives of Australian an New Zealand
  • Communion Roll of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church 1921, Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church Archives
  • Australian War Memorial
  • State Library of Queensland - onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au 
  • John Oxley Library, SLQ
  • Ancestry.com  online records
  • Trove – National Library of Australia.  Online digital newspapers

Compiled by Miriam King, Brisbane. March 2016

 

 

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