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Shepparton's war women honoured

More than 80 Shepparton and district women who went off to war will be recognised on a new honour board which will be unveiled on Remembrance Day.

DARREN LINTON November 8, 2012 4:05am

More than 80 women who answered their nation’s call during wartime will be formally recognised on an honour board to be unveiled at Shepparton RSL on Remembrance Day.

While some are listed on war memorials in the district, the presence of a surname and initials does nothing to distinguish them as women.

This is why the Shepparton Veteran’s Board of Trustees took on the task of putting together an honour board dedicated to women who served in World War I and World War II.

Edith Moorhouse was typical of many women who served.

Born at Undera, but living in Kyabram, she signed up on August 21, 1915, enlisting with the Australian Army Nursing Service to be posted overseas.

She is one of two women recorded on the honour board who never made it home.

The Ras-el-Tin School at Alexandria was converted into a seaside convalescent home and Nurse Moorhouse arrived there in late 1915, dealing with all manner of war cases — physical injuries, diseases and shell shock.

Later she served under Matron Adelaide Kellett at the Choubra Military Infectious Hospital.

A semi-private Austro-Hungarian hospital before the outbreak of World War I, it had about 400 beds and handled infectious cases such as diphtheria, typhoid, cerebro-spinal meningitis, mumps, measles and dysentery.

Women did not serve on the front lines, but they were never far behind, acting as first responders as wounded men arrived at the Australian casualty clearing stations.

The 2nd Australian General Hospital in Boulogne, France was a large tented hospital and most of the patients were battle casualties and the nurses there came to specialise in the treatment of fractures.

The hospital experienced many air raids and towards the end of the war there were outbreaks of influenza.

When the Armistice was signed, the staff barely found time to celebrate because they were too busy treating the influenza victims who continued to arrive throughout November.

At the start of October, 1918 Edith Moorhouse was moved closer to the front.

The advance was easier and it was considered safe, but the danger was not confined to the retreating German army. Within weeks, Nurse Moorhouse had contracted pneumonia.

She was evacuated to the 39th Stationary Hospital at Lille but died on November 24, 1918 — less than two weeks after the Armistice was signed to end the Great War. She was promoted to Sister and buried in the southern cemetery at Lille.

The inscription on her headstone reads: ‘‘Sister, Australian Army Nursing Service. Died of sickness. Daughter of Frederick and Deborah Moorhouse. Born at Undera, Victoria, Australia. Age: 33.’’

The unveiling of the honour board will take place on Sunday after the Remembrance Day Service at Memorial Park, Shepparton. Relatives and friends of the women who served are invited to gather from noon at Shepparton RSL for the ceremony.

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