Nurse Constance Keys who was from Mt Perry and was on the first ship to leave Queensland with the first contingent of the 9th Battalion headed for Egypt. Photo: contributed
Nurse Constance Keys who was from Mt Perry and was on the first ship to leave Queensland with the first contingent of the 9th Battalion headed for Egypt. Photo: contributed contributed

Nurse one of the first

ONE of the first nurses to head for the First World War battlefields in 1914 was born in Mt Perry.

Before the war broke out Constance Keys was serving as a sister Army Nursing Corps and was working at Brisbane General Hospital.

When war was declared she was one of four nurses chosen to sail in the troopship Omrah, attached to the 9th Battalion, 3rd Brigade of the 1st AIF.

Her first patients were survivors from the German cruiser Emden, sunk while raiding Allied shipping lanes.

Sister Keys served first in Australian military hospitals in Egypt, and within a few months she was nursing Anzacs wounded in the Gallipoli campaign.

After Gallipoli was evacuated she mentioned in August 1916 seeing wounded soldiers arrive from clashes with the Turks on Egyptian soil at Katia.

She was later sent to Brighton, England, to work in the No 3 Australian General Hospital.

Sister Keys came back to Australia on a transport bringing wounded men home, and later was returned to Europe.

For the rest of the war she was moved to casualty clearing stations and military hospitals in Egypt, France, Belgium, and England.

In England she was presented to King George V and Queen Alexandra to receive the Second Order of the Royal Red Cross Medal and, later, the First Order "in recognition of her valuable services with the armies in France and Flanders".

She also received the Medaille des Epidémies for "great devotion to the sick" from the French Government.

Sister Keys was mentioned in dispatches by General Sir A. J. Murray in 1916 and Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig in 1918.

On November 11, 1918, she wrote to her mother welcoming the declaration of peace and assuring her she would be home soon.

However, Sister Keys had to wait some time before she saw Australia again.

There were still many wounded needing nursing in Europe, and she was moved to Belgium to help out.

In January 1919 she wrote to her mother again, telling her the nurses had missed out on all the excitement of the signing of the Armistice.

After a spell of leave in Cannes she was still in England in September 1919.

Soon after she returned to Australia and became matron of a convalescence hospital for returned soldiers in Brisbane.

While there, she met and married a Gallipoli veteran.

The couple had a son and daughter and lived at Southport, before her death in March 1964, aged 79.



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