Buchanan Young was born in Glasgow on the 28 April 1882, the daughter of James Smith and Agnes Young nee Spittal. The family came to New
Zealand when Bessie was 11 and farmed on the
Manaia Road. In 1899 the family moved to 4
Cameron Street, Hawera.
Bessie trained as a nurse in New Plymouth and went with an
early draft of nurses to Egypt
at the beginning of World War One. On the
21 October 1915, Bessie
sailed in the troopship Marquette supposedly for Salonika
Greece. The ship carried the ammunition column of the
31st British Division. It was
delayed at Alexandria (Al-Iskandariyah) Egypt
and just outside the harbour a torpedo sunk the Marquette. Both the lifeboats allocated to the
nursing sisters were damaged, and Bessie spent about eight hours in the
water. She could not swim, and was first
held up by a soldier. Later she clung to
an upturned boat before being rescued by a British naval ship. Ten of the 32 nurses aboard lost their
lives. The loss of life among the troops
was heavy also.
The nurses eventually returned to an English hospital at Alexandria. Later Bessie was on the hospital ship Dunluce Castle for night months before being posted to London’s
military hospital, Walton–on-Thames. She
was in charge of a ward at this hospital.
Bessie was awarded the Serbian Medal, otherwise known as the
Samaritan Cross of Serbia, after treating Serbian soldiers aboard the Dunluce Castle. The only other New
Zealand nurse to be so honoured
was Sister N O’Connor, Wellington. Bessie also received the 1914-1918 Star, the
Victory Medal, the Royal Red Cross Medal and wore a tiny silver fern on her
General Service Medal, denoting a Mention in Despatches.
A life member of the South Taranaki
branch of the New Zealand Returned Services Association and a former member of
the Gallipoli Association, Bessie was very active in the affairs of the St
Johns Presbyterian Church in Hawera and a keen croquet player. She was also an active member of the Women’s
National Reserve and the Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union (PWMU) with her mother, and
was involved in the Girl Guide movement.
Sister Elizabeth Buchanan Young, No 22/93 1914-18 War died
on the 3 February 1969 aged
86 years and her ashes are interred with her parents at the Hawera cemetery.
Obituary “Hawera Star” 3 Feb 1916
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