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YOUNG, ELIZABETH BUCHANAN (BESSIE)

 

Elizabeth 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 (Thessaloniki) 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 New Zealand 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.

 

SOURCE

Obituary “Hawera Star” 3 Feb 1916

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